The battle over cat fur is a constant one in our 4 kitty household, and it isn’t often that we buy black clothing. However, there are ways to keep the levels manageable.
Let’s start with grooming. Daily brushing will help keep the shedding down all over the house, and it is absolutely necessary as your cat gets older. Start early. Kittens don’t generally shed much, but you should start brushing them daily so that they get used to it (also start nail clipping, even if you just barely take off a sliver of each nail, so they get comfortable with the process).
Kagome, our 18-year-old Norwegian Forest Cat, is unable to groom herself anymore. So if we skip a brushing session, or if we simply aren’t thorough enough, her long fur will stick to anything (since the oils from her skin aren’t being distributed), and she gets mats incredibly easily, so it’s a constant battle. Thankfully, she doesn’t mind us using the clippers when needed. I think the soft buzz may sort of mimic purring for her.
There are many ways to remove fur from your carpets, furniture, bedding, and clothes. This video from Clean My Space covers most of the bases:
Cats of all sizes are remarkably similar. They are all obligate carnivores, they like cardboard boxes, enjoy chasing the evil little red dot, enjoy catnip, and all sorts of other things.
The main thing that makes them different is that domestic cats like hanging out with people. Big cats don’t. But in almost all other ways, cats of all sizes are extremely similar. They like catnip, they like boxes, they sleep a lot, they like unrolling toilet paper, they are obligate carnivores, they have better sight than other carnivores, a great sense of smell, and some big cats even knead (making biscuits), etc.
Domestic cats are social, and (females especially) live in colonies when they are feral. But lions are also very social, and live in groups.
The biggest differences are that domestic cats have more mutations on genes involved in mediating aggressive behavior, forming memories, and controlling the ability to learn from either fear or reward-based stimuli. This means they have longer memories, more capacity to learn, and are far less aggressive than their wild relatives.
Of all the myths spread about cats, one of the most tragic is that most people believe that all male cats will kill kittens if given an opportunity. This is absolutely untrue.
Cats are very social, empathetic creatures. Males often help with the kittens in feral populations, as well as when the male lives in the same house with the female and kittens. The reason we don’t see it a lot when our own cats have kittens is because the male isn’t able to get near them if he is a feral, stray, or lives in another home.
In fact, the male doesn’t even need to be related to the kitten(s) in order to want to protect and nurture it.
This isn’t conjecture or wishful thinking or anthropomorphism. The literature is full of studies and observational data that back this up. I have seen it many times.
In fact, I have seen many males, both feral and house cats, help to take care of kittens. I’m not saying all male cats are completely safe, and that there’s no need to worry. What I’m saying is that it’s not set in stone, and you also need to be aware that mother cats sometimes kill their own kittens, and at a higher rate than males. This remains true even when you factor in access.
Several years ago, there was a cat I saw quite a bit while I was in a rural town in Oklahoma. He was very friendly, so we were able to get him neutered, and then released him. We called him Kagetora (shadow tiger; because he followed my daughter around all the time).
He was about 7 months old when he first started following my daughter around. Back then, in 2008, we had a Samoyed-Chow Chow mix named Alaska, and Kagetora loved her. When my daughter took her outside, Kagetora would rub against her, trotting between her legs as she walked, and he would cuddle up close to her when she would nap on the lawn.
When he wasn’t following my daughter and Alaska around, his favorite napping spot was the place where the feral females would have their litters, and he loved helping with the kittens. He’d protect them while mom was away, groom them, play with them, and even share his food.
This is altruism in action. For a very long time, we didn’t believe that animals could behave altruistically. But anyone who studies animals will see it. The smarter the species, the more often we see altruism. I’ll discuss the topic of altruism—both within a species and interspecies altruism—more in the future.
Kagetora got attacked by a coyote one night while protecting the kittens. He managed to scare off the coyote, but he was in bad shape. We nursed him back to health, got the kittens to the Humane Society, and trapped the females and got them spayed. I decided it was time for him to retire, and we adopted him.
Fast-forward to November of 2014. We were fostering a young cat, Freya (AKA Bunny), who was pregnant. (See her story here.) She was only 6 months old when she got pregnant (before we took her in), and she had 6 kittens, so it was a bit much. Kagetora and our then 10-year-old female cat, Kiki (who had kittens before), loved taking care of the kittens. Our older female, who was 17, had never had kittens, and wanted nothing to do with them.
The wonderful thing about Bunny was that she established close and trusting relationships with our 3 cats while she was pregnant, so she not only had help with the kittens, but she had a lot of moral support for herself as well.
One of the kittens, Stiles, got really sick, and we had to bottle feed him and carry him around with us to keep him warm. My daughter and I slept opposite each other so someone was always awake with him. During this time, Kagetora and Kiki bonded with Stiles very strongly. By the time he was old enough to be adopted, they were convinced he was theirs, and I couldn’t take him away from them.
