10 Nice Things You Can Do for Your Cat

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On June 4th, National Hug Your Cat Day, cat owners are encouraged to cuddle their felines—but if every day in your household is "Hug Your Cat Day," here are 10 additional ways to give your kitty extra love, attention, and care.

1. KEEP YOUR CAT'S TEETH SQUEAKY CLEAN.

A pet owner brushing his Maine Coon cat's teeth
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According to Purina, eight out of 10 felines over the age of 3 have tooth and gum problems. Since kitties get dental plaque just like humans do, some vets recommend brushing your cat's teeth—but if the idea of shoving a toothbrush inside your pet's mouth makes your arms burn with imaginary bites and scratch marks, consider using a product like ProDen PlaqueOff, a dental powder that can be added to wet or dry food. It breaks down bacterial biofilm buildup to keep your feline's mouth nice and healthy.

2. KEEP YOUR CAT ACTIVE WITH THE RIGHT TOYS.

Cat bats at feather toy.
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Some 60 percent of pet cats were overweight or obese in 2017, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Trick lazy indoor cats into getting exercise by buying them toys like Go Cat's Da Bird, which are designed to engage their natural hunting instincts. ("Every cat owner should have Da Bird," attests Mental Floss editor-in-chief and resident cat expert, Erin McCarthy.) The 3-foot teaser wand has a feathered bauble that's attached to a long string—the ornament resembles a flying bird as it bobs and twists through the air, encouraging your kitty to leap, run, and bat its way to tip-tip shape.

3. BRUSH YOUR CAT REGULARLY.

A pet owner brushing an orange cat's fur on a white bedspread.
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Cats spend around 30 to 50 percent of their day grooming themselves, but it's a good idea to give them regular brushings, too. Not only will you ensure your kitty's coat stays glossy and tangle-free, you'll also decrease the number of hair balls it gets. Both your cat and your rug will thank you.

4. BUY YOUR CAT A CLASSY NEW BED.

The Peacock Ball cat bed by Meyou Paris
Meyou Paris

Feline furniture doesn't always need to be fluffy, leopard print, or sparkly. Made by Meyou Paris, these modernist cat beds, lounges, and cocoons are marketed as "classy furnitures for discerning cats."

5. TAKE YOUR CAT TO THE VET FOR ANNUAL CHECKUPS.

White and gray cat looks up at a vet.
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Even if your cat is acting like its typical energetic or lazy self (there tends to be no in-between with felines), it's still important to ensure it receives regular preventative check-ups. That way, the vet can screen for new or developing conditions and treat them before they balloon into serious—and expensive—health concerns. It's also a convenient time to address lifestyle and diet, or any behavioral changes. Experts from Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center recommend taking animals under 7 years old to the vet once a year, and older pets on a semi-annual basis, depending on their individual health needs.

6. MAKE SURE YOUR CAT'S LITTER BOX IS UP TO SNUFF.

Fluffy gray cat sitting in a pink litter box.
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Cats are clean animals and will typically do their business atop a prized rug if their other option is a dirty litter box. Keep your home furnishings safe—and your cat happy—by keeping their tiny bathrooms sparkling clean. (A self-cleaning litter box might be a good option for busy pet owners.) If they're refusing to use the litter box, try experimenting with different brands or makes of cat litter, or covered and uncovered boxes, to determine which types your kitty prefers.

For pet owners with multiple cats, the Humane Society of the United States recommends that they own one litter box per feline and provide them with an extra "just-in-case" box for emergencies. That way, there won't be any turf battles among your pets.

7. PROVIDE YOUR CAT WITH A CONSTANT SUPPLY OF FRESH FILTERED WATER.

Striped cat drinking from a water faucet.
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Want to treat your cat to clean, tasty water? Instead of pouring the contents of your Brita filter into its dish, opt for a bubbling water fountain with a re-circulating system and a water-softening filter, like the Catit Flower Fountain. It comes with three flow settings and is ergonomically designed for easy drinking.

8. PLAY YOUR KITTY MUSIC THAT'S SPECIALLY COMPOSED FOR CATS.

Gray kitten closes eyes while having headphones on.
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Does your cat love you, but hate your taste in music? Try playing a few tunes by David Teie, a composer who partnered with animal scientists to make the 2015 album Music for Cats. It features songs "based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats," according to Teie's website. (Don't worry, they also sound good to human ears.)

9. HELP YOUR CAT GET 'REVENGE' ON THE NEIGHBORHOOD DOG.

Kitten screams at scared-looking puppy.
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Is there a neighborhood dog whose barking terrifies your cat? Allow your kitty to "fight" back (and give its claws a workout) by providing it with a dog-shaped scratch pad.

