Back from a bit of a holiday hiatus with a short post today containing a cat grooming tip! I have some fun post ideas that I just didn’t quite have the steam to tackle over the holidays, but hopefully I’ll take them on soon. But in the meantime, I thought I’d post about an inexepnsive, neat little grooming tool that many cat owners probably haven’t run across!
This is a tool I used regularly on my horses, but have found to be equally (or even more!) useful for the cats. It’s a Slick ‘N Easy grooming block (amazon link). It’s basically like a super lightweight pumice stone that captures loose hair when you brush the stone along the cat’s coat.
The result: lots of removed hair!
The best part about this tool (for me) is that Tycho doesn’t mind it nearly as much as a brush! I wrote about how Tycho *hates* being brushed in the post about his haircuts. When I try to use any sort of cat brush or shedding blade (metal tools like this one that are great for getting fur out of cooperative cats like Gus!) on Tycho, he gets angry very fast! I usually only get like one or two short passes over a single part of his coat before he starts trying to bite me. But he will let me groom him with this slicker for several minutes before getting annoyed! Although he did still (fairly gently) lay teeth on me right after the above grooming session to let me know he was done:
It doesn’t help with de-tangling longer hair (so he still has to have his haircuts!), but it does help remove some of his undercoat! And it’s gentler that many of the brushes because it doesn’t make contact with his skin, it just slides over the surface, dragging out hair. It works well on Gus too, I usually finish his grooming session with the slicker stone. I do recommend wiping the cat down with a slightly damp cloth afterwards to remove any little particles from the stone that come loose. The stone is designed to kind of disintegrate with continued use as the surface gets less abrasive. When the surface gets dirty, you just rub it on concrete to remove the outer layer and it’s good as new! It’s a tiny but messy, so we usually do our grooming sessions outside on the catio. But it’s super useful, so try it out if you aren’t happy with your current cat grooming tools!
It’s finally starting to cool down, even in Arizona. If you follow G&T on twitter, you will know that that means Tycho’s heated beds are starting to see more use again! They’ll get even more use after his next haircut, which will be in about a month! I leave at least one plugged in most of the year (the apartment is air conditioned after all), but the heated beds really become kitty magnets when the temperature starts to drop.
There are a large number of heated cat bed products available (at a wide range of prices!), but I’ve found the cheapest option to be purchasing K&H pet bed warming pads (which can be found here on Amazon) and incorporating them into existing bedding. These pads don’t use too much electricity, but they do get quite warm. So you have to enclose them in at least several inches of padding to make sure they’re not too hot for your cat! I typically wrap the pads in several layers of a folded fleece blanket and nestle the whole bundle into one of the larger pet beds. (You can buy pet beds with slots designed for heating pads, but as all my pet beds come from the discount store, I don’t have any of those!)
Another great option for padding out the heating pads are Purr Padds (that’s a brand name, Amazon link here). I’ve got a long heating pad on the back of the couch folded into a blanket with a Purr Padd on top and that is by far Tycho’s favorite spot in the house!
Gus is not as into kitty beds as Tycho. He prefers the comfort (and crinkly sounds!) of plain brown paper for many of his naps. But even he is sometimes drawn to the fleece wrapped heating pad in the cat tree perch!
I’ve been pretty happy with the durability of the K&H heating pads (I finally had one die last year after 10 years of use, so not bad!), and I like that you can buy a variety of sizes to make any of your cat’s favorite sleeping spots warmer. Plus the small pads (which are a nice size for cats) can often be found for only $10! I can also vouch for the same company’s very durable outdoor heating pads which are great if you have a catio or screened in porch for your kitty. Growing up our barn cats like Kepler really enjoyed having similar heated perches in the cold winters! I know some people put them out for feral kitties too.
Become your cat’s favorite person by getting them a heated bed!
Breakfast time here is a bit of a production. The cats are well trained not to wake me up for breakfast (waking me up delays breakfast without fail), but once I’m up, feeding G&T is a multi-step process. First, Tycho has to take an antacid pill every morning before breakfast because his stomach gives him trouble (I still have to clean up more cat puke than I’d like, but the pepcid ac helps!). Then I have to mix a joint supplement/mild pain reliever into Tycho’s wet food (he’s an old man with a few mild health issues!). After the cats finally get to eat their wet food (the wait feels like forever to Gus!), I’m left to clean up (and then finally get to eat my breakfast!). Cleanup usually involves having to wipe down Tycho’s eating area because he’s pretty messy. I actually attached shelf liner to the wall behind his placemat because I got tired of scraping dried cat food off the paint.
Two things have helped streamline breakfast a little bit. The first is using Greenies pill pockets to deal with Tycho’s daily pill. They’re little squishy pockets that you put the pill into and seal the opening by mushing it together. And because they’re Greenies brand, and Tycho loves all things Greenies brand, he happily eats it like a treat, pill and all! I know that these don’t work for all cat owners (some cats figure out that there’s a pill inside and spit it out), but if you have to give your cats a pill, they’re worth a try! It’s certainly less of a nightmare than trying to shove a pill down Tycho’s throat every morning!
