DEAR JOAN: A turkey has been hanging around my area for some time. What kind of turkey is this?

Larry Berger

Bay Area

DEAR LARRY: That is your run of the mill wild turkey, with one exception. It's an albino turkey. Researchers estimate one in 100,000 wild turkeys will be mostly white.

They are not true albinos. All domestic turkeys are white and the wild turkey can carry a recessive gene that causes the mostly white coloration.

Rare albino wild turkey visits the Bay Area.Courtesy of Larry Berger
Rare albino wild turkey visits the Bay Area. Courtesy of Larry Berger ( Larry Berger )

DEAR JOAN: I have a question that I haven't seen addressed in your column. There are two adult cats in our family with the same unusual malady. When you pet, stroke or scratch their backs at the base of the tail they exhibit a peculiar response.

One of them swivels her head like a bobble doll and licks her lips incessantly. The other one immediately lowers her head to her right paw (always the right) and bites/licks it. These behaviors continue until the touching stops. Touching them in any other place does not elicit this response.

Could it be a ticklish thing? Hope you have an answer for the mystery.

Shirley Keller

San Jose


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DEAR SHIRLEY: I not only have an answer for your mystery, I have four of them. One is that it may be normal cat behavior. Most pets, and humans, have a sensitive spot. My sister's dearly departed dog loved to have her back, near the base of her tail, scratched. She would walk on the ceiling if it meant getting scratched there. I had a cat who loved to have his face rubbed, and another who would kill for a whiff of olives.

I think maybe the first cat, the bobble head one, simply likes being scratched there. The second one, however, may be displaying signs of feline hyperesthesia syndrome.

That's a treatable condition that can occur at any age but is most common in cats from 1 to 5 years old. Certain breeds -- Siamese, Persian, Burmese and Abyssinian -- are more likely to have it than other breeds. There are many other symptoms, but the licking and biting when the back is touched is one of them.

Your cats may have fleas, and a fourth option is lumbosacral syndrome, a sort of arthritis in the area where the tail joins the spine.

If the cats don't appear to be in any pain, it's likely just the general oddness of cats, bless them. Talk about it with your vet the next time you're in, unless they appear to be suffering, and in that case, make an appointment now.

DEAR JOAN: Years ago, when Gary Bogue was doing this column, he wrote something that I clipped out. He said, "I make all my new pets two promises -- I will give them a loving home for their entire life, and I will give them a merciful death. It is the most loving, selfless gift of all."

My daughter and I will take a beloved cat to the vet today to have her put to sleep. It is very hard but I know it is the right thing to do. Please print this message in your column every now and then.

Elizabeth Preston

Oakland

DEAR ELIZABETH: My condolences to you and your daughter for your loss. Gary and I share many beliefs in common, and this is a big one. You not only did the right thing, you did the loving thing.

Contact Joan Morris at jmorris@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/AskJoanMorris.