'Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?'

In two new books, "Why Do Dogs Drink Out of the Toilet" and "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?" veterinarian Marty Becker answers some of the most embarrassing questions he's been asked about pets.

October is National Pet Wellness Month. If you want more information about caring for your pet, visit www.petconnection.com.

"Good Morning America" also featured two animals up for adoption -- Toby, a terrier, and Morrissey, a 7-week-old orange tabby cat. Both are available for adoption through the Humane Society of New York.

Read an excerpt from "Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?" by Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori, below:

Q. What is it about the way cats walk that always makes them look so elegant and smooth?

A. If you've ever carefully watched dogs walk, you may have noticed that they alternate sides when they step. In other words, the front right paw steps forward at the same time the rear left paw does. Then the front left and rear right paws step out. Speed this up and it's known as a trot.

Cats move differently. They step with both left paws, then both right paws. Their natural gait, in other words, is what's known as a pace. (Only camels and giraffes have the same natural gait, although some horses are trained to race using the pace.)

One thing cats and dogs do have in common: They walk on their fingers and toes.

Most cats have five toes on their front paws, but only four of them hit the ground. The fifth toe is called a dewclaw, and is found on the inside of the front paw. The dewclaw is the feline equivalent of our thumb, and it's used for grasping prey and climbing trees. A normal feline back paw, by the way, has four toes that are all called into service when walking.

Q. What exactly is a hairball?

A. Cats spend 30 percent of their waking hours grooming themselves -- which seems like a lot, until you consider that they spend 70 percent of their day sleeping. Still, they are very fastidious animals. Their tool of choice is that raspy tongue, which can pull free lots of hair, especially if the cat is longhaired or has a lot of undercoat (the soft, downy hairs that lie close to the skin).

Swallowed hair is indigestible, even for cats, so when it's in a cat's stomach, it has two ways to go: down and out or up and out. When it comes up-to the accompaniment of that middle-of-the-night "ack! ack!" serenade every cat lover knows so well -- it's a hairball.

If you want to impress your friends, the scientific name for that gummy mass you step in on your way to the bathroom at 2 a.m. is trichobezoar. It is made up of the excess hair your cat swallowed, held together with a sticky mucous . . . but you knew that from cleaning it off your bare feet, didn't you?

Hacking up a hairball every now and then is normal and usually doesn't cause problems, but if you see anything else in the mix, take the cat and the hairball (the former in a carrier, the latter in a plastic bag or container) to your veterinarian. Likewise, if your cat is hacking without producing a hairball, the vet is waiting to see you. Chronic coughing can be a symptom of many health problems, from heartworms to heart disease to asthma. Occasionally, hairballs can cause an obstruction that will require veterinary attention.

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