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The Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Cats—Answered

The veterinarians at The Drake Center solve your most common feline concerns.

Why does my cat wake me up at 4 a.m. for breakfast?

Cats are naturally nocturnal animals, which means they sleep during the day and stay awake at night. Cats in the wild hunt at night, so this is the natural time for cats to want to eat. In order to help eliminate this behavior, it may help to feed a late evening meal just before bedtime. This may help curb your cat’s appetite until later in the morning. Most importantly, do not feed your cat at 4 a.m. If you do, this behavior will quickly become a regular occurrence.

Why does my cat scratch up the furniture?

Cats are predators and use their claws for climbing and hunting. It is their natural instinct to keep their nails sharp and ready for action. Most cats tolerate having their nails trimmed regularly and is quite simple if done appropriately. Providing multiple scratching surfaces may also help prevent your cat from destroying your furniture. Some cats prefer a horizontal surface, while others prefer a vertical one.  Some scratching posts also come with catnip to naturally attract the cat. 

Why does my cat hate coming to the veterinarian?

Most cats do not appreciate a change in their routine. It can be very stressful for a cat to be put into a carrier, travel in the car and come into a veterinary hospital filled with strange noises and smells. In order to help ease the anxiety associated with bringing your cat to the veterinarian, it is a good idea to make sure to get him/her comfortable with the carrier at home. You can do this by making sure the carrier is clean and odor-free, filled with a cozy towel or blanket and brought into the house a few days prior to the appointment, if possible. Leave the door to the carrier open and let the cat investigate it on his/her own. Cats are curious and will most likely want to explore the carrier. If he/she goes in on his/her own, praise the pet and offer a treat inside the carrier. Make it a positive experience. Once the cat seems comfortable going in and out, try closing the door for a few seconds and picking the carrier up and moving throughout the house. Once the cat accepts this, you can then try bringing the carrier to the car and even going on a short drive around the block. In time, most acts will learn to accept the carrier and see it as a safe haven.

Why does my cat have hairballs so frequently?

Cats are fastidious groomers and therefore, ingest a lot of hair. Since hair is not digestible, it collects in the stomach and needs to come out somehow. Most cats will vomit once or twice a month to remove the hair from their stomach. One possible solution is to use a product like Laxatone or CatLax. These products help lubricate the intestines so the hair will be able to pass into the stool. If your cat is vomiting more than twice a month, however, it could be due to some other problem.  A further work-up may be in order to help determine the cause of the vomiting.

Why does my cat urinate outside the litter box?

There are many reasons why a cat will choose to urinate outside the litter box. The most common reason is that the litter box is not cleaned out as frequently as it needs to be. If a litter box is too full, most cats will try to find an alternate location to eliminate. If there are multiple cats in the household, ideally there will be as many litter boxes as there are cats, plus one. If this is not physically possible, the box should be scooped daily and the entire litter changed out weekly. Most cats prefer an unscented, clumping, sandy litter.  Most cats also prefer there not to be a lid on the box. The box should be large enough for the cat to get in and out easily and turn around. There should also be enough litter for the cat to bury his/her urine and stool sufficiently. The second most common reason for a cat to urinate inappropriately is due to cystitis. Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder due to an infection, crystals or stones. Your cat will need an exam, urinalysis and occasionally an X-ray to get the correct diagnosis and treatment. Stress can also induce cystitis. Trying to rule out the stressors in your cat's life is important in resolving this issue. 

Dr. Michele Drake, veterinarian and owner of The Drake Center for Veterinary Care, has been treating pets in Encinitas for over 20 years. For more information on pet health or to schedule an appointment for your pet, please call The Drake Center at (760) 753-9393 or visit www.thedrakecenter.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andromeda December 06, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Why don't cats chase dogs? Why is it always the other way around? If a cat chased my dog he would run away and hide. Is the reason low self-esteem?
Andromeda December 06, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Dr. Drake, I know this blog is on cats but I have a burning question or two about our little neurotic dog. Whenever my wife and I hug our dog gets very jealous. He stands there and barks and is not happy unless we pick him up. Is this normal behavior? If not, what can we do to eliminate it other then putting him in his dog cage everytime we hug or kiss? And while I'm at it...our dog loves to watch TV, especially Animal Planet. And when I watch football games he waits for the commercials to come on in hopes of seeing an animal. And when he sees a dog he barks incessantly. But if he sees a cat he just watches calmly. Fish don't seem to interest him. Oh, and he absolutely hates horses. If I am watching a horse race I have to remove him from the room. Is this normal? Do you think we should see our local vet for a neurological exam and possibly some doggy prozac? Thank you for your professional advice.
Dr. Michele Drake December 07, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Hi Andromeda, This sounds like a case of resource guarding. While resource guarding is considered normal canine behavior, it can go too far—and possessive aggression is often the result. A good trainer can help modify this behavior. As for your first question, the answer is simply that dogs and cats play differently! Dr. Drake


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