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.
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.
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.