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Ask Boo

Dear Boo:

I’m a cat. Been one all my life, in fact. And if there’s one thing I know about being a cat, it’s that I’m supposed to looooooove catnip. I have a sister named Veronica, and she goes nuts whenever our humans bring us some, but it doesn’t do anything for me. So I gotta ask: What is the big deal about catnip? Am I missing something?

– Betty

Dear Betty:

Your query is a good one, my furry friend, but worry not! While it is widely assumed that every cat loves catnip, I’ve got a well-placed source who tells me that somewhere between 30 percent and half of all cats don’t react to it. So you’re not alone by any means in your indifference. Whether we do or don't react to catnip depends on our genetics—and usually kittens and felines of a certain age aren’t affected by it. I seem to be immune to it, as well, although there was that one wild weekend at my cousin’s cottage in the country. But I digress.

Catnip is a species of plant within the mint family, and it contains an essential oil called nepetalactone. As you probably know from watching Veronica, even the most chilled-out kitties can go berserk when they smell it—floppin’ on their backs, lickin' the catnip, rollin’ around, you name it! Some cats even get a little aggressive. Those reactions might be because the smell is a lot like the smell of pheromones that make us happy. (Oddly enough, if a kitty eats catnip instead of just smelling it, it can make her super calm and mellow.)

Did you know that some pet parents use the stuff to help us learn certain appropriate behaviors? My humans used to rub it on a scratching post to get me to claw that instead of their fluffy sofa. I’ve heard of other families that put it in a sock or inside a toy, just to give their kitties some added incentive to play! Lots of cat toys come with catnip in them already.

In most cases, the catnip-induced kookiness tends to wear off after 10 to 15 minutes, and then it can take another couple of hours before the smell of catnip has any effect on us again. Experts say that humans shouldn’t give us catnip more than two or three times a week. Any more than that and it’ll lose its impact.

So, don’t you sweat it if catnip isn’t your thing! Just make sure you stay active and keep purring!


– Boo

Email your questions to Ask Boo

And the Winners Are

Congratulations to the three beautiful kitties—and their families—who won Cat Hospital’s Dental Health Month sweepstakes! There were more than 170 entries!

First prize, a free oral assessment and treatment procedure, went to Hope, who’s nearly 2 years old.

Second prize, an adorable felted wool cat bed, went to 12-year-old Judy. Enjoy relaxing in style, Judy!

And third prize, a Cat Hospital cat food bowl (plus a bag of dental diet food), went to Gracie, who’s almost 11 years old.

Everyone at Cat Hospital would like to congratulate the winners and thank all of those who participated!

See our Dental Health Care web page for tooth brushing tips, dental care FAQs and more on keeping your kitty’s teeth in tip-top shape!

Cat Care Tip

Not all elderly cats should eat “senior” diets. While overweight older cats may need low-fat, low-calorie food, other seniors might actually need more fat and protein than senior diets provide. Be sure to consult with your Cat Hospital veterinarian about the caloric needs of your senior kitty.

Why Do They Do That?

Why do some cats pick up small objects and carry them around? Some believe that this behavior—which is more common in some breeds than others—is a remnant of cats’ instincts in the wild to hunt and retrieve their prey. Whether it’s cat toys, jewelry, socks or other small objects, some cats enjoy picking them up and depositing them in a certain area of the home. They may see it as offering their families their “kill,” just like outdoor cats do when they take home a dead animal.

Another possible explanation is that the behavior is a mothering instinct and that the objects they’re moving around are their “babies.” This activity might be a little more common in cats that are not spayed, but even some spayed cats do it.

Spring Safety

Flea and Feline Heartworm Disease

As the proverb goes, “No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” And it’s just about spring, which means it’s time to start giving your cat(s) monthly flea and heartworm medicine. Both indoor and outdoor cats need flea and heartworm preventive medicine every month.

Mosquitoes carry heartworm larvae, and feline heartworm disease comes from infected mosquitoes. Your cat can be at risk for mosquito exposure when sitting in open windows, going out on a porch or balcony (screened or unscreened), or roaming outside. Screenless windows, screen doors and windows with holes and doors that are frequently opened also put your cat at risk for developing heartworm disease. While there are no approved treatments for feline heartworm infections, they are easy to prevent with a monthly dose of preventive medicine.

For more information about heartworm disease, see Treats & Tidbits Spring 2010, the Cat Hospital library article Preventing Heartworm Disease or the American Heartworm Society website. For more information about fleas and flea control, see Treats & Tidbits Spring 2012 or the library article Flea Control for Cats.

Remember to start these treatments by April!

Easter Lilies and Baskets

If you celebrate Easter and flowers are a part of your decorations, be careful to choose flowers that are safe for your cat. One of the common choices at this time of year is the lily, which can be deadly to cats. (See the Humane Society’s full list of common plants that are poisonous to cats.) Safe alternatives for the holiday include Easter orchids, Easter cactus, Easter daisies and violets.

In addition, beware of Easter baskets. Some Easter basket contents, including artificial grass, chocolate candy and candy wrappers, can cause serious damage to felines who eat them. So keep your Easter treats where your curious cats can’t consume them, and use edible Easter grass when possible.

Did You Know?

Did you know most cats have about 24 whiskers—four rows on each side? And that the two upper rows can move independently of the bottom two rows? Or that a cat uses whiskers for gauging distances? The nerves at the base of cats’ whiskers are so sensitive they pick up even small air movements, such as air flowing around furniture. This helps cats detect objects and determine their distance without even seeing them, even in total darkness. So never trim a cat's whiskers.

“If animals could speak, the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow; but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.”
— Mark Twain (1835 – 1910), American author and humorist

Back issues of Treats & Tidbits are available here.

We welcome referrals! If you refer someone to Cat Hospital, you’ll get $35 off your next visit!

2851 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 539-9080, fax (773) 478-0605

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