Why do cats lick themselves to get clean and why do they sleep so much?? Azula answers all of your burning pet questions.
I just became a vegetarian. Can my cat be a vegetarian, too?
Sorry to tell you, Anne, but ASPCA experts say you shouldn’t feed your cat a vegetarian diet. Cats are obligate carnivores—that means they don’t have a choice about meat like you do. To be healthy, your cat needs something called taurine—and the only food that can provide it to kitty bodies is meat. (Your body uses taurine, too, but it doesn’t have to get it from meat.) You’re making a big change in your life—but your kitty probably isn’t interested in changing his menu! Stick to feeding your furry pal a high-quality, balanced diet.
What kinds of toys are best for cats?
Thanks for taking good care of your kitty by making sure she’s having lots of fun, Tori! Cats need playtime to stay physically active and healthy and to keep from getting bored.
Tons of toys are available for kitties at your local pet supply store—wand toys, little balls that light up, plush toys that squeak, laser pointers for kitties to chase, catnip-filled mice—but your cat probably won’t be interested in all of them. So the best thing to do is try out lots of different kinds of toys and see which ones your furry friend likes best. Then keep ‘em coming—she’ll love you for it!
Why does my cat like to hide in a drawer?
Because she loves the smell of fresh laundry? Actually, Gordon, kitties love to stuff themselves into small spaces like shoeboxes, sinks and drawers because those places make them feel warm and safe. By curling up in a little area, kitties can conserve body heat and conceal themselves from potential attackers. Plus, clothing drawers have lots of soft stuff to sleep on. And If I slept as much as a cat, I’d want to be as comfy as possible!
How do I get my kitty Sandy-Cheeks to stop scratching the furniture?
Great question, Audrey. Fish gotta swim, birds like me gotta fly—and cats gotta scratch! Scratching is a natural instinct for your kitty, and it keeps her claws clean. Sandy-Cheeks is scratching the furniture because she has to scratch somewhere, and right now your family’s favorite sofa might be the most fun place in your house to do it.
What your family needs to do is get a variety of stuff that’s even more fun to scratch. Think sturdy scratching posts, cardboard scratchers with catnip in them, and carpeted cat trees! Put them near the furniture Sandy-Cheeks likes best, and also near where she eats and sleeps. Also, ask an adult to trim your cat’s claws regularly.
Then…do nothing! With any luck, your kitty will be thrilled with her new stuff and much less likely to do her manicures on the sofa.
Can cats swim?
Most cats can swim, Marlene…but don’t start planning a day at the beach with Fluffy just yet.
If you’ve ever had to give your cat a bath, you probably know that the average feline hates getting wet! So while most cats can do the kitty paddle, they reserve this natural skill for emergencies only.
One exception is the Turkish Van, also known as the swimming cat! This kitty is from Turkey and likes to cool off by taking a dip. But unless your cat is a Turkish Van, there’s a good chance that she’d much rather stay dry.
I want to become an animal cop when I grow up. What college should I go to?
An animal cop!? That’s awesome, Cameron. We love hearing from peeps of all ages who want to help fight animal cruelty. I got the answer to your question straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, actually, I got it straight from the animal cop’s mouth!
ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams told me that it’s less about what college you go to and more about what courses you take. Says Agent Adams, “If you really want to get involved in humane law enforcement, it is good to take a few criminal justice classes or animal behavior classes.”
She also recommends that you volunteer or work at a veterinary office, animal shelter or law enforcement establishment. “But most importantly,” says Agent Adams, “you must have compassion and respect for animals.”
Read more about becoming an animal cop.
Why do cats climb trees?
What a purrfect question to ask, Kristen! After scratching, climbing is second nature to all cats. Even little kittens like to test out their climbing skills—watch out for your legs! In the wild some cats climb trees in order to pounce on their prey from above. Cats also climb trees when they are being chased or become frightened. Because pet cats shouldn’t go outside, it’s a good idea to get them cat tree furniture to play on—not only will it help keep their claws trim, but they can climb up and down all day!
Who had the very first pet cat?
