Q: Dear Nora, My youngest cat seems to bully my older cat in a territorial way. I’ve seen her kick the older cat out of prime sleeping spots, and try to steal her food (even though she has plenty of her own). What’s happening? And what can I do to stop it?
A: I do this to my sister, Pippi, too. You’re right: it’s territorial. Cats are territorial by nature and there will always be a hierarchy in a multi-cat home. As long as it doesn’t turn aggressive, I wouldn’t worry about it. Still, there are a few things you can do to make the home more pleasurable for your older cat and to keep her from feeling too pushed-around.
First, make sure that there are many desirable sleeping spots. Do they seem to be competing for a chair by the window because it has a few warm hours of afternoon sun? Is the oldest one being kicked off of the highest tier of the cat tree? Try to figure out what makes a spot desirable– whether it’s sun, coziness, privacy, etc.– and recreate it in several locations. Your older cat may still get kicked out, but she will at least have an equally cozy spot to transfer to.
As for stolen food, it’s important that your older cat is getting enough to eat and drink. Try putting dishes of food and water in several locations throughout your home. This way, your oldest cat will always have a second option if she is being kept from the first one. As a last resort, consider closing your oldest cat into another room during feeding times to ensure she’s getting proper nutrition without being bullied.
Q: Dear Nora, Sometimes my cat throws up after eating. Is this normal?
A: Frequent vomiting, from any animal, should be considered abnormal. Remember that we get our nutrients from our food, just like you. In order to absorb all of the nutrition we need to be active an healthy, we really need the food to stay in our bellies.
If there are other cats in your home, your cat may feel like she has to compete for food. This will make her scarf it down as quickly as possible and cause her to throw it up. If this seems like a possibility, try separating your cats at feeding time. It may also be that your cat simply has no self-control when it comes to food. If this is the case, try a food puzzle— it will force her to slow down, while also adding some great mental stimulation.
If neither of these seem to be the problem, take your kitty to see the vet, since there are a lot of medical reasons that could cause regular vomiting.
Q: Dear Nora, Thanks for your advice about avoiding covered litter boxes. I’d like to provide an uncovered box for my cat, but my dog loves to snack on cat poo. Any ideas?
A: Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s even more important to have uncovered boxes if your kitty is co-habitating with other animals. Not being able to escape the litter box is a legit concern if she sees the pup sniffing around. And, trust me, your cat eventually will find other (safer) places to do her business– maybe in the middle of the kitchen floor or in your new boots.
Instead, put the litter box in a room that doesn’t need to be accessible to the dog (laundry room, spare bedroom, bathroom, whatever) and install a hinged baby gate in the doorway. If your dog is big, you can install the gate 6 or so inches from the ground so your cat will easily be able to slip underneath. If not, install the gate closer to the ground and put something (a box, stool, piece of furniture) on each side, so your kitty can easily jump over the gate. The hinge will allow you to get into the room easily to clean the box daily, or you may be able to just step over the gate.
Q: Dear Nora, Is there something non-toxic and more natural than prescription treatments that I can use to rid my home and cat of fleas?
A: Fleas are the worst. When I was rescued by my friend Mike last summer, before I found my forever home, I was covered in an unbelievable amount of fleas. They were always biting me and driving me crazy. Kudos to you for caring about keeping your kitty flea-less in a non-toxic way.
For a natural remedy, try apple cider vinegar. Spray diluted (50/50 with water) onto your floors and carpets. You can also rub this mixture into her coat. Fleas hate the sour taste of vinegar and will avoid it. To catch jumpers, you can also mix dish detergent into water and leave bowls of it around your home. The fleas will be attracted to the sweet smell of the detergent, jump in, and won’t be able to get out.
When using natural remedies that deter fleas without killing them, you must vacuum every day (several times per day if possible!) to suck up fleas and eggs. Empty the vacuum bag often, too, so the fleas don’t hop out!
Today’s column is brought to you by Gaea Stephens, an expert in the art of living with a toddler. Gaea is an (almost) 14 year old cat who lives in the Southern VT/NH area. She lives with her human parents, their 2 1/2 year old daughter and an enormous dog. She spends her days sleeping, eating, loving and plotting.
Q: Dear Gaea, My toddler tends to play rough with our cat– tugging her tail, squeezing her, etc. The cat takes it like a champ, but I want to make sure she’s as happy as she can be. What can I do to ensure that my cat has ample space from my terrorizing toddler?
A: Sounds like you have a pretty great kitty and a toddler brimming with love for her. Just like kittens, human children show their love through rough play. What seems mean to a human adult can be seen as a sign of love for a toddler. And sometimes, love hurts!
Make sure that your feline friend has plenty of places to take respite from the rambunctious toddler. In my house my human parents allow me to hide in their room if I need some space. They have also provided vertical real estate for me– perches high enough that the tot can’t reach but I can still feel like part of the family.
Trust me when I tell you that your kitty will openly express her disdain if the kiddo takes things too far. I usually give a quick claw-free tap or a loud vocalization as a warning. I also show other signs such as flattening my ears and ceasing all purring. I have even been known to fluff up my tail and hiss a little when she gets really crazy. That is when the humans step in and remind their little one to be gentle with me. More often than not though, I really enjoy my little person’s company and affection.
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.