The second thing that helps with mealtime was switching to using plates to feed the cats instead of bowls. There are a few benefits here. First, the plates fit in the dishwasher more easily than the bowls, so breakfast cleanup is simplified by not having to think about the geometry of how best to fill the dishwasher with bowls while making sure everything will come out clean.
The plates also mean the cats eat more of their wet food. No more food smushed into the corners of bowls where it gets overlooked! Gus almost always licks his plate totally clean! Tycho also strongly prefers eating from a plate, possibly because of a thing that’s referred to as “whisker fatigue“. Basically some cats don’t like eating from bowls because their whiskers rub against the edges of the bowls. I originally started using plates because I would run out of clean pet bowls before the dishwasher was full enough to run. When I noticed Tycho preferred them, I decided to buy the cats their own plates for wet food (I do still use bowls for their supplemental dry food because the bowls keep those crunchies better contained!).
The last benefit is that small plates are a lot cheaper than pet bowls! I bought G&T a variety of small plates and tea saucers from Goodwill for less than $1 each. I went with Corelle brand plates because Corelle is lightweight and very difficult to break (my own set of dishes is Corelle too!). They tend to be relatively easy to find at Goodwill because they’ve been very popular over the years (though they’re pretty cheap new too, so you could pick then up at Walmart of Target!). Plus they come in lots of different patterns, so G&T have quite the eclectic set to eat from!.
Because I use 6 plates a day for the cats (the spoiled brats get breakfast, dinner, and a bedtime snack! but at least only breakfast comes with the added complexity of medications!), the fact that I could cheaply buy a bunch of these and that they fit compactly in the dishwasher is really nice! Now we never run out of clean kitty dishes!
People who have been to my apartment have noticed that there are scratching posts (and other things meant for cat scratching) in every room. I feel that this is they key to keeping G&T happy and keeping my furniture free from kitty claw marks! This post will share some tips for finding your cats the kinds of scratchers they prefer as well as some specific product recommendations (bottom of the post) based on my years of cat product testing!
The first thing you’ll want to figure out is whether your cat prefers horizontal or vertical scratchers! Tycho has zero interest in scratching things on the floor. He thinks those horizontal cardboard scratchers are only good for sitting on. When he exercises his claws, he wants a good vertical stretch!
You will also need to experiment with different materials for the scratchers. Gus likes both horizontal and vertical scratching, but he is mostly interested in carpeted scratchers. He will scratch cardboard pads, but he loves to attack the carpeted bases of the scratching posts. For his vertical scratching, he won’t touch the sisal rope covered posts that Tycho likes (I think they are too rough for his sensitive paws!). He only wants carpeted posts. I figured this out by looking at the base of our cat tree, which was only worn in a few (carpeted) places. Once I bought a soft, fully carpet covered tall post, he was a happy kitty!
It can take a little trial and error to sort out a cat’s preferences. Before I bought Gus the carpeted post pictured above, I had purchased a post covered in a more industrial type of carpet (think those carpet squares they use in office buildings). That was a bust and he never touched it. But I had to keep it for several months to be sure! When I first bought Tycho a tall scratching post, he ignored it for at least 2 or 3 months before it became his favorite thing ever. It’s worth spending the time and money to figure it out though, because finding a favorite scratching apparatus will (hopefully!) save you and your furniture from harm! During the search, it is handy to have other cat owning friends to trade with. While sorting out Gus’s preferences, I was able to trade with BobTheBlob of @ObservatoryCats fame, giving him that industrial carpeted scratcher Gus hated in exchange for a cardboard one that Bob ignored.
Specific Products I Like
I’ve purchased a lot of scratchers over the years. These are some products currently available on Amazon that I recommend based on quality and price. (Post and links edited 11-18-17 to add: All links are to Amazon pages. If you use these links to purchase these items, I might earn a small fee, see post here.)
Tall scratching posts:Classy Kitty 32″ Sisal Post and Classy Kitty 32″ Carpet Post posts. I have 5 of these, including the ones pictured above. They cost about $20-$35 each (price fluctuates), which is likely way cheaper than what you’ll find at your local pet store. They are nice and tall, and the bases are sufficiently heavy for my ~11 pound cats to go nuts without fear that the posts will tip over. If you have a ~20 pound cat, I’m not 100% sure they would be stable enough, but you can always stick a concrete paver block on the base to stabilize it, which is what I had to do with my cat tree. My only complaint is that the carpeted posts shed little carpet fibers that I have to vacuum up. I suspect that also means they won’t last years and years without needing to be replaced, but that’s a small price to pay for Gus to have his fun. The sisal posts are super durable and barely show wear after almost two years of Tycho’s best efforts to shred them.
Leaning scratcher: This 25″ lean-it scratching post is the one Gus didn’t like (because it was the wrong kind of carpet). But I liked the quality for the $20 price tag, and it works well as a horizontal or vertical scratcher (it leans against the wall very nicely with the grippy rubber ends). If your cat is into that more industrial type carpet, I think they would like this!
Cardboard scratchers: The PetFusion brand scratchers are hands down the best in this category. I won’t purchase anything else. The basic one is $20 and lasts nearly forever. The cardboard is much denser than other brands and doesn’t shed off that super annoying cardboard confetti when the cats scratch it. The one pictured below is almost 2 years old.
If you have any favorite scratching products, let me know in the comments!