10. TREAT YOUR KITTY TO CATNIP 'WINE.'

White and brown cat stares at a glass of white wine.
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Love cats and wine? Enjoy your favorite drink with your furry friend by giving them Apollo Peak's special catnip-laced "wine" for cats. It comes in punny flavors like "Pinot Meow" and "Moscato," but don't worry—the feline beverage is made from beets and natural preservatives, and doesn't actually contain any alcohol.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

11 Lesser-Known Animal Phobias

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iStock.com/Scacciamosche

He’s dealt with elaborate booby traps, KGB agents, and a face-melting artifact, but to Indiana Jones, nothing’s more unsettling than snakes. Many people can relate. Ophidiophobia—or “the persistent and irrational fear of snakes”—affects roughly 1 to 5 percent of the global population. So does the clinical fear of spiders, also known as arachnophobia. But did you know that some people feel just as uncomfortable around chickens? From puppy-induced panic to equine terror, here are 11 lesser-known animal phobias.

1. Lepidopterophobia

Academy Award-winner Nicole Kidman is unfazed by spiders or snakes, but she can’t escape her lepidopterophobia, or fear of butterflies. As a young girl, the Australian actress once scaled a fence just so she could avoid a butterfly perched nearby. “I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things,” Kidman once said, “but I just don’t like the feel of butterflies’ bodies.” (The Independent reported that she tried to break her phobia by spending time in a museum butterfly cage. “It didn’t work,” the actress said.) Kidman and her fellow lepidopterophobes may refuse to leave windows open in the summertime, lest a stray monarch come fluttering into their home.

2. Batrachophobia

A giant river toad
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No, frogs can’t give you warts. That urban legend—and others like it—may explain some cases of batrachophobia, a deep-seated fear of amphibians, including frogs, toads, and salamanders. It’s thought that the condition might also be linked to an overarching disdain for slimy things. By the way, if you specifically don’t like toads, then you could have a case of what’s known as bufonophobia.

3. Entomophobia

Entomophobia is a family of fears related to insects that includes lepidopterophobia, the previously mentioned butterfly-related dread. Another phobia within this group is isopterophobia, the fear of wood-eating insects like termites. Then we have myrmecophobia (the fear of ants) and apiphobia (the fear of bees or bee stings). Of course we can’t leave out katsaridaphobia, or the debilitating fear of cockroaches. “Cockroaches tap into this sort of evolutionary aversion we have to greasy, smelly, slimy things,” Jeff Lockwood, an author and professor of natural sciences at the University of Wyoming, told the BBC. “Plus, they’re defiant little bastards.”

Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí was terrified of grasshoppers. “I am 37 years old,” he wrote in 1941, “and the fright which grasshoppers cause me has not diminished since adolescence ... If possible, I would say it has become greater.” He went on to say that if a grasshopper ever landed on him while he was standing “on the edge of a precipice,” he’d instinctively jump to his death.

4. Ornithophobia

Traumatic childhood experiences involving birds—like, say, getting chased by a goose—can give birth to a lifelong fear of feathered critters. For Lucille Ball, they always reminded her of her father's untimely death when she was just a toddler: As her mother was delivering the horrible news, a couple of sparrows gathered by the kitchen windowsill.

“I’ve been superstitious about birds ever since,” Ball wrote in her autobiography. “I don’t have a thing about live birds, but pictures of birds get me. I won’t buy anything with a print of a bird, and I won’t stay in a hotel room with bird pictures or any bird wallpaper.”

5. Ailurophobia

Tabby cat against a gray background
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Lucy van Pelt (sort of) mentions ailurophobia in A Charlie Brown Christmas, although she bungles the nomenclature and tells Charlie Brown, "If you’re afraid of cats, you have ailurophasia." (The -phasia suffix generally refers to speech disorders, such as aphasia.) That being said, the fear of cats is a phenomenon that goes by many names, including gatophobia and felinophobia.

Rumor has it that Napoleon Bonaparte and lots of other famous conquerors were terrified of kitties. In Bonaparte’s case, the allegations are probably false; according to historian Katharine MacDonogh, “No record exists of Napoleon either liking or hating cats.” She thinks this myth reflects the long-standing cultural belief that our feline friends wield supernatural insights. “Cats have been endowed with a magical ability to detect the overweening ambitions of dictators, many of whom have consequently been accused of ailurophobia on the flimsiest evidence,” MacDonogh wrote in her book Reigning Cats And Dogs: A History of Pets At Court Since The Renaissance.

6. Alektorophobia

Chickens, hens, and roosters put alektorophobes on edge. A rare type of ornithophobia, this fowl-based fear is no laughing matter. One 2018 case study reported on a 32-year-old man who would experience heart palpitations, a sudden dryness of the mouth, and uncomfortable feelings in his chest upon seeing a neighbor’s hen. It was ultimately determined that the man's phobia was the result of a frightening childhood encounter he’d had with a rooster.

