My 14 yr old cat has become very vocal in the last few weeks And it happens at night, when I am trying to sleep! She will sit in the doorway of the bedroom and meow. If I close the door she will sit outside the door and meow. Not sure what she wants. I get up and check her food….she has lots.. During the day she is not so annoying. What’s going on?
A: There are lots of reasons a cat can become more vocal during different stages of their lives or at different times during the day or night. When you’re being kept up at night it’s hard to remember that your cat isn’t midnight-meowing with the intentions of driving you crazy. She’s simply trying to communicate something to you. Given her age and the fact that this behavior is new and is only happening at night, I suspect that your cat’s vision is declining. This can make her feel disoriented or confused at night, causing her to call out to you. Try installing a few night lights throughout your home to help her get around. If this doesn’t work, or if her meowing escalates beyond nighttime, it’s worth a vet checkup to see if there is a medical cause for her behavior change.
Q: Dear Nora, My medium-haired cat sheds like you wouldn’t believe. It’s not possible for me to vacuum every day, so my home is always covered in hair. I have tried brushing her, but she is scared of the brush and won’t let me go near her with it. As a medium-haired cat yourself, do you have any ideas of how I can help reduce the amount of hair she is shedding?
A: There are lots of ways to keep the furball situation under control, even if you live with a medium-haired cat who is afraid of brushes. Here are some ideas:
Get a Love Glove. This grooming mitt may not be as scary as a brush and I bet she’ll love how the little nubs will feel like the best back scratch she’s ever gotten.
Depending on the climate where you live, consider giving her a haircut (I like a dignified lion cut, myself). Never give her a haircut by yourself though; beneath our coats we have very thin skin, which can be dangerous if accidentally cut or nicked. Always get your cat’s hair cut by a trained professional such as a groomer or veterinarian.
Having a small, hand-held vacuum on hand (rather than always dragging out a clunky full-sized one) can make it easy to zip up stray hairballs.
Adding a 1/2 teaspoon of a omega oil (flax or fish) to her daily diet can help reduce the amount that she’s shedding. Be sure to choose a high quality oil from a reputable company.
Hopefully one or all of these ideas will help reduce the amount of hair in your home. If you believe that your cat is shedding an abnormal amount, of course, take your lil’ lady to the vet!
My cat has a million toys—everything from squeaking mice to feathers on a wand—but the only one that she seems to get really excited about is the laser pointer. Just curious, why is this one toy so fun for her? I want her to be able to play with the laser more, since she is so engaged with it, but I don’t have the time to do it every day. Suggestions?
A: In my opinion, laser pointers are one of the best things to ever happen to indoor cats. They’re unpredictable, can disappear from one spot and reappear someplace totally different, climb walls and dart under furniture. What’s not to love?!
Indoor cats can easily become bored or depressed if they don’t have adequate mental stimulation. Boredom and depression can lead to cats who are overweight and lethargic, potentially triggering further health problems. If you’ve found that you can keep your cat engaged, curious, playful, and active with a laser pointer I’d say keep doing it!
I understand that it can be hard to keep up with the level of play that your cat will need or want. Luckily there are electronic laser pointers out there, like this one, that can engage your cat even when you aren’t home or able to play.
Q: Dear Nora, My youngest cat (who is two years old but still acts like a kitten) constantly chases my older cat. The one who is being chased is getting skinny and anxious. Why does my younger cat do this, and what can I do to provide some relief?
A: I do this to my older sister, Pippi, too. My intentions are good– I just want to play, hone my hunting skills, and work off all the energy I have from being a kitten. Pippi, though, doesn’t like to play with me and just hisses a lot when I chase her.
When my mom sees me chasing Pippi (or just lurking, ready to pounce), she knows it’s time to play. My favorite is when she throws my favorite toy and I get to run and find it. I could really play this game for hours. I also like it when I get to chase the red dot around and when mom breaks out the wand toy, which really looks like prey and gets my hunter instincts satisfied. The more mom plays with me, the more likely I am to chill out and sleep when she’s not around the save Pippi from my mischief.
If you aren’t around to play with your cat as often, look into some battery operated cat toys that your cat can play with and chase. Make sure sure that your cat has all kinds of toys, vertical space, and scratchers to keep him stimulated and active. His instincts to chase, play, and hunt are real (and core to his catness) and simply need to be channeled to a better place.
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, 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.
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.