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Is My Sleepy Cat Depressed?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat sleeps a lot. Sometimes it seems like he sleeps almost all day. Is this normal? I’m worried that he’s depressed.

A: Day-long catnaps aren’t necessarily a sign of depression. On average, a healthy cat can sleep between 15-20 hours per day! Despite being domesticated, cats are still wild at heart and are hard-wired to sleep during the day and hunt at night. Your sleepy cat may very well be up chasing and pouncing at night while you are sound asleep. Try interesting him in some daytime hunting and playing with a wand toy or laser pointer.

Excessive sleeping may signal depression, though, if this is new behavior. Be on the lookout for lethargy, a change in personality or grooming habits, hiding, or aggression. Try this checklist from CatChannel.com to help you determine if your cat may be depressed. If you suspect depression or your cat’s behavior has changed, see your vet for options.

How Do I Keep My Cat Off the Refrigerator?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat is always climbing on things. He jumps onto the counters, my dresser, the tops of cabinets, bookcases, and even the refrigerator. I don’t like when he gets up onto places where he isn’t supposed to be (especially in the kitchen with his litter-paws), but he only purs when I call him “Bad Kitty”. Why is he so insistent on being naughty and how can I get him to stop?

A: We like to be up high. It’s just a fact. From the beginning of cat-time, we’ve climbed trees, buildings, and refrigerators. It’s how we keep an eye on our surroundings, hunt our prey, and keep from becoming prey for other sneaky creatures.

You won’t be able to easily stop us from climbing to the highest perch in the room. However, you can provide more cat-appropriate vertical space to lure him away from the cabinets. There are lots of options out there, in many styles and price points. I have a tall, multi-tier tree in my house. It’s great because there is plenty of room for both my sister and I to be up high. Plus the base doubles as a scratcher to keep my claws nice and healthy. If you don’t like the look of a carpet-lined cat tree, there’s this fancy wooden version. There are also window perches and wall-mounted cat shelves.

In my house, we really like it when the cat tree is near a window so we can watch the birds and insects fly around. Most cats like this best, but you can try your tree in a couple locations to see what your cat prefers. Sprinkle some catnip onto the new tree or perch and give him some treats when he uses it. That’ll help him associate the tree with good times and ensure that he’ll keep using it.

Can Cats Have Seasonal Allergies?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat’s eyes have been watery and itchy lately. It has occurred to me that maybe she has allergies, since it’s springtime and I’ve recently opened up all the windows. Can cats have springtime allergies?

A: Yes, cats can have environmental allergies just like humans. Watery and itchy eyes are the most common allergy symptoms cats experience. If your cat has seasonal allergies you may also notice nasal congestion, sneezing, and red eyes.

Seasonal allergies themselves aren’t that big of a deal and can be easily solved with a vet-prescribed anti-histamine. The problem is that it can be hard for many people to tell the difference between the symptoms of an allergy and an eye infection. Eye infections can get out of control fast and cause long-term or permanent damage, so I’d suggest speaking to your vet if you aren’t sure. You vet will have suggestions and treatments to help your cat feel better, no matter the cause of the watery eyes.

How Do I Distract My Active Cats While I Work From Home?

Q: Dear Nora,
I work from home and my cats drive me absolutely CRAZY. It’s hard for me to concentrate because they are always running over my keyboard, knocking pens off my desk, and begging me to play with them. How can I show my cats that I love them while also staying productive and maintaining my sanity?

A: I don’t really understand why you’d want to do work instead of playing with cats but okay, I’ll give this a shot. Your cats are super excited that you’re home, and it also sounds like they have a lot of energy, so naturally that energy is going to be directed at you if you don’t provide other enticing things to play with.

Do your cats have enough toys? I mean, toys they actually play with? My mom works from home too and we stay (mostly) distracted by the Bergan Turbo Scratcher. It has a scratch pad and a ball we can chase around. Plus there are all kinds of inserts to change it up with teaser toys and cat grass. There are also some automated interactive toys to keep your cats busy while you concentrate. Try an automated chaser toy or a battery operated mouse.

Also, make sure to take a break every now and then to play with your cats yourself. Taking breaks will ultimately improve your concentration and stamina and keep them purring at you when your work day is done.

Why Does My Cat Love String So Much?

Q: Dear Nora,
What is the maddening attraction cats have for string and the like?  From the yarn in my hand to the drawstring on my pajama pants and sometimes even the spaghetti hanging over the edge of my plate.  What is it?!

A: The answer to this is pretty simple. Your cat is a hunter. Even indoor kitties who don’t get to hunt actual live prey (except maybe the occasional mouse or fly) still have the hunting instinct strong at their cores. One thing is for sure: if it wiggles, we will pounce.

If this is behavior you’ve noticed is exceptionally strong in your cat I’d suggest adding some good wand toys into your playtime.

Why Does My Cat Poop on My Bed When I’m Away?

