Dear Matthew: I recently bought my cat a catnip toy, and he just loves it. He'll spend all days pawing at it, tossing it around and chewing on it.

When I offered to get the same toy for my sister's cat, she declined. She even told me that she had heard catnip wasn't good for cats and that I should take the toy away from my pet!Is this true? Are there any problems with catnip that you know of? It'd be a shame to deprive my darling of a toy he likes, but I wouldn't want him to get sick, either. Thanks for your advice.

- Lisa in Boise, Idaho

Dear Lisa: Although no one knows why cats can be so attracted to catnip, there's absolutely no reason to think that it could be harmful to your pet. This isn't like kitty cocaine - it's just a natural substance that can make some cats friskier and more playful.

And when I say "some cats," I mean that there are cats that have absolutely no reaction to catnip - you might as well be giving them parsley, for all they care. So while catnip toys aren't dangerous, they also aren't loved by all cats.

If I had to take a guess, I'd say that your sister was just jealous that you found a neat toy for your cat, and she doesn't want to let you tell her what she should get for her pet. I think the issue here is sibling rivalry, not cat physiology.

Dear Matthew: We own a buff-colored cocker spaniel. She is 1 1/2 years old. She is a very good dog, and we love her to death. She has one problem, and that is with submissive urination. She also tends to urinate when she's excited.

Some days are better than others. But especially when we have company, she urinates all over. She doesn't make a big mess, but it's enough to be a little embarrassing. Is there anything we can do to deter this behavior?

I've been told not to scold her, but if nothing is said, she won't know she shouldn't do it. I've also been told she can't help it, but if that's true, how come she can go days without doing it, and other days, all you have to do is pet her and she's dribbling?

Any input you could give us would be greatly appreciated.

- Robin and Todd in New York

Dear Robin: Whoever told you not to punish your dog for submissive wetting was absolutely right. In the same way you wouldn't punish a timid person by screaming at him, you shouldn't punish a shy dog by intimidating it into feeling even less secure and confident.

The most effective way to get to the root of the submissive-wetting problem is to build up your dog's comfort level around other people and new situations. Don't throw her into a crowd of people immediately, but rather take some time to get her acquainted with strangers in a controlled, friendly environment.

Also, you should regulate the amount of water your dog drinks. If she gulps down tons of water at a time, she's much more likely to make a mess - which might explain why you see a fluctuation in your dog's wetting behavior.

Most importantly, give your dog a lot of love, attention and support. Even the most shy dog, with a caring owner, will grow to be more trusting and confident over time.

Dear Matthew: My friend and I have a bit of an argument going on. She says a rock star she idolizes owns a calico cat named Jake. I've told her this can't be the case, since all calico cats are female, and it would be silly to name a female cat "Jake."

Tell me I'm right, so I can show this column to my friend and get her to see the light.

- Christy in Dallas

Dear Christy: You're right. Calico cats - with their distinctively splotched coats - are always female. Of course, I wouldn't be so quick to rule out the possibility that the calico really is named Jake - rock stars have been known to do stranger things than that.