Meow, that’s a tough question, Beth! While I’m not sure who had the very first pet cat, I can tell you that that humans and cats have lived together for more than 10,000 years. The house cat is actually thought to be a relative of the great African Wildcat, a small feline still found in Africa and the Middle East that looks just like a pet Tabby. Over the years, humans have bred cats to have different fur color, eye color, coat length and other qualities. Today there are dozens of different cat breeds!
When my cat is walking, her tail is down. But when I speak to her, her tail goes up. Do you know why?
Wow, Valerie, you are very observant. I want you as my next science lab partner!
I talked to one of our certified pet dog trainers at the ASPCA Animal Behavior Center, and she told me that kitties are indeed saying something in cat body language when their tails go up.
Scientists call it “Tail Up,” and it is a polite greeting. If your cat lives with other cats, you’ll see that she does this with other cats who she likes. Cats who live with people greet people they like with a “Tail Up.”
So, hands down, “Tail Up” is a good thing!
Why do cats and dogs fight whenever they see each other?
—Mary Jane, 10
Well, Mary Jane, have you ever heard the phrase “fighting like cats and dogs?” That’s a well-known expression for a reason! The truth is, cats and dogs fight simply because they don’t speak the same language. For example, cats tend to lash their tails when they’re mad, but dogs growl. And while cats purr when they’re happy, dogs wag their tails. So, there are really a lot of mixed signals going on!
The good news is, once they’re familiar with each other, cats and dogs can learn to talk to each other—especially if they’re introduced when they’re young. And dogs and cats can even become the best of friends—playing together, greeting each other nose-to-nose and even sharing the same water bowl!
Hey ho! Ho hey! I have a special tweet for you this week! That's right, ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams is in the house—the bird house, that is—and she's here to answer a few of your questions about what it's like to be an ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement agent.
Thanks, Agent Adams, for all you to do rescue animals from abuse—and for taking the time to answer all our questions!
I’ll be back on the job next week! —Azula
Animal Cops Q&A with ASPCA Special Agent Kristi Adams.
Are cats female if their eyes are blue?
That’s a really great question, Anna—and you won’t believe the answer! Every single kitten, male or female, is born with blue eyes, but as they get older they change color. By the time a kitten is about 3 months old, he or she may have a brand new eye color!
And being a boy or girl has nothing to do with it—it’s the color of a cat’s fur that determines eye color! Pointed cats, like Siamese, will always have blue eyes. White cats and cats with a lot of white markings can have blue, green, gold or copper eyes. Dark-colored cats can have green, gold or copper eyes…but never blue eyes! How’s that for some eye-popping information!
Can cats see computer screens and TV screens? I heard that they can’t.
They may not be able to program the DVD player, but cats certainly can see television screens, Nicole! In fact, there are tons of videos that people can buy for their indoor cats to watch. There are videos of birds flying, bugs crawling and squirrels climbing trees. These videos are sometimes used to give indoor cats and cats in shelters something to do so they don’t get bored. Cats like to watch the quick movements of the animals on the screen and sometimes even go after them with their paws or their bodies.
As for computer screens, many cats are crazy for them, too. We’ve heard of curious cats jumping on top of monitors and pawing at the screen. There’s even a website made just for cats. It shows insects moving across the screen for cats to watch and chase with their paws. We’ll be sure to let you know if we get emails from cats who disagree with my answer!
Why does my cat, Tiger Lily, drool when I pet her?
Well, it may not be considered good human manners to drool when you’re happy, Azume, but cats have their own set of manners—and that’s exactly why Tiger Lily does it! It sounds like she is extremely happy to be getting your attention.
Some people say that cats who drool when their owners pet them are acting the way they did when they were kittens being fed by their mom. Tiger Lily may also knead her paws on the carpet, a sweater or your leg. Not all grown-up cats do this, though—so we think that Tiger Lily is not only a happy cat, but a special cat, too!
P.S. If a kitty has never drooled before but suddenly begins to do so, we recommend that the cat be taken for a visit with the vet. It could mean tooth troubles!
