Beware of cats under car hood

Pete Keesling

Could you please warn everyone about the dangers of warm car
engines? Our beloved kitty, Tex, was killed after he crawled up
under our car to get near the warm engine. It was that first cold
morning last week and he just wanted to warm up. Now he’s gone and
we’re broken-hearted.
Q: Could you please warn everyone about the dangers of warm car engines? Our beloved kitty, Tex, was killed after he crawled up under our car to get near the warm engine. It was that first cold morning last week and he just wanted to warm up. Now he’s gone and we’re broken-hearted.

A:

We’re so sorry to hear the news about Tex. Your note describes an all-too-often horrible scenario that veterinarians witness during the colder autumn and winter months. A warm car engine can be an attractive spot for a kitty to escape from the frosty cold weather outside. Problem is, if someone starts the engine, that poor cat can get caught in the fanbelt and has little chance to escape.

Cats living outside face so many risks, but this is one that is rarely discussed. If you have an outdoor cat, here’s an important tip. Whenever you go out to start your car’s engine, simply slap the hood with your hand before you get into the car. The loud noise should scare your cat and he’ll probably run out from underneath the car. Bang the hood of your car whether or not your engine is already warm or not. It’s a habit that just might save the life of an unsuspecting feline.

Q:

We’re looking at a manx kitten that was born next door. He’s cute and he looks healthy. But I remember hearing once that manx cats can be sickly. Is this true? Why?

A:

As a general rule, manx kitties with their short tails are just as healthy as other felines. But there is one notable exception to this rule. Before you fall in love and bring him home, look very carefully at his tail. Manx cats usually have at least one or two vertebrae in their little stub of a tail. Ah, that short little tail. That’s what makes them so cute. But if a manx cat has no tail, (if there is no tailbone at all), he may have some serious health issues related to incontinence.

Spinal cord nerves extend down into the first part of the tail (well beyond the last lumbar vertebrae in the lower back). The bladder and the anal sphincter rely on these nerves. But if the tailbones are all missing, these nerves are unprotected. Tail vertebrae guard against outside trauma and provide stability necessary for normal nerve function. Without a tailbone for protection, the nerves to the bladder and anal sphincter can be easily damaged, resulting in incontinence and chronic infection along with other physical problems.

So the bottom line (so to speak) is that if your neighbor’s kitten has a cute little stubby tail that you can see and feel, he should be fine. Otherwise, you might not want to adopt him.

Q:

Is it possible to socialize a 2-year-old dog that is aggressive toward other dogs and cats? Our neighbors are moving and can’t take Benji. He’s a sweet little dog, but he thinks other dogs and cats are enemies and he always wants to pick a fight. We have an older golden retriever who is docile and I’m afraid she might not do well with an aggressive housemate. Should we adopt Benji and get some training for him?

A:

Behavioral training has come a long way in the past decade. We understand canine behavior better now than we did so many years ago. And some aggressive dogs become more docile with intense therapy. In addition, there are medications that can enhance a dog’s ability to learn new behavior and become better socialized.

Having said that, I’ll also warn you that while some dogs respond to socialization, it is very uncommon, even rare, for these dogs to be completely trustworthy around other animals. Even when a dog undergoes daily behavioral training, he will still remain unpredictable and potentially dangerous. If you decide to adopt Benji, you’ll need to house him separate from your retriever (and any other pets) when you aren’t with him. The risks are too great otherwise. It sounds as though Benji could be a terrific pet. But you’ll always have to be on your guard when he is around other animals.

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