Cat Chat

  • Are Human Treats OK for Cats?




    Photo credit: LaCabeza Grande via 



    As we indulge in all the delicious fare of the holiday season, let’s talk about the human treats that our cats love best. I’ve had cats who screamed (well, meowed really loudly) for ice cream, not to mention French fries, chicken sandwiches and even popcorn. My current cat craves only one food: the purple lettuce that’s in spring mix. Other friends report cats who munch on everything from broccoli to frozen yogurt.

    Like us, cats have different flavor preferences, says Amy Thomason, a veterinarian at Westlake Animal Hospital in Austin, Texas.  Also like us, their preferences are shaped early in life. 

    And, of course, some human foods should never be on the menu for cats. They include grapes, raisins, onions and chocolate. The ASPCA has a list with more information. 

    How often can your cat enjoy her favorite human treat? As long as she’s getting most of her calories from her own nutritious food, occasional nibbles on human food are fine. What “occasional” translates to depends on how the food affects your cat. Does it give her digestive issues? Does her behavior change after she eats it? My cat should be fine indulging his love for lettuce weekly, Thomason says.

What are your cat’s favorite human foods?


  • Are Your Cats in Your Will?



    Did you read about Frisco and Jake, the two cats who were left $250,000 and a mansion in their human’s will?

Their inheritance got me thinking about what my own cat would do with that kind of money:

       • Buy a new couch that automatically ejects cat toys that get knocked under it.

       • Pay an outdoors cat to put a good scare into those smart-aleck squirrels in the yard.

       • Install faucets all over the house so that he is never more than a few steps away from a refreshing drink of water.

       • And a waterfall.

       • OK, maybe two waterfalls.

    If we can get serious for a moment, though, you really should have a will and it should include your wishes about the care of your pets. I hate thinking about my cat being left without me and my husband, but I’m comforted knowing that he (or any of our future kitties) would be in the care of a couple of our cat-loving friends. 

    Promise you’ll take care of that, and then let’s have more fun conjecturing what our cats would do with their inheritance. Would yours spend it all on catnip or on canned food? Let us know in the Comments section.

    Photo credit: woahsaraking, via Rich Cats of Instagram “ 

  • 10 Reasons to Be Thankful for Cats

    As you count your blessings at Thanksgiving, we know you won’t forget the cats that share our lives. Here are 10 reasons to be grateful for our feline friends, featuring some pictures of my own cat (whom I’m very grateful for, even when he wakes me up too early). 



    They give excellent sick day support. 

    How did we waste time at work before them? 

    They run off all those pesky foxes. 



    You might have overlooked the wonder of the sink without them. 

    If you’re more grumpy than merry during the holidays, they’re OK with that. 



    They’re skilled yoga teachers. 



    It’s impossible to get too self-involved when there’s a cat around to remind you that he is the center of the universe. 



    All of that free computer keyboard maintenance. 

    They just might save your life.

    Our photos (and our lives) would be so boring without them. 

  • Pills and Cats: How to Make Things a Little Easier




    Giving pills is no one’s favorite part of cat ownership. If only there were a way to tell our kitties that we’re doing it because we love them and want them to be well! Until there is, Amy Thomason, a veterinarian at Westlake Animal Hospital in Austin, Texas, offers a few ideas to make the process a little easier.

If you can get a pill in your cat’s mouth, chasing it with a syringe of water will help him swallow it, Thomason says. 

    No chance of that? Don’t try to force the pill down, Thomason says.

    These alternatives might help: 


    • Pill Pockets are a lifesaver for many cat companions, she says. “You can hide the pill in there and it’s like a treat,” she says. “Most cats do like it.”
    • Another option is to conceal the pill in wet food. Check with your vet about whether it’s OK to crush the pill and mix it with the canned food, or whether you should leave the pill solid. Crushing can affect how some pills work, not to mention the fact that it can make the pill taste nastier, Thomason says.
    • If a pill is crushable, you could try mixing in water to make it a slurry.
    • Thomason also suggests gently clipping the cat’s neck scruff. This calms the cat, and isn’t painful. “It kind of stops in their tracks,” she says. It’s like what their mom used to do to them.”
    • And you can always avoid the pill issue altogether by getting the medication compounded into a liquid. A pharmacist can even add flavors that cats will like — from fish to grasshopper


    Do you have a favorite method for giving your cat medicine? Share with us in the Comments section.

