Q: My husband and I adopted a dachshund last spring. He is a great little dog. However, we are in disagreement about whether he should wear a sweater when it is cold out.  This seems to be a new phenomenon; both of us grew up with dogs and never remember anyone walking a dog wearing a sweater or a jacket. Is this really necessary? –Marnie and Jack Pollack

As it is said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”  Many dogs are fashion mavens, donning the latest in pet couture. However, for many canines wearing a warm sweater or a waterproof jacket is one of the keys to a healthy life. Older dogs and puppies have a weaker immune system and are more prone to illness. Keeping their fur dry and body warm helps to keep their body temperature normal, and not lower their resistance. The same goes for dogs that are small, low to the ground or have very short fur.

When the weather is extremely cold, small and thin-haired dogs, such as short haired Chihuahuas, dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers, etc., would benefit from warm and waterproof jackets. Even a little snow can cause their chests, paws, etc., to become frostbitten.

Some larger dogs such as boxers, Dobermans, pit bulls, etc., have very short fur and more exposed skin on their chests, ears and extremities. Keeping their chests covered with a vest or sweater will help them preserve body heat when they are outside. As always, a good rule of thumb: if it is too cold for you, it is probably too cold for your pet.

Q: There is a woman who feeds the stray cats in our neighborhood. Recently, we found out that she is part of a program called TNR (Trap Neuter Release) through a cat rescue. What is the benefit of this? Doesn’t this bring more stray cats into our community? –Marlene Sachs, Baltimore

Trap Neuter Release/Return is a program that entails trapping feral cats, having them spayed and/or neutered, then returning them to their outdoor colonies. Numerous rescues and animal control agencies have active programs that may also include fully vaccinating the cats and ear-tipping the cats before they are released. Ear-tipping is where the tip of the ear is clipped during surgery. This is how rescuers and shelter staff know if the cat has already been altered.

TNR has been shown to drastically cut the euthanasia rates in cats, as fewer are brought to the shelter. Since they are being fixed, there is no chance of them reproducing, thus limiting the future population of feral cats.

A cat is deemed feral when it has spent most of its life outdoors and is timid or possibly aggressive with humans. Humane traps are provided by the rescue or shelter, and are monitored multiple times a day. This ensures that an animal isn’t left in a trap for any length of time.

Cat colonies are usually cared for by a group of people or neighbors who feed them and track their comings and goings. They set up a feeding station and sometimes cat shelters for them to escape the elements.

Feral cats are always a tough issue for communities. Many people love having them around to help out with pest control, while others do not like having cats roam onto their property.

Almost every local shelter has an active TNR program. They are always seeking volunteers and colony caretakers.

Joy Freedman is a dog behaviorist and obedience instructor She can be reached at joyofdogs@aol.com.