Ask a Vet: Questions and Answers

Why Does My Cat Scratch The Floor Before Drinking Water?

A gray and black cat with white patches pawing at a blue water bowl in front of it.

Cats have many odd behaviors that often leave us perplexed or worried about their mental health. But the fact of the matter is that if you dig deep enough, there is usually a pretty good explanation for these strange behaviors rooted in a cat’s instincts.

Scratching the floor before drinking water is one of those behaviors. There are many speculations as to why cats do this. If you want to get to the bottom of your cat’s scratching before drinking water, read on to see some possible causes.

Blame it on Their Instincts

If you picture a cat in the wild, nothing comes easy to them. They have to hunt for their food, find water sources, and find shelter from the cold and rain. There’s no hand to fill their food bowl or faucet for their water. With this in mind, cats in the wild may have to dig for their food and even their water. Your cat’s scratching the floor before getting a drink may be reminiscent of that behavior, but since they can’t dig around in the mud at a water hole, they have to settle for scratching the floor before drinking water instead.

They May be Unhappy With Their Options

Cats are fastidious animals; they like things clean. This is very evident by the amount of time they spend cleaning themselves. Kitties like to have their surroundings clean, including their water. If your cat is unhappy with the cleanliness of their water, they may scratch the floor around it to bury it, similar to how they would bury their waste.

Even with a clean water dish, your kitty may not like the proximity of it to their food bowl or, worse yet, their litter box. Some picky cats prefer a little distance between their things, and who can blame them? Drinking water right near a litter box is enough to make any of us scratch the floor in disgust.

Let’s say that the water bowl is clean and an acceptable distance from everything else, so now what could be the problem? Believe it or not, some cats may not like the taste of tap water, especially if it’s been treated with chlorine or other chemicals. If you use filtered water or bottled water, these kitties may stop trying to “bury” their water.

They May be Happy With Their Options

On the flip side, scratching the floor before drinking water may be your cat’s way of saying that they’re content with their choices. Cats often knead their paws when they’re feeling happy or comforted; you’ve no doubt experienced this when your cat is snuggled on your lap. Scratching the floor around their water bowl could be a form of kneading because they are happy to be taken care of and comforted by what’s provided for them.

Making it Their Own

Along with being happy about their water bowl and what’s inside it, scratching the floor before drinking may be their way of laying claim to their stuff. Cats have scent glands in their paws and cheeks and use them to make their unique mark on people and things. This is part of why they like to rub on your legs or headbutt your face. By scratching the floor around their food bowl, they may be trying to tell other cats, “Paws off, this is mine!” This may be especially true if you have more than one kitty or even a dog in your household.

Curiosity Makes Them Do It

There’s a reason your cat may spend hours looking out the window or watching the dust particles settle in a ray of sunshine; they’re curious. Cats love to know what’s going on around them. They like to watch, touch, and even taste their surroundings. Scratching the floor around the water bowl, or even touching the surface of the water itself, may be their way of trying to figure out this receptacle and what exactly is inside of it. Kittens may dip their toes into their water bowl and then shake it or wipe it on the floor. Not only does this help them to understand better, but it’s also pretty entertaining.

Covering Their Tracks

Cats in the wild have to live in a world of balance. Not only are they predators that eat a variety of rodents and birds, but they are also prey to larger animals. This makes it essential to watch their backs, even when their eyes are on their next meal. They often have to cover their tracks so that other animals won’t know where they are or where they’ve stashed some leftovers meant for a future meal. Even though your housecat doesn’t need to fight for their resources, they may scratch the floor before drinking water to hide where they’ve been from other critters.

Final Thoughts

Our cats are a mix of weird and wonderful behaviors. While scratching the floor before drinking water may seem a little strange to us, to our cats, it may be a perfectly natural behavior that goes back to their ancestors in the wild. Even though domestic cats don’t face the same perils as wild cats, they still feel the drive and have the instincts that come out as strange seeming behaviors.

How to Tell if Your Cats are Bonded: A Guide to Bonding cats

A close up of a gray cat and a gray-ish cat with black stripes sleeping with their heads against each other.

Cats have unique and independent personalities, leading to a popular misconception that they prefer to be alone. However, for some cats, it can be quite the opposite. They love to be social and have the company of other feline friends. With such a contrary attitude towards companionship, it can be hard to tell if and when cats are bonded. This guide will help you recognize when your cats have truly bonded.  

