Dear Christopher Cat: I live in New Jersey and am annoyed by our law that requires pets to be restrained in the car so they don't distract the driver. The fine for violating the law ranges from $250 to $1,000.

Every weekend during the summer, I drive to the shore with my cat Sandy, who naps in the car's sunny rear window. She doesn't distract me, so I don't see any problem with this.

Christopher responds:
An unrestrained pet not only can distract a driver, but in an accident can get thrown around, just like a toddler who's not belted into a car seat.

Sandy could get hurt, and if she's thrown into you, you'll likely lose whatever control you have of your car when you need it most.

I travel in a towel-lined cat carrier secured by a seat belt. I know of another cat who wears a harness with a seatbelt adapter.

Either method of restraint is safer than letting Sandy have the run of the car while you're driving.


Dear Daisy Dog: My golden retriever, Cashew, developed a hot spot infected with MRSA. I live in Hawaii, which has the highest incidence of MRSA in the nation. Though MRSA can be transmitted between animals and humans, no one here seems concerned. What should I do?

Daisy responds:
MRSA, pronounced "mersa," is a Staphylococcus aureus bacterium resistant to such antibiotics as methicillin, penicillin and cephalosporins.

However, other antibiotics usually, but not always, kill MRSA, methicillin-resistant Staph aureus.

Some dogs, cats and humans carry MRSA, and most don't get sick. But they can transmit the bacteria to others or become ill themselves if their immune systems are weakened by disease, injury or surgery.

In pets, MRSA are most often associated with infections of the skin, including surgical incisions and wounds. MRSA also has been cultured from the urinary tract, ears, eyes and joints.

To prevent transmission of MRSA from Cashew to other animals and people, follow these guidelines:

•Wash your hands often. If Cashew's infected skin is bandaged, wear gloves to change the bandages.

•The infected area, the dog's nose and its anus harbor the most MRSA, so avoid these areas, and don't let Cashew lick people's faces or broken skin. Immunocompromised people are at greatest risk of infection.

•Walk Cashew where he's unlikely to have direct contact with other dogs and people. Dispose of his feces, which may contain MRSA.

•Detergents kill MRSA, so wash Cashew's bedding and toys often, and clean the areas he frequents.

•Don't let Cashew sleep on your bed until the infection is resolved.

Ask the Vet's Pets appears Friday in the print edition of the Reading Eagle. The animal authors of the column live with Lee Pickett, V.M.D., who practices companion animal medicine at Bernville Veterinary Clinic. Contact them at www.askthevetspets.com, 610-488-0166 or P.O. Box 302, Bernville, PA 19506-0302.