Feature: TV show, Web site offer advice to help cat owners

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PUZZLING CREATURES: A TV show and a Web site offer solutions to cats' bewildering behaviors.

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Ever flummoxed by your feline? If so, you might enjoy the Animal Planet network's Housecat Housecall (9 a.m. EDT/PDT Saturdays, and 7 a.m. EDT/PDT Sundays). The show follows Australian veterinarian Katrina Warren as she tries to solve kitty conflicts.

Take Obi-Wan, for example. When the tabby's owner goes out of town, Obi-Wan refuses to be fed by others.

Warren's solution? She recommends other family members get involved in feeding the cat even when his owner is at home, and that Obi-Wan's feeding dish be separated from other cats'. That way, his intake can be monitored. She also encourages lots of play for the tabby, so he can form a bond with each family member.

Advice online

Housecall is presented by Purina Cat Chow. At the company's Web site, www.CatChow.com, visitors can send questions to its 'Purina Cat Chow Mentors' and read responses to other questions. Here's a taste of the Q and A.

Question: My cat loves to chew on anything, like cardboard, paper, leather chairs. What do I do?

Dr. Janet Jackson: Some cats like the texture of certain materials. If your cat likes leather or paper, provide toys made of these materials, such as a toy mouse made of leather, or a ball of paper, and switch them out with different toys every few days so he doesn't get bored. Make sure the toys have been tested for cat safety. To help him learn the difference between his toys and things he shouldn't chew, use hot pepper sauce, bitter apple, or some other deterrent on the surfaces of these items. Be certain to test the surface, using an inconspicuous location, before applying the deterrent. A veterinarian may have other suggestions for a deterrent that would be both safe to use and unpleasant for the cat.

Question: I intend to adopt a kitten in the near future, and I am trying to learn as much as I can about kittens. I don't think there's a room that I can spare specially for the kitten. Can I keep the kitten inside a cage and place a litter box and food bowl in it?

Dr. Debra Horwitz: A kitten needs a safe place to rest and relax and not get into danger while unsupervised. A cat cage with perches is one option, but should not be overused. A kitten needs opportunities to explore and to be handled and taught appropriate behavior. A cat cage should have room for a litter box, resting area, and food and water bowls, as well as room to play, sleep, etc. If it can be in an area where people are, it can be used as a safe place with the door open, and then as a place to keep the kitten when no one is home. Once the cat becomes more reliable, greater access to the home should be allowed, but the cage can remain open as a safe haven.

In addition to Purina Cat Chow Web site, cat owners can ask for advice on the Housecall Web site at http://HousecatHousecall.com.