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.
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, I hear that vertical space is important for cats. I want to make my cat as happy as possible, but I can’t afford a cat tree. What are some alternatives?
A: It’s true that vertical space is important. As hunters, we like to observe our surroundings from above. Vertical space that is inaccessible to dogs and children is also a great option for escaping chaos and danger, which allows us to let our guard down to rest. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on it– in fact, my mom has found me creating my own vertical space for free on bookshelves (which work great, once I knock all of the books off) and on the top shelf of the pantry.
You can create vertical space for your cat for free by clearing off a dresser, unused desk, or window sill. Add a cozy blanket (and maybe even a sprinkle of catnip) to entice her. If you happen to be crafty, you could also build your own for a fraction of the price. Check out this tutorial for ideas. Remember, your cat will be the one who will ultimately dictate what she wants to climb and sleep on, so look for clues about her favorite places in the house when choosing where to make cozy vertical spaces for her.
Q: Dear Nora, I feed my cat a combination of wet and dry food. Even though she only eats a portion of the can of wet food, I have to toss the leftovers because she won’t go anywhere near it the next day. Any ideas on how I can keep her food fresh so I can trick her into eating it?
A: We smell things much more strongly than humans, and I’ve been known, too, to stick my nose up at something that wasn’t as fresh as I’d like. How are you treating the leftovers? I recommend a lid that is specially made to fit over the top of cat food cans to seal it up tight. Also make sure that your fridge is cool enough.
The problem, though, may not be about freshness at all. Many cats don’t like food that is too cold. When we’re eating, we like to pretend that our food is freshly-caught prey, and as such, we like it to be room temperature or slightly warm. I suggest heating your cat’s food up a bit (not too hot– you don’t want to injure her). About 30 seconds in the microwave should do it.
Q: Dear Nora,
My cat kicks litter all over the floor. I’ve heard that cats don’t like covered litter boxes, so I want to avoid them, but I’m running out of patience. Do I have other options?
A: You’re right to steer clear of the average covered litter box. We’re wild at heart, and always assume that there’s someone waiting to pounce. So when it comes to litter boxes, we like to be able to see what’s around us and have multiple exits– especially if there are other animals living in the home.
There are litter boxes on the market that have tall sides. Boxes with high sides are great, as long as your cat isn’t a kitten or arthritic. This box is also great– it has the benefits of a covered litter box, but gives your cat the ability to see if anyone is lurking outside.
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.
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.
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.