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My Pet World: Cats playing at night need more playtime during the day

Dear Cathy,

We have two felines who are 18 months old. They are calm until the middle of the night when they begin running around. We have tried pheromones, calming treats, catnip and CBD oil. We’ve tried playing and not playing with them. We also have a 14-year-old cat, but she sleeps through it all. Presently, we are awake most of the night. Any suggestions? – “Sleepless in New York”

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Dear “Sleepless,”

Cats sleep about 18 hours a day, and those who sleep all day are likely to be awake and running around at night. Pheromones and calming treats relax cats and help with stress-based behaviors, but they don’t stop a cat from playing. While you mention you play with them already, you probably aren’t playing with them as long as you should be.

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My advice is to play with them three times a day for 10 minutes each time, with the last time being right before you go to bed. The exercise/playtime can involve you playing with a wire or string toy — anything that makes them stand up and bat something or chase something around. I will often walk through the house with a fishing pole string toy so my cat has to hustle to keep up with it. You also can use a flashlight or laser pointer on the walls or floor to get your felines moving. They also make automatic laser toys that you can turn on and they will play with.

The cats should have a tall cat tree to play on and plenty of toys (catnip, small balls) to play with on their own throughout the day. Rotate the toys in and out as well so they don’t get bored.

Dear Cathy,

I am an 80-year-old widow with two rescue dogs. One dog has terrible problems with her feet. Every vet has said it is allergies, including a dog dermatologist. He didn’t do anything different from the other vets. I agreed to allergy tests with my current vet who is more willing to help. She is now on shots every four days and I soak her feet every night in an Epsom salt solution, which seems to give her some relief. She is part Shar-Pei and part Doberman and weighs about 80 pounds. She just lays on something soft all day and doesn’t want to go out. You can tell she is in pain. She has had many courses of antibiotics and steroids, but the vet doesn’t want to give her anymore since it only helps temporarily. I hope you can help me. I am so worried about this poor gentle dog. — Marion, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Marion,

When people have allergies, it presents as watery eyes and a stuffy nose. But with dogs, allergies can present as itchy ears, which they scratch with their paws; itchy paws, which they lick; or an itchy derriere, which they tackle by scooting their rump across the floor.

I don’t know if your dog’s allergies are seasonal (pollen, mold or grass – yes, dogs can be allergic to grass) or a year-round, ongoing allergy, which means it could be food allergies. Your vet seems to be treating her for seasonal allergies, but there is a chance that it could be a food allergy since the symptoms can be similar.

Dogs that have food allergies improve quickly with a change in diet. I recommend switching her to a “limited ingredient diet.” Search for this term on the internet to find a selection of dog foods to try. A limited ingredient diet doesn’t have common proteins like chicken or beef but may have salmon or duck. They also don’t have the same fillers or the long list of ingredients that can trigger allergies in some dogs.

When you make the food switch, feed her: three-fourths of her old food mixed with one-fourth of her new food for three days; half of the old food and half of the new food for three days; one-fourth of the old food and three-fourths of the new food for three days; and then all the new food on the 10th day. If this was indeed the problem, give it a few weeks to see if she improves.

If it turns out to be seasonal allergies after all, talk to your veterinarian about antihistamines for your dog. You could also put socks or dog booties on her paws to see if that helps with walking. She shouldn’t be left to languish.

(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

© Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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