Here’s Kagetora with his baby (he was SO happy to have his own kitten):
And here are Kagetora and Kiki with their baby, Stiles:
Q: My cat has stinky breath. What could I do to make it less stinky?
A: You need to figure out what is causing it. If this is an occasional problem, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Just make note of what the cat ate before getting bad breath, and see if there’s a pattern.
If this is a chronic problem, you need to take your cat to the vet ASAP. Cats are particularly susceptible to abscesses, which are bacterial infections. Unfortunately, cats are also experts at masking pain, so sometimes bad breath is going to be the only symptom you notice.
Causes of bad breath (halitosis) in cats include:
Dental and Periodontal issues As I mentioned above, if you aren’t taking care of your cat’s dental hygiene, issues with teeth and gums will develop. Dental issues are the leading cause of bad breath in cats.
Diabetes Cats with untreated diabetes can have a fruity or sweet smelling breath.
Kidney problems Cats with kidney issues can often have breath that smells like ammonia/urine.
Liver problems If your cat is vomiting, shows little interest in food, or has a yellowish tinge to the eyes or gums, it indicates that their liver is not functioning properly.
Sinusitis Just like humans, cats can have issues with inflammation and foul smelling discharge due to sinusitis.
Gastrointestinal issues Cats can sometimes have issues, such as enlargement of the esophageal tube, that lead to bad breath.
Whether or not your cat goes crazy for catnip depends on if the cat has the gene that makes them react to it. Anywhere from 50 to 75% of cats (including big cats!) react to catnip.
Catnip plants (Nepeta cataria and other Nepeta species) are members of the mint family. Originally from Europe, Asia, and Africa, it spread across the globe as early as the 1600s. It is used as a medicinal herb (made into a tea, catnip has calming properties similar to chamomile) as well as a treat for cats. Catnip can be found in many an herb garden, and also grows in a lot of places as a weed.
Catnip is nonaddictive and completely safe in small amounts for cats. In larger amounts, it can cause stomach upset, nausea, and vomiting, which will pass without lasting effects in most cases.
The way we think it works is basically as an artificial pheromone. When a cat smells catnip, nepetalactone binds to protein receptors that stimulate sensory neurons. This creates a response in neurons in the olfactory bulb. The amygdala integrates the information flow from the olfactory bulb cells and projects to areas governing behavior responses.
The most intense catnip experience is an olfactory one—your cat smells the catnip and the response is immediate. When they just smell it (including rolling in it), it acts as a stimulant. It can cause hyper fits, and even aggression. When ingested, it causes a calming effect.
The effect only lasts 10-15 minutes, and it takes about an hour before it will work again. But don’t give it to them very often because they can lose their ability to feel its effects. The general recommendation is once every 2 weeks.
We have 4 cats. The oldest, 18, does not have the gene, so she has no interest. The other 3 do. Our 15-month-old always wants to lick it, so he gets very mellow and chill. Our other 2 usually sniff it and roll around in it, and they both get bitey and slightly aggressive, so we can’t give it to all of them at the same time because the little guy gets so chill that he won’t even bap at the older cats when they bite him.
Of our 4 cats, 3 of them love catnip. But our oldest, Kagome, doesn’t seem to have the gene.
If you’ve been on the internet recently, you may have seen a video or two of a cat partaking of a tasty cold treat and then freezing, mouth agape, eyes starting to roll as the cat gets an ice cream headache. On the surface, the faces they make might look funny, but they are actually the horrifying expression of a cat’s agony. It is no more funny than whatever expression your cat would make if someone hit it with a baseball bat, kicked it, or threw it against a brick wall.
The cat has no idea what is happening. It has no way to know that it isn’t dying, that the pain is transient, that it will be okay. Inflicting all of that on an animal that depends on you is absolutely cruel.
It isn’t funny, it isn’t a joke, and it most certainly isn’t ethical.
This video from Cole & Marmalade‘s channel shows Cali the kitten was trapped in a storm drain for 96 hours until the efforts of Sierra Pacific FurBabies, a non profit rescue organization in CA, finally paid off!
For more on this story, you can read the article here. For more on Cole and Marmalade, you can visit their site here.
Real Cats, Real Stories is a little segment we like to do to highlight the felines who have overcome the odds, who have touched our hearts, and who have shown us that they are so much more than internet memes make them out to be. If you have a story about a cat that you’d like to share, send it to us! (stories at littlecatdiaries.com)
Back in November of 2015, a little kitty followed my daughter home (cats love her, always have, and that’s how we got 3 of our 4 cats). This kitty was about 6 months old, and just so pretty. I thought we’d take her in, try to find her owners or a new home after we got her spayed. By the time we had the money to get her spayed and her shots, and all that good stuff, it was obvious she was already pregnant. We hadn’t let her out, so she was pregnant when she followed my daughter home. I had never seen such a young cat get pregnant.
