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Pet Connection Q&A: Cat with flaky skin needs vet's attention

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7D

Our cat's skin seems to be really dry and very flaky. Would a humidifier help? We live in a very dry climate.

I would guess that low humidity is not causing your cat's skin issues. After all, cats are descended from desert-dwelling creatures, and dry conditions alone shouldn't cause a massive amount of flakiness.

Treating symptoms is never as good as treating the condition itself. Before you start adding more moisture to the air, oil to the diet or any other quick-fix solution, your cat needs to see her veterinarian. Once the problem is correctly diagnosed, it can be properly treated.

By the way, other pets actually do have a problem with the dry air of the modern home, most notably birds. Many species of pet parrots originally came from hot, humid environments. For these, dry air presents a problem and may contribute to feather-picking. That's why parrots need to be offered frequent opportunities to get damp, such as by being misted or being allowed to bathe.

– Dr. Marty Becker

Is catnip really safe for my cat?

A catnip high is harmless and nonaddictive, so you can stop worrying.

Every cat reacts in his or her own way to catnip. Some will be giddy, some dazed, and a large percentage won't react at all. (Kittens under the age of 3 months are not affected.) The ability to appreciate the herb is genetically programmed, with slightly more cats in the catnip fan club than not.

Catnip contains a substance called nepetalactone in its leaves and stems, and this is what sets cats off. Rolling, rubbing, leaping, purring and general uninhibited happiness are all normal for a few minutes after exposure.

– Gina Spadafori

The buzz

Renters' pets get to keep their claws

• Property owners in California can no longer demand that renters debark dogs or declaw cats in order to keep them in a rented home. The law was popular in the statehouse, passing the state Senate by a unanimous vote before getting the governor's signature. The legislation has teeth, with a $1,000 fine for violations. It was the second attempt for the legislation: An earlier version was vetoed by the previous governor.

• Most cat lovers have never been very interested in pedigrees: Plain ol' domestic cats of all backgrounds, markings and coat lengths are by far the most popular. Among cats with papers, the most popular breeds are Persians, Maine Coons, the Exotic (a shorthaired Persian), Siamese and Abyssinian. In the United Kingdom, what Americans call domestic shorthair and domestic longhair cats go by the much more endearing name of "moggy."

– Gina Spadafori

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