DEAR JOAN: Some cruel person let a small black kitty loose in my neighborhood up in the hills of Lafayette.
This little kitty, I suspect, might have been abused. It has taken him two months to come up to us at our back door. He is afraid when we approach him.
The kitty does not know how to drink water from a bowl or use a litter box. I would like to get him shots eventually. We already have animals, but I would like to let him sleep in a warm cat bed in our garage, but I cannot have him urinate or defecate on the garage floor as I do not own this house. He has had two accidents but I cleaned it up immediately with bleach. I Googled it, and it says to put some dirt in a litter box. I gently placed him in the litter box twice, but he won't use it.
It was 36 degrees up here the other night, and winter has not even arrived yet. How can I train him to drink water and use a litter box so he can stay safe and warm at night in my garage? He is a sweet little guy.
DEAR SHONNA: This little guy is lucky to have you, but I'm afraid you're going to have to give him even more attention than you already have if he is to make it. You'll need to spend time with him, which means you'll be spending time in the garage, or perhaps you have a room in the house you can devote to him.
Start with dirt in the litter box, since that's what he knows best, and gradually add litter. Put him in the box after a nap, after eating, or after play time. If you spot him going to the bathroom outside of the box, quickly pick him up and put him in the box. Don't scold him if he doesn't use the box. Praise him when he does. You should also leave a little of his poop and urine in the box as a reminder of what the box is for. Once he starts using it consistently, you can clean it regularly.
As for drinking water, if he was abandoned as a young kitten, he may not have had opportunity to lap water from a bowl. Obviously he must be getting fluid somehow.
Use a shallow bowl or saucer that he can easily lick to get water. Try wetting your finger and letting him lick the moisture off. You also could try a drip bottle, like the type used in hamster cages. He'll eventually get the hang of it.
It will take time to get him used to his new home and surroundings. Don't let him wander the neighborhood on his own -- keep him inside, safe and warm and loved.
DEAR JOAN: We recently returned from a three-week Italy trip. My Prius was in our garage for this time. On a hot day last week, I turned on the air-conditioner and it didn't work. Lifting up the hood I found a nest of chewed insulation and wires. Repairs amounted to $4,300.
This happened to our son in Southern California in an open carport, but we can't figure out why this happened here and on a cold engine. Have you heard of this?
We are worried it will happen again. Someone suggested putting mothballs in the engine. Any other ideas?
DEAR GERRY: Rats, mice and other little creatures like dark, warm places and apparently your Prius provided what they needed. There's no guarantee it won't happen again. Try making your garage more rodent-proof by blocking off entrances and setting traps, if you've a mind to. But don't toss any mothballs in the engine.
Some people suggest leaving the hood up and others say to fill a pan with mothballs and park over it. It's worth a try.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.