Q: In about six weeks, we will be moving to Northern California and I am unsure about how, exactly, to move my two cats. It will be an eight- or nine-hour drive and I'm planning on putting them each in their own carrier, as they do not get along well enough to be confined together. How big should their carriers be? Should I provide food or water during the trip? What about their litter box needs? Should they be tranquilized? If so, to what extent?
Sandy Helin, Brea
A: On a drive of that length, it would be wise to put your cats in carriers that will allow them some room to move around yet not take up too much space in the car. Once you are under way, the cats will probably settle down and sleep most of the way. If they are not used to traveling in a car, you might want to wait to feed them midway in the trip rather than at the beginning, allowing them to adjust to the motion and the confinement.
Do allow them to have some water before the trip starts and offer them water at each stop. During any stops, you might put a small cardboard litter box in the cages, giving them a chance to use them. Then discard the boxes in the trash. This way you won't have to worry about them spilling their litter all over the car or their carriers.
Make sure there is a towel or small blanket on the bottom of the carriers, giving them a place to hide or rest in comfort.
Unless your cats get extremely agitated by traveling, it won't be necessary to sedate them. They will probably raise a fuss at the start but then settle down. If you decide that sedatives are necessary, have your cats checked by your veterinarian and decide what dosages will be necessary.
A local pet supply house or pet shop should be able to supply you with proper cat carriers. I would highly recommend the sturdy plastic airline carriers as they are well ventilated, supply protection in case of an accident and come in various sizes. Make sure that you have a copy of your cats' vaccinations and medical records so that your new veterinarian will be able to continue any treatments that may be necessary and supply him with good background information on your pets.
Q: My cat has started losing hair on her belly and rear legs. She seems to groom herself constantly because she must be itchy. She does have some fleas and does chew at them but we have been using a flea spray to try to keep them under control. Is there anything else that I can do for her to let her hair coat grow back?
T. Pressman, La Habra
A: Your cat is probably allergic to fleas and has developed a dermatitis because of it. The best treatment would be flea control of the home environment. Flea sprays will help reduce the fleas that are on her at the time, but make sure that her skin doesn't react to the spray itself. You should also have your veterinarian check her for other possible causes of hair loss, such as ringworm, skin parasites, or hormonal imbalances. Your vet may want to start her on an anti-inflammatory medication to stop her excess licking and chewing which will allow the hair coat to return.