Q: My life is crazy and there’s never a dull moment with three cats, three dogs, three kids and one mother-in-law. She moved in a few months ago because she has trouble remembering things. My wife and I work during the day, and can’t be there to watch my mother-in-law constantly. She loves the animals but forgets that she has fed them. If she doesn’t stop soon, we’ll have some very overweight pets. Any advice? — G.P., Louisville, Ky.

A: After we’ve fed our pets, we make their food inaccessible. I suggest you hide the pets’ food from Grandma. My hope is she won’t then put out chocolate bars or leftovers from the refrigerator just because she enjoys feeding them. Perhaps, what you need is a dog walker for the canines, and a day care facility for your mother-in-law. If she is that forgetful, gerontologist Dr. Lydia Gray Smith of Chicago, Ill. says she worries about grandma’s safety home alone.

Q: We named our kitty Mariah Kitty because she’d walk around the house singing. She has been the happiest kitten, but lately has been less active. Then, just yesterday, her belly began to expand. My vet says she has a fatal infectious disease and nothing can be done. Why doesn’t he just get the fluid out? Is there something I can do? — L.S., Spartanburg, N.C.

A: It’s best that this fluid be evaluate by a veterinarian who knows what to look for. A specific type of yellowish fluid is consistent with feline infectious peritonitis. Sadly, once clinical signs occur, this disease is fatal.

I had the honor of emceeing the Winn Feline Foundation 33rd Annual Symposium, “WINNing the FIP Battle,” June 23 in Reston, Va., with two legendary veterinary researchers, both with a long history of dealing with FIP: Dr. Al Legendre, a professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville; and Dr. Niels Pederson, director of the Center for Companion Animal Health, University of California College of Veterinary Medicine, Davis.

Not all cats with a distended belly have FIP, so it’s a good idea to have that fluid tested. Sadly, if (effusive, or wet) FIP is the diagnosis, there’s little you can do except to make your “baby” comfortable.

However, for cats diagnosed with another type of FIP, called dry FIP, there may finally be some hope. Legendre has announced that a drug called polyprenyl immunostimulant might help extend lives of cats with dry FIP and simultaneously improve their quality of life by helping them feel better.

PI will soon be available to treat dry FIP. However, the drug will initially be labeled for the treatment of feline herpes virus (feline rhinotracheitis).

I also had a cat named Ringo who died of FIP, and similarly spent much of her day singing. She was the happiest little kitty. Learn more about FIP at www.winnfelinehealth.org and www.sockfip.info.

Q: What’s going on when my spayed female cat runs from window to window to watch a stray cat? When she sees the cat, her tail thickens and wags and she whines. Is this a sexual thing, or a territorial thing? — P.D., Cyberspace

A: This is a territorial thing, explained feline behavior consultant Beth Adelman, of New York City. “Your cat is definitely aroused by the other cat being on your cat’s territory. You’re lucky that, at least so far, your cat is not spraying in the house.”

You say the outside cat is a stray. However, Adelman says if this cat actually has an owner, and you know the person, you could try asking him or her to keep the cat indoors only. However, if the cat is wild, a motion detecting sprinkler might be worth the investment. After being sprayed a few times, the cat will likely make off for a drier destination.

Q: I’ve lived in this part of the country for 40 years and never needed a heartworm medication for my dog. But recently my veterinarian of several years surprised me by saying I should buy it. Is she right? — B.J., Las Vegas, Nev.

A: Your veterinarian is correct. Dr. Sheldon Rubin, Chicago-based past president of the American Heartworm Society explains, “Our 2010 heartworm incidence survey shows that heartworm occurs in all 50 states, and in most places where incidence was very low, it’s increasing.”

Rubin says that in our mobile society, people are rescuing dogs with heartworm disease from places where the problem is more common. Similarly, people are moving to or visiting places where those heartworm-positive dogs live. While heartworm is not a contagious disease, the mosquitoes that spread the disease pick it up from infected dogs and coyotes. And those mosquitoes are common in places like Las Vegas because of retention ponds, even puddles, on well-watered golf courses.

In addition, Rubin points out that many heartworm preventatives also protect against intestinal parasites, such as roundworm and hookworms — both real concerns where you live — and perhaps fleas and ticks (depending on the product).

Learn more at www.heartwormsociety.org.

Steve Dale welcomes questions and comments from readers. Although he can’t answer all of them individually, he’ll answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send email to PETWORLD@STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve’s website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated “Steve Dale’s Pet World” and “The Pet Minute.” He’s also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.