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, 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 indoor cat often interacts with cats outside the window. The interactions range from vocal (meowing, yowling) to physical (headbutting, swatting). Are these outdoor cats a danger to my indoor cat? Should I be worried about diseases?
A: As long as the screen barrier stays intact, you shouldn’t worry much about diseases. Even FeLV, which is highly contagious, is unlikely to be transmitted through the screen. That being said, it’s not uncommon for cats to tear screens or push them out, especially when we feel threatened. Invest in some adjustable window screens to add an extra layer between your cat and the outside world.
More than diseases, you should worry about the stress that these outdoor cats may be causing. Stress can be bad for your cat’s health, but it can also cause your cat to mark its territory by spraying around your home. I don’t mind seeing cats outside my window, but my sister Pippi just about loses her mind when she sees a stray. She never sprays (our mom is endlessly thankful for this), but she hisses and spits and is noticeably stressed.
If you want to keep cats out of your yard and away from your windows, you simply have to remember that cats hate water. Rig up some motion-activated sprinklers and you are good to go.
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.
‘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 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).
Q: Dear Nora, I found a young cat in a parking lot last week and I’m going to keep her. She has an appointment to get spayed next week and my veterinarian has suggested that I get her microchipped at the same time, while she is already under anesthesia. She’s going to be an indoor-only cat so I don’t know if microchipping is necessary. What are your thoughts on microchipping indoor-only animals?
A: Microchipping is a great idea, whether or not you ever intend for your cat to be outside. If this is your first cat you may not know this yet but… cats are really sneaky. We slip unnoticed through open doors, we push out the screens from windows, we convince your unsuspecting houseguests that we are outside cats so they feel like they’re doing a good deed when they hold the door open for us. If we want to get out, we will. It’s just a matter of time. If or when your cat does find her way outside, a microchip will identify her if she is found and taken to a shelter or veterinarian’s office. A microchipped cat is MUCH more likely to find her way back home.
Your veterinarian’s suggestion of doing the procedure while your cat is already under anesthesia for spaying is also a great idea. Your cat won’t even know it happened!
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.
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.
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.