How to Tell if Your Cats are Bonded

It’s true that some cats prefer to be solitary, but many felids live in groups. Picture a pride of lions or a colony of feral cats. They do this to share the load of hunting and provide each other with protection. While your housecats don’t require help in either of those areas, living closely with other cats does have its benefits. How can you tell if multiple cats have accepted each other and actually bonded? Look for any of these signs:

  • Collective Grooming: What’s better than having a friend that can groom those hard-to-reach places? Cats that have bonded will spend inordinate amounts of time grooming themselves and each other. You may find them curled up cleaning each other’s ears or nibbling the itches on each other’s backs.
  • Sleeping Peacefully: Cats that aren’t bonded won’t dare sleep near each other. Bonded cats will often curl up together to share warmth and comfort, whether in the same bed or sharing a sunbeam. This shows that they have put complete trust in their furry counterpart.
  • Playful Pairing: Friendly kitties will PLAY together. While play and fighting can often look alike, you’ll be able to tell the difference by your cats’ body language. Cats that are playing are at ease; they may be rough and tumble, but each cat is enjoying it. Cats that are fighting will be tense, flatten their ears, and aggressively twitch their tail. There is often an aggressor initiating it instead of both cats being equally involved.
  • Tail Touching: Think of it like holding hands. Bonded cats may touch or even intertwine their tails when sitting or standing next to each other.
  • Spread Their Scent: All cats have scent glands in their cheeks, paws, and other areas of their body. They will rub these parts on things they consider theirs. If your cats are rubbing their cheeks on each other, it’s like giving their stamp of approval. This goes for people as well; a cheek rub is a sure sign that your cat likes you.

You won’t find bonded cats chasing each other away from their resources. They also won’t take playtime too far to the point that they are hissing or growling at each other. Bonded cats also won’t ignore each other. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be the occasional snag between friendly kitties, just that the majority of the time, there is peace and happiness.

How to Introduce Cats to Each Other

A gray cat and an orange cat are standing next to each other and appear to be kissing.

Not just any pair or group of cats are going to bond. Sometimes it will take a lot of effort to forge a friendship. With this in mind, be sure not to force anything between your cats and follow these tips:

Bonding Kittens

If you’re dealing with kittens, chances are your work is already done for you. Most kittens will take to each other very quickly, especially if they’re from the same litter. 

Bonding An Adult Cat to a Kitten

Now, if you have an older cat and are trying to give them a younger friend, you may have more trouble. Depending on your older cat’s personality, you may have to try some different methods. 

Some older cats will take a kitten under their wing like an older sibling accepting a younger protégé. Others will be offended that you’re trying to replace them. If that’s the case, you may have to give the older cat some space. 

Kittens are rambunctious and will try to get the other cat to play. Make sure your older cat has a safe place where only they can go should they feel the need to escape. Only allow supervised interactions until you’re sure they can get along and separate them if either gets too grumpy.

Bonding Adult Cats 

When introducing two adult cats, you’ll want to start slowly, especially if you have a cat that’s been with you a while and is used to being solitary.

  1. Start by keeping them in separate rooms. They should hear and smell each other but not see or touch. Reward each kitty every time they smell around without getting upset. Give this a few days and if everyone is comfortable, move on.
  2. From here, allow them to see each other but not get to each other. You can do this with baby gates or a screen door. Supervise their interactions and reward good behaviors. If one or both cats get upset, separate them and try again later. Continue until everyone is comfortable.
  3. Remove all barriers and let the cats touch each other. Only do this if you can supervise. Give rewards when your cats are friendly, and be sure to separate them if they get angry. Be very careful when dealing with an agitated cat. They may lash out at you instead if you try to move them. Also, if your cats start to fight, don’t grab for them. Instead, use a gate, piece of cardboard, or another sturdy divider to put in between them, so you don’t get scratched or bitten.

Even though some cats are very accepting, and you may not need to go through all of these steps, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have a particularly friendly cat and are introducing another friendly cat, you may start at the step where they can see each other and gauge their reactions. If they don’t go for it, you can always move back a step and try again.

Some cats may never bond, and that’s okay. Just be sure to give them both their own safe spaces, food, water, and even litter boxes. Many cats may choose to coexist by ignoring each other rather than bonding.

Final Thoughts

Cat parents of multi-cat households always dream of friendship and harmony between their feline friends. Hopefully, after reading this, you will be able to determine if your feline friends are friends themselves and what you can do to set up successful introductions.

Should I Let My Cat Lick Me? Will Anything Bad Happen?

A white cat with tan-ish patches and black stripes is licking someone’s hand with the background blurred out..

Your feline friend may lick you for a number of reasons, but it may be best not to give them free rein. Cats have many seemingly bizarre behaviors, including chasing imaginary prey and following you to the bathroom, but licking you tops it all. Let’s look into why cats lick people in the first place and why you may want to put a limit on it.

Why Do Cats Lick People?

A cat’s tongue is truly a universal tool. It is covered with tiny barbs that grab onto loose hair and debris in their haircoat. Tongues allow cats to taste and drink. It also works to glean every tasty morsel from their food bowl. With such a useful body part as this, it’s no wonder that cats love to lick so much, but why do they like to lick you?

