Q: Dear Nora,
We use pine litter in our cat’s litter box and generally like it, except that we find it tracked all over our home! What can we do to minimize the mess?
A: If you hate finding litter tracked throughout your home, pine is the worst choice of litter for you. Our little kitty feet can trap an amazing amount of litter and we can trap even more with fine-textured pine. There are some options though.
If you are set on pine, put a textured mat outside the litter box. The mat will release the litter (most of it, at least). Some cats hate the texture of mats though and will avoid the litter box if you use one, so have a mat-free box available while you’re introducing the mat, to make sure your cat won’t do her business elsewhere.
If your kitty has extra tufty toes like I do, it helps to trim the hair between them (only to be the length of the pad of her foot– don’t actually trim between her toes). If you don’t feel totally confident that you can trim the hair without cutting her pads (ouch!) take her to a groomer.
If you want to reduce tracking even more, consider using a litter that is made of larger granules. You can even switch to the pine pellets. The bigger granules are less likely to get stuck between toes and tracked throughout your home– especially combined with a mat outside the box.
Q: Dear Nora, My indoor/outdoor cat was losing weight and vomiting a lot. We took him to the vet and discovered that our poor little guy had worms! How did he get them? And how can we keep him worm-free in the future?
A: Most adult cats get worms by ingesting the poop of another cat, or eating rodents and birds. And, as an avid poop and mouse-eater myself, I must say that it’s totally worth the risk!
Kittens can get worms from the milk of an infected mother, and cats of all ages can get infected with some types of worms (such as hookworms) just by stepping in dirt that has been soiled by an infected cat. Cats who go outdoors are far more likely to be infected by worms than indoor cats.
In addition to the vomiting and weight loss you noticed, other folks should look out for diarrhea, bloody stool, constipation, coughing, or trouble breathing.
You did the right thing by taking your cat to the vet. There are lots of different kinds of worms and all of them are treated differently. Since worm infections are treated with a controlled poison, you should always talk to your vet about treatment plans and never try to self-diagnose/treat. Once your kitty has been de-wormed, discuss an ongoing treatment plan with your vet.
Q: Dear Nora, Sometimes I catch my cat scratching all around her water dish. Why does she do this?
A: We scratch around our dishes (water and food) to say “hey, this is mine– hands off!” to our parents and other animals in the home. This works in two ways. First of all, we have scent glands in our paws (near the base of our claws), marking the area when we scratch around the bowl. Second, scratching feeds our instinct to bury our prey for future snacks.
If you live in a multi-cat home with an alpha cat, or if there is obvious tension between your cats, you can help alleviate stress by providing multiple feeding and watering stations throughout the home. That way, your less aggressive cat won’t feel the need to battle with your more aggressive cat to get food and water.
Q: Dear Nora, My cat ‘s water bowl rarely needs re-filling and I’m concerned that she’s not drinking enough water. How can I get her to drink more?
A: Is your cat’s only water bowl near her food dish? Cuz that’s gross. Us cats think of our food (even if you buy it for us from the store, and even if it’s dry and super processed) as being our prey. As prey, our instincts tell us that our water may be contaminated with bacteria if it’s close to our food, so we will often avoid it.
We’ll seek out fresh water elsewhere– that’s why you may see your cat lapping up water from the faucet, or dipping her paw into your own glass of fresh and cool water (in fact, that’s my favorite place to drink from!).
You can encourage your cat to drink more water by providing more water bowls or cat water fountains throughout your home– located in many spots far from her food bowl. Clean the bowls and add fresh water daily for maximum water consumption.
Q: Dear Nora, My cats go crazy over yarn. They love to play with it and get all wrapped up in it. Is it okay to let them play with it? I’m worried they’ll ingest it.
A: I love playing with yarn. I love everything about it. I especially love ripping my mom’s knitting projects to shreds when she forgets to put them away.
Despite the fun, playing with yarn can actually be dangerous. It’s impossible for us to keep dangling and squirming things out of our mouths, you see. Before we know it, we’re swallowing it and it’s getting wrapped all around our insides and you are rushing us to the (very expensive, my mama tells me) emergency vet.
Luckily there are alternatives, such as wand toys. My mama spends some time every day playing with me with a wand toy and it’s great! I hunt it and play with it and get (safely) wrapped up in it– and as long as I am playing with my mama, she makes sure I don’t swallow anything bad, like the feathers on the end. So, hide the yarn, add more toys, and your cat will never know the difference.
Litterboxes are the worst, whether you’re a human or a cat. They take up a lot of space and look terrible, they’re stinky, and litter tracks everywhere. Do you ever wish there was someone who would look at your litterbox area, hear your challenges, then send you everything you need to revamp your space? We sure did, and our wish came true. And yours can too!
A couple months ago Tidy Cats asked us the big question: What are your biggest litter box concerns? I gotta tell ya, we had quite the list to send back to them.
First and foremost, we wanted a litter box that didn’t look like a litter box. You may remember that we recently moved into a very small home. There’s no optimal place in our new house to put the litter box, and certainly no place to hide it away.
Since the litter box must be out in the open, we’re very concerned about the smell. We don’t want our guests to think “litter box!” the second they step into our home.
And finally, we want to minimize scatter. There are only so many times a person can vacuum in a day.
The picture above is what our litter box area looked like before Tidy Cats stepped in to grant us a Littervention. As you can see, it was quite an eyesore. The area was small, cluttered, and litter tracked out of the box. Everything about it screamed “HEY! THERE’S A LITTER BOX OVER HERE!”
