Forget the hype - being a cat lady is good for you!

Cats are good for your health

 In recent years, cat ownership has come under scrutiny for mental health reasons, because toxoplasmosis reportedly will drive every cat owner to schizophrenia. 

The link between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia always sounded to me like a case of "correlation does not equal causation," and a recent article published in the journal Psychological Medicine confirms that the risks are minimal at best.

The article's author points out that according to the CDC, up to 60 million Americans may have (or be carriers of) toxoplasmosis. But the vast majority of people never show any symptoms, because their immune systems keep the parasite in check.

However, there is one undeniably strong link between mental illness and cat ownership: Cats help you feel better. In fact, it could well be the case that people suffering from mental illness adopt cats as a form of self-medication!

Petting a cat releases oxytocin, the "bonding hormone" which relaxes you and relieves anxiety. Cats also help alleviate loneliness, reduce stress, and improve your blood pressure.

Hairball remedies

Have a long-haired cat? These tips could come in handy.

My longest-haired cat, Mononoke, gets bad hairballs. It’s not his fault; he has to keep clean somehow. So instead of cursing twice a day while I clean up what looks like super wet, deformed dead rats from the carpet, we decided to find the best hairball remedies we could and try them out for Noke.

The first thing we have tried seems to be working quite well—when we remember to give it to him! It’s a hairball control treat. It costs much less than buying hairball control food and we only have to give him a couple a day, so I like this option best so far. A buck for hairball control? Yes, please! And you can stock up when they are on sale. The only downside is that the other cats want them, too, so you might have to have two treat bags open at once while you give them out. Remember that too many treats are bad for your cat, too, so be sure to follow the directions on the package—or to consult with your vet about what treatment is best for your cat.

There are also hairball control foods, shampoos, and other products you can purchase to help curb any hairball problems in your home. You can comb your cat’s hair to help keep it down, though some cats won’t tolerate it.

Consider adopting an older cat

Save an older cat's life at your local animal shelter.

Are you on the hunt for a new kitty to add to your household? Begin your search at the local shelter. Cats are more likely than dogs to be euthanized, so they are on borrowed time. While you may be tempted by that pint-sized kitten in the first cage, don't write off the senior kitty quietly waiting in the last cage. He would probably make the purr-fect pet.

Shelters quickly become overcrowded, and they must put down those who are least likely to be adopted to make room for the newcomers. Who gets euthanized first? Older cats. Why? Kittens are easily adopted. Most families want a kitten so they can watch it grow up. And let's face it - kittens are pretty darn cute.

Adult cats, however, are just as precious as babies. Many times they are surrendered by their owners due to illness, moving or financial reasons. (I get really pissed off at people who "surrender" their pets to the shelter, but I'll leave that rant for another post.)

These cats are often calmer than kittens. They have been housebroken. They are set in their ways. You pretty much know what you are going to get.

Only one of my furballs was a kitten when I found her. Yes, found her. She was a stray that needed a home. I would never, however, adopt a kitten from the shelter. I would feel better saving the life of an older feline that didn't have much time left. All of my cats learned to live with each other, and they have given me more love than I could ever imagine.

So don't pass up that older cat when you are ready to adopt. You will be passing up a best friend.

I'm thankful for my kitties

Finding joy in cats' presence and habits

Thanksgiving is a time to show thanks to the people and things that bring joy into your life. As a crazy cat lady, I'm the most thankful for my feline furballs. While they may shed on my black pants and leave hair balls all over my floor, I'm very happy to share my house with them.

Here are some reasons I'm thankful for my cats:They don't hog the remote.

Unlike my husband, my cats don't care what I'm watching on the television (unless it's the Animal Planet). My kitties won't change the channel to watch a boring sci-fi marathon. They don't try to turn up the volume to uncomfortable levels when a basketball game is on. They even don't mind if I rewind a scene on my DVR to listen to a joke again. In fact, they will will watch hours of the Home Shopping Channel without a single meow. Now actually finding a seat on the couch to watch the television is another matter..

My cats keep my dining room table clear.

As a child, it was my job to clear off the dining room table after dinner. I had to bring in all of the dirty dishes and wipe down the surface with a damp cloth. Once I got my own place, I hated cleaning the table. As a result my dining room table became a catch-all for dirty napkins, used spoons, and even unopened mail. Thankfully, my kitties will jump up on the table and knock all this stuff to the ground. They are even polite enough to dust off any crumbs with their tails. If it weren't for them, my dining room table would always be covered with junk.

They help me sleep at night.

I've always struggled to stay asleep at night. I like to toss and turn until I find the most comfortable spot. Now that I share my bed with several furry companions, I no longer move around during the evening. You try to change positions in bed when there is a cat on every side of you. Without fail, there is a kitty on top of my head, one by my feet, and two on either side. They keep me from being restless all night long.

There are a thousand other reasons I'm thankful for my cats. Tell my why you're thankful for your kitties this Thanksgiving.

Dealing with a stressed out kitty

Introducing an adopted cat into a new environment

This week, I helped my close friend rescue a shelter kitty. This particular cat had been living in a tiny cage for over two months. The adoption price was reduced since nobody wanted to take him home. My friend, however, fell in love with him.