    Photo credit: RussianA via

  • Cat-and-Dog Harmony


    “Are you a cat person or a dog person?”

This question is innocent enough, but it always gets under my skin. Technically, I’m a cat person. My current pet is a cat. And if I could have only one type of pet for the rest of my life, I’d pick cats. Cats have the edge in representation on my Pinterest board of cuteness.

But that doesn’t mean I’m anti-dog, or that I can’t imagine why anyone would choose a dog’s companionship. I have a crush on the French bulldog who works at my favorite pet store (and I think it’s mutual).

When I went to “The Cutest Show on Earth,” the host asked for a show of hands as to who was a dog person and who was a cat person. My friend Sharon did something I wished I had thought to do: She raised her hands for both cats and dogs.




    And, of course, old cliches aside, cats and dogs can get along just fine. Remember our story about Mozzy the teacher cat, whose best friend is a Chihuahua? We asked Suzanne Pruitt of Mozzy’s foster family for some tips on helping dogs and cats happily co-exist. In addition to their foster animals, Suzanne’s family has four cats and three dogs of their own.

    • “The first few times they are together on the ground, it is best to keep the dog leashed for safety and correction,” Suzanne says. “Even if you don't hold the leash, it gives the dog a sense of being tethered and controlled.” (By the way, all of these tips are for dogs that have not shown signs of cat aggression.)

    • Let the dog sniff the cat and then ask him to turn back to you to sit. Follow this with a treat. “Try this a couple times in a row,” Suzanne says.

    • Cats need places where they can be higher than dogs, such as cat trees. At Suzanne’s house, cats are allowed on the furniture, but dogs are not. “I think that the height difference makes the cats feel safe and also causes the dogs to see them in a superior position,” she says.

    • “If the dog barks at the cat, clap your hands or do something to distract the dog,” she says. “Give a treat for a quick, positive change. Don't allow the dog to jump up at the cat when the cat is in your arms.”

    • “As the cat walks by, reassure the dog by saying something like ‘Be sweet’ or whatever works,” Suzanne says. Give positive reinforcement (it doesn’t have to be food) for waiting patiently or just walking by sweetly. “Most of the time the dogs and cats learn to walk by each other without even acknowledging one another.”



    • “If your dog is not food aggressive, you can eventually start to feed them near each other, but not too close,” Suzanne says. (Mozzy and Chico the Chihuahua, pictured above, are an exception to her rule.)“Eating together is a good bonding time.”

    • Try petting and talking to your cat without acknowledging your dog. Suzanne theorizes that it’s good for the dog to see the cat in a favored position. “They also see the cat in a relaxed and loved mood, and the dogs usually respond well to this,” she says. 

    Do you have cats and dogs who are BFFs? We’d love to hear about them and see pictures!


    Photo credits: Siamese cat and dog: Arantz via Gray-and-white cat and dog: Ohnoitsjamie via Mozzy and Chico: Suzanne Pruitt 

  • Coaxing an Older Cat to Play




    Your older cat may not frolic like a kitten anymore, but it’s still important to keep her active and engaged. So how do you coax a couch potato kitty to rediscover her playful side? Amy Thomason, a veterinarian at Westlake Animal Hospital in Austin, Texas, gave us some ideas. 


    The allure of a new toy might be enough to inspire a burst of activity. Try a laser pointer or toys with catnip, Thomason recommends. Also consider toys that your cat can engage with when you’re not around, like those round tracks with a pingpong ball and a scratching pad in the middle. 


    Of course, each cat’s taste is very personal. Don’t be discouraged if the first new toy you try isn’t a hit. 


    “You might have to try a couple of different ones before you find one your cat likes,” Thomason says. 


    But you may not even need a toy at all. For a cat who likes hanging around with you, try moving around the house more yourself so that your cat will follow. Now you’re both getting some exercise! 


    For more ideas on keeping your cat active, Thomason recommends checking out the Indoor Pet Initiative, a website by the College of Veterinary Medicine at Ohio State University. 


    What toys or games get your kitties’ attention? Leave us a comment and let us know.


    Photo credit: boston_camera / / CC BY-NC-ND

  • 10 Reasons Black Cats are the Coolest


    Sure, black cats are the rock stars of Halloween, but they often have a harder time in life than other kitties do. According to Boston-based, Black Cat Rescue, black cats are only half as likely to be adopted as cats of other colors.


