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Why Does My Cat Dip Her Paw Into Her Water Bowl?

soph1
Soph

Q: Dear Nora,
One of my cats drinks water by dipping her paw into the bowl and then licking the water from her paw. Why?

A: Your cat may be doing this for one (or more!) of several reasons. First, cats have very sensitive whiskers. If the bowl is too small, or if the water is low and your cat’s whiskers will touch the sides of it if she drinks, she may choose to drink from her paws instead. If you think this is the case, try a shallow bowl with a large circumference.

Next, we always prefer the freshest water, and water seems freshest when it is moving instead of stagnant. Dipping our paws into the water is a way to try to achieve this with the tools we have (dirty water + paws = fresh?). Try a water fountain so your cat won’t have to do all that work.

Recommended Products:

Stainless Steel Fountain
Stainless Steel Fountain
Stainless Steel Shallow Dish
Stainless Steel Shallow Dish

Why Does My Cat Drink From My Cup?

Sheridan
Sheridan

Q: Dear Nora,
My cats have a large water bowl that I always refill when it gets low. Still, I frequently find them sneaking water from the kitchen sink, my own water glass, etc. What gives?

A: There are two things that may be happening. First, the water may not be fresh enough. Our wildcat-ancestor survival instincts are still very much in tact, even though we let you think you’ve domesticated us. If your cats are thirsty and the water smells or tastes bacteria-laden, they may avoid it. Keep in mind that our senses are a lot stronger than yours, so something that seems fine to you may be disgusting to us. Try using smaller bowls, which will force you to refresh the water more often. Also, give the bowls a good washing at least once a week.

Secondly, in a multi-cat household, weaker cats may seek out alternative water sources if a bully-cat is watching over the bowl. To solve this problem, put water (and food) bowls in several locations throughout your home, so there is always a safe and accessible alternative.

How Do I Stop Territorial Bullying?

Carlito
Carlito

Q: Dear Nora,
My youngest cat seems to bully my older cat in a territorial way. I’ve seen her kick the older cat out of prime sleeping spots, and try to steal her food (even though she has plenty of her own). What’s happening? And what can I do to stop it?

A: I do this to my sister, Pippi, too. You’re right: it’s territorial. Cats are territorial by nature and there will always be a hierarchy in a multi-cat home. As long as it doesn’t turn aggressive, I wouldn’t worry about it. Still, there are a few things you can do to make the home more pleasurable for your older cat and to keep her from feeling too pushed-around.

First, make sure that there are many desirable sleeping spots. Do they seem to be competing for a chair by the window because it has a few warm hours of afternoon sun? Is the oldest one being kicked off of the highest tier of the cat tree? Try to figure out what makes a spot desirable– whether it’s sun, coziness, privacy, etc.– and recreate it in several locations. Your older cat may still get kicked out, but she will at least have an equally cozy spot to transfer to.

As for stolen food, it’s important that your older cat is getting enough to eat and drink. Try putting dishes of food and water in several locations throughout your home. This way, your oldest cat will always have a second option if she is being kept from the first one. As a last resort, consider closing your oldest cat into another room during feeding times to ensure she’s getting proper nutrition without being bullied.

How Can I Prevent My Cat From Vomiting After Meals?

Aggie
Aggie

Q: Dear Nora,
Sometimes my cat throws up after eating. Is this normal? 

A: Frequent vomiting, from any animal, should be considered abnormal. Remember that we get our nutrients from our food, just like you. In order to absorb all of the nutrition we need to be active an healthy, we really need the food to stay in our bellies.

If there are other cats in your home, your cat may feel like she has to compete for food. This will make her scarf it down as quickly as possible and cause her to throw it up. If this seems like a possibility, try separating your cats at feeding time. It may also be that your cat simply has no self-control when it comes to food. If this is the case, try a food puzzle— it will force her to slow down, while also adding some great mental stimulation.

If neither of these seem to be the problem, take your kitty to see the vet, since there are a lot of medical reasons that could cause regular vomiting. 

How Do I Keep My Dog Out of the Litter Box?

Veto (cat) & Cuddles (dog)
Veto (cat) & Cuddles (dog)

Q: Dear Nora,
Thanks for your advice about avoiding covered litter boxes. I’d like to provide an uncovered box for my cat, but my dog loves to snack on cat poo. Any ideas? 

