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Pet owners say the darndest things in letters, e-mail

I cherish the notes you send me, even if sometimes they're apparently meant for other columnists. Here's a sampling from my e-mail and snail mailbags:

+ "Our cats use a toilet instead of a litter box. When we moved to our new apartment, we had problems re-training them to use the litter box. Now we have a litter box mounted above the toilet seat with a hole cut in the center. The box has a sprinkling of litter to satisfy the cats' urge to bury their potty. This system works with no smell, no mess. This is the cats' own bathroom, so they have privacy." _ S.H., Pompano Beach.

+ "I read your articles and pass them on to friends. Recently, you answered a question about pet first aid. I want to point out that the Red Cross offers pet first aid training in many cities. The class is about four hours long. The PETCO company sometimes offers instruction, too." _ J.K., Mackinaw, Ill.

Comment: Check with your local Red Cross office, and/or call your local PETCO store to find out if and when classes are offered.

+ "I really love unicorns. I have 27 stuffed unicorns. I enjoy them, even though I can never really see one." _ R.R., Cyberspace

Comment: Well, maybe you can see one. Check out an animal found at some zoos called an Arabian Oryx. It has two horns but resembles the mythological unicorn. At least I think so.

+ "Your columns about the Military Pets FOSTER Project (fostering pets of deployed soldiers) touched my heart. We signed up, and we know several friends of ours around the country who also did as a result of your column. You must be the most influential pet writer; I follow your columns and you make a difference. Please don't ever quit; we love reading your columns!" _ H.S., Atlanta, Ga.

+ "You should be ashamed of yourself. You said de-clawing is not acceptable. You're right to call de-clawing an amputation. De-clawing is inhumane and that's why it's outlawed in so many countries. You seem to understand this, yet you don't have the courage to support outlawing it. Shame on you." _ M.G., Lakeside, Calif.

+ "You're right about declawing; I don't like it either. I'm a veterinary technician, and spend a great deal of time telling clients how to encourage their cats to scratch on scratching posts. Mostly, the advice helps. However, the reality is that some cats just won't scratch where people want them to; they've just spent too many years outdoors and in shelters scratching where they pleased. I agree that the solution isn't to force those cats to be euthanized. To me, that would be inhumane." _ G.S., San Diego, Calif.

+ "In response to your column about dogs that don't require much grooming and that are not strong willed, there's a breed I want to add to your list: the Boston terrier. All my Boston needs is a bath once every three or four weeks. His short hair only needs occasional brushing. Boston terriers are even-tempered, great dogs." _ S.B., Des Moines, Iowa

Comment: Good point. No argument.

+ "These birds are driving me crazy; they wake me up early. And I get grouchy. Before you get birds, understand that they make noise, or you'll be grouchy like me." _ S.H., Louisville, Ky.

+ "I've had cats for over 20 years. I always used to let them wander freely outside. I've had no problems with them getting lost or seriously hurt. One by one, my cats passed away. When the last one died, I wanted to lie down and die with him. Finally, I got a pair of kittens, and I found out there are dangers outdoors. I saw a neighbor's cat get poisoned by anti-freeze. Now, I let my cats outside but only on a harness. They get to poke around and have fun but they're safe. You're right; cats don't know how to watch at the curb for cars. Keep your cats indoors." _ N.J., Westland, Mich.

+ "I enjoy your column a lot. It's one newspaper column the entire family reads. I disagree, however, with your view that cats should stay indoors. I think if you live in a rural area, letting your cat outdoors is just fine." _ S.G, Montreal, Calif.

Comment: Thanks for your kind words, but even in most rural areas, there are cars. You're wrong if you believe cats can somehow avoid being hit by cars. In fact, cars are the No. 1 killer of outdoor cats. Other hazards abound. Cats can get into fights with other cats, or be hurt by wild animals. Cats that spend time outdoors can catch diseases from other cats. Indoor/outdoor cats just don't live as long. The quality of life for an indoor cat can be every bit as interesting as it is for an indoor/outdoor cat.

+ "I think cocker spaniels should be the most popular dogs. They're wonderful with children. Where do they rank in popularity?" _ B.G., Bay City, Texas

Comment: According to American Kennel Club registration statistics, the American Cocker Spaniel is No. 15 popularity. For the entire list, check out

+ "I'm 90 years old now and Mischa, my cat, has brought me so much love after my wife passed away. I needed to tell you." _ C.C., Fort Lauderdale.

"I bought a car last year. The dealer sold it to me at a very high price. I want to get rid of this car now. It has problems. I don't want to lose money. Any advice?" _ E.A., Chicago, Ill.

Comment: I'm not sure that even the auto columnist this letter must have been intended for would understand any more than I do how to help you.

Write to Steve Dale at Tribune Media Services, 435 N Michigan Ave., Suite 1400, Chicago, IL 60611, or send e-mail to Include your name, city and state. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column.