20 Purrfect Products for Cats and Their Humans

Here are a few things that you can buy to show your feline pride—and spoil that special kitten in your life.

1. Cat Wheel, $249

Sure, a wheel for cats might seem ridiculous—what are they, hamsters?!—but indoor kitties need exercise, too. The wheel comes in four colors, so you can pick which one works best with your decor. We also suggest buying a GoPro to capture video of your cat on the wheel.

Buy on Amazon

2. Crafting with Cat Hair, $9

These adorable projects require just two things: A little time, and a lot of cat fur. Better it be a cute finger puppet than gathering in the corners of your apartment!

Buy on Amazon

3. Catnip Bubbles, $10

These bubbles are made from catnip oil and are sure to drive your kitten crazy.

Buy on Amazon

4. Purr Our Conversation Sweatshirt, $50

You don’t need anyone to ask for you to launch into a monologue about your cat (that happens regularly!), but this sweatshirt is great anyway.

Buy on Modcloth

5. Da Bird, $10

This toy is just a rod, a long string, and feathers, but cats go nuts for it—those feathers are configured in a way that mimics the flight of real birds. 

Buy on Amazon

6. Keyboard Cat Moon T-shirt, $17

Guys love cats, too—and they can show it by wearing this t-shirt featuring one of the very first Internet Famous felines.

Buy on Amazon

7. Feline Tree House, $800

It looks like an actual tree! And, yes, is totally sold in a Skymall catalogue.

Buy on SkyMall

8. How to Make Your Cat an Internet Celebrity, $9

If you’re going to be buying $800 furniture for your feline, he’s going to have to start earning his keep. This book will show you how to make him the next big thing on the ‘net.

Buy on Amazon

9. Crazy Pants Cat Tunnel, $14

There are weird cat products, and then there are cat tunnels that look like pants. This one is for the cat who has everything.

Buy on Amazon

10. Cat Oven Mitt, $10

When dish towels with kitties on them just isn't enough cat in your kitchen, get this feline-shaped oven mitt.

Buy on Amazon

11. Catty Stacks $20/two pack

If your cat is like any other cat, he loves boxes. And sure, you could just save all your old shipping boxes but these colorful, modular options make that pile of cardboard a little more structured and a little more stylish.

Buy on Amazon

12. Crazy Cat Lady Board Game, $20

There's a board game for almost everything, so why shouldn't crazy cat ladies get one?

Buy on Amazon

13. Cat Cave $45

There's something very funny about your cat's hiding place looking like a mouse.

Buy on Amazon

14. Crossbody Cat Bag, $39

You can either buy a pre-made cat bag from this Etsy seller, or you can ask him to make a bag featuring your cat's face!

Buy on Etsy

15. Silhouette Cat Shelves, $335

So meta!

Buy on Amazon

16. Cats Art Print, $18

Cats, like the moon, are mysterious, aloof and—even when you can't see them—probably orbiting around you somewhere.

Buy on Society6

17. Cat Hat, $15

Fashion: not just for people!

Buy on Etsy

18. Cat Smartphone Stand, $14

For the tech-savvy feline aficionado in your life.

Buy on Amazon

19. Sushi Cat Toys, $25

This catnip-seasoned faux sushi looks good enough to eat, and your cat will be chewing on it for sure.

Buy on Etsy

20. Up Your Alley Cat Flat, $59.99

These flats add just the right hint of quirk to your outfit. For a cat lady with style.

Buy on ModCloth

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Animal Welfare Groups Are Building a Database of Every Cat in Washington, D.C.
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iStock

There are a lot of cats in Washington, D.C. They live in parks, backyards, side streets, and people's homes. Exactly how many there are is the question a new conservation project wants to answer. DC Cat Count, a collaboration between Humane Rescue Alliance, the Humane Society, PetSmart Charities, and the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, aims to tally every cat in the city—even house pets, The New York Times reports.

Cities tend to support thriving feral cat populations, and that's a problem for animal conservationists. If a feline is born and grows up without human contact, it will never be a suitable house cat. The only options animal control officials have are to euthanize strays or trap and sterilize them, and release them back where they were found. If neither action is taken, it's the smaller animals that belong in the wild who suffer. Cats are invasive predators, and each year they kill billions of birds in the U.S. alone.

Before animal welfare experts and wildlife scientists can tackle this problem, they need to understand how big it is. Over the next three years, DC Cat Count will use various methods to track D.C.'s cats and build a feline database for the city. Sixty outdoor camera traps will capture images of passing cats, relying on infrared technology to sense them most of the time.

Citizens are being asked to help as well. An app is currently being developed that will allow users to snap photos of any cats they see, including their own pets. The team also plans to study the different ways these cats interact with their environments, like how much time pets spend indoors versus outdoors, for example. The initiative has a $1.5 million budget to spend on collecting data.

By the end of the project, the team hopes to have the tools both conservationists and animal welfare groups need to better control the local cat population.

