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.
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.
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!
Q: Dear Nora,
I catch my cat drinking out of the toilet a few times a week. He hasn’t gotten sick from it, but it squicks me out to think about. Why does he think toilet water is so delicious, and could he get sick from it?
A: Cats lick their own butts several times every single day. Drinking toilet water is the least of your problems if you’re scared of germs. That being said, if your cat’s love for toilet water is causing you real distress, you can simply get into the habit of putting the toilet lid down when you’re done doing your business.
Your cat is likely attracted to the water in the toilet because it’s cold, fresh, and not stagnant. Are you refreshing his water bowl enough? An easy solution is to invest in a watering fountain. That way your cat will always have access to fresh moving water and won’t be so bummed to see the toilet lid down.
More animals go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. The loud sounds of fireworks and crowds of people can cause distress in your animal friend, and cause them to be disoriented if outside. Here are some helpful tips to keep your friends safe:
:: Keep them inside, and stay with them if possible.
:: Make them feel safe by providing access to a safe hiding space– under your bed, in a closet, etc. Check in every once in a while to give love and treats.
:: Dull the noise by closing your windows and playing music or watching a movie.
:: Go about business as usual. Your kitties will use you as a barometer to determine how stressed out they should be. They’ll be more comfortable if you are upbeat, confident, and calm.
Q: Dear Nora, What do you think of battery operated interactive toys? My job keeps me out of my home for many hours every day, and I’m searching for ways to keep my cat stimulated while I’m away.
A: Cats are natural hunters and need that instinct to be stimulated somehow. If you don’t have the time to have interactive play sessions with your cats on a regular basis, battery operated toys are a great alternative! My favorite is the Motion-activated Mouse Chase Cat Toy. There is a mouse inside for me to swat at AND it has a scratch pad!
While you’re searching for toys, don’t rule out the ones that aren’t battery operated. I know lots of cats who love the Stimulo Activity Food Center. The Stimulo was technically designed to slow down eating to help cats with weight and digestion problems, but it’s also a puzzle that will keep your cat entertained for hours. The Turbo Scratcher is also great. It’s such a hit at my house that we have TWO! I like to bat the ball around, then pounce on it! Plus the scratch pad in the middle keeps my claws nice and sharp. Sometimes my mom sprinkles catnip into the scratch pad for some extra fun.
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.
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.
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.
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.