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How Do I Make the Carrier Less Stressful For My Cat?

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?

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

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.

Do I Really Need To Scoop The Litter Box Every Day?

Q: Dear Nora,
I live in an apartment with one small kitty. I love everything about her…except the litter box. I have a hard time remembering or finding the motivation to scoop it every day. Is it really necessary? Or can I get away with just scooping it a couple times a week?

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

A: Did you know that your cat’s sense of smell is FORTY times stronger than yours?! It’s true. You have about 5 million smell receptors in your nose, but your cat has 200 million. So if you think the box is stinky, imagine that smell being 40 times stronger. Not pleasant, right? Imagine how you’d feel if your toilet only got flushed a couple times a week. And if you had to stand in it each time you peed. So in short, yes, you do need to scoop every day.

Here are some ideas for making it easier to remember and do regularly:

  • Place the box in a visible place. Seeing it regularly will remind you to scoop. And if you’re scooping every day it won’t be a smelly thing to have around.
  • Keep a Litter Genie by the box so it’s quick and easy to dispose of the clumps you scoop out.
  • Make scooping a part of your daily routine by tacking it onto something you do every day anyway. For instance, do it every night after you brush your teeth or every morning before breakfast.

Can Indoor Cats Get Fleas?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat never goes outside, but I’m pretty sure I saw a flea jump off his back yesterday. Is that even possible?

iamthegreatwent @ instagram
iamthegreatwent @ instagram

A: Unfortunately, it is possible. I actually have first hand experience with this. My sister and I got fleas last summer, and neither of us had been outside since we were rescued years ago. There had been a stray cat hanging out by our front door and I think a flea jumped off of him and slipped inside through a small gap in our door. It may have also hitchhiked in on my mom’s sock.

If you suspect fleas, ACT FAST! Those little buggers can multiply like crazy and quickly get out of hand.

Sticky: How Do I Keep My Cat Safe on Thanksgiving?

Q: Dear Nora,
I’m thrilled to be hosting my very first Thanksgiving dinner this year. My cat is social and sweet and I think he’ll love having a house full of friends and family who will be eager to pet him. Are there any things I need to keep in mind to keep my cat safe during this celebration?

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Image Source: Douglas O’Brien via Flickr.com

A: Celebrations are fun. I personally like to celebrate from under the couch, but it sounds like I’m much more of a loner than your cat. There are a handful of ways your Thanksgiving celebration could be dangerous for your cat, so it’s a good thing you asked! Here are some tips for keeping him safe:

  • Keep him out of the kitchen, if you can. The kitchen can be an extra dangerous place for your kitty during a food-based holiday. Everything from a stovetop full of hot burners to stray knives on the counter to extra feet accidentally stepping on paws– not to mention the possibility of him tripping you while you’re walking with something hot or sharp.
  • Know which foods are toxic. Thanksgiving is full of foods that can be toxic to him. Check out this handy food guide from www.peteducation.com.
  • Dispose of dangers quickly. Dispose of strings and plastic wrappings in a timely manner so your cat can’t ingest them. You probably don’t want to spend your holiday at the Emergency Vet.
  • Careful with candles. Candles are obviously a fire hazard if he tips them over. He can also get burned by brushing up against a flame or hot wax.
  • Don’t let your guest feed him table scraps. Cats always think they want to eat what the humans are eating, but we have very sensitive stomachs and eating scraps can cause tummy issues. Trust me, you don’t want to clean up the aftermath of that.
  • Keep the door closed. Things can get confusing when a lot of people are coming and going. Keep an eye on the door to make sure it stays shut and that your cat isn’t lurking around the door waiting for his chance to make a run for it.
  • Know which potted plants and cut flowers are toxic. Your guests may have good intentions when they bring you a bouquet of flowers or a potted plant, but many of them can be dangerous if your cat gnaws on them. Reference the ASPCA’s toxic plant guide to be sure!
  • Know the Poison Control Hotline number. Always a good thing to have on hand, just in case: (888) 426-4435
  • Create a safe space. Even a social cat may get overstimulated in a home full of guests. Make sure he has a place to escape to if he wants to nap in peace. This can be as simple as moving his favorite bed into your bedroom. You may want to relocate his food and water dish for the day too.

