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.

Pet Obesity is Causing Big Health Problems, According to a New Report

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iStock/dennisvdw

If you’ve recently picked up your cat and felt your back give out, your furry friend may be among the 60 percent of the feline population that’s overweight. Dogs are also getting chubbier: about 56 percent of pet pooches are obese.

According to Banfield Pet Hospital, America's largest general veterinary practice with more than 1000 hospitals nationwide, those fat cats and chunky puppies are at risk for chronic health issues. In a new report, the hospital finds that osteoarthritis (OA) in pets is on the rise, with a 66 percent increase in dogs and a 150 percent increase in cats over the past 10 years.

Osteoarthritis is a kind of arthritis caused by inflammation or damage in joint tissue. Genetics, injury, or bone abnormalities can all be factors. The disease is chronic and degenerative and can make it difficult for pets to move around as they get older.

Excess weight can both precede OA and make it worse. When a pet is overweight, they can develop chronic pain that leads to stress on joints. If they already have OA, that joint discomfort can prevent them from being active, leading to weight gain. That worsens the condition, and the cycle continues.

A dog is 2.3 times more likely to be diagnosed with OA if it's obese, while cats are 1.2 times more likely. Dogs suffering from the condition tend to display symptoms like putting their weight off to one side when sitting, avoiding stairs, or appearing uninterested in playing. Cats might have loose or matted hair because they can't maneuver to groom certain parts of their body.

Although OA can be seen at any age, it’s often mistaken for old age and a pet slowing down naturally. If you notice your pet is either soft around the middle or moving more slowly, it’s best to see a veterinarian. Pets who are overweight or suffering from OA—or both—can benefit from treatments like special diets.

There Are 2373 Squirrels in New York's Central Park, Census Finds

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iStock/maximkabb

Central Park in New York City is home to starlings, raccoons, and exotic zoo animals, but perhaps the most visible fauna in the area are the eastern gray squirrels. Thanks to a team of citizen scientists, we now know exactly how many of the rodents occupy the space—approximately 2373 of them, according to a census reported by Smithsonian.

In October 2018, a group called the Squirrel Census—with help from the Explorers Club, the NYU Department of Environmental Studies, Macaulay Honors College, the Central Park Conservancy, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation—organized a squirrel survey across all 840 acres of Central Park. For 11 days, more than 300 volunteers staked out their sections of the park twice a day—at dawn and dusk when the crepuscular animals are most active—and noted each squirrel they spotted. They also recorded how the squirrels looked, vocalized, behaved, and reacted to humans.

The research was analyzed and presented at an Explorers Club event in New York City on June 20. All the non-peer-reviewed findings—which includes a printed report, an audio report on a vinyl 45, 37 pages of data, collectible squirrel cards, and large maps of the park and the squirrel locations—are available to purchase for $75 from the Squirrel Census website.

This isn't the first time a massive census has been conducted of a public park's squirrel population. In 2011, the Squirrel Census launched with its first survey of Atlanta's Inman Park. They've conducted satellite squirrel counts at other parks, but Central Park is just the second park the organization has investigated in person.

[h/t Smithsonian]

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