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, My dear cat is suddenly pooping outside of her litter box. Nothing is new about the box. It’s in the same location, we’ve been keeping it the same amount of clean, etc. What’s up?
A: Cats are finicky creatures and we can start pooping on the floor at ay time for a variety of reasons. We’re also very tuned into the smallest changes that you may not even notice yourself. Pooping outside the box is always a sign that something’s wrong and some of the potential problems are medical, so get your cat checked out by a veterinarian right away (and don’t forget to bring a stool sample). Here are some non-medical reasons this may be happening:
If you have multiple cats, other animals, or small children, your cat may be feeling threatened. Cats are always in competition, whether subtle or obvious, and your cat may be scared to enter the litter box in case she gets ambushed by another. If you have multiple cats, make sure there are enough litter boxes. The general rule is one box per cat plus one more. Make sure you place them in various places around the house so each of your cats always feels safe.
Where is your litter box placed? Is it in a dark area like a basement or closet? Perhaps as your cat gets older she’s having a hard time seeing the box well. Try adding a night light to the room.
You say nothing has changed about your box, so these next few may not apply to you. But there are some other reasons a cat may be pooping outside of the box that I wanted to cover for my other readers:
Your cat may not like the type of litter in the box, whether it’s the scent, the way it feels on her feet, or another reason. Try a new brand or type.
Some cats simply don’t like pooping in the same place they pee. You can try adding another litter box to your household. Place it in a different area of your home.
Are you keeping it clean enough? Cats have very strong senses of smell (40x stronger than yours!) If you aren’t cleaning the box at least once per day, she may be boycotting the filth.
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.
As 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!
‘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.
Q: Dear Nora, I’ll be hosting a cookout at my home for the 4th of July. My cat is very clever and sneaky, and I’m worried that she’ll eat some foods she shouldn’t be eating. What average cookout foods are toxic or dangerous to my cat? I can be more proactive about keeping food away from her if I know what to look for.
A: Thanks for reminding our readers that fireworks aren’t the only holiday threats to animals. Many human foods can be dangerous to your cat. Here are some items that make an appearance at your 4th of July party that you should keep away from her:
Alcohol – can cause coma or death
Bones – choking hazzards
Chocolate – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or a heart attack
As you may know, cats also just have very sensitive digestive systems and are prone to vomiting and diarrhea even with the most simple diet changes. For that reason, it would be smart to keep your cat away from human food always, toxic or not.
If you suspect that your cat has eaten something toxic, call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-764-7661.
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.
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.
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).
Ida Mae lived the first three years of her life in shelters and foster homes before she was adopted into Nora’s family in 2014. Now that she has found her Furever Home, Ida spends her days napping on window sills, wrestling with Nora, and eating all of the food all of the time.
Q: Dear Ida, I’m ready to adopt a new cat into my family, but I don’t know where to go. I’ve heard bad things about my local breeders, plus they’re expensive. I’ve been considering adopting from a shelter but I’m having a hard time getting over the stigma that shelter cats may be defective somehow. I mean, how else would they end up there? Help!
A: It’s a tragedy that shelter animals are assumed to be defective. I met some of my best friends while I lived at Whiskers Animal Benevolent League. Cats end up at shelters for all sorts of reasons, and usually those reasons have nothing to do with the personality or behavior of the cat. In my time at the shelter I met cats who had been rescued as strays or ferals, who were learning to love and trust humans. I met cats who had been surrendered after their human caretakers had passed away or moved out of the country. And even I was surrendered because my family couldn’t afford an extensive dental surgery that I needed. I can say with confidence that shelters are overflowing with healthy and happy cats that deserve a chance to show you how great they are.
I encourage you to contact your local animal shelter/rescue and ask to meet some of their adoptable cats. The shelter volunteers, who have spent countless hours working with the cats, will be familiar with each cat’s individual temperament and story. They will even have medical records on hand. Just go there with an open mind and see who you meet. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the experience, and maybe even find the new addition you’ve been looking for.
Q: Dear Nora, I want to liven up my home, so I have been thinking about getting a kitten. The thing is that I work a lot and my schedule is unpredictable. But kittens are so cute and I really want one! What do you think?
A: You’re right. Kittens are cute. You know what else kittens are? Little, wild, mischievous, needy, balls of energy that need near-constant attention. My mom worked from home when I was a kitten and even then I was barely tameable. Kittens are fun, and they can be sweet (Sometimes. After they are done being monsters), but it’s not fair to the kitten if you don’t have a lot of time to play and nurture. Instead, consider adopting a cat who is over a year old. She won’t require as much attention and will still be excited about playtime and snuggles when you’re home from work. Plus, older cats have a harder time getting adopted from shelters, so you’d really be saving a life. Contact your local shelter, meet a few, and see who you click with.
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.