Win FREE Lightweight Litter!

gladetoughodorsolutions_MAs a Tidy Cats Insider I get an exclusive first look at new products, which I can then pass onto you! In fact, Tidy Cats and I are teaming up to give a free sample of their newest product to TEN lucky Dear Nora readers! Read on to find out how you can enter to win…

Last week, my friends from Tidy Cats sent me a sample of their newest innovation: Tidy Cats Lightweight Litter with Glade Tough Odors Solutions. I gotta admit, I was skeptical that it could be the solution to MY tough odors! But I was impressed! I used the litter box right after my mom filled it with this new litter (typical) and the Glade kept the odors in check without overpowering our home with an artificial perfume.

Not only that, but Tidy Cats Lightweight with Glade is 50% lighter than traditional clumping litters, makes tight clumps for easy scooping, and comes in a jug that is both resealable and recyclable with two handles for easy carrying and pouring! What could be better?!

To enter for a chance to win a FREE sample of this exciting new product, leave a comment about what you love most about your cat. That’s right, just brag about your kitty and you could be one of TEN lucky readers to have Tidy Cats Lightweight with Glade shipped right to your home! Act fast, ten lucky winners will be chosen at midnight on Saturday, August 1st.

Check out this video for more information about this new product!

5 Things Your Cat Sitter Should Absolutely Know

Photo from pixabay.com
Photo from pixabay.com

‘Summertime’ means vacations and weekend getaways to many people. Unfortunately, most cats don’t appreciate the newness and unpredictability of travel and would much rather stay home where things are more mundane. Here’s a great article about the information you should relay to your cat sitter to ensure a safe and healthy stay-cation for your cat while you are away.

Click here to read 5 Things Your Cat Sitter Should Absolutely Know

How Can I Keep My Cat Calm on the 4th of July?

Q: Dear Nora,
I adopted a great new cat a few months ago. His only issue is that he’s a bit skittish around loud noises. How can I keep him from being scared out of his mind on the 4th of July when things are exploding all around us?

A: Fireworks can make even the bravest cats skittish, so I feel for your cat. You can help your cat by creating a safe space for him in your home. Here’s how:

  • Choose a room in your home that doesn’t get much foot traffic, and preferably has a door that can close for your cat’s privacy and security.
  • Make sure the room has all of his basic essentials, including a clean litter box, food, and fresh water.
  • Add some comforts too, like his favorite bed, toys, and a few items of clothing that smell like you.
  • Turn on a television or radio to help drown out the loud bangs.
  • Consider using a Feliway spray or plug-in to help calm his nerves.
  • Keep the party out of your house. If you want to celebrate at home, consider planning a small gathering with family or a small group of close friends.

Finally, be aware that the 4th of July– with all of the fear and disorientation it can cause– is the number one day of the year that pets go missing in the United States. Make sure that the room you create for your cat is secure and that your cat has ways of being identified (tag, microchip, PetHub ID, etc.) before it’s too late.

Is It Normal For My Cat to Shed Whiskers?

Q: Dear Nora,
Sometimes I find whiskers on the floor. Should I be concerned about my cat losing whiskers? Is this normal?

A: It’s totally normal for a cat to lose whiskers. Just like our fur, our whiskers continuously fall out and are re-grown. Whiskers play such a big part in how we explore the world that we like to keep them new and fresh.

The only time to be concerned is if you notice a big jump in the amount of whiskers your cat is losing, which may be an indication of illness. If this is the case, you will probably also notice other symptoms, such as your cat being lethargic or losing weight. Lethargy and weight loss are two very good reasons to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Feline Diabetes

Our dear friend, Pippi, died one year ago today after a two-year tussle with diabetes. Pip lived to the grand old age of 17 and had a pretty great life right up til the end, when she passed away curled up in her mom’s lap, surrounded by friends and family, thanks to the help of Sarah Nolan at Capital District Mobile Veterinary Services.

Before she was diagnosed, we didn’t know anything about feline diabetes. But, it’s amazing how fast you learn things when someone you love is counting on you to make the best decisions for them. Here’s what we learned through Pippi’s experience:

The Symptoms

  • Frequent urination. When Pippi became ill, she started peeing a lot. When I say “a lot”, I mean we had to completely change the litter every single day because she had soaked it straight through. Because of her need to pee more frequently, she also started occasionally peeing in other rooms when she couldn’t make it to the box. My mom learned pretty quick to add more boxes in more rooms to make it easier for Pip to find one.
  • Always thirsty. The amount of water she was consuming was one of the biggest tip-offs that something wasn’t right. Her water bowl, which would normally only be 1/4 empty by the time it was freshened each morning was suddenly bone dry within just a couple hours.
  • Big appetite with weight loss. Pippi was hungry for the entirety of the two years she was diabetic. But no matter how much she ate, she lost weight.
  • Lethargy. Granted, Pip was 15 years old when she was diagnosed, so she wasn’t the most active and spry cat around. Still, there was a distinct change in her behavior that let us know she wasn’t feeling so hot.

