DEAR JOAN: We found out through social media that our indoor/outdoor cat has been sneaking into our neighbor’s house, eating their food and fighting with their cat. He enters through their cat door at night, eats and takes a nap. The neighbor is now hiding their cat food upstairs in a closet.
Our cat always returns home in the morning, is fed and naps the afternoon away on our couch. Not sure how to curtail his activities. Neighbor is not happy with our cat’s behavior. Locking our cat inside at night is not a good option; he is very vocal when locked up.
Lisa, Pleasant Hill
DEAR LISA: I think both of you should keep your cats indoors, and the neighbors should lock the cat door, but as it’s your cat burglar that’s causing the issue, it’s up to you to curtail him. Keeping your cat indoors at night is the simplest solution. The adjustment might be difficult — probably more for you than for him — but in time he’ll get used to it.
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DEAR JOAN: Growing up on a farm in Nebraska, my parents taught me that birds are hatched from eggs. But now I often read of birds being born. Which is it?
Also, do birds have taste buds? How do bird seed companies decide which seeds specific birds prefer?
Paul Dankert, Sunnyvale
DEAR PAUL: Saying an animal is born, rather than hatched has a more sentimental feel to it, but both are accurate. The definition of being born is to bring forth, as offspring, and that’s what happens whether chicks are hatched or born. Coming from a farming family myself, I say “hatched.”
Birds do have taste buds, but they have far fewer than we do. They also have a lesser sense of smell, which is important in “tasting” food. However, the shape and size of birds’ beaks and where they live are far greater influences on what they eat.
Birds with small beaks might enjoy the taste of peanuts, but unless the nuts are finely chopped, small-beaked birds aren’t physically able to eat them and won’t even attempt it. Birds eat what’s native to where they live, and they learn from their parents what foods to look for. They also are true to their species, which is why you’ll never see a finch eating carrion.
It’s the birds, not the seed companies, that determine what birds will eat, so when you see a bag of bird seed that says it’s for finches, it contains seeds that finches are known to eat.
DEAR JOAN: Is there some way to figure out the timing of tides at Lake Merritt? I know that they can be controlled by the gates in the channel, but if the gates are not utilized, how do the tides in the lake relate to those elsewhere around the bay?
Helen Hutchison, Oakland
DEAR HELEN: The tides at Lake Merritt, which really isn’t a lake at all but a tidal estuary, are not measured. The best you can do is find a location nearby where the tides are tracked. One resource that includes several locations is tides.willyweather.com/ca/alameda-county/lake-merritt.html.
The estuary is flushed every six hours by the tides and is fed by 62 storm drains. A flood control system consisting of tidal gates and four diesel-powered pumps was installed after a 1962 flood.
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