Here Are Some of the Reasons Why:

  • They’re Cleaning You: Cats are fastidious animals. They spend most of their waking hours grooming themselves into pristine condition. Cats love to groom so much that they will also groom their fellow furry friends. This can sometimes be extended to you. Whether or not they think you’re dirty, them licking you may be their way of cleaning you and making you feel part of their clan.
  • They Want Attention: Nothing says pet me like a rough, sandpaper lick on the hand. When meowing and rubbing against your leg doesn’t get your attention, licking or even biting might. Your cat may be trying to get your attention for something as simple as an early dinner or something more serious like an illness.
  • They’re Feeling Stressed: The act of licking releases endorphins in a cat’s brain. That’s partly why a mother cat seems so content when she’s cleaning up her babies. Licking you may be a way for your cat to calm their nerves if they’re stressed about something in their environment.
  • They’re Showing You Affection: Similar to how you show your cat love by petting them, licking you may be their way of reciprocating that love. Again, groups of cats, including mothers and their kittens, lick each other as a form of bonding. When your cat licks you, it may be their way of saying, “Welcome home, I missed you.”
  • They Like the Taste: We’ve all heard the saying “Curiosity killed the cat,” which came about because cats are so investigatory of their surroundings. They can’t keep their noses or tongues out of things. Licking you may be another way to explore the world around them. They can taste where you’ve been and what you’ve done that day. They may also just like the salty taste.

Should I Let My Cat Lick Me?

Close up of a brown can with light gray patches closing its eyes and licking someone’s finger.

Most of the time, your cat’s licks are pretty harmless, especially if just a lick or tow here and there. However, your cat licking you isn’t without a couple of potential risks.

First of all, a cat’s obsessive licking can lead to actual wounds on your skin.

That’s because their rough tongue can damage your skin like sandpaper if they lick the same area enough times. Now, it’s unlikely that your cat means to hurt you, but it is a potential side effect.

Another reason you might want to limit your cat’s licking is that it can spread bacteria.

Even though a cat works very hard at maintaining a clean and put-together appearance, the inside of their mouth is quite dirty. Cat mouths harbor quite a lot of bacteria, and while a cat bite is usually the cause of most problems, licking an open wound or near your mouth or eyes can cause an infection. We’ve all witnessed the amazing acrobatics that a cat goes through to clean themselves after using the litter box, and nobody should want a lick after that.

How Can I Stop a Cat From Licking Me?

If you’ve decided to try to curb your cat’s licking behavior, be careful how you go about it. First of all, many of the reasons why your cat licks you are done with affection and showing you that you’re part of their circle. You don’t want to offend them or make them associate you with any negative behavior.

Rather than punishment or spreading yucky tasting products on your skin, try to redirect your cat’s behavior when the licking gets to be too much. You may try to play with them or pet them instead of allowing them to lick you. If your cat licks you while you’re snuggling, try moving your face or hand away from them and offer them a clothed body part instead.

If redirecting doesn’t work, just get out of there. If you leave every time your cat starts their licking game, sooner or later, they’ll get the idea that licking equals you leaving. They will hopefully decide to cut out the licking so that you’ll stick around.

If you can’t get your cat’s licking under control or if they’re starting to lick other things besides just you, see your veterinarian. Your cat may be trying to tell you something about their health, and your veterinarian will be able to rule out medical causes of excessive licking.

Final Thoughts

Your cat may lick you for a number of reasons. Most of the time, they see it as a way of conveying their positive feelings towards you. However, your cat’s licking may cause you some problems, especially if they’re doing it excessively. If your cat’s licking has gotten out of control, try some of the above tips or speak to your veterinarian.

Kidney Disease in Cats: Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention

A light brown and white cat lying down on a blue and white blanket, looking very tired. There is a small, brown stuffed animal bear leaning against the cat and a black smart table next to the sleeping cat.

What is Kidney Disease?

 Kidney disease in cats is the progressive and irreversible loss of kidney function. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the most common type of kidney disease diagnosed in cats. Kidney disease is determined to be chronic when the disease has been present for at least three months. 

Chronic kidney disease is also known as chronic kidney or renal failure (CRF) or chronic kidney or renal insufficiency (CKI). As the kidneys are damaged and lose function, the body retains toxins in the bloodstream. Red blood cell production and hormones are affected, the cat’s drinking and urinary habits change, and blood pressure increases. There are also gastrointestinal side effects and many different electrolytes, mineral, and protein abnormalities in the blood and urine. The kidneys can’t keep up with their job, and as a result, many bad things happen.

What are the Causes of Kidney Disease

 There are many causes of kidney disease in cats. Some common ones are:

  • Toxins: Certain toxic medications, plants, and other toxins. 
  • Inflammation: Conditions such as pyelonephritis (a bacterial infection of the renal pelvis) and glomerulonephritis (a specific type of kidney disease) involve inflammation and infection in the kidneys. 
  • Congenital and Inherited Disorders: Examples are polycystic kidney disease and various kidney malformations (dysplasias) such as hypoplasia. 
  • Cancer: A common cancer affecting the kidneys is lymphoma.
  • Viral Infections: Retroviruses such as Feline Leukemia Virus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus. 
  • Bacterial Infections: Pyelonephritis and Leptospirosis are bacterial infections that can affect a cat’s kidneys.  
  • Obstructive Disease: Upper urinary tract obstructions such as kidney stones or stones in the ureters can cause kidney disease. 
  • Immune-Mediated Disease
  • Various Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders
  • Idiopathic: This refers to an unknown cause. 

What are the Symptoms of Kidney Disease?

