DEAR JOAN: We have two 3-year-old cats that we adopted from a rescue group. They are very close, and the one in question, Pepper, must have been the runt as she loves to fake-nurse her sister, Ginger, and depends heavily upon her for support.
Lately, Pepper has been waking me up and “making dough” up and down my body at night. It’s keeping me up. The room is stuffy, if we close the door. She’s very persistent.
We lost her big brother dog eight weeks ago, and her big brother cat three weeks ago, but Pepper has been doing this for a few weeks now.
What gives? And what do we do about this?
Jane Parks-McKay, Santa Cruz
DEAR JANE: Cats, despite an unjust reputation for cool, emotionally disregard, are highly sensitive animals. We never know for certain what our rescue cats might have gone through before arriving in our embrace, but we know it must not have been easy. Even cats that have had perfectly lovely lives can harbor some insecurities.
Pepper likely is lonely and feeling a little afraid. She likely misses her companions and so, to comfort herself, she accesses memories from her kitten days, turning to the things that made her feel safe.
One of those things is nursing and kneading. When kittens suckle their mothers, they gently knead their mum’s tummy, which helps the supply of milk to release. That closeness and bond Pepper had with her mom is being rekindled with you.
Unfortunately, getting a massage all night by tiny paws with sharp claws doesn’t make for peaceful slumber. There are some things you can do to help both you and Pepper.
The first is to spend as much time with Pepper as you can, playing and cuddling, if that’s her thing. Reassure her she’s safe and loved.
If she has a favorite stuffed toy or a soft blanket that she’s fond of, take it to bed with you. When she starts making dough on you, gently redirect her to the toy or blanket and let her knead that instead.
It might take several times over a few nights for her to get the message, but she will. Until then, you can console yourself with the knowledge that she loves you.
DEAR JOAN: I saw a squirrel jump up on my deck a few weeks ago. He looked very unusual.
His coat is very short with white spots, and he has a lot of white down his forehead. He looked bigger than a baby. Do you think he is sick?
I have not seen him again.
DEAR PEGGY: What you saw was a ground squirrel. Look around your yard for open holes leading down into tunnels. That’s where the ground squirrel disappeared.
DEAR JOAN: Why do chickens wake up so early in the morning? It seems they never sleep in.
John C., San Jose
DEAR JOHN: Well, it’s not to beat the traffic crossing the road. It’s because hens need at least eight hours of sunlight a day to lay eggs, which is why egg production slows in the winter months when the days are shorter.
To help with that, their eyes have more rods and cones than ours, making them better able to detect light, and meaning they’ll spot the coming sunrise an hour or so before our bleary eyes can. The rooster is their backup alarm.
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