DEAR PAW'S CORNER: I have a couple of stray cats that I put out food for each day. They must live in the woods behind my house. I’ve tried to lure them inside so I can take them to the vet to get spayed or neutered, but they’re too wary for that. Ultimately I’d like to take them in as pets. Is that realistic? – Gary in Tampa, Fla.
DEAR GARY: Taming a feral cat — and these two appear to be feral from your description — is really unlikely. The fact that they come around for food at the same time every day is pretty good, but I don’t think you’ll ever get them to the point where they will be relaxed, indoor cats.
However, getting them spayed or neutered is a good idea. So how do you manage to do that when they won’t come inside?
First, you can contact the local shelter or a veterinarian to find out if this is feasible. For example, a university study in Central Florida lasting several years looked at the local feral cat population, as well as the effects of a trap-and-release program in which cats were spayed or neutered and released back into their roaming territory. A similar program could be available in your area, although you may need to trap the cats yourself (by luring them into a live trap with food, for example) and bring them in for treatment.
Bringing feral cats into a household with tame housecats can be a recipe for disaster. Territorial spats, potential diseases and other problems could quickly arise. For now, feeding these cats and trying to get them medical care to keep the feral cat population from growing is a good thing to do.
DEAR PAW'S CORNER: After we played with my dog Jerry in the backyard, a friend who was visiting told me that he stank. She said dogs should get baths every week. I don't think Jerry smells bad, just sweaty, and my mom doesn't give him a bath very often. Is what my friend said true? – Sara in Madison, Wis.
DEAR SARA: What one person thinks is a bad smell, doesn't smell like anything to another person. This often can be true with dog owners, who are a little more accustomed to how their pet smells.
This can be especially noticeable to visitors (and even owners) after a dog has been out romping in warm weather, or in the rain. Dogs don't have a lot of sweat glands, but their undercoat and fur retain oils, dirt and other things, creating a somewhat distinctive funk.
Does that mean your dog needs frequent baths? Not really. Too many baths can dry out their skin, leading to irritation and potentially infections that can make your dog really stink – and be utterly uncomfortable.
After playing in the yard, you can rub Jerry's coat with a spare towel to knock off excess dirt. Check him over for burrs and ticks, and look at the bottom of his paws to make sure nothing is trapped between the pads. Then let him relax and cool off.
Jerry should get a bath — using lukewarm water and non-perfumed pet shampoo only — a couple of times a month, or whenever his coat gets too muddy to easily rub off.
DEAR PAW'S CORNER: I have five dogs, varying in age from puppy to senior, and three parakeets, and because of their very different dietary needs, I'm careful about what I buy and what they eat. I've seen many more product recalls of pet food than there used to be, even just a few years ago. What is going on? – Daniel, via email
DEAR DANIEL: What you're seeing is the result of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011. It gave the Food and Drug Administration more authority to improve food safety, including mandating pet-food recalls. Before the law was passed, individual pet-food companies could recall foods at their discretion.
Because of this — and because the regulations were finalized in September 2015 — we are seeing a lot more pet products being recalled.
For pet owners, this sudden increase is certainly alarming. However, it's also an indication that some of the new regulations are beginning to work. Companies are complying with the recall mandate, and hopefully the same companies also are working to improve their pet-food products so that they are safe to eat.
As a pet owner, you can help keep the new FDA regulations moving forward. Go to www.FDA.gov and search for "pet food." There you'll find detailed instructions on filing a complaint about a pet food, along with information about the latest recalls.
If you want to take more direct action, The Association for Truth in Pet Food, founded by Mollie Morrisette and Susan Thixton, is directly tackling product labeling and advocating for owners of pets sickened by manufactured food.
Send your tips, questions or comments to [email protected].
(c) 2016 King Features Synd., Inc.