Brushing is key to keeping your home free of pet hair

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Q: How do you prevent dog hair from taking over your house? -- J.D., Cyberspace

A: Brush early and often, and do it outdoors. Years ago, I told a reader to brush her dogs daily. She wrote back a month later telling me the problem was now far worse: hair everywhere. I contacted experts for a medical explanation regarding her dogs simultaneously losing so much hair. It turns out she was brushing the pets indoors, as her vacuum was broken!

So, brush outdoors. And vacuum at least once a week.

These days, there are vacuums specifically made to suck up pet hair, including the Dyson DC39 Animal (the cost is over $400). Even more pricey (by about $100) is the Miele S7260 Cat and Dog Upright Vacuum Cleaner. Dyson also makes a product called the Groom Tool ($69.99) which vacuums hair directly off a dog's coat. I have no experience to suggest whether this product works, or how dogs feel about being vacuumed.

I'm no vacuum expert, so research your options.

Q: Since my cat never goes outdoors, I don't feel vaccinating for rabies is necessary. My veterinarian actually screamed at me, saying it was against the law not to vaccinate, and he wouldn't take responsibility for what could happen. Well, what could happen? Are the rabies police going to arrest me? -- S.H., via cyberspace

A: While she won't scream at you, Dr. Lorie Huston, of Providence, RI, agrees with your veterinarian. This goes beyond the fact that in most states, vaccinating cats regularly for rabies is required by law.

It's unclear what your concern is about vaccinating for rabies. Huston says that if you simply feel this protection is unnecessary because your cat stays indoors, she understands. Then again, what if your cat should get out? What might happen if a wild animal somehow entered your home?

"I recently had a raccoon find its way into a client's home," says Huston, president of the Cat Writer's Association of America, and author of an blog:

"People think rabies doesn't exist anymore, and it is certainly rare in our pets, but that's only because we vaccinate," Huston adds.

If a cat is not vaccinated for rabies, in most states the law mandates a quarantine period of several weeks away from the home as a result of potential exposure. That's no fun for anyone. And owners pay for time in the quarantine facility.

There is a type of invasive cancer which may be associated with some vaccines, called feline vaccine associated sarcoma (FVAS). However, this cancer is increasingly rare, affecting less than 10 of every 10,000 cats vaccinated. Veterinarians following American Association of Feline Practitioner Vaccine Guidelines are even less likely to see this cancer. Most veterinarians reading this will agree that they haven't seen a single case of FVAS in the past five years.

If cost is an issue, there are low-cost options in many communities, but we're also talking about a vaccine that may only be required every three years.

If your cat has a history of a rare allergic response to vaccines, your veterinarian can take precautions.

You didn't mention your cat's age or general health. In most states, when veterinarians have a reasonable medical explanation for not vaccinating, there is a legal dispensation.

Q: I read your column on tick illness in cats, and I'm now wondering about what we should do. My neighbor and I care for a group of feral cats near Pittsburgh, and we've seen ticks on these cats. Of course, these cats play and sleep together and groom one another. We participate in trap, neuter, return with the cats, and provide shelter for them. We're concerned about tick disease. Any advice? -- N.B., near Pittsburgh, PA

A: While cytauxzoonosis, an often fatal tick disease in cats, isn't likely to occur where you live, there are several other tick diseases which can be transmitted.

Dr. Richard Goldstein, medical director at the Animal Medical Center in New York City and a veterinarian with a special interest in tick disease, says, "Tick disease isn't fully understood in cats but it is an emerging illness."

Monthly spot-on products wouldn't be easy to administer to feral cats (they're unlikely to let caretakers get that close) and tick collars, which could be placed on the cats when they're spay/neutered, could get caught on tree branches or fences. Your best bet might be a chewable tick preventive product, which could be tucked into a treat, then tossed in the direction of each cat. While, you may not succeed at medicating all cats in the colony, this is one way to reach many.

Goldstein is impressed by your question and your obvious concern for these cats.

"Tick disease is very real, and clearly your efforts would be beneficial," he says.

Q: Over the past six months, my two older cats passed away. I want to get another cat as a companion for my loving -- but very energetic -- Blue-tick coonhound. Any tips on what age cat I should get? -- S.R., Buffalo, NY

A: I'm sorry for your losses. Younger kittens are generally incredibly open to new experiences, even if they come from big, clumsy, smelly ole' canines. An adult cat could be fine, too, assuming the pet hasn't had previous negative experiences with dogs. And assuming your dog, who is experienced at living with cats, knows the two rules for living with cats:

1. Never chase the cats (unless a cat initiates the chase).

2. Allow the cat to be king of the house. Cats feel more comfortable when they're in control.

(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; 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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