13 Cat Essentials for National Kitten Day

Nils Jacobi, iStock / Getty Images Plus
Nils Jacobi, iStock / Getty Images Plus

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a holiday that celebrates our squee-worthy feline friends. Whether you're thinking of adopting a new furry pal or simply pampering your favorite kitty, here are 13 essentials every cat owner needs, from the stain remover strong enough to tackle any hairball to the scratching post that will please even the most finicky of felines.

1. Nature's Miracle Advanced Stain and Odor Eliminator; $10

A red spray bottle of Nature's Miracle stain remover

Cats are messy pets. Even the healthiest felines occasionally hawk up a hairball, and cats with delicate tummies may vomit just about every time you change their food (which will probably be often, because most cats are exceptionally picky). Pet owners swear by Nature's Miracle cleaning products, which will neutralize odors and remove stains from carpets, couches, hardwood floors, and anywhere else your cat has an accident—or decides to express their displeasure.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

2. Rufus & Coco Wee Kitty Natural Corn Cat Litter; $33

Rufus & Coco Wee Kitty litter
Rufus & Coco, Chewy

Compared to dogs, cats' bathroom habits are incredibly low-maintenance. No need to take them for walks outside; just set up a litter box. But if you've never watched a cat sprint across the room after doing their business the box, you may not realize just how important your choice of litter type is. Even the neatest cats track litter outside their box. This corn-based clumping cat litter is an excellent low-track option that will keep your cat's litter where it belongs—in the litter box. It's dust-free (making it excellent for cats with sensitive noses), can absorb up to four times its own weight, and is biodegradable. It can even be flushed down the toilet, according to Rufus & Coco. One 20-pound bag is designed to last up to 18 weeks. Note: You're going to be buying litter regularly, so go ahead and take advantage of the subscription discount. We also recommend investing in a mat to catch errant litter that finds its way out of the box.

Buy it: Chewy

3. Pretty Litter; $22

Crystal litter is another excellent pick if you're looking to clean up after your cat the easy way. It manages odors well, but it doesn't clump, so you don't have to scoop out piles of pee—just scoop out the poop regularly—meaning that one box-full can last up to a month. Pretty Litter is easy on the paws and is sold on a subscription basis, so you can get a regular shipment delivered to your door each month right before your current batch runs out. Even better, it changes colors if your cat's pee is outside the normal range of acidity or alkalinity, providing you with insights into your furry friend's health.

Buy it: Pretty Litter

4. Go-Cat Da Bird Rod and Feather Cat Toy; $9

A rod and feather cat toy
Go-Cat, Amazon

Indoor cats need plenty of stimulation to keep them from getting bored (and fat). You'll want to provide them with toys and games that mimic the hunting they would do in the wild. Veterinarian Mikel Delgado recommends a wand-style toy like Go-Cat's Da Bird feather rod, which will allow your cat to feel like he's stalking a colorful winged creature across your living room. You'll also want to stock up on replacement feathers, since your little hunter is bound to claw the original to pieces. (You can check out Delgado's other tips for getting a cat to love you here.)

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

5. Petstages Kitty Cuddle Pal Cat Toy; $6

A plush Petstages heated cat toy
Petstages, Amazon

Cats have higher body temperatures than we do (typically between 100.5°F and 102.5°F), so they're suited for warm temperatures. That's great if you live in a hot climate, but more likely than not, your home is a bit cooler than your cat would prefer. That's why cats love to curl up on comforters, in cardboard boxes, or next to the warm bodies of their humans and pet siblings. If you're not around to be a human heating pad, Petstages Kitty Cuddle Pals are a good substitute. The plush toys are microwavable to provide a soothing source of warmth for your cat when you're not available. They're great for older cats with body aches, cats with separation anxiety or angst over vet visits, and more. They're also a must-have for young kittens who can't yet control their body temperature.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Merry Products Hidden Cat Litter Box Enclosure; $61

A cat sits on a couch next to a Merry Products litter box enclosure.
Merry Products, Overstock.com