    That’s a shame, because these gorgeous animals make wonderful pets. And maybe I’m a little biased as a black-cat companion, but I think they just might be the coolest cats around. Here are 10 reasons black cats are completely awesome.



    1) John Lennon hung out with one.



    2)  "if a black cat crosses your path, it's a sign that the animal is going somewhere."  — Groucho Marx. 




    3) Without Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen’s “Chat Noir” poster art, so many dorm room walls would stay empty.


    4) They make the best fireworks.





    5) Famous Internet kitty Business Cat is a more powerful mogul than Donald Trump (well, at least that’s what Business Cat told us).




    6) Hello Kitty’s good friend Chococat is another notable black cat. Did you know he has super-sensitive whiskers that keep him up to date on all the latest news? 




    7) Martha Stewart gave them her official seal of approval with this Halloween costume.




    8) “Black Cat” is an award-winning children’s book by Christopher Myers (but cat fans of any age will appreciate the beautiful illustrations).





    9) They help bring humans together on social media. Check out Instablackcats on Instagram and For the Love of Black Cats on Facebook.




    10) Forget that “bad luck” bad rap. Black cats have also been considered good luck. Fishermen’s wives believe they prevented disaster at sea. Egyptians believed black cats would help them win favor with the goddess Bastet. Black is one of the colors of the famous “lucky cat” statues in Japan (above); it is believed they ward off bad luck.





    Closer to home, in my house, we’ve had lots of good luck since we crossed paths with this guy in 2010. I think he looks a little like those lucky cat statues, don’t you?


    Photo credits:

    John Lennon:

    Chat Noir poster:

    Black Cat logo:

    Business Cat:


    Martha Stewart:




  • The Secret Life of Cats


    If you visited our house, you’d meet our cat, Calvin. He’s 3 ½ years old, amiable, curious and active. A perfectly pleasant cat. 

    But, when it’s just me, my husband and Calvin around, he’s much more: A would-be hipster and lady’s man, who’s actually a bit of a nerd. 

    I come by making up secret lives for cats honestly. When I was growing up, my dad declared out of the blue one day that our cat Bill was a highly decorated military veteran, having entered the service because colleges would not accept cats. 

    He also decided that our other cat, Peanut, who was a bit injury-prone, had changed her name to the more dignified “Nurse Margaret” and was now dedicated to helping others as she had been helped during her own illnesses. 

    No doubt people do this for dogs and other pets as well, but I think there’s something about cats that implies we don’t quite know the whole story about them and that they’re up to more fascinating things than we’re ever privy to. 

    One of my dearest friends and I first hit it off in our 20s when neither of us thought it odd that we’d spend time talking about how my cat was a diva-ish Anglophile, while one of her cats was a somewhat haughty writer and the other a gentle fellow who wanted to be either an actor or an astronaut. 

    Today, I am acquainted with a cat who relays to me, through her bemused owner, all of her adventures as a bandleader, performance artist and all-around trendsetter. 

    I love that our pets can inspire our imaginations as well as our affections. Our lives can feel heavy on mortgages and meetings, traffic and to-do lists sometimes. Musing a little about our cats’ secret adventures connects us with our more creative, whimsical selves. Maybe that was part of the feline plan all along … hmm. 

    What is your cat’s secret life? Is she an athlete or a French chanteuse? A CEO or a private eye? Tell us more in the comments section. 

    Photo credit: Courtesy of amenic181/

  • Take Better Pictures of Your Cat: 10 Tips





    Sometimes it’s hard to get photographic proof of our kitties’ cuteness. They might get camera shy or decide they’re too busy to pose for us.

    Lisa Poth of Austin Pet Love has been our pet sitter for years, and one reason we adore her so much is that she sends wonderful photos of our cat while we’re away. Calvin is a natural comedian, and her pictures capture all of his silly personality. Before Calvin, Lisa shot lovely images of our dearly departed cat Sally, coaxing this timid kitty to show her beauty to the camera.

    She doesn’t use any special equipment — she takes all her photos with her iPhone — but she does use a special knowledge she’s gained from working with so many cats. I asked her for some tips for taking better pictures of our feline friends.




