Dear Dr. Fox: I was glad to read your column regarding cleaning products and cat illnesses.

I have a cat. I also bought a Swiffer wet mop for my tile floors, but the smell was so bad I couldn’t use it. I don’t like anything that smells: laundry detergent, cosmetics, anything (even a lot of flowers).

I called Swiffer after the first mop use and asked if they were going to make an unscented product, and the answer was “no.” It really doesn’t clean all that well, anyway.

I went back to ammonia and water. Is the ammonia OK for that cat and me?

— J.I., Aberdeen, N.J.

Dear J.I.: Your safest cleaning products are white vinegar — a better choice than ammonia, which can burn the eyes and may encourage cats to urinate on ammoniated surfaces; Borax; a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda to clean tile grouts; TKO organic orange cleaner, which removes grease and odors, sanitizes and is not harmful to animals; commercial enzyme cleaners and steam-cleaning that are best for animal stains.

So many household cleaners and other products have potentially toxic, petroleum-based ingredients and synthetic fragrances that are volatile compounds that many cats (and people) develop allergic reactions to.

I would never buy any cleaning product that does not list all ingredients on the package or on an insert. The federal government has been lax on this issue for decades. Consumers have a right to be informed.

Check out the Rachel Carson Council’s “Green Mantle” at Send a donation and request a copy at P.O. Box 10779, Silver Spring, MD, 20914.

Our animal companions are indeed like the proverbial canaries down the mineshaft, alerting us to hazards in our shared environments. I know of no other species on Earth that contaminates its own nest like humans do. It is no coincidence that the most common cause of death in dogs is cancer.

Dear Dr. Fox: Regarding your article about the dog that licks tile floors. I have a basket full of smooth stones that my cat always licks. A friend told me it’s the salty taste she likes. The stones came from the beach years ago. Is it all right for cats to do this?

— E.G., Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Dear E.G.: I doubt there are any significant traces of sea salt left on the stones. Sea salts (as distinct from refined and iodized salt) contain beneficial trace minerals that your cat may be craving. Animals have an innate nutritional wisdom and will seek out certain soils, plants and rocks to lick to compensate for dietary deficiencies and when they are sick. Some cats with chronic diseases such as feline leukemia and hyperthyroidism sometimes lick brick, cement walls and wall plaster.

Hopefully, your cat has a clean bill of health, but may nonetheless enjoy and benefit from a multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement your veterinarian or local pet store can provide.

Rating manufactured dog foods

Veterinarian Stephen Molle, DVM, a companion animal practitioner in Holly, Mich., has set up an ingredient-evaluation grading system to help determine which are the better dog foods on the market. Having this grading tool helps us get beyond the advertising hype and overwhelming and confusing variety to chose from in the giant pet stores. It can also be applied to grading manufactured cat foods. This objective rating system has just been posted on my website at

Visit Dr. Fox’s website at The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.

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