Well, Tidy Cats heard our woes and set their experts on a mission to solve our problems. Here’s what they came up with:
Their team put together the purrfect Littervention kit, which systematically solved all of our problems!
The litter box cabinet hides the box in plain sight. At first glance, the cabinet looks like an end table. But even with the disguise, it’s easy for cats to get in and out of. No more eyesore!
Q: Dear Nora, My cat loves to scratch the sides of the couch, and I have been searching for an alternative for him. The amount of scratch board choices at the pet store are overwhelming. Cardboard, sisal, upright, flat, curved, hanging… how do I know which type of scratcher to choose?
A: Cats have different preferences when it comes to scratching posts, but your cat is already telling you which type he would prefer. If your cat is standing on his hind legs and stretching while scratching, you should invest in a good upright scratcher. Choose one that is tall enough to allow your cat to stretch his whole body. My sister, Pippi, used to dig her claws into the living room rug, so my mom took cues from her and stocked our home with scratching pads that are flat to the ground. Pippi loves them so much that she not only scratches them, she naps on them too!
Different cats prefer different materials too, but the key is to choose a material that is hardy enough for your cat to really sink his nails into, such as sisal or corrugated cardboard. Scratching not only helps your cat to stretch his whole body, but it also help shed the sheaths from his claws (which will help keep his paws nice and healthy). Avoid scratching posts that are covered in carpet; his claws with simply get stuck in the carpet loops and it will be more frustrating than satisfying.
To lure your cat to the new post, put it near the place you’d like him to stop scratching (in your case it’s the couch), and sprinkle it with catnip.
Q: Dear Nora, We live on a busy street now and don’t feel comfortable letting our formerly-indoor/outdoor kitty outside here. She seems bored inside. What can we do to keep her stimulated indoors?
A: I used to be outside too, before I was rescued. I like being indoors because it’s safer and my food bowl is always full– but when I first came inside I did miss chasing birds, climbing trees, and eating mice. There are a lot of things you can do to make a stimulating indoor environment for your cat. Here are a few ideas:
Food puzzles. Food puzzles are a great way to stimulate your cat– just think of all the scheming and problem-solving that will go into retrieving the food!
Bird feeders. Just because your kitty lives indoors now doesn’t mean she can’t still be stimulated by the outdoors. Set up a bird feeder outside her favorite window to perch in (perhaps with a cat tree nearby). She’ll love watching the birds and other critters.
Cat TV. If you aren’t able to have a bird feeder, or for something extra, consider Cat TV. My personal favorite is the bird channel, but my sister Pippi really likes the fish.
Q: Dear Nora, Traveling with my cat is a nightmare. Even just quick trips to the vet cause her an amazing amount of stress. What can I do to make being in the carrier a less stressful experience for her?
A: I can understand your cat’s stress. We are naturally anxious creatures, so it’s scary for us to be shoved into small crates and carted off to unknown destinations with no chance of escape or defense. That being said, there are a few simple things you can do to reduce the stress of putting her in a carrier.
First, make sure the carrier you are using is appropriately sized for your cat. Bigger cats require bigger carriers, and if your cat is large, she may feel anxious being shoved into a box that is too small for her to move around in.
Next, make the carrier comfortable and familiar. Start by lining the bottom of the carrier with something that smells like you and home– a used pillowcase form your bed, a dirty towel, your favorite hoodie, whatever. The more it smells like you, the more comforting it will be to her. Beware, though, that she may pee or puke on whatever you put in the carrier, so make it something that is easily washable. Invest in a spray bottle of Feliway. Feliway mimics the pheromones cats exude when they are happy, and will help send comforting and vibes to her. Spritz the carrier a few minutes before Go Time. Bach Pet Rescue Remedy also helps by using a combination of safe and effective herbs to sooth cats. Just add a few drops to her water bowl the night before travel. Make sure to only use the non-alcohol pet version, as the alcohol in the human version can be dangerous for kitties.
Lastly, keep the carrier in plain sight even when you won’t be using it. My mom keeps my carrier tucked under a table. Sometimes I even nap and play in it, so it always smells like me. Being able to see it, smells it, and explore it all the time makes it less scary when it’s time to get inside.
Q: Dear Nora, My indoor cat often interacts with cats outside the window. The interactions range from vocal (meowing, yowling) to physical (headbutting, swatting). Are these outdoor cats a danger to my indoor cat? Should I be worried about diseases?
A: As long as the screen barrier stays intact, you shouldn’t worry much about diseases. Even FeLV, which is highly contagious, is unlikely to be transmitted through the screen. That being said, it’s not uncommon for cats to tear screens or push them out, especially when we feel threatened. Invest in some adjustable window screens to add an extra layer between your cat and the outside world.
More than diseases, you should worry about the stress that these outdoor cats may be causing. Stress can be bad for your cat’s health, but it can also cause your cat to mark its territory by spraying around your home. I don’t mind seeing cats outside my window, but my sister Pippi just about loses her mind when she sees a stray. She never sprays (our mom is endlessly thankful for this), but she hisses and spits and is noticeably stressed.
If you want to keep cats out of your yard and away from your windows, you simply have to remember that cats hate water. Rig up some motion-activated sprinklers and you are good to go.
I’m not a veterinarian (obviously. Cats aren’t allowed into veterinarian school). The information you’ll find here is strictly for educational and entertainment purposes. Dear Nora is not intended to diagnose and we encourage regular visits with your local veterinarian to address any medical or behavioral problems.