The clinical signs and manifestations of kidney disease depend on how advanced the disease is and how much kidney function is lost. Initial symptoms are subtle and will develop and progress over time. Typically, owners will see the following signs: 

  • Polydipsia: Drinking more than normal
  • Polyuria: Urinating more than normal
  • Anorexia: Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Dehydration: Despite drinking more
  • Vomiting and Nausea
  • Muscle Weakness and Loss
  • Halitosis: Bad Breath
  • Ulcers in the Mouth
  • Pale Gums Due to Anemia (Low Red Blood Cells)
  • Lethargy: Decreased Energy and Increased Weakness
  • Hypertension: High Blood Pressure

 How Is Kidney Disease Diagnosed?

A fluffy, grey cat is lying on a table and being examined by a vet.

If kidney disease is suspected in your cat, they should be taken to see a veterinarian right away. A veterinarian will perform a physical examination as well as blood and urine tests and abdominal imaging. Two kidney values are measured in the blood, blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine (CRE). With kidney failure, toxins are built up in the blood, causing these values to increase. This is known as azotemia. 

Another blood test, symmetric dimethylarginine (SDMA), is also useful for determining kidney function. Consequences of kidney disease include changes in electrolytes such as potassium, minerals such as phosphorus, and blood cells such as red blood cells. These values are also monitored with blood tests. Urine tests show signs of kidney disease through poorly concentrated urine, protein loss in the urine, bacterial infections, and crystal or stone formation. 

Imaging of the abdomen with radiographs (X-rays) and ultrasound help determine the size, structure, and other anomalies associated with kidney disease. 

How Is Kidney Disease Treated?

An birds-eye view of a cat lying on blankets, using an IV drip.

There is no targeted treatment or cure for chronic kidney disease. The disease doesn’t just develop overnight. It is a progressive and chronic loss of kidney function, so once it is gone, we can’t get it back. If there are specific causes such as an infection or inflammation, treatment should be started for these conditions. Typically, even once these conditions are treated, the kidneys are left permanently damaged and have decreased function. This leaves symptomatic treatment and supportive care as the methods to manage and slow the progression of kidney disease. 

Making sure your cat is hydrated, eating, and pain-free are key factors in supportive care. Hydration is an essential aspect of supportive therapy. By increasing fluid intake in CKD patients, the kidneys get flushed of toxins, the cat feels better, and sometimes eats better too. The goal should be maintaining a good quality of life.

Other supportive care aspects vary from patient to patient and may include treatment for anemia, hypertension, protein in the urine, low potassium, high phosphorus, and gastrointestinal complications such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia, and weight loss.

 What to Feed Cats with Kidney Disease?

Diet therapy is highly recommended for cats with kidney disease. Therapy is typically through prescription diets with decreased amounts of protein, phosphorus, sodium, and increased fiber, calories, and antioxidants. While prescription diets are important, the most important thing is to make sure the cat eats.

 How is Kidney Disease Prevented in Cats?

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent kidney disease. The key is to catch it early through regular physical exams and diagnostic screening.

 What is the Life Expectancy for Cats with Kidney Disease?

Kidney disease is most commonly diagnosed in older cats, typically over ten years of age. The life expectancy for cats with kidney disease varies greatly because it depends on certain factors like: 

  • What the underlying cause is
  • How quickly the disease progresses
  • How well the cat responds to supportive therapy
  • Other consequences of kidney disease your cat is suffering from
  • What stage of kidney failure the cat is in

Cats can live for weeks, months, and even years with kidney disease. 

 When Should You Euthanize A Cat with Kidney Disease?

A black and white cat receiving an IV and looks ill is lying down.

Determining when to euthanize a cat is a personal decision between the cat owner and veterinarian. The cat’s quality of life is the most important factor in deciding when to euthanize. 

A good quality of life is typically when the cat is comfortable and pain-free, eating and drinking on its own, and their symptoms and secondary conditions related to kidney failure are under control. Poor quality of life occurs when the cat is uncomfortable or in pain, not eating or drinking on its own, urinating and defecating on itself or not making it to the litter box, and suffering from unmanaged side effects of kidney disease. When the bad days outweigh the good days, it might be time to talk to your veterinarian about euthanasia. 

Why Is My Cat Throwing Up White Foam?

A white and grey cat with black stripes vomiting outside on the grass covered ground.

A cat vomiting up white foam could be a symptom of any number of various diseases or conditions. There are numerous underlying causes for cats vomiting in general. No matter what the vomit looks like, a vomiting cat should be seen by a veterinarian for an exam and diagnostic tests to determine what is wrong and be given the necessary treatment.

Causes of Vomiting in Cats

A white and grey can with some black stripes trying to cough up a hairball.

1. Hairballs

When cats groom themselves, they will inevitably swallow some of their fur. While some fur might pass into the stool, larger amounts of fur generally don’t digest well and irritate the stomach. Cats will vomit up the fur, usually in a wet clump called a hairball. Some cats will vomit once or even a few times before they produce the hairball. This vomit before the hairball is often a white foam or clear liquid substance. Depending on if the cat has recently eaten or not, it may have bits of food in it as well.

2. Gastritis

Gastritis is irritation and inflammation of the stomach. This typically occurs when a cat has eaten a substance that upsets the stomach. This could be a foreign object, plants, toxic material, or abnormal food. It can sometimes happen from a diet change or too many treats. Vomit from gastritis could have food present if the cat recently ate, or it could consist of bile, foam, or liquid.