    • Quiet, please! If you’re taking pictures with your phone, set it to silent. “If it pings or rings in the middle of the ‘kitty shoot,’ they can take off running if they're scaredy cats,” Lisa says.
    • Just keep snapping. Take LOTS of photos. “Out of 20 pictures, you might only get only one good one,” Lisa says. 
    • Say ‘Treats!’ Try shaking a bag of treats or a toy above your camera, Lisa advises.
    • Pass the nip. If your kitty likes to indulge in a little catnip now and then, breaking out the nip can help lower their inhibitions for a photo shoot.
    • Take it easy. Be calm, move slowly and talk to your kitty quietly, especially if she’s on the nervous side.
    • Get down! “You’ve got to get down on eye level with them,” instead of shooting cats from above, Lisa says. She adds that she’s dropped to her belly to get some of the great photos she’s taken of my cats.
    • Psst — over here. Sometimes softly blowing in the cat’s face will produce a photo-worthy expression. But, Lisa cautions, that technique can send other kitties running.
    • Duck! “And then I have this noise that I make that has always made cats very curious!” Lisa says “It's like a Donald Duck noise. They all seem to be very interested in it!”
    • Play recliner. If a cat is game, Lisa will get some fun, relaxed shots by sitting on the floor and laying the cat on his back on her thighs.
    • Take your time. “Some kitties don't like being picked up and HATE the camera, in which case getting a good picture just takes a LOT of patience!” Lisa says.


    What are your favorite cat photography tips? Let us know in the Comments, and, as always, we invite you to share your pictures by creating a profile in our member community.


    (Photos by Lisa Poth)



  • Could Allergies be the Culprit?

    Hi, it’s Debbie here again.  I thought I’d give you some valuable information about cat allergies.  What spurred this on was a recent visit to our veterinarian because Alli, my 17-month-old kitty was sneezing and sneezing and sneezing.  She must have sneezed at least 10-15 times every hour.  I felt such compassion for her.  It did turn out to be some sort of a respiratory infection that has now subsided, but it led me to ponder about the question that humans ask all the time…. “Is it a cold or just allergies?”

    (Uh oh, maybe I should have knocked on wood after I said that Alli’s cold had subsided.  She is sitting next to me as I type and she just sneezed 2 times…make that 3 times)


    Well, this is what I found out…


    Humans are not the only ones that suffer from food and or environmental allergies.   Our beloved pets do too…”Achoo”


    We itch, they itch.  We scratch, they scratch.  We sneeze, they sneeze…and so on and so on.  Because we don’t fully understand the “meow vernacular”, we must rely on being very observant of our felines mood and symptoms.


    When cats have allergies, their immune system tries so hard fight the allergens, which cause them to display one or possibly many symptoms.  This can make kitty quite irritable and very sick if the issue is not addressed.


    Here are some of the main symptoms of cat allergies


    • Sneezing, coughing (if the cat has asthma), wheezing
    • Itchy skin/increased scratching
    • Itchy, runny eyes
    • Itchy back or base of tail (most commonly seen in flea allergies)
    • Itchy ears and ear infections
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Snoring caused by an inflamed throat
    • Paw chewing/swollen paws

    Here are some common causes of allergies in cats


    • Tree, grass, weed, mold, mildew and dust pollens
    • Food
    • Fleas and flea-control products
    • Prescription drugs
    • Perfumes
    • Cleaning products
    • Cigarette smoke
    • Fabrics
    • Rubber and plastic materials             

    After a thorough examination and maybe some blood tests, or a special elimination diet, your veterinarian should be able to diagnose the cause of your cat’s bothersome symptoms.   


    Depending on the cause of the allergic reaction, here are some ways that YOU can help relieve his/her symptoms


    • Frequent bathing
    • Cleaning and vacuuming of your cats bedding
    • Using an unscented or all-natural kitty litter
    • Flea control program
    • Prescription or home cooked diet


    If the allergen cannot be removed from the cats environment, your veterinarian my suggest medications such as steroids, antihistamines, fatty acid supplements for itchy skin or allergy injections which will treat the allergy itself and not just the symptoms.

    Note: Do not give your cat medications unless prescribed by a veterinarian.


    If you suspect at all that your cat may be suffering from allergies please see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

    Cat allergy information is courtesy of and photos are courtesy of,, and


    Hope to hear from you soon.  In the meantime don’t forget to let me know how your experience is going with our new Cat Videos App for the iPhone.  Oh, and you can also "LIKE" us on Facebook at


    Have a Purrrfect day,