A: Even though it may seem counter-intuitive, it’s even more important to have uncovered boxes if your kitty is co-habitating with other animals. Not being able to escape the litter box is a legit concern if she sees the pup sniffing around. And, trust me, your cat eventually will find other (safer) places to do her business– maybe in the middle of the kitchen floor or in your new boots.

Instead, put the litter box in a room that doesn’t need to be accessible to the dog (laundry room, spare bedroom, bathroom, whatever) and install a hinged baby gate in the doorway. If your dog is big, you can install the gate 6 or so inches from the ground so your cat will easily be able to slip underneath. If not, install the gate closer to the ground and put something (a box, stool, piece of furniture) on each side, so your kitty can easily jump over the gate. The hinge will allow you to get into the room easily to clean the box daily, or you may be able to just step over the gate.

Natural Flea Remedies?

Carlito
Carlito

Q: Dear Nora,
Is there something non-toxic and more natural than prescription treatments that I can use to rid my home and cat of fleas? 

A: Fleas are the worst. When I was rescued by my friend Mike last summer, before I found my forever home, I was covered in an unbelievable amount of fleas. They were always biting me and driving me crazy. Kudos to you for caring about keeping your kitty flea-less in a non-toxic way.

For a natural remedy, try apple cider vinegar. Spray diluted (50/50 with water) onto your floors and carpets. You can also rub this mixture into her coat. Fleas hate the sour taste of vinegar and will avoid it. To catch jumpers, you can also mix dish detergent into water and leave bowls of it around your home. The fleas will be attracted to the sweet smell of the detergent, jump in, and won’t be able to get out.

When using natural remedies that deter fleas without killing them, you must vacuum every day (several times per day if possible!) to suck up fleas and eggs. Empty the vacuum bag often, too, so the fleas don’t hop out!

How Do I Give My Cat Space From My Rough Toddler?

Today’s column is brought to you by Gaea Stephens, an expert in the art of living with a toddler. Gaea is an (almost) 14 year old cat who lives in the Southern VT/NH area. She lives with her human parents, their 2 1/2 year old daughter and an enormous dog. She spends her days sleeping, eating, loving and plotting.

gaeaQ: Dear Gaea,
My toddler tends to play rough with our cat– tugging her tail, squeezing her, etc. The cat takes it like a champ, but I want to make sure she’s as happy as she can be. What can I do to ensure that my cat has ample space from my terrorizing toddler?

A: Sounds like you have a pretty great kitty and a toddler brimming with love for her. Just like kittens, human children show their love through rough play. What seems mean to a human adult can be seen as a sign of love for a toddler. And sometimes, love hurts!

Make sure that your feline friend has plenty of places to take respite from the rambunctious toddler. In my house my human parents allow me to hide in their room if I need some space. They have also provided vertical real estate for me– perches high enough that the tot can’t reach but I can still feel like part of the family.

Trust me when I tell you that your kitty will openly express her disdain if the kiddo takes things too far. I usually give a quick claw-free tap or a loud vocalization as a warning. I also show other signs such as flattening my ears and ceasing all purring. I have even been known to fluff up my tail and hiss a little when she gets really crazy. That is when the humans step in and remind their little one to be gentle with me. More often than not though, I really enjoy my little person’s company and affection. 

What’s the Deal with Litter Boxes and Pregnant Ladies?

Eyeball helping with the dishes
Eyeball helping with the dishes

Q: Dear Nora,
I’ve heard that pregnant women shouldn’t clean litter boxes. If there is something in cat litter that is bad for pregnant women, couldn’t it be bad for everyone? Help! We want healthy cat litter for the whole family! 

A: It’s not the litter that is the problem, it’s what you are scooping out of the litter. Cats (particularly those who go outside or eat raw meat– including mice caught inside) can carry a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite lives in our poop, and can be transmitted to you when you scoop the box.

In a healthy and non-pregnant person, toxoplasmosis (though sometimes more serious) normally only causes cold or flu-like symptoms. In a pregnant woman, however, the parasite can transmit to the fetus and cause a more serious reaction– even a miscarriage.

It’s great if you have someone else who can scoop the box while you’re pregnant. If that’s not possible, you can wear gloves while scooping. Always wash your hands well afterwards, and never put your grimy hands to your mouth before you wash them. As for your cats, you can greatly minimize their chances of spreading this parasite by keeping them indoors and feeding them a diet of canned or commercial dried cat food (never raw or undercooked meat).