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, 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.
‘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 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, My cat is a rescue who was denied food for a portion of his life before he came to me. As a result, he’s a bit wild about food. At mealtimes he scarfs it all up immediately, then sometimes vomits before he even has a chance to digest it. How can I help him slow down so he’s benefiting from his meals (plus, you know, help me not clean up cat vomit a couple times a week)?
A: This behavior is pretty common in cats who have come from similar situations. As you can guess, he’s got some emotional issues that make him believe that if he doesn’t eat the food as quickly as possible it’ll disappear. And he has no trust that he’ll have a chance to eat again tomorrow. Eventually, as he learns and trusts that you will consistently feed him every day, he may ease up on the scarfing (But don’t be alarmed or offended if he is a lifelong scarfer. These issues can be very deeply rooted). While you work on helping him understand that you will always feed him, you can add food puzzles to his meals. A food puzzle like the Stimulo will make it impossible for your cat too eat quickly, making it easier for him to digest his whole meal. As an added bonus, it’ll help stimulate his hunter instincts and keep him alert.
Q: Dear Nora, My 2-year old cat is generally great about using the litter box. We never have any problems except for when we go away for more than two nights. Although we have someone check on him and feed him while we are gone, he has always pooped on our bed when we return. We have three litter boxes in the house and this never happens when we are home. I’m sure he’s just upset with us, but how to I get him to stop?
A: The problem isn’t that your cat is upset with you. Cats don’t think like that. Your cat is likely either just stressed because you are gone and he doesn’t understand why you aren’t there, or there is something missing from his routine while you’re away (attention, playtime, etc.) and he’s making a statement about feeling neglected.
To deal with stress, I am a big fan of the Feliway plug-in (it comes in a spray version too. But the plug-in would be best if you’re out of town for a few days). Feliway mimics the pheromones that cats create when they are happy and content. It helps cats stay calm and comfortable even when their environments change.
I see that you have people check on him and feed him while you’re gone, but how long are they sticking around? Is he getting proper attention? Cuddles? Play time? Consider hiring an actual professional pet sitter who will be sure to give him the proper amount of time and affection while you’re away.
My cat has fairly long hair and has been pretty sluggish over the past few days from the heat. I’m considering trimming his hair, but I don’t know if it’s the best thing to do. I’ve been reading that cats regulate their own body heat naturally and I don’t want to mess with that. Thoughts? And, what are other things I can do to help my cat be less miserable in the summer?
A: I agree that your cat’s coat is actually helping him stay cooler in the heat. Not only that, but his coat will also help him stay safe from the sun if he likes to lounge in windows like I do. His coat can protect him from sunburns and skin cancer. There are a few things you can do instead though.
If your cat has an exceptionally thick coat you can brush him more regularly to remove extra detached fur. You can also use a thinning tool such as the Furmintaor. Careful with that thing though; you can easily and quickly overdo it.
Sounds like it’s time to get an air conditioner. If you don’t want or can’t have a window unit, consider a smaller, more portable version. Also, close the curtains or blinds during the day. Simply blocking out the sun can make such a difference.
If your cat tends to sleep in the same bed or area during the day, point a fan in his direction.
Make sure there is plenty of fresh water available. Hydration is key. I really like it when my mama puts ice cubes in my water during the summer.
I’m not a fan of this myself, but my sister Pippi used to really like being rubbed down with a washcloth soaked in cool water. She looked like a drowned rat, but it kept her cool.
In extreme heat conditions, keep an eye out for symptoms that may indicate that your cat is overheating—heavy panting, vomiting, staggering and drooling, skin that’s hot to the touch, and glazed eyes. Rush your cat to his veterinarian immediately if you notice any of these symptoms, as they can result in death.
P.S. If you disregard my advice and decide to shave your cat anyway, please hire a professional to do it. Cat skin is very thin and can be easily nicked by someone who isn’t trained.
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.