7. Ostraconophobia

“I have a lobster phobia, I don’t know why. I just don’t like them,” NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin told the press in 2017. “I cannot eat dinner if someone beside me is eating lobster.” The admission came just after Hamlin had won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Why did that matter? Because the event took place at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where race-winners are customarily rewarded with giant, live lobsters. But when somebody approached Hamlin with a 44-pounder, he tried to flee the stage. Ostraconophobia, or fear of shellfish, can also manifest itself as a fear of crabs or oysters. The majority of people who deal with this phobia develop it after getting sick from the shellfish that makes them feel uneasy.

8. Ichthyophobia

Piranha fish on black background
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Ichthyophobia is a bit of an umbrella term that covers an irrational disdain of fish in a variety of situations. It can refer to the fear of being around live fish, the fear of eating dead ones, or the fear of touching them. A common version of that first anxiety is galeophobia, the widespread fear of sharks. And then there are those who are disturbed (and sometimes even physically sickened) by the sight or smell of fishy entrees; these ichthyophobes may take pains to avoid supermarkets with large seafood aisles.

9. Musophobia

Among the British adults who participated in a 2017 phobia survey, more than 25 percent reported that they were afraid of mice. By comparison, only 24 percent said they dreaded sharp needles or airplanes. In addition to disliking mice, musophobes are often afraid of other rodents, such as hamsters and rats.

10. Equinophobia

Sigmund Freud once wrote a case study on a boy who was terrified of horses. At age 4, Herbert Graf—referred to as “Little Hans” in the paper—had seen an overloaded work horse crumble to the ground in a heap. Following the traumatic incident, Hans became easily spooked while in the presence of horses; just the sound of clopping hooves was enough to trigger his anxiety. As a result, Hans often refused to leave the house.

Little Hans eventually overcame his fears, but equinophobia is still with us today. Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry developed it after being bitten by a pony at a petting zoo when he was a child. Unfortunately for Berry, one of the Chiefs’s mascots is a live pinto horse named Warpaint. As former teammate Derrick Johnson told NFL Films, “He’s always watching for the horse, making sure the horse doesn’t look at him or do something crazy.” Berry has taken steps to overcome his horse phobia, though; in fact, he has even worked up the courage to (briefly) pet Warpaint.

11. Cynophobia

Pug wrapped in a pink blanket
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If you’re afraid of snakes, at least you’ll (probably) never have to worry about some coworker bringing his pet anaconda into the office. Cynophobes aren’t so lucky. Defined as the “fear of dogs,” cynophobia is an especially challenging animal phobia to have because, well, puppers are everywhere. Cynophobic people may go out of their way to avoid parks and tend to feel uncomfortable in neighborhoods where loud pooches reside.

As with ornithophobia, the fear of canines often stems from a traumatic childhood event. Therapists have found that, for many patients, the best way to overcome this aversion is through controlled exposure; spending quality time with a well-trained dog under a supervisor’s watchful eye can work wonders.

Survey: People Show More Affection to Their Dogs Than Their Humans

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iStock.com/damircudic

Valentine's Day is marketed as a celebration of love between two people, but for some human beings, the relationship they share with their dog takes precedent. Nearly half of pet owners have plans to celebrate the holiday with their pet, whether they're buying them a gift or making them a treat from scratch. That's one of the findings from a new report from Rover that shows just how much humans love their dogs—and how much dogs feel love from their humans.

After surveying 1450 U.S. adults who are dating or in a relationship, Rover found that many of them prioritize spending time with their canine companions. Sixty-seven percent reported gazing lovingly into their pet's eyes, and about 33 percent do this more often with their cute dog than with their human significant other.

The way our pets respond to this behavior suggests that dogs feel love, too. Phil Tedeschi, a University of Denver researcher and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, says that dogs will wait for the opportunity to make eye contact with their humans. Previous research has shown that some dogs also express empathy when they think their owners are in distress.

When dog people aren't gazing at their pooches, they're finding other ways to show their affection. Nearly a quarter of dog owners take more pictures with their dog than with the humans in their life; a quarter spend more money on their dog than on their partner; and nearly half cuddle with their dog more often than they do with the person they're dating.

Pet parents also aren't afraid to cut people out of their life if they threaten their relationship with their dog. Forty-one percent say it's important that their dog gets along with their potential partners, and 53 percent would consider breaking up with someone who didn't like dogs or who was severely allergic to them.

You can check out the results of the report in the infographic below. And if you're looking for a last minute gift for Fido this Valentine's Day, here are some suggestions.

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