NORMAN — Dear Dr. Fox: I enjoy your column and often find interesting things that apply to humans.
One thing I have been curious about for a long time is spreading tooth decay. There have been reports that a mother kissing her baby can transfer saliva that can give the child dental caries, especially if the mother has untreated cavities. The reports say sharing a spoon can also spread this.
Many people kiss their pets. Some people might use a used dinner spoon to scoop out cat food. I have some pictures of a relative’s German shepherds with their heads in the dishwasher licking the plates. Do you think that pet cavities might be caused from interacting with humans in this way? I was not able to find the original study for the child/mother cavity information.
— S.G., Sandy Hook, Conn.
Dear S.G.: Basically, saliva heals, and the exchange of oral, fecal and body-surface bacteria is an essential part of any infant animal/human developing a healthy bacterial flora. The infant comes in contact with this bacteria when interaction with the mother, others and the soil.
These good bacteria play vital roles in immunity, disease and allergy resistance, digestion and other processes. The bacteria is currently being investigated with some surprising findings, even indicating dysbiosis — a dysfunctional “microbiome” bacterial population in the guts — plays some role in obesity and depression.
Certainly if the microbiome is not well developed in an infant, the introduction of harmful bacteria could be problematic.
My book “Healing Animals & the Vision of One Health” explores such connections.
Dear Dr. Fox: I have two Persian cat brothers who were purchased together as kittens. One of them has a problem: For almost a year now, he will not use the box when pooping. He continues to go on the carpet. He didn’t have this problem before, but it has become an everyday thing. He never urinates outside the box, and he seems to know when he poops on the floor he has done something wrong, because he runs and hides.
I have tried everything: picking it up and putting it in the box; scolding him when I catch him and then gently bringing him over to the box; changing the litter to a different brand; cleaning the boxes every time one of them uses it. I have three different boxes. Neither cat covers what they do in the litter box, whether it is urine or poop. They scratch around the box or even on the wall, but not the litter. I would appreciate any help.
— D.R., Newtown, Conn.
Dear D.R.: Not covering excreta does seem to be a problem with the breed. Persians have long fur and “feathers” around their hindquarters, which can get matted with cat litter, not to mention the litter getting trapped between their paws. This can be a deterrent for the normal covering-up behavior. Try a litter like Purina’s Yesterday’s News (recycled newspaper pellets) that I have found to be less cat-adhesive.
Many cats choose to defecate outside of the box because they are constipated and they associate the pain of evacuating with being in the box, so they develop a litter box aversion. Feed your cat moist food and a teaspoon of pumpkin or mashed butter beans, or Laxatone.
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