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Q: In 1999, I took in a stray cat that was just under a year old. I immediately took her to be spayed. It turned she was pregnant, so the litter was aborted. The problem is, ever since then, several times each year, my cat acts like she's in heat.

She yowls, rolls on the rug, cocks her tail to the side, and even attracts stray cats, even though she stays strictly indoors. I'm up all night when this happens. My vet didn't have much to suggest. Do you have any idea what's going on?

J.W., Cyberspace

A: Based on your description, it seems likely your cat may have ovarian remnant syndrome, according to Chicago-based feline veterinarian Dr. Colleen Currigan. "It's not common but does happen that a small remnant of functioning ovary wasn't removed during the initial spay," she says.

When your cat next exhibits these symptoms, consider asking a new vet to either conduct a special blood test or take cytology (a cell sample of the uterus). Currigan, president of the Board of the Tree House Humane Society, says she wouldn't be surprised if the outcome shows that some ovary remnant was left behind, which can surgically be removed.

"It's like looking for a needle in the haystack," she says. "But once I find it, it's obvious." Following surgery, your cat's yowling won't return; the male cats won't return; and your sleep can return.

Chippie's chirps may be part of conversation - or for attention

Q: Chippie, my budgie, only chirps (I call it talking) when I'm paying attention to my grandkids. Is it possible for a budgie to be jealous?

S.C., Ocala, FL

A: So, you're talking and your grandkids are squealing, then Chippie simply wants to be a part of the conversation, says Diane Grindol, co-author of Teaching Your Bird to Talk (Wiley Publishing, New York, NY, 2003; $19.95). "It's flock behavior," she says.

Grindol says that if you record your budgie and listen very carefully, Chippie might even be talking. Grindol explains that researchers now understand that budgies (sometimes referred to as parakeets) talk more than we know; they're just hard to understand because they talk at a higher pitch and are speed talkers.

"We don't know why, but different species talk differently," says Grindol. "Eclectus parrots sound like mechanical robots, while African Grey parrots are perfect mimics of human voices, as well as other sounds like doorbells and alarm clocks."

Grindol says that while chiming in with the flock is the most likely explanation for Chippie's behavior, it's possible your bird is talking for attention, not too far from jealousy. You talk to your grandkids and pay attention to them. Then Chippie adds his two cents and you pay attention to him.

Editor's note

The Action column is on hiatus while our columnist Emily Rieman is on assignment. Please send general questions to Ask the Times at