If your home is lacking in space, you may not want to dedicate a whole corner of a room to your cat's open litter box. Or perhaps you just don't want to look at your cat's poop whenever you pass by. That's where hidden cat box enclosures like this one from Merry Products come in. The easy-to-assemble end table is made to house your cat's litter box, allowing your pet to access its toilet out of sight. It also reduces the amount of litter that sprays out of the box when your cat sprints away after it poops, making for a cleaner experience for everyone. Not to mention the fact that you can use the shelf and top space as a regular end table—or a very convenient place to store trash bags, air freshening spray, and other litter essentials. And the handy bar on the side of the box is a great place to hang a towel or a litter scoop. 

Buy it: Chewy or Overstock.com

7. Petcube Bites Pet Camera; $125

A Petcub pet cam on a table
Petcube, Amazon

While many of us pet owners would gladly spend all day, every day with our cats, sadly, life tends to get in the way. (We have to go to work to pay for all those cat toys, after all.) But you can still check in on your cat—and feed them treats—with a pet cam. The Petcube features 1080-pixel HD video, a 138° wide-angle view, 3x zoom, and night vision to allow you to check in on your cat at home 24/7 via Wi-Fi. It has two-way audio to allow you to talk to your pet and a dispenser that can hold up to 2 pounds of treats at a time. You can see the past four hours of video for free or upgrade to a membership to see your whole video history in the cloud. It also works with Amazon's Alexa.

Buy it: Amazon or Chewy or Petco

8. Go Pet Club 62-Inch Cat Tree; $70

Cats play on a Go Pet Club cat tree
Go Pet Club, Amazon

Cats need to explore both vertically and horizontally. Rather than trying to chase them off counters and shelves, give your cats a high place to watch over their territory in the form of a tall cat tree like this one. The 62-inch-tall feline play space features stairs to climb, hammocks to lounge in, cubbies to hide in, and perches to rest on. It comes in four different colors.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

9. New Cat Condos Round Multi Scratcher; $52

A cat rubs against a three-post cat scratcher.
New Cat Condos, Amazon

As they are with all things, cats can be pretty particular about the material they like to scratch on. While some love to dig their claws into carpet, others prefer sisal rope or plain wood. For indecisive cats and their owners, this triple cat scratcher is the perfect starter post. It features three different scratching posts—one natural wood, one sisal-covered, and one carpeted—to allow your cat to figure out what it likes best. Considering how expensive scratching posts and cat trees can get, this minimizes the risk of your cat refusing to engage at all with the fancy product you just shelled out for, as our feline friends are wont to do.

Buy it: Amazon or Overstock.com or Walmart

10. PetIsay Couch Guard; $12 for Four

A cat tries to scratch on a couch.
PetISay, Amazon

Even if your cat loves its scratching post, your couch may still provide a tempting place for kitty claws. Dissuade your feline friend from tearing up your upholstery with a sticky couch guard that's a cinch to put on and take off.

Buy it: Amazon

11. True Touch De-Shedding Glove; $12

A True Touch de-shedding glove
True Touch, Amazon

Cats don't always love to be brushed, but de-shedding is a necessary step to prevent both hairballs and dust bunnies. These grooming gloves may look silly, but they're astonishingly effective at removing fur. The soft rubber nubs gently massage your cat and lift away loose hair. Better yet, your cat may find it easier to warm up to the sensation of being petted with gloves than dragged with a harsh metal de-shedding brush.

Buy it: Amazon or Chewy

12. Catit Water Fountain; $24

A cat drinks out of a Catit flower-shaped water fountain.
Catit, Amazon

Cats can be notoriously finicky about their drinking water, and will often turn up their noses at any hydration station that's not up to their particular standards. One of the best ways to tempt your kitty to drink up is with a pet water fountain, which will provide a continuously refreshing stream of water rather than a stagnant bowl that might be coated with cat hair (like everything else in your home) within minutes of you filling it up. This cute fountain has three different settings—flowing, bubbling, and streaming—to please even the pickiest cats.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

13. Sherpa Pet Carrier; $32

A black mesh pet carrier
Sherpa, Amazon

Though your cat is likely to be a homebody, you'll need to take them out into the world occasionally. To keep your cat safe, secure, and calm during vet visits and travel, invest in a comfortable pet carrier. Sherpa's bags are TSA-friendly with lockable zippers and mesh siding that allows your cat to see its surroundings and feel the fresh air. The original deluxe model is collapsible for easy storage and has a rear pocket for treats, or, if you're going to the vet, that necessary fecal sample. Just make sure to measure your cat to ensure the best fit.

