Dear Cathy,

I have two cats, Foxy and Florence, ages 8; they are brother and sister from the same litter. They had a bit of a rough start. Their mother was killed by a car before they opened their eyes. They got their “forever home” with me.

Foxy is a reasonably mellow gent; Florence, however, is a nasty cat. She craves attention, but when I stroke her, she will lash out with an unsheathed paw, and sometimes draw blood. If I am sleeping and have a hand resting on the pillow, she will bite my fingers. I have worn slippers to bed because she bites my toes.

I am wondering why one sibling would be a nice fellow while the other would be a little (ahem...!) “witch.” — Nancy, Queens Village, NY

Dear Nancy,

Kittens’ personalities are determined more through play with their littermates or other kittens than through their upbringing. Florence is just a more dominant personality, but it’s not acceptable that she bites you and draws blood .

There are steps you can take to reduce her aggressive behavior.

First, know her touch tolerance level. Some cats find petting overstimulating, and can only handle a few strokes before lashing out. Determine how many strokes she can handle before a strike, and stop petting her short of that limit.

Second, don’t use your hands to play with her. Use wire and feather toys that enable you to keep some distance. She needs to learn body parts are not for play.

Next, you can wear slippers to bed, but it’s important to set boundaries for her. Even though she thinks she is playing, she needs to know when the action is too rough. The quickest way to show your displeasure is to make a quick “hissing” sound when she lashes out. Cats hiss to tell others to back off, so she will know what this means.

Finally, use plug-in feline pheromones around the house to calm her. If none of these things reduces her triggers, then talk to your veterinarian about behavioral medicine that can reduce her aggressive tendencies.

Dear Cathy,

I have a 10-year-old Maltese/Shih Tzu mix, in relativity good health. About a year ago, my veterinarian put him on a senior diet because of a slightly raised creatine level, which now is back to normal. He was not pleased about the new food, and I had to try eight different brands. He has always been a little bit of a fussy eater, but now every day is torture getting him to eat. It has gotten so bad that it takes me almost two hours of coaxing to get him to eat.

Karen, Brookhaven Hamlet, Long Island

Dear Karen,

While it’s not unusual for older dogs to eat less or change their eating habits as they get older, you should absolutely rule out other health problems with your veterinarian first. Dogs sometimes associate any pain or discomfort they feel with the food they are eating, and will avoid it if they think it’s the cause of the problem.

Of course, the food may be part of the problem if he has an intolerance for some ingredients. If your vet approves, maybe you can switch proteins, from chicken or beef to salmon or bison.

Lastly, ask your veterinarian if you can add something to make his food more enticing, like boiled chicken, canned pumpkin (without the sugars), or Forti-Flora, which is a probiotic .

Send your pet questions, stories and tips to