Lisa LaFontaine, president and CEO of the Humane Rescue Alliance, said in a statement, “The reality is that those in the fields of welfare, ecology, conservation, and sheltering have a common long-term goal of fewer free-roaming cats on the landscape. This joint effort will provide scientific management programs to help achieve that goal, locally and nationally."

[h/t The New York Times]

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How Does Catnip Work?
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iStock

If you have a cat, you probably keep a supply of catnip at home. Many cats are irresistibly drawn to the herb, and respond excitedly to its scent, rubbing against it, rolling around on the floor, and otherwise going nuts. There are few things that can get felines quite as riled up as a whiff of catnip—not even the most delicious treats. But why does catnip, as opposed to any other plant, have such a profound effect on our feline friends?

Catnip, or Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family. It contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is what causes the characteristic catnip reaction. Contrary to what you might expect, the reaction isn’t pheromone related—even though pheromones are the smelly chemicals we usually associate with a change in behavior. While pheromones bind to a set of specialized receptors in what’s known as a vomeronasal organ, located in the roof of a cat's mouth (which is why they sometimes open their mouths to detect pheromones), nepetalactone binds to olfactory receptors at the olfactory epithelium, or the tissue that lines the mucus membranes inside a cat’s nose and is linked to smell.

Scientists know the basics of the chemical structure of nepetalactone, but how it causes excitement in cats is less clear. “We don’t know the full mechanisms of how the binding of these compounds to the receptors in the nose ultimately changes their behavior,” as Bruce Kornreich, associate director of the Cornell Feline Health Center, tells Mental Floss. Sadly, sticking a bunch of cats in an MRI machine with catnip and analyzing their brain activity isn’t really feasible, either from a practical or a financial standpoint, so it’s hard to determine which parts of a cat’s brain are reacting to the chemical as they frolic and play.

Though it may look like they’re getting high, catnip doesn’t appear to be harmful or addictive to cats. The euphoric period only lasts for a short time before cats become temporarily immune to its charms, meaning that it’s hard for them to overdo it.

“Cats do seem to limit themselves," Michael Topper, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, tells Mental Floss. "Their stimulation lasts for about 10 minutes, then it sort of goes away.” While you may not want to turn your house into a greenhouse for catnip and let your feline friend run loose, it’s a useful way to keep indoor cats—whose environment isn’t always the most thrilling—stimulated and happy. (If you need proof of just how much cats love this herb, we suggest checking out Cats on Catnip, a new book of photography from professional cat photographer Andrew Martilla featuring dozens of images of cats playing around with catnip.)

That said, not all cats respond to catnip. According to Topper, an estimated 70 percent of cats react to catnip, and it appears to have a genetic basis. Topper compares it to the genetic variation that causes some individuals to smell asparagus pee while others don’t. Even if a cat will eventually love the smell of catnip, it doesn’t come out of the womb yearning for a sniff. Young kittens don’t show any behavioral response to it, and may not develop one until several months after birth [PDF].

But some researchers contend that more cats may respond to catnip than we actually realize. In one 2017 study, a group of researchers in Mexico examined how cats might subtly respond to catnip in ways that aren’t always as obvious as rolling around on the floor with their tongue hanging out. It found that 80 percent of cats responded to catnip in a passive way, showing decreased motor activity and sitting in the “sphinx” position, an indicator of a relaxed state.

There are also other plants that have similar effects on cats, some of which may appeal to a wider variety of felines than regular old catnip. In a 2017 study in the journal BMC Veterinary Research, researchers tested feline responses to not just catnip, but several other plants containing compounds similar in structure to nepetalactone, like valerian root, Tatarian honeysuckle, and silver vine. They found that 94 percent of cats responded to at least one of the plants, if not more than one. The majority of the cats that didn’t respond to catnip itself did respond to silver vine, suggesting that plant might be a potential alternative for cats that seem immune to catnip’s charms.

Despite the name, domestic cats aren’t the only species that love catnip. Many other feline species enjoy it, too, including lions and jaguars, though tigers are largely indifferent to it. The scent of the plant also attracts butterflies. (However, no matter what you’ve heard, humans can’t get high off it. When made into a tea, though, it reportedly has mild sedative effects.)

The reason Nepeta cataria releases nepetalactone doesn’t necessarily have to do with giving your cat a buzz. The fact that it gives cats that little charge of euphoria may be purely coincidental. The chemical is an insect repellant that the plant emits as a defense mechanism against pests like aphids. According to the American Chemical Society, nepetalactone attracts wasps and other insect predators that eat aphids, calling in protective reinforcements when the plant is in aphid-related distress. That it brings all the cats to the yard is just a side effect.

Because of this, catnip may have even more uses in the future beyond sending cats into a delighted frenzy. Rutgers University has spent more than a decade breeding a more potent version of catnip, called CR9, which produces more nepetalactone. It’s not just a matter of selling better cat toys; since catnip releases the compound to ward off insects, it’s also a great mosquito repellant, one that scientists hope can one day be adapted for human use. In that case, you might be as excited about catnip as your cat is.

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