DEAR JOAN: Lately Missy, a 5-year-old rescue cat, places a paw in her drinking water, removing it and licking it dry. I have looked closely, but am seeing no problem. She is an indoor-outdoor girl, a true hunter-adventure seeker.

This is a new behavior, otherwise she’s strong, healthy looking, bright, well-behaved and an excellent companion. Any ideas?

— Tommie Hogan, Livermore

DEAR TOMMIE: Generally, whenever our pets start new behaviors, a health or environmental change  has triggered it, which requires us to put on our sleuthing hats.

Cats do a lot of things that appear, let’s just admit it, somewhat deranged. But there is always a method in their apparent madness.

Cats often tap the surface of water before drinking. This is because those magnificent eyes that allow them to see in very low light and detect the tiniest mouse muscle flex, aren’t quite as good at discerning the depth of water. To ensure they don’t dunk their faces, they tap the water, which creates a ripple and  helps them see the surface.

Missy is doing something slightly different here, which we tend to see in older cats that might suffer from arthritis. They find it less painful to sit in front of the bowl and lap the water off their paws. Missy seems a bit young to be suffering from arthritis. But in most rescues, we don’t know an animal’s true age. She might be older than you think, or she could have early onset arthritis. A check-up at the vet can tell you.

The answer also might lie with the water bowl itself. Cats can get whisker fatigue, if they eat or drink from a bowl that is too deep or too narrow. They rely on their whiskers for many things: They use them to avoid bumping into things in murky light and to detect subtle changes in air movement made by prey or predator. If a cat’s whiskers are constantly pressing against the sides of the dish, the sensory overload can become exhausting. She may have outgrown the dish, or the fatigue might have just caught up to her.

Try a new dish that is wide and shallow. You also should make sure to keep the water at a consistent level. Cats love consistency.

DEAR JOAN: I have these little bugs, a bit less than 2 millimeters, in empty bowls and flour products. They are not too numerous, but we don’t know where they come from or how to get rid of them.

Any help you can give me would be most appreciated.

— Ed Burling, Monte Sereno

DEAR ED: Your tiny bugs are likely weevils. You might find them in your stored rice, sugar, cereal, wheat products and other grains too. They’re harmless, but you don’t want them in your food.


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