Q Our 'Ernie' is a 3-year-old, neutered, orange tiger cat who is a delight to have around except that he still gets into fights with other cats within the apartment complex. I had hoped that when we had him fixed the fights would stop, but he still gets into an occasional scrap with one of the locals. On several occasions, we have had to have him treated for infected wounds. Is there anything we can do to completely stop his fighting? He is such a pretty cat that I don't want to see him get scarred or battered. Should we keep him indoors?
Mrs. Ellen Miles,
A Cat fights seem to be the result of any contact between two cats whenever there is a chance meeting and a dispute over who owns the territory. Neutered cats will still fight whenever they feel that their home turf is being threatened by an outsider. Cats that are not neutered tend to do the roaming and invading of another cat's home base, thus increasing their chances for injuries and infections that result from fights.
Ideally, you should keep your cat indoors because you live in an apartment complex and there is an increased risk of your cat encountering others. You may want to let him outside when you go out, keeping a close eye out for stray cats. If there are stray cats, you may have to contact animal control or trap them yourself and have animal control pick them up. This will reduce the incidents of fighting, decrease the possible exposure to contagious diseases and parasites and reduce the number of unwanted kittens being produced by the strays.
If your cat has been in a fight, have him checked by your veterinarian. Your vet may need to put him on antibiotics to prevent infection or abscesses. If an abscess has developed, your cat may need to have it surgically drained and cleaned.
Q We are planning to breed our female schnauzer early next year and have been told that we will need to have the puppies' tails docked and any dewclaws removed in order to sell the puppies. Is this true? When should we have it done? The breed books all show the dogs and pups with their tails done.
A Tail docks, dewclaw removal and ear crops are all cosmetic procedures done to prepare a dog for show competition. There is still a lot of controversy among breeders and animal welfare groups over the necessity of these procedures. It comes down to the owner's personal motives and desires. From a professional point of view, there is no medical reason for tail docks, but they are routinely done. It is also probably true that most buyers of schnauzer puppies will prefer to have the tail docked and any extra claws removed. If you decide to have them done, it is best done between three and five days of age, and there are uniform standards on the length of the tails.
Got a question about your pet? Write to: Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is immediate past president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.