3. Indigestion

Indigestion can occur when a cat’s stomach acid builds up and irritates the stomach. This often happens when the cat has skipped a meal or goes too long without eating. The irritation of the stomach can cause vomiting of white or yellow foam, bile, or liquid.

4. Gastrointestinal Obstruction

A gastrointestinal obstruction occurs when a cat eats an abnormal object or material that becomes stuck in the GI tract and can’t be vomited up or passed in the stool. When something is stuck, a cat will try to vomit it up, and the resulting vomit is often foam, liquid, or bile. GI obstructions are emergencies that often require surgery to remove the foreign object.

5. Eating Too Fast

It is not uncommon for a cat to eat too fast, resulting in vomiting or regurgitation. Usually, this vomit contains undigested food with some foam or liquid.

6. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

IBD occurs when there is inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. When the inflammation is in the upper GI tract, it often causes vomiting. The cause could be poor digestion, food allergies, parasites, autoimmune disease, cancer, or other GI tract diseases.

7. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas with various causes but can also happen without a known cause. The pancreas produces hormones and digestive enzymes. When it becomes inflamed, this disrupts hormone and enzyme production, causes toxin build-up, and can involve inflammation in surrounding organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. Cats with pancreatitis can have abdominal pain, lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, and diarrhea.

8. Kidney Disease

Kidney disease in cats is common, especially as they age. It is typically a chronic kidney disease, although acute kidney injury can occur from toxins. Kidney disease causes kidney function loss, which causes toxins to build up in the blood because the kidneys can’t filter them out. Toxins in the blood can induce ulcers in the stomach and nausea, both of which might make the cat vomit. This vomit is often liquid, foam, or bile.

9. Metabolic Diseases

Aside from kidney disease, other metabolic diseases such as diabetes or hyperthyroidism can cause vomiting.

10. Parasites

Many gastrointestinal parasites can affect cats. If there is a substantial load of parasites, it can irritate the stomach and intestines and cause vomiting. Sometimes the cat will even vomit up a worm. Some of the most common types of parasite infections in cats are tapeworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.

Diagnosing Vomiting in Cats

A white cat with black patches lying on a glass table being examined by a male vet (using a stethoscope on the cat).

A vomiting cat should be taken to a veterinarian to find the cause of the vomiting. Your veterinarian will start with obtaining a thorough history and performing a physical examination. Other tests include fecal tests to check for intestinal parasites, bloodwork to screen for metabolic disease and other abnormalities associated with vomiting, and imaging. 

Imaging could include abdominal radiographs (x-rays) or an abdominal ultrasound. Imaging is done to look for foreign objects, signs of GI obstruction, masses, or inflammation in the GI tract. Images can also sometimes detect abnormalities in other organs such as the liver, bladder, or kidneys that could cause vomiting. 

If the source of the vomiting still isn’t found, more advanced diagnostics are performed, such as biopsies, endoscopy, or exploratory abdominal surgery.

Treating Vomiting in Cats

There is no good at-home treatment for vomiting in cats. A veterinarian should treat a vomiting cat because different causes of vomiting require different treatments. Your veterinarian will often provide fluid therapy either subcutaneously or intravenously and anti-nausea medications. Other medications, diet therapies, and supplements may also be needed.

What to Do if Your Cat is Vomiting

A white and grey cat with black stripes lying in the grass, apparently heaving as if wanting to throw up.

While many cat owners think vomiting might be normal, any cat that is vomiting should be seen by a veterinarian. This is especially true if the cat is vomiting more than once per week, vomiting several times in a day, there is blood in the vomit, or if the cat has other symptoms such as lethargy, inappetence, diarrhea, abdominal pain, or any other abnormalities.

Why Does My Cat Scratch The Wall?

A white cat with black and grey patches looking up at something and extending its right paw towards it.

You’ve no doubt seen your cat do it, that lazy stretch up the wall followed by the digging in of their claws as they return to the floor. Or maybe you’ve witnessed your cat, with intense determination, frantically scratching at the wall with both paws as if trying to dig a tunnel. Scratching your wall can be a normal behavior for cats, but not one that you may want to promote. Let’s learn why cats scratch walls and how you can try to stop it.

Why Do Cats Scratch?

Two kittens, one cat is black, white, and orange sitting down on the right. The other kitten is white and orange, and is standing and clawing at a wooden board sticking in the ground.

The scratching behavior is important to your cat. It’s completely natural and normal. The trouble is that it can often involve the destruction of furniture, carpets, and other things you would like to keep intact. 