We named her Freya, but soon just called her Bunny, which devolved into Bun-Bun because she was an impressive jumper.
The day we took her in, she made instant friends with our then 6-year-old male. Our two female cats (then 17 and 10) had a truce going, but they weren’t buds. Bunny knew exactly how to act to make friends with them. She would go up to them (not too close), and flop down on her side, purring and friendly, and she soon became better friends with all our cats than they were with each other. It was amazing.
As her due date got closer, she slept with me, so I would be there when she went into labor. On the morning of January 27, 2015, she thoughtfully waited until I woke up to inform me that the babies were on their way. She wanted to have them under my vanity sink instead of the box or the closet where I had set up places, so I grabbed a box, took all the stuff out of the cabinet, and put down a clean towel just in time for her to have kitten #1.
She had 6 kittens in all, which is a HUGE litter, especially for a very young, first time momma. I took this picture after kitten #5, thinking that was the end of it. Nope! Stiles came into the world about 5 minutes later.
There were a lot of amazing things about Bunny and her kittens. The first was how young she was, then there’s the large litter she had, but one of the most stunning things was that 3 of the kittens appeared to be younger than their siblings by about 2 weeks.
I had heard of kittens in a single litter being younger than their littermates, but I had never seen it before Bunny had her babies. Since she had gone into heat at a very early age, and littermates can have different fathers, it sometimes happens that very young cats can go into heat even in the first weeks of pregnancy. It’s not common for the difference in age to be more than a few days, but Bunny was special in a lot of ways.
Each kitten looked different: Bucky (the biggest) is an orange tabby, Stiles is a grey tabby with white splotches, Juno (Bunny Junior) looks a lot like her mother, Steve was an albino, Cleo is a stunning calico, and Kiri has beautiful seal point coloring (like a Siamese). Stiles, Cleo, and Kiri also have the beautiful medium-length fur that Bunny has. Stiles’s fur lays flat, but his little sisters are very fluffy. Like Bunny, they are also amazingly soft.
Bunny was a great mother, especially considering her age. She was attentive, but since she was extremely social, she was fine with us helping out, and she was also happy to have Kiki and Kagetora help her bathe the kittens. It was very much a group effort. I’ll add more details about this in my post about Stiles.
We found homes for all the kittens except Juno, so when she was old enough, she went to the Tulsa SPCA with Freya. For reasons I’m not clear on, the SPCA renamed Freya to Deliah. I know Juno was adopted quickly because she never appeared on their website, but Freya was there for several weeks. We had moved to a different state, so I felt helpless every time I checked and saw that she was still there, but she did eventually find a home.
I miss her like crazy, but I know she’s out there somewhere, being loved and pampered, just as she deserves. I see her in Stiles’s face and eyes all the time. My sister and niece adopted Cleo and Kiri, and I see Freya in them (especially Cleo) when my sister sends pictures.
She changed my life, and many of the ways I think about cats. Her empathy and intelligence, passed on to her babies as well, continues to change and shape not only my life, but the lives of the people and cats that I strive to help. If I believed in fate, I would surely believe that some special magic brought her into our lives to teach us things that I’m still learning.
Wherever you are, my sweet Bun Bun, I love you, and I think of you often. Thank you.
Q: There is a room that my cat isn’t allowed to go into. I keep the door closed, but when I do leave it open she goes in there. When I catch her, she looks ashamed. Does she understand that what she’s doing is wrong?
A: First, some semantics:
Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
She isn’t displaying shame, that’s a purely human construct, but let’s explore if she should.
It depends on what your definition of right and wrong are. Do you truly believe that going into a room, that is usually inaccessible to you, in the house that you live in is wrong? Even if you never agreed not to do it? Even if it makes no sense to you? It isn’t a broken social contract, so it isn’t wrong.
Doesn’t sound wrong from the cat’s point of view, so let’s look at your actions. It’s only wrong if you believe yourself to be superior to the cat. In that case, it’s just a misunderstanding, so you aren’t that wrong.
To understand your cat, you must first understand this: Your cat is smarter and has a much longer memory than a dog. Unlike what many people choose to believe, she also doesn’t consider herself to be better than you are. She considers you to be her friend, her equal, her ally. She doesn’t think you’re her boss or her slave.
All you have to do to remain in the right is to keep the door to the room closed, and don’t ever punish a cat. She will think you’re insane and you will lose more of her trust each time. That includes scolding in this case.
So, in the end, she would have every right to feel shame for your ridiculous behavior in this matter, but she’s above all that. She’ll still think of you as her friend, even if you’re a little odd.