Q: Can all cats swim? Hector is our 3-year-old male tiger-striped cat, and he occasionally jumps into our pool to chase after leaves or bugs. He swims well and is able to climb out at the steps at the shallow end of the pool. All of our friends say that cats are afraid of water and can't swim. Is this true?
Leanne Swarth, Newport Beach
A: Cats, like most other animals, can swim to some degree, especially if out of necessity. Normally, cats avoid pools and tubs and are not fond of getting wet. Some breeds of cats, such as the Abyssinian, seem to enjoy playing in water and are not as hesitant about getting wet. It is unusual that your cat would actually jump into a pool. It is risky for any pet to be in a pool alone because there may be some difficulty in getting out. I would be very cautious about letting your cat in the pool frequently.
After your cat gets out of the water, you need to check his ears for excess water, a problem that could lead to ear infections. You may also notice some eye irritation from the chlorine. Your veterinarian can prescribe some ocular medication if eye problems develop.
Q: I'm writing to inquire what the long-term effects would be on our dog, who favors drinking the water from the swimming pool over his dish water, which is a commercial bottled water.
Should we discourage this habit? We moved into a new home with the pool when he was about 6 months old, and he immediately took to this. He will scratch on the door to get out for a drink rather than go to his dish. He is a cocker spaniel-Lhaso mix. Someone mentioned recently that this could cause liver or kidney troubles. If so, can we undo any damage that may have been done?
Kameel Renner, Anaheim
A: Drinking from the pool is a very common trait of dogs here in Southern California, and I am not aware of any particular complications that have developed. Dogs generally do not drink enough of the water to cause any gastric upsets, although this may depend on the amount and freshness of the chlorine in the pool. The chlorine can cause irritation to the esophageal and stomach linings and can even upset the metabolic balances temporarily if enough is absorbed in the intestinal tract. You also need to be concerned about any algae that may be present if the pool has not been cleaned or treated recently.
I would discourage your dog from drinking from the pool. Unless your pool is fenced separately from the rest of the yard, this may be very difficult. You may have to be present when he goes outside for a drink and keep him from the pool. You may also offer him water from the tap to see if he prefers it to the bottled drinking water.
If your dog develops any digestive disorders, you should mention his preference for pool water to your veterinarian.