Why do cats lick themselves to get clean?
It does seem kind of strange to take a bath with your tongue, Zoe, especially because you humans use soap and water! But a cat’s main grooming tools are his tongue, teeth, paws and claws—and his tongue is number one because it’s specially designed to get dirt off of fur.
Have you ever been licked by a cat? His tongue feels rough like sandpaper. That’s because there are little pointy things that look like hooks all over it. They help grab the dirt and loose hair off his fur—so his tongue is kind of like a brush! And it’s lucky that kitties have such good cleaning tools, because they love to be neat and clean.
Why do cats’ pupils change from big to small?
The better to see you with, Monique!
How very perceptive of you to notice. A cat’s pupil does the same thing as your pupil does—controls how much light gets into the eyes. The size of a cat’s pupils depends on how sunny or dark his surroundings are.
If you observe your cat’s eyes in a sunny room, his pupils will look like narrow slits because they’re letting in less light. If you look at his eyes in a darker place, his pupils will grow larger to allow the little bit of light that’s available into his eyes.
Why do cats sleep so much?
Because they stay up late watching TV?
OK, so that’s not the best joke, but you are right that cats sleep a lot, Sophia. In fact, the average cat can sleep 13-18 hours a day. But it’s not because they’re lazy—it’s actually because they’re very energetic!
If you have a cat, you probably have experienced her incredible athletic ability firsthand. Your kitty can be resting quietly, or even be smack in the middle of a major snooze, and then suddenly burst into top speed like a race car, chasing the nearest dust bunny or imaginary mouse. Because it takes big-time energy for felines to accelerate so quickly, they need to regain their energy with lots of catnaps.
Do cats lose their baby teeth like humans do?
Well, I’ll really get chewed out if I don’t come up with the right answer to this one, Brenda! Yes, cats do indeed have baby teeth—26 of them, in fact, to be exact—and they start to lose them when their permanent teeth begin to grow in at about three months of age.
And in case you were wondering, when a kitten puts a lost baby tooth under the pillow at night, the Tooth Fairy doesn’t come. (But the Tooth Furry does, of course!)
Why do cats purr?
Well, Amber, the answer to your question is a mystery to me--and to the many scientists who have studied cats and cannot figure out exactly why they purr! If you have a kitty, you've probably heard that familiar rumble when you pet her or when she's sitting all content and cozy on your lap--there can be no doubt she's all-out happy! But cats also purr when they are really sick or really scared. Some researchers say that perhaps they are trying to comfort themselves.
How do you tell if your kitty is a boy or girl?
That may sound like an easy question to answer, Shania—but actually, it’s not! Did you know that even vets make mistakes sometimes? Especially when dealing with very young kittens!
The answer is in the anogenital distance. I know, that sounds like a fancy scientific term, but it just means the distance between the cat’s anus and penis or vagina. You know, the holes where they poop and pee from! (Sorry if that sounds yucky, but you asked!)
The distance between a boy cat’s anus and penis tends to be longer than the distance between a girl cat’s anus and vagina. Also, the shape of a vaginal opening is a vertical slit, unlike the small circular opening of a penis.
So next time your kitty is facing away from you, why not take a peek? If you want to be 100-percent sure, you can always ask your vet the next time you take your pet for a check-up.
How do you compare a cat's age to a person's age?
Good question, Eva! I consulted with Dr. Arnold Plotnick, Veterinarian and he told me that a six-month-old kitten is like a person who's just entering the teen scene. By the end of his first year, a cat is equivalent to a 21-year-old person--because that's when both species reach full size and when their bones stop growing. After that, every cat year equals four people years. "A 20-year-old cat would be like a 101-year-old person," says Dr. Plotnick. So how old are YOU in cat years?
Can you train cats?
Yup! In fact, you may have already trained your kitty. Does she come running when she hears a can of food being opened or when you get home from school?
The trick is to figure out what motivates your cat—and offer that as a reward when she does what you want. Some cats are chow hounds, so you can use food to teach them to "come" or "sit." If your feline will follow a feather wand anywhere, use that to lure her through a kitty agility course. She'll probably never be the next Air Bud, but you can still have lots of fun training her!