The Veterinarian Visits and Lab Results

I have to admit, we Googled Pippi’s symptoms before our vet appointment. It’s hard not to, when information is just a few clicks away. As you probably know, this almost always goes badly. When we showed up at the vet, we were convinced that one or more of her vital organs were failing her. So, when our vet suggested that she may be diabetic and explained how treatable feline diabetes is, we rejoiced!

He weighed her and took samples of her urine and blood to send to the lab. The lab results confirmed his suspicion of diabetes and we met with him a few days later to discuss our options. At that meeting, we learned how to successfully administer an insulin injection and asked all of the questions we could think of.

Never hesitate to ask your vet to explain anything you don’t understand. Sometimes medical professionals get into a habit of speaking in ways that are too wordy or complicated for the average person to understand. Don’t feel bad about asking them to back up and make it simpler. They want you to understand because they know it’s the best way to keep your animals healthy. Let them know if you need more info! Remember: they work for you!

The Treatment

Each cat is different and the treatment plan will be tailored to the cat’s particular situation. When Pippi first got diagnosed, she was a Type II diabetic. That meant that her body was still producing insulin, just not very efficiently. Our veterinarian prescribed a twice-daily insulin regimen and a diet change. He suspected that a high-protein, low-carb diet (which he called the Catkins Diet) could eventually stabilize her blood sugar and wean her off of the insulin altogether. He was right! Within a couple of months we were able to taper her insulin doses until she didn’t require insulin anymore. A year later, however, she switched to a Type I diabetic. Her body stopped producing its own insulin and she became insulin-dependent for the rest of her life.

As I said, each diabetic cat will have a different plan that will work best for them. Some will require insulin injections, some may be able to take an oral hypoglycemic medication, and some will simply need a change in diet. Your vet can help you choose the right plan.

We spent a lot of time at the vet during the last two years of her life. Her condition required regular checkups to make sure her sugar levels were stable and to keep an eye on her weight. It wasn’t easy (or cheap!), but I really do believe that our persistence, our great relationship with our veterinarian, and our confidence to ask for answers and clarity helped Pippi live a happy, comfortable, and relatively healthy life after her diagnosis.

Additional Resources:
The Pet Fund – A non-profit that provides financial assistance for veterinary care.
FelineDiabetes.com – A comprehensive website about feline diabetes.

Why Is My Cat Eating My Plants?

Q: Dear Nora,
I keep finding my cat munching on my houseplants. I make sure not to bring poisonous ones into my home, but it’s still aggravating. Why does she love eating my plants so much? And how can I make her stop?

A: It’s great that you’re careful to not bring plants into your home that may be toxic to your cat. Other readers who aren’t already so conscious can find a list of common toxic plants on our Resources page.

It’s very common for cats to eat plants and there are a few reasons she may be doing this.

  • Cats like things that dangle and flutter in the wind. If you have viney plants or plants that wiggle when the wind blows through the window, the plant may simply be poking at your cat’s natural instinct to hunt.
  • If you cause a big fuss every time you catch your cat nibbling, she may have learned that this is a great way to get your attention.
  • Eating plants can help with digestion, cause vomiting, and even act as a laxative. Eating your plants may be your cat’s way of trying to solve belly discomfort.

My first suggestion would be to make your plants inaccessible to you cat. Put them up on high shelves that she can’t access by jumping, hang dangling plants from the ceiling, or put them in a room she doesn’t have access to. Second, add a pot or two of cat grass to your home so she has a more appropriate way to fill her need to chomp on greens. You can buy pre-grown grasses or start them yourself from seed. You may even be able to find locally grown cat grass at your local health food store or farmer’s market. If you have a Bergan Turbo Scratcher (my favorite), you can even get an insert that will grow grass in the middle of it! Make sure to place the grass in areas that are easy for her to reach and close to parts of your home where she already spends a lot of time (for instance, near her favorite perch).