Q: Dear Nora,
My 2-year old cat is generally great about using the litter box. We never have any problems except for when we go away for more than two nights. Although we have someone check on him and feed him while we are gone, he has always pooped on our bed when we return. We have three litter boxes in the house and this never happens when we are home. I’m sure he’s just upset with us, but how to I get him to stop?

A: The problem isn’t that your cat is upset with you. Cats don’t think like that. Your cat is likely either just stressed because you are gone and he doesn’t understand why you aren’t there, or there is something missing from his routine while you’re away (attention, playtime, etc.) and he’s making a statement about feeling neglected.

To deal with stress, I am a big fan of the Feliway plug-in (it comes in a spray version too. But the plug-in would be best if you’re out of town for a few days). Feliway mimics the pheromones that cats create when they are happy and content. It helps cats stay calm and comfortable even when their environments change.

I see that you have people check on him and feed him while you’re gone, but how long are they sticking around? Is he getting proper attention? Cuddles? Play time? Consider hiring an actual professional pet sitter who will be sure to give him the proper amount of time and affection while you’re away.

Why Does My Cat Hiss When She Plays?

Q: Dear Nora,
My cat hisses sometimes when she is playing. Is this normal?

A: Actually, yes. Though not super common, lots of cats hiss and growl while they are playing. Your cat is simply following her predatory instincts and acting as she would when hunting live prey.

Why Does My Cat Knock Everything Down?

Q: Dear Nora,
Why does my cat like to knock everything off of high surfaces? It’s driving me bonkers! What can I do, short of installing trampoline floors.

A: Sounds like your cat is bored. We’re playful and curious creatures, and if we don’t have enough appropriate things in our environments to stimulate us we’ll surely resort to inappropriate things. Does your cat have enough toys around? Does he actually play with them? If there aren’t enough toys around that actually get a lot of use you may want to just try a few more kinds. There are so many different kinds out there—balls, squeaking toys, wands, battery operated ones—there’s bound to be something to direct his attention away from knocking everything over. You can also try some food puzzles to keep him stimulated.

But if you do end up installing trampoline floors, be sure to invite me over. That sounds fun!

Should I Shave My Cat This Summer?

Q: Dear Nora,

My cat has fairly long hair and has been pretty sluggish over the past few days from the heat. I’m considering trimming his hair, but I don’t know if it’s the best thing to do. I’ve been reading that cats regulate their own body heat naturally and I don’t want to mess with that. Thoughts? And, what are other things I can do to help my cat be less miserable in the summer?

A: I agree that your cat’s coat is actually helping him stay cooler in the heat. Not only that, but his coat will also help him stay safe from the sun if he likes to lounge in windows like I do. His coat can protect him from sunburns and skin cancer. There are a few things you can do instead though.

  • If your cat has an exceptionally thick coat you can brush him more regularly to remove extra detached fur. You can also use a thinning tool such as the Furmintaor. Careful with that thing though; you can easily and quickly overdo it.
  • Sounds like it’s time to get an air conditioner. If you don’t want or can’t have a window unit, consider a smaller, more portable version. Also, close the curtains or blinds during the day. Simply blocking out the sun can make such a difference.
  • If your cat tends to sleep in the same bed or area during the day, point a fan in his direction.
  • Make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. Hydration is key. I really like it when my mama puts ice cubes in my water during the summer.
  • I’m not a fan of this myself, but my sister Pippi used to really like being rubbed down with a washcloth soaked in cool water. She looked like a drowned rat, but it kept her cool.

In extreme heat conditions, keep an eye out for symptoms that may indicate that your cat is overheating—heavy panting, vomiting, staggering and drooling, skin that’s hot to the touch, and glazed eyes. Rush your cat to his veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms, as they can result in death.

P.S. If you disregard my advice and decide to shave your cat anyway, please hire a professional to do it. Cat skin is very thin and can be easily nicked by someone who isn’t trained.

How Can I Keep My Cat From Sleeping In My Plant?

Q: Dear Nora,

My cats have started sleeping in the potted plants on my balcony, despite having many comfy spots to sleep elsewhere. How can I get them to stop crushing my lovely balcony plants?

A: The best way to get cats to do anything is to figure out what’s so desirable to them about whatever they are doing, then offer them something even more desirable. In this case, I suspect there are three things that are desirable to your cats about the plants:

  1. They are outside in the fresh air, where all the birds and insects and squirrels are.
  2. They are outside in the sunshine. We all know that’s the best place to take a nap.
  3. We love dirt and plants– napping in them, gnawing on them, whatever.

Given these assumptions, I’d suggest two things. First, try creating a few potted plants just for them. These should include soil, sunshine, and air. Try planting something like catgrass in the pot instead of something that will get crushed. Place these pots beside your crushed ones, so your cat is able to see clearly why the new pot is a better option. Second, make your other plants less desirable by topping the soil with a layer of rocks. Water will still drain into them, but it won’t be as cozy to your cats.