Reasons Why Scratching is Important for Cats:

  1. Maintain Claw Health: Scratching helps to remove the outer layer of a cat’s claw. This layer is often flaky and needs to be removed to make way for the healthy layers underneath. Scratching also helps keep nails a comfortable length so that they don’t get so long that they cause pain. Also, scratching helps to sharpen the ends of those claws into a nice point. While sharp claws aren’t nearly as important for our housecats as cats in the wild, it’s still instinct to keep their claws sharp and ready for protective purposes.
  2. Mark Their Territory: When a cat scratches the wall, they’re doing more than just sharpening their claws. The scratch marks they leave can tell other cats that this area belongs to them-both visually and by smell. Cats possess scent glands in their feet that leave their specific scent where they scratch. It helps other cats know who was here and when.
  3. Stretch: A big ritual in a cat’s day is stretching. It has to be considering the amount of time that they sleep. Your cat may find all kinds of interesting ways to stretch, including standing up against your wall. Scratching also can help stretch their feet, toes, and hand legs.
  4. Get Your Attention: Your cat may scratch the wall next to you, the door, or the place where their food is kept to get your attention. It’s hard not to notice a cat when they’re leaving their mark in places like that.

Why Do Cats Scratch the Wall?

A grey and white cat with black stripes standing up clawing at a ropes tied around a wooden post.

If it makes sense to you why cats feel the need to scratch, you may still be confused about why it happens on your wall. Most of the time, cats prefer to scratch things with specific textures; think about scratching posts covered in fabric or rope. Sometimes they want something different. 

Even though your cat may have every scratching post, pad, or toy on the market, it doesn’t mean they’re satisfied. Some scratching equipment for cats might be too small to achieve a good stretch while scratching, or the material might catch their nails. Instead, your cat may prefer the wall because it’s big enough to accommodate a full stretch, and it won’t obstruct their nails.

How to Keep Your Cat From Scratching the Wall

A light brownish cat with black stripes with one of its paws clawing a scratching post.

If your cat’s scratching behavior has become destructive, it’s time to steer that behavior in another direction. There’s no use in trying to keep your cat from scratching altogether. Instead, try the solutions listed below.

  1. Use a Scratching Post: A good scratching post can be the answer to you and your cat’s needs. Observe your cat’s habits. Does your cat only scratch at the wall, or do they have other favorable spots? This will help you determine what kind of textures and orientations to consider. If walls are the preferred option, look for a large vertical surface, preferably one that you can hang in the location that they’ve been scratching.
    • The same goes for scratching near the door or food cabinet. Place a large, vertical scratching post in these areas. This will still allow them to draw attention to themselves without damaging your home.
    • You can use some attractant, like catnip, on the new scratching posts to encourage use.
  2. Use a Deterrent: If your cat is set on scratching the wall, especially in a specific area, using a deterrent may help. You can place furniture or some other object to block the area off, or you may also try covering the area in aluminum foil or double-sided tape.
    • For a chemical deterrent, you may try one of many commercial sprays available on the market or some DIY solutions with essential oils that cats don’t like the smell of.
  3. Clip Their Nails: By clipping your cat’s nails, you’re keeping them short so that your cat doesn’t have to. It will also blunt the tip so that their scratching doesn’t cause as much damage. Just be sure to use the right type of nail clipper for your cat.
  4. Keep Them Engaged: Scratching can result from boredom or as a way to get your attention. Make sure your kitty gets their fill of together time by carving out some time for play, grooming, or snuggles every day, preferably when you first get home.

Final Thoughts

Scratching is completely natural for cats. However, it may also be something that is coming between you and your feline friend. Hopefully, if your cat is scratching the wall, some of these tips will help you maintain minimal damage while fulfilling your cat’s scratching desires.

How Often Should You Take Your Cat to the Vet?

A big grey cat with black stripes being held in the arms of a woman in a white doctor's coat.

In general, cats should visit their veterinarian at least yearly. However, this recommendation can vary based on your cat’s age and if there are any health concerns. 

Most cat owners know that their cat needs regular veterinary care. But the term ‘regular’ is subjective and can mean different things to different people. Just how often is ‘regular’ veterinary care for your cat? The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends that cats should visit their veterinarian at least once per year. The decision about how often to bring your cat or kitten to the vet depends on several individual factors such as age, environment, breed, and health status. 

study done by Bayer health determined that 52% of American cats see the vet less frequently than once per year. Some common reasons for these infrequent visits are that cats are pros at hiding their illnesses and injuries, and can sometimes be difficult to bring to the vet. Remember that cats need frequent and regular veterinary care, just like dogs and people!

Kitten Vet Visits

A small tan and white kitten sniffing a stethoscope on top of a clipboard, both of which are on a table.

If you have a kitten, it is important that they see a vet within the first week of adding them to your family. This way, your veterinarian can determine if the kitten is healthy and discuss the vaccination and visit schedule. 

Kittens typically receive their first core vaccination against feline rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia around 6-8 weeks of age and then every 3-4 weeks until around 16-20 weeks of age. Between 12-16 weeks, a kitten will receive its first rabies vaccination. 

During your kitten’s first veterinary visits, they will be examined, vaccinated, dewormed, and given other tests such as feline viral tests or fecal parasite tests as needed. 

Once a is kitten is around six months old, you should bring them to a vet to be spayed or neutered. 

Adult Cat Vet Visits

A grey, white, and brown cat with black stripes is being held from behind by a woman (probably a veterinarian) on an examination table.

Once a cat is a year old, they are considered an adult and should see the veterinarian at least once a year. These yearly wellness and preventative visits will include an annual examination, vaccines, and testing as needed. 

