Q: I do a lot of traveling for work and usually bring my dog with me. She's an 11-year-old Yorkie, and in pretty good health, but I worry about finding a vet while I'm away. Do you have any suggestions for locating one if you're in an unfamiliar city? I do not trust Yelp reviews.
A: You're right, it is hard to find a good vet when you're in an unfamiliar city. However, there is a group called the American Animal Hospital Association and it has a hospital locator that will help you. All you do is type in the local ZIP code or city, and a list of accredited general and emergency hospitals will pop up.
I have talked with many of the local vets who belong to this association and they have told me of the work and dedication it took to be sure that their hospital meets the association's high standards. This would be a great place to start looking, not only if you're traveling but if you need a new vet as well. For more information, check out aaha.org/pet-owner.
Wild white turkey stands out
Q: A flock of wild turkeys hangs out in our backyard and we feed them cracked corn in the winter to help them out. Twenty years ago you never saw one and now they seem to be everywhere in our area. However, we noticed that a white turkey is hanging out in the flock with the others.
Do you think that this is a wild turkey that is just white or one of those white Butterball turkeys that perhaps escaped from a farm somewhere and joined the wild ones?
A: Anything is possible these days but I do not think that a domestic turkey that escaped from its fate on a farm would be able to hang out with wild turkeys and associate with them. The white domestic turkeys that grace our tables at holiday time are so domesticated and overbred that they are hardly afforded recognition as living creatures at all.
As an adult, the average white domesticated turkey can hardly stand up and walk or even preen its feathers. They must be bred by artificial insemination. I doubt that one of them could have the stamina to keep up with all the running and flying that the wild turkeys do. There are a few breeds of turkeys called "heritage breeds" that are a bit more fit than the white turkeys commonly kept on farms, but not many backyard poultry keepers have them anymore.
When turkeys were first kept and domesticated by the Aboriginal people of the New World, most likely the first mutation to show up in the captive flocks was the white color and, for whatever reason, this was decided by those early poultry keepers to be an endearing characteristic.
Those birds were kept as breeders, thus producing more white turkeys for future generations. So if a white wild turkey could pop up in a flock of turkeys that was fed and managed by humans, then it could certainly happen again in the flock that you are feeding. Such a bird in a totally natural setting would be very vulnerable to predators, but in a suburban area with lots of food, a white bird in a flock of bronze ones may do just fine.
Cat ignoring litter box
Q: We have a Siamese cat, about 9 years old, who only recently has chosen to mostly ignore the litter box and instead use the floor as her personal toilet. We have tried no fewer than 10 brands of litter, including the same one that we have used for many years.
We have even tried using the litter that is supposedly "guaranteed" to work, but it failed as well. The box is downstairs in a quiet, warm, dimly lit basement, where it has been for almost 10 years.
A: You did not say if the cat is using the floor next to the litter box or just going randomly throughout the house. If the cat is using the floor next to the litter box, then that may be due to a urinary tract infection. (If the cat's private parts are sensitive due to an infection, then squatting in a box full of litter is not comfortable and thus the cat will use the floor instead of the box.) You need to take the cat to the vet to determine if this is the case.
If the cat is going in other parts of the house, then it may be because she does not feel comfortable going all the way downstairs anymore and wants a more convenient choice of locations. So a few boxes placed upstairs may help. Or it could be that she feels that at this point in her life she no longer needs to explain why she does what she does nor apologize for it, and if this is the case then the best advice I can offer is to just wave the white flag of defeat and put wee wee pads down on the floor where she likes to "go."
E-mail Marc Morrone at firstname.lastname@example.org.