Are cats bad for our health?
While it's true that some people are allergic to cats or have asthma that's triggered by cat dander, kitties are just what the doctor ordered for many of us. It's a scientific fact that petting a cat lowers our blood pressure and helps us relax after a hectic day. And, people who have pets recover faster from surgery, sleep better and are less depressed. Paging Dr. Fluffy!
Why do cats bury their poop?
Let me see what I can dig up for you on this subject, Anna! Your cat’s wild cousins learn to cover up their waste so that they don’t leave a trail for predators to follow—and pet cats do this, too. This is because house cats still act out the behaviors of their wild ancestors.
But some wild cats want other animals to see (and smell!) their poop. These dominant cats—the ones in charge, that is—leave their poop unburied to show where their territory is. So when you cat buries his poop, he’s also showing that he understands that you, the human, are in charge.
Do girl cats have eggs?
Only if they steal them from chickens! Seriously, Libby, this is an egg-cellent question. If you’re wondering if female cats lay eggs like chickens do, the answer is most definitely nope!
Cats are mammals, and there are only two mammals in the world who lay eggs—the platypus and the spiny anteater. But do you think you’d want to eat scrambled anteater eggs for breakfast?!
Why are cats cleaner than dogs?
You mean you don’t just adore the smell of wet dog?! Seriously, this is a great question, Lina! For one, cats spend a lot more time cleaning themselves. And because cats are more flexible than dogs, they can pretty much reach anywhere on their bodies. A kitty’s rough tongue is made to smooth her fur and remove dirt from it.
But WHY, you ask? In the wild, cats are predators. It’s important that wild cats don’t leave a scent so the animals they are hunting can’t smell them. Keeping clean minimizes their scent.
As for dogs, their wild ancestors hunted in packs—so experts say it actually helped if they were all really stinky! Their smell would attract a prey animal, and then the pack could hunt that animal as a group. Also, if a dog got separated from his pack, his buddies could track him by his strong smell.
Exactly how many animals in shelters are put to sleep every year because of overcrowding?
What a brave question to ask, Gail. You know I joke a lot in my column, but this is a really serious topic. Thank you for bringing it up.
Right now, the sad fact is that 3 million to 4 million animals are euthanized, or put to sleep, in U.S. animal shelters every year because there is no room for them or resources to care for them.
That’s a very difficult thing to think about. But as we speak, the ASPCA and animal shelters all across the country are doing their best to stop this from continuing. Shelters work hard to get animals adopted by posting pictures of the dogs and cats on the Internet, and by figuring out other interesting ways to get people to see the animals. At the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City, for example, shelter dogs competed in a talent show so people could see how special these pooches are.
Shelters also make sure that animals get neutered or spayed so they don’t give birth to more kittens and puppies who have no homes. Read our Pet Overpopulation section to learn more about that.
Is declawing bad for a cat?
Thank you for your question, Ken. The kitties of the world thank you, too, for the chance to clear up some confusion about declawing.
To begin with, cats really love their claws! If you have a cat, check out how often she uses ‘em. She’ll use her claws to scratch during play. She’ll scratch while stretching. She’ll scratch to mark her territory or as a signal to other cats. But without her claws, she can’t do any of those totally normal cat things.
And not having claws is more than just a bummer—it HURTS! Some people think that declawing a cat is like trimming her nails. But during this serious surgery, the nerves, joints, tendons and bones of a cat’s toes are removed, too. Ouch! (Better make that a double ouch!) In fact, many countries in Europe have made declawing against the law.
Most people who have a veterinarian declaw their cats just want to stop their cat from doing annoying things like scratching at their furniture and climbing on their window screens. Maybe they don’t know that declawing surgery is painful for cats, or that there are easier (and MUCH less painful!) ways to solve the problem.
The best thing people can do is to trim their pet’s nails every week and train their cat to use a scratching post. That way, they get to keep their furniture nice…and their cat gets to keep her claws!