A mix of wet and dry food seems best for most cats

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Q: I recently discovered your radio show and listen each week from Spain. My husband and I are researching the best food possible for our cat. There is great debate over dry food vs. wet. What do you recommend? -- A.M.V., Madrid, Spain

A: The good news is, owners increasingly care, and care passionately, about what they feed their pets. Among some cat owners, the topic of food is like religion or politics.

Here's what I know: Cat are carnivores. Also, a high-protein, low-carb moist cat food can help trigger remission in some diabetic cats. Another example to seemingly support moist food is renal insufficiency (kidney disease), which is extremely common as cats age. Adding at least some moist food (likely a prescription diet, depending on the extent of disease) is beneficial because the water content is far higher in moist food than dry.

However, many cats who are fed kibble for a lifetime live in good health until a ripe old age without developing diabetes. Also, even cats fed exclusively moist food may develop kidney disease as they age.

That being said, most cats don't drink enough water. Some veterinarians suggest that a significant percentage of cats live day-to-day mildly dehydrated, so it seems to me that at least some moist food is beneficial. Another reason is to regularly provide meal variety to cats (meaning a daily portion of moist and a daily portion of dry food) is the strong attachment cats make to food consistency or texture. If a prescription moist food diet is suggested, cats fixed on kibble for many years may be unwilling to try something new.

The suggestion that kibble offers dental benefits is somewhat overstated. Far more important are regular dental check-ups from your veterinarian and brushing your cat's teeth at home. Unfortunately, most cat owners don't brush, so the Veterinary Oral health Council (http://www.vohc.org) offers a list of products with proven dental health benefits.

We feed our cat about 70 percent moist food, and the remainder kibble. But I'm not sure there is a truly, absolute right or wrong answer.

By the way, thanks for checking out our radio broadcasts online. Entire Steve Dale Pet World radio programs are available free on Itunes. Interviews are also archived at http://www.petworldradio.net. And much of what I do is posted on my Facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/stevedalepetworld.

Q: I get The Bark magazine. In a recent issue, (animal behaviorist and author) Karen London wrote about a "wolfdog," and honestly, she didn't make a lot of sense. She stated that the wolfdog is not a canine. I'm very familiar with "wolfdogs" because wolves have bigger brains and are quite intelligent. What do you think about wolves' role in the development of the modern dog? -- J.B, Las Vegas, NV

A: Rather than comment on what London wrote, which I was unable to locate online, let me offer some general information about the domestication of dogs, and what I believe you're referring to as "wolfdogs."

A new study published in the journal Science argues that the domestication of dogs occurred even longer ago than initially suspected -- between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago in Europe.

Exactly how European hunter-gatherer cultures were responsible for turning relatives of today's wolf into our best friends is not known. Of course, this didn't happen overnight. This new information is based on the work of researchers who literally dug up mitochondrial DNA.

Researchers suggest modern dogs have more genetically in common with long-extinct ancient wolves species than today's wolves. So, despite dogs retaining their ability to breed with wolves, they're not as closely related to wolves as once thought.

For a time, Cro-Magnon men and Neanderthals shared the planet. In truth, it seems, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon man were quite similar. One difference is that Cro-Magnons, who are our ancestors, began to live with descendants of today's dogs, hunting with them and taking advantage of their innate ability to warn of attackers. Domestication had truly begun, as Cro-Magnons were sometimes even buried with dogs. Neanderthals didn't associate with these canines, and Neanderthals ultimately died out. Maybe we ought to thank dogs for our existence. Certainly, all evidence suggests, we evolved with dogs.

Q: In a past column, you mentioned a product that can deter cats from spraying. What is it? -- G.H., via cyberspace

A: Feliway is a copy of a comforting pheromone found on cats' cheek pads. As a cat rubs your leg or a table leg, the pet deposits that pheromone. The spray version of Feliway (also available as a diffuser you plug into a wall, or a wipe) can ease territorial anxiety related to spraying. Feliway is available online, where pet products are sold and at veterinary offices.

While Feliway can be an extremely useful tool to lower anxiety and minimize spraying, you ultimately need to address why a cat is spraying in the first place.

First, is the cat truly spraying, or is the pet having accidents outside the litter box? There is a difference. Cats who spray, typically back up against a wall or piece of furniture and let loose with tail lashing and often telling the world all about it. Cat spray drips down vertically. Alternatively, cats who have accidents generally void on a flat surface, ranging from a carpet to a throw rug, even the kitchen sink.

Cats who spray are marking their territories, similar to gang members who tag property with spray paint. Most often, cats are offended by the presence of other cats in their territory (in a backyard, for example). A visiting uncle or the adoption of a new cat might also prompt spraying.

If roaming outdoor cats are causing a problem, a temporary solution is to keep the spraying cat in another part of the house, away from windows with a view of the interlopers. Meanwhile, attempt to dissuade the visiting cats, A motion detector sprinkler called the Scarecrow (available online and at some hardware stores), might do the trick.

If a visitor or newly adopted cat is causing anxiety, consult a cat behavior consultant (iaabc.org) and/or pick up the books "Cat vs. Cat" or "Think Like a Cat" both by cat behavior consultant Pam Johnson-Bennett.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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