Most adult cats will receive their distemper combination (feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia) vaccine and rabies vaccine anywhere from every 1-3 years. At-risk cats will receive their feline leukemia vaccines yearly. 

Annual vet visits are a perfect time to ask your veterinarian questions regarding your cat’s diet, exercise, and behavior. 

Senior and Geriatric Cat Vet Visits

A light brown cat with its eyes closed lying down.

Senior cats are around 10-15 years old, while geriatric cats are considered over the age of 15. Senior and geriatric cats should see the vet twice a year for their wellness and preventative exams, and at least one of these visits should include routine blood and urine tests. Older cats are more prone to kidney, liver, and thyroid diseases and tend to become sick more often. 

When to Bring Your Cat to the Vet More Often

A light brown and white cat lying down, looking tired. A brown teddy bear is on top of the cat's back.
  • Cats should be seen by their veterinarian more often than once per year if they: 
  • Are acting sick
  • Have a known medical condition
  • Are injured
  • Spend time outdoors (higher risk of exposure to diseases and injuries)
  • Are used for breeding
  • Are exhibiting any changes in behavior

Cat Digging Excessively in The Litter Box: causes and Solutions

A black cat sniffing and pawing the litter in a blue litter box.

Digging in the litter box is normal for cats after they have gone to the bathroom to cover up their urine or feces. However, if your cat is digging in the box more often than they usually do, this could not only be an obnoxious mess, but it could point to a health or behavior problem. Let’s look at some reasons behind why your kitty might be spending more time than necessary in their litter box and digging excessively.

Reasons Your Cat Won’t Stop Digging in Their Litter Box

A black and white cat lying down next to a blue litter box, starting at a pile of litter on the floor.

Here are some reasons why your cat might be making frequent trips to their litter box and digging in their litter box more than usual. If you notice your cat displaying this abnormal excessive behavior, they may be trying to tell you something is wrong. You will first want to bring them to see your veterinarian and make sure they aren’t suffering from any of these medical or behavioral issues. Let’s look at some behavioral issues first.

Behavioral Issues Why Your Cat Is Digging Too Much

A brown, white, and black cat standing on the top of a pink and white enclosed litter box, looking towards the camera.

These causes of abnormal behaviors can be just as worrisome as medical causes and could explain excessive digging in the litter box.

  1. OCD: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a behavioral issue where a cat becomes fixated on a particular action and performs it regularly and repeatedly. It can be hard to break these habits, especially when they involve innate behaviors such as scratching and digging.
  2.  Anxiety/Stress: Cats are finicky creatures and can become stressed by even little changes in their household. Stress can cause cystitis, as mentioned above, and can contribute to abnormal behaviors, including inappropriate urination or defecation, hiding in strange places (litter boxes included), and OCD type behaviors.
  3. Marking; Naturally, cats will signal to other cats in various ways such as urine marking, scent-marking through pheromones, and scratching. When cats knead, dig, or scratch, they display this marking behavior and leave their scent through pheromone deposits. Excessive digging or scratching in the litter box could be related to marking their territory or signaling to another cat.
  4. Playing: Some cats find the strangest places to play. The litter box can be one of these places. This is more commonly seen in cats who haven’t been properly trained or aren’t used to being inside and using the litter box as their bathroom.
  5. Hiding Food or Toys: Stray, feral, or wild cats can be found hiding their resources from other animals. Even domesticated cats living solely indoors can display this behavior and may take to hiding their toys, treats, or food in odd places such as the litter box.
  6. Boredom: A bored cat is a destructive cat. If your cat isn’t given the necessary enrichment to keep them entertained, they will fend for themselves and find places to play, items to destroy, and expend their energy in whatever way they see fit. This could include playing in the litter box, excessive digging in the litter box, and other abnormal behaviors, as previously mentioned.

Medical Issues Why Your Cat Is Digging Too Much

A white and tan cat lying down looking tired, with a brown teddy bear on top of it.
  1. Diarrhea: Diarrhea is abnormally frequent defecation where the feces are soft or liquid. This can result in an increased urge and frequency to go to the bathroom.
  2. Intestinal Parasites: Cats can suffer from various intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and others. These parasites can cause an upset stomach leading to vomiting, diarrhea, gas, and frequent defecation.
  3. Constipation: Constipation is the inability to defecate regularly or easily. This can result in straining in the litter box and frequent visits to the litter box.
  4. IBD: IBD, or Inflammatory Bowel Disease, is a disease where a cat’s gastrointestinal tract is chronically irritated and inflamed. This commonly causes diarrhea, vomiting, and a decreased appetite.
  5. UTI: Urinary tract infections are bacterial infections of the bladder and other parts of the urinary tract. Common signs include frequent urination, urinating small amounts at a time, blood in the urine, and inappropriate urination.
  6. Idiopathic Cystitis and FLUTD: FLUTD, or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease, includes several different urinary tract disorders that cats are prone to. This category does include UTIs, but a more common condition cats can get is idiopathic cystitis. Cats with cystitis have similar signs as those with UTIs, including frequently urinating in small amounts, blood in the urine, and inappropriate urination, none of which is caused by a bladder infection. Sometimes this is caused by stress, anxiety, inflammation, diet, or behavioral issues.
  7. Urinary Blockage: Male cats are the most at risk for a urinary blockage than females due to the small size of their urethra. A blockage of mucus, tiny stones, or crystals can form in the urethra preventing the cat from urinating. These cats usually have a painful abdomen, strain to urinate but don’t produce urine, make frequent trips to the litter box, and often act sick. This is an emergency! If you see your cat trying to pee but he can’t, you need to take them to see your veterinarian immediately.
  8. Diabetes: Cats with Diabetes Mellitus don’t respond normally to insulin, which results in high blood glucose. Common symptoms include drinking more water than usual and urinating larger amounts (thus more frequent trips to the litter box).
  9. Kidney Disease: Cats are prone to Chronic Kidney Disease as they age. This disease causes a loss of kidney function over time. Some common symptoms included weight loss, anorexia, vomiting, drinking excessively, and increased urination.

