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RUTLEDGE: Backyard cats create cottage industry for minty toothpaste — for dogs

Monkey Boy and Max.JPG

Mark Rutledge

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shortly after we adopted Max the rescue mutt, a veterinarian recommended a care plan that included brushing our new dog’s teeth. I said I could do biscuits or chew-treats designed to remove plaque, but that I would never use a toothbrush on a dog.

I was wrong.

The person who started that myth about dogs’ mouths being cleaner than human mouths never had a dog with an appetite for “digested” cat food. (That’s the nicest translation I could think of.)

A few months ago, Max’s status as an only pet all but ended when my wife saved the life of a scrawny stray kitten on the verge of death. “Verge” would have been the perfect name for that cat, but the girls started calling him Jasper.

Max just called him annoying and offered to put the poor thing out of its misery. Once he was healthy, the cat said we could call him anything but late to dinner.

Allergies and my strong aversion to litter boxes mean the cat lives outside. One thing I admire about outside cats is that they are discreet about where they deposit their waste — or so I thought.

The cat takes his food atop a small table on the back deck. It’s the only way to keep Max from eating it first. But in a disgusting twist, Max decided he really doesn’t mind at all if the cat eats the cat food first.

I tried pouring a patch of sand on the other side of the fence, but the cat apparently prefers the flowerbeds. And Max likes a tidy flowerbed.

This has been going on for a few months. Solutions that involve feeding the cat something the dog won’t enjoy later have not kept Max from coming into the house from backyard visits licking his chops.

His breath is so bad that even his longtime stuffed toy “Monkey Boy” is able to turn its head the other way. Even spookier is when Max’s “special” toothbrush mysteriously turns up near his bed, and Monkey Boy is gazing upward with pleading little, watery eyes.

Recently, Max developed an awful bellyache. The poor little guy was just staying in his bed and yelping every few minutes.

The vet took some X-rays and $300 to determine there was “something” in his stomach. Max was back to his old self again by the next day, but I doubt the X-rays helped at all.

The vet didn’t seem to think the “digested” cat food could be Max’s problem. I beg to differ. I’m not a vet, but I do have Google on my computer.

The above-mentioned backyard-buffet problem apparently is common. Some of the online discussion indicates that a dog might instinctively ingest excrement due to an imbalance in its gut, caused by a lack of proper enzymes or perhaps too many carbohydrates.

Perhaps Max has been self-medicating and simply overdosed on poop pills. I think that scenario is entirely plausible. Others are not convinced.

Either way, Monkey Boy would like us to try feeding breath mints to the cat.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com, or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.