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Published December 07, 2012, 12:00 AM

Pet Care: Avoid litter box when expecting

Dear Dr. Fox: I am having an ongoing argument with my husband about cleaning out the litter box, which he is now doing because I am pregnant. We have two adopted cats, and they mess the box quickly.

By: By Dr. Michael Fox, INFORUM

Dear Dr. Fox: I am having an ongoing argument with my husband about cleaning out the litter box, which he is now doing because I am pregnant. We have two adopted cats, and they mess the box quickly.

My husband says it is fine to clean out the box last thing at night, and I say three times a day.

What is your opinion? I think my cats like a relatively clean box, which is uncovered without a dome, as per your advice. – M.S., Houston

Dear M.S.: This is not the first time this issue has come up in my column. You have to train your husband. Have him flush the toilet you share – use only one if you have more – just once a day and leave the lid up. Try that for a few days.

His Paleolithic brain may be tweaked to appreciate using a clean, flushed toilet and make a magical empathic leap into the psyches of your two cats.

The litter box should be cleaned three to four times daily, and fresh litter put in to replace the soiled as needed. Surely your husband has seen how fastidious cats are about their personal hygiene, carefully grooming themselves and each other. Having to use a litter box with buried feces and clumps of urine is like treading through a veritable minefield for any cat who does not like to get dirty paws that have to be cleaned afterward, sometimes ingesting adhering cat litter and excrement in the process.

It is wise for all pregnant women to have someone else clean out the cat litter box because of the risk of toxoplasmosis, which studies in the U.K. have linked with depression, suicide and schizophrenia in adults in addition to blindness and neurological problems in infants. Pregnant women should never eat meat that has not been well cooked since this is a major source of toxoplasmosis, and high heat destroys this parasite. Use gloves in the garden because cat-poop-contaminated soil could carry this parasite, which free-roaming cats can also bring into our homes when they kill and eat infested rodents.

Dear Dr. Fox: I think my question may be a common one, so I would like your input on it. I have a normal, healthy 3-year-old male (neutered) orange tabby cat who is overweight. He is outside about three hours a day. For the past year I have been feeding him nothing but dry diet food – different brands – ¾ cup per day, which is less than the manufacturer recommends. During this time, he has not lost one ounce!

He stays at 20 pounds every time I weigh him. I know he is not eating any birds or mice, and he never leaves the backyard, so I know no one else is feeding him. He is hungry all the time. Should I be concerned about his weight issue? Is it indicating a potential medical problem, or is he just a big cat? Any advice you can provide would be much appreciated. – B.F., Medford, Ore.

Dear B.F.: I am glad you are concerned, because there is a virtual epidemic of obesity in cats and dogs as well as people today, with health complications shared by all three species. These complications include diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart and circulatory problems, arthritis, cognitive impairment – the list goes on.

Please make every effort to transition your cat onto a grain- and soy-free cat food – canned, dry or raw. For more details, visit feline-nutrition.org. Many cats on high-fiber, weight-reducing diets suffer from constant hunger and malnutrition. Feed your cat 4 to 6 teaspoon-size meals daily.

Pet food bowls recalled

Petco recalled three pet food bowls because its India-based manufacturer, Arjan Impex, used stainless steel containing small quantities of radioactive cobalt-60. The models include three SKU numbers: 1047493, 1386956 and 1047477. The SKU numbers are found on labels on the inside and bottom of the bowls.

Customers who purchased one of the recalled bowls from May 31 to June 20 are encouraged to return it to a Petco store for a refund. Anyone with questions may call Petco customer service at (877) 738-6742.

More recalls

Kasel Associated Industries of Denver is voluntarily recalling its Boots & Barkley Roasted American Pig Ears and Boots & Barkley American Variety Pack Dog Treats because they may be contaminated with salmonella. The recalled products were distributed nationwide through Target retail stores in August 2012.

Consumers who have purchased the products are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact Kasel Associated Industries at 800-218-4417.

Send your questions to Dr. Fox in care of The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns. Visit Dr. Fox’s Web site at www.twobitdog.com/DrFox.