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.
Q: Dear Nora, My medium-haired cat sheds like you wouldn’t believe. It’s not possible for me to vacuum every day, so my home is always covered in hair. I have tried brushing her, but she is scared of the brush and won’t let me go near her with it. As a medium-haired cat yourself, do you have any ideas of how I can help reduce the amount of hair she is shedding?
A: There are lots of ways to keep the furball situation under control, even if you live with a medium-haired cat who is afraid of brushes. Here are some ideas:
Get a Love Glove. This grooming mitt may not be as scary as a brush and I bet she’ll love how the little nubs will feel like the best back scratch she’s ever gotten.
Depending on the climate where you live, consider giving her a haircut (I like a dignified lion cut, myself). Never give her a haircut by yourself though; beneath our coats we have very thin skin, which can be dangerous if accidentally cut or nicked. Always get your cat’s hair cut by a trained professional such as a groomer or veterinarian.
Having a small, hand-held vacuum on hand (rather than always dragging out a clunky full-sized one) can make it easy to zip up stray hairballs.
Adding a 1/2 teaspoon of a omega oil (flax or fish) to her daily diet can help reduce the amount that she’s shedding. Be sure to choose a high quality oil from a reputable company.
Hopefully one or all of these ideas will help reduce the amount of hair in your home. If you believe that your cat is shedding an abnormal amount, of course, take your lil’ lady to the vet!
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 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.
Q: Dear Nora, My cats go crazy over yarn. They love to play with it and get all wrapped up in it. Is it okay to let them play with it? I’m worried they’ll ingest it.
A: I love playing with yarn. I love everything about it. I especially love ripping my mom’s knitting projects to shreds when she forgets to put them away.
Despite the fun, playing with yarn can actually be dangerous. It’s impossible for us to keep dangling and squirming things out of our mouths, you see. Before we know it, we’re swallowing it and it’s getting wrapped all around our insides and you are rushing us to the (very expensive, my mama tells me) emergency vet.
Luckily there are alternatives, such as wand toys. My mama spends some time every day playing with me with a wand toy and it’s great! I hunt it and play with it and get (safely) wrapped up in it– and as long as I am playing with my mama, she makes sure I don’t swallow anything bad, like the feathers on the end. So, hide the yarn, add more toys, and your cat will never know the difference.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.