Buy it: Amazon or Petco

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

England Is Being Invaded By a Swarm of Flying Ants That Can Be Seen From Space

Digoarpi/iStock via Getty Images
Digoarpi/iStock via Getty Images

Last week, the UK's weather service registered what seemed like a system of rain showers moving along the nation’s southern coast. But it wasn’t rain—it was a swarm of flying ants.

Though it sounds like something out of a horror film or the Old Testament, it’s actually a completely normal phenomenon that occurs in the UK every summer when a bout of hot, humid weather follows a period of rainfall, The Guardian reports. Flying ants decide it’s a good time to mate, and the queen takes to the sky, emitting pheromones that attract males.

From there, it’s survival of the fittest. The queen will out-fly most of her suitors, leaving only the strongest males to catch up and mate with her, which ensures the strength of her offspring. The others either lose their wings and fall to the ground, or become bird food. (The ants produce formic acid in their bodies as a defense mechanism, which may make gulls that eat them seem loopy.)

According to Smithsonian.com, the queen will chew off her wings after mating and fall to the ground to start a new colony, and the sperm she collected from that one flight will fertilize her eggs for the rest of her life (which could be up to 15 years in the wild).

The official, rather-romantic term for the annual aerial antics is “nuptial flight,” but locals often refer to it simply as “flying ant day.” It sometimes lasts for weeks, during which billions of the harmless insects can be seen in the skies.

A representative from the Met Office explained that its weather satellites mistook the ants for rain clouds because the radar detects the ants in the same way it sees raindrops. Dr. Adam Hart, an entomologist at the University of Gloucestershire, told The Guardian that he thinks the reason the radar registered the ants this year was a result of better satellite technology rather than an increase in the flying ant population.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

A Retirement Home for Orcas Could Be Opening in Washington's San Juan Islands

MarkMalleson/iStock via Getty Images
MarkMalleson/iStock via Getty Images

Governments and organizations around the world are taking steps to keep whales out of captivity. Earlier this year, Canada passed a "Free Willy bill" that makes it illegal to hold whale, dolphins, and other cetaceans captive for entertainment. But such laws do little to help the animals that have spent their whole lives performing in places like SeaWorld and are ill-suited to life in the wild. To help them, the Whale Sanctuary Project wants to build a $15 million sanctuary in Washington state's San Juan Islands where formerly captive orcas (also known as killer whales) can thrive, The Seattle Times reports.

The retirement home for whales would allow the creatures to live in their natural ocean habitat while receiving they same care and protection they became accustomed to while in captivity. Instead of living in tanks, they would swim freely around a 60- to 100-acre netted-off cove. Veterinarians would be available to provide the orcas with emergency care, short-term rehabilitation, and food.

The Whale Sanctuary Project plans to start with six to eight orcas in the facility, with the first arriving in late 2020 or early 2021. In order for that to happen, though, the organization needs to get the permits necessary to build the facility off the Washington coast and raise millions of dollars to fund it. In addition to the estimated $15 million construction costs, the veterinary staff would cost $2 million a year.

The plan is ambitious, but it's not unprecedented. In June, the world's first open-water beluga sanctuary—located in Iceland—received its first residents. The two whales, named Little Grey and Little White, were rescued from a Sea World-like attraction in China. The Whale Sanctuary Project is considering building a similar sanctuary for beluga whales in addition to the one for orcas. Before it moves forward with either project, the nonprofit will hold a series of public meetings around the Washington coast to garner support.

[h/t The Seattle Times]