What to Do About Excessive Digging in the Litter Box

4 kittens in a cage, 3 of which are sitting in a small litter box.

Now that we have gone over several reasons why your cat might be spending more time in the litter box and excessively digging or scratching in it, let’s look at some solutions.

  1. See the Vet: Number one, as we already mentioned, is to take your cat to the vet. You’ll want to make sure you aren’t dealing with a serious medical or behavioral problem that needs attention.
  2. Size of Litter Box: Make sure your cat’s litter box is big enough that they can turn around, have plenty of space to move, and space to dig and cover as needed. The top shouldn’t be too low where they have to hunch over. It must also be long enough and wide enough. If you think your litter box is too small, try a bigger size.
  3. Type/Style of Litter Box: Cats can have different preferences as to what kind of litter box they prefer. Some enjoy the privacy of a hooded or sheltered box with a top. Others feel too confined with a hood and want an open box.
    • Cats with arthritis, injuries, or other mobility issues will require a litter box with lower walls, making it easier to get in and out of.
    • Self-cleaning litter boxes are popular because of the convenience and cleanliness they provide for the cat owner. However, some cats are scared of the motion and noises and may not use them appropriately.
  4. Number of Litter Boxes: It is recommended to have one more litter box than the number of cats in your household. You may need to add another litter box.
  5. Location of Litter Box: Litter boxes should be found on each level in the house or spread out across different areas.
    • Litter boxes should be located in quiet, out of the way areas.
    • Litter boxes should be kept away from other pets such as dogs.
  6. Litter Substrate – Type of Litter: Cats may have preferences for the type of litter they want to use.
    • Typically, the best and most common type of litter is a clay litter – either clumping or non-clumping.
    • Litter should always be unscented. Scented litters, while appealing to cat owners, is not appealing to the cat.
  7. Enrichment & Entertainment: If your cat displays abnormal behaviors such as excessive digging in the litter box, make sure to provide enough enrichment. This includes toys, play, attention, cat trees, scratching posts, and time and space to explore.  
  8. Amount of Litter: Ensure that the litter box has enough litter in it. There needs to be enough for the cat to be able to cover what they need to completely.
  9. Cleanliness: Last but certainly not least, the litter box must be kept clean. This means scooping it at least once a day, changing out the litter weekly to monthly, and cleaning the box itself regularly.
    • Cats don’t like to be dirty, and even though a litter box seems like a filthy place, cats will avoid it if it is too smelly or full.

Why Do Cats Use a Litter Box? 

An overhead shot of a brown/blackish cat looking down into a litter box with white and blue litter in it.

It is a cat’s natural instinct to use a litter box as their toilet. After they urinate or defecate, they bury it in the litter. Cats are notoriously clean and tidy creatures and prefer a clean environment. From a young age, they inherently know that burying their excrement helps keep their environment clean. Their wild ancestors would bury their droppings to cover their scent from other animals, keeping predators unaware of their whereabouts.

Normal Litter Box Behavior

A brown and white cat sitting in a litter box looking up at the camera.

Normally, when a cat or kitten has to go to the bathroom, they will seek out an area where they can bury their excrement. For outdoor cats, this could mean the kid’s sandbox, the garden, or a dirt pile. 

Indoor cats must be provided the substrate to bury their droppings. A proper litter box should contain the appropriate amount and type of litter for the cat to use (more on this later). The cat will go into the litter box, walk around until they find that perfect place, and then do their business. When they are done, they will cover it up with litter and leave the litter box.

Abnormal Litter Box Behavior

A grey and white cat with black stripes in peaking out of a an enclosed litter box.

Some signs that your cat is using the litter box abnormally include:

  • Frequently going in and out of the litter box while they may or may not be doing anything in it.
  • Spending a longer amount of time in the litter box. They could be squatting or posturing for a long time, straining to urinate or defecate, sleeping, playing, or digging around.
  • Urinating or defecating outside the litter box. This could be right outside the litter box, on the floor, on a rug, on your laundry, in the bed, or anywhere else.

These behaviors are abnormal, and you should seek out veterinary attention if you notice your cat displaying these types of litter box behavior.