Dear Christopher Cat: I have never had a pet, but I would like the companionship of one. I'm thinking about a cat, because I'm not sure I can commit to walking a dog as often as needed. However, I've heard that cats are less social than dogs, and I really do want a companion. What's your advice?

Christopher responds: My feline family members and I are all very social, and we were adopted from the shelter as adults. So I'm confident you'll be happy adopting a cat.

Your timing is perfect, because shelters and rescue organizations are full of kittens and adult cats throughout the summer.

A recent study should help you feel more comfortable with this decision. Researchers evaluated shelter cats and pet cats to determine their preferences, reasoning that people will be able to train their cats better if they know what pleases them.

The researchers offered 50 cats three enticing choices in each of four categories: human social interaction, food, toys and scents. They recorded the amount of time the cats spent with each of the 12 choices.

Once the cat indicated his or her favorite choice in each of the four categories, researchers offered these four preferences and recorded how much time the cat spent with each.

The researchers found that most cats preferred human interaction, followed by food, although individual cats varied in their preferences. These results held for both shelter cats and pet cats.

When you visit the shelter or cat rescue, take some time to get to know several cats so you can choose the one - or better yet, two - you like best.


Dear Daisy Dog: My dog, Buster, gets his distemperament shot every year, but his temperament is still bad, so I assume the vaccine doesn't work. What should I do?

Daisy responds: Buster's behavior problems are not related to the disease we call distemper, despite its name.

If Buster is misbehaving, join an obedience training class taught by a certified dog trainer. If his behavior doesn't improve, ask your vet to refer you to a veterinarian who specializes in behavior problems.

The vaccination Buster receives protects him from several infectious diseases, one of which is distemper.

The distemper virus most often attacks the dog's respiratory tract, causing nasal discharge, coughing, conjunctivitis, fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and sometimes pneumonia. Vomiting, diarrhea, foot pad thickening and blindness also can occur, as can seizures and other neurological problems.

Droplets from an infected animal's nose or mouth spread the virus. Puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at greatest risk, and they don't even have to come into contact with an infected dog. Ferrets, raccoons, skunks, foxes and bears with distemper spread the disease, too.

So continue Buster's distemper vaccinations, and enlist the help of a trainer and possibly a veterinary behaviorist to improve his behavior.

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. Contact them at