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TAKE A CAT ALONG ON ROAD TRIPS? HISS, HISS

Question: I'm a traveling salesman and get to feeling lonely when I'm on the road all day. Don't misunderstand; I'm happily married and all that, so I'm not talking about a "honey." I was thinking of getting a cat to come along with me on my business calls. We'd leave the house between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and come back 10 to 12 hours later. I thought a cat would be better than a dog because a cat could just "hang out" and wait while I do my business, whereas a dog would need more attention and be more of a distraction. Do you foresee any problems?

Answer: Cats are great, undemanding companions. But there are a number of concerns I have about your idea. First, if the cat is nervous, skittish or aggressive, it will not make a comfortable traveling companion. If the cat gets carsick on a full stomach, it would have to starve all day for the pleasure of your company. When you park and make sales calls, the temperature in a closed car (at any time of the year) will rise quickly - during the summer, it could just take minutes to become lethal. You will probably have to use a harness or crate carrier to protect you from the cat's antics while you drive or even to make the cat feel safe and comfortable in the car. All in all, you have to realize that all the stress you feel traveling is also stress the cat will experience - and the cat has no control over when to take pit stops. I really can't recommend this because I feel the cat would suffer from daily, extended car trips. How about some good CDs?

Question: I have a 10-year-old daughter who is very allergic to cats. I had to get rid of our two cats and start my daughter on allergy shots. My live-in boyfriend, who liked the cats, is angry because my daughter now wants an iguana. He figures that if he couldn't keep the cats, it's not fair now that she has her way by getting another pet. I want to keep them both happy. What should I do?

Answer: I suggest that you take allergy shots that protect you from jerks and get rid of your live-in boyfriend. I'm stunned at your concern over a love-temp who behaves like a pouty, punitive brat. Get your priorities in order: You are first a mother, and your daughter has done nothing to intentionally be a problem. The iguana is a reasonable solution to the pet-allergy problem. Please don't let your human need for companionship get you so far off track as a self-respecting woman and mother.

Question: My dog is fat. To be honest, my whole family is fat, but this question is about my dog - although I suspect we'll learn something for ourselves. I've tried cutting down on his portions, but he begs and barks and cries and nags and even tries to grab food off the table. I think he learned these behaviors from me during my last diet. My vet has told me I've got to reduce his weight, however. What should I do?

Answer: Dogs are as enthusiastic about giving up oral gratification, tasty yummies and that satisfied, full feeling as people are. So you need to trick him. Keep up the appearance of bulk by using weight reduction food especially prepared to give the dog the same amount of food but fewer calories and less fat.

We know he wrenches your heart when he whines for food, and we realize you identify with his desire to get that need gratified. However, you're just killing your dog with lousy eating habits and the mixing up of emotions with food. Realize that letting your dog be unhappy over less or different food is out of love for his ultimate welfare.

Question: I went with my sister to pick out a dog from a breeder. She took each puppy, flipped him over on his back and held him there while he wiggled and howled. I told her she wasn't going to learn anything useful by torturing the poor beast. She said she read somewhere that a "good" dog should take it. I think a dog with any brains should bite her for making him feel so vulnerable. Who is right?

Answer: Remind me never to rub your belly! Your sister is determining how acquiescent or submissive the dog is. This is not a cruel or painful test, and the information is useful in making a choice in a pet depending upon your preference in temperament or personality. For those who like a more passive animal, observing if the dog will tolerate the belly-up, vulnerable physical position will likely point out your dog of choice.