The kitty, Nickel, is an identical copy of his current furry friend, except a male version. He is only about six months old, and the shelter volunteers were in tears when my friend decided to adopt Nickel. They were grateful that he finally found a forever home.

Nickel, on the other hand, was terrified of life outside his cage. He became a very stressed out cat, and we had to help make him feel at ease in his new home.

When we first brought Nickel into his new living quarters, we opened the pet carrier to let him explore. Initially, he seemed like a typical, curious cat. He sniffed everything and began wandering around. After a few minutes, however, he disappeared.

We thought he jumped behind the clothes dryer (a popular hiding place for my friend's other cat), but he was not there. After a good 15 minutes of searching, we found him trapped behind the fridge. After half an hour of coaxing, Nickel finally came out. It was then that we realized just how stressed out this transition had made Nickel.

That's when I remembered a few good tips on how to introduce a feline to a new environment. Instead of giving him free reign over the entire space right off the bat, it is better to confine him to a small area. We chose the bathroom. After setting up a litter box, food and water, we moved Nickel to his new room.

He seems a lot more comfortable in the smaller space. Sure, he still hides behind the vanity, but he feels more secure. It will probably take a few more days for Nickel to fully accept this new home. Once he does, my friend will let him explore another room.

Since there is another kitty in the home, we are going to wait before they meet. A face-to-face encounter could end up severely stressing out both cats. We will allow them to get accustomed to each other's scent from under the door. That way when they do meet, it won't be as traumatic.

We are also feeding Nickel the same food he received at the shelter. Getting a new home and owner is a huge change, so keeping some things the same will help him adjust quicker.

Remember that a stressed out kitty may seem skittish. Instead of giving up on a frightened cat, take a little more time to get to know him. Talk to your new friend in a soft, comforting voice. Let your cat smell your hands before petting him. Just sit in the same room so they get used to your presence.

There are no unadoptable kitties, just ones that are not as socialized. After a little time and effort, your furry feline will become a full-fledged member of the family.

Cats are not afraid of heights

Cats are very agile creatures. They are fast, flexible, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. In my house, I try to keep my kitties' feet on the ground, but they always find a way to climb to new heights. This makes it almost impossible for me to have nice things. Here's a recent event that happened while I was away:

My mother created a beautiful flower arrangement in a glass vase, which she gave to me on my anniversary. It was adorned with greenery and peacock feathers, which matches the decor in my front living area.

I knew that my cats would want to eat the feathers, so I put it on the very top of a six-foot bookcase. Surely my cats wouldn't be able to reach it.

For several weeks, the flower arrangement remained untouched. I even got several compliments on it from guests. Last week, however, one of my felines discovered a way to climb to the top of the shelf. In their attempts to eat the peacock feathers, they knocked the entire vase down to the floor, smashing it to pieces. Needless to say, I wasn't very happy when I arrived back home.

How my cat scaled to the top, I will never know. I don't even know which one was responsible, although I have my suspicions. (Yes, Mr. Thumbs, I'm talking to you.)

While I'm upset about my cat's climbing adventure, I am glad that curiosity did not kill the cat. What it did make me realize is that my furry friends need some more places to play. Some cats like to explore high places, while others are satisfied on the ground.

If you have a cat that likes to climb, I highly suggest buying them a scratching post tower. This gives them an approved jungle gym, making your kitties less likely to knock over your bookcases. Also, make sure they have enough toys on the ground to keep them occupied when you're not around. A bored feline is more likely to get into trouble.

Remember that although cuddly, cats are still animals with wild instincts. It is our job as their human owner to provide them with the things they need to enrich their lives.

Cat toys on a budget

Fun cat toy ideas that you already have at home.

Do you have a bored kitty? You know the kind: lazy, sleepy and extra clingy. The easiest way to cure cat boredom is with some fun, new toys. Unfortunately, pet store goodies are often pricey and your feline may grow tired of them within a few days.

What is a cat owner to do? Do you spend money on overpriced toys, or do you just let your cat be bored? Over the years, I have found that the best pet toys are also the cheapest. Here are a few of my furry friend's favorite picks:

A cardboard box

Surely you have a few cardboard boxes lying around your house. I know that my back closet is full of them. Whenever Fluffy is looking particularly restless, I'll pull one out. All I have to do is set it on the floor, and within a few minutes, she will be jumping in and out of it. Once she tires of playing, she'll take a quick cat nap in the box. I've found that a sturdy box can last months, even with daily use. Sure, I have no idea why my cat likes them so much, but they do make her happy.

The plastic ring on a milk jug

You know that plastic ring that seals a fresh gallon of milk? Well, it's the most entertaining toy in my cat's mind. As soon as I open a new jug, I toss the ring on the floor. My kitty will bat it around the kitchen tile for hours and hours. It's the perfect size for her to pick up and carry around the house. Eventually, the ring will get lost - usually under the fridge. I can't tell you how many abandoned plastic rings I've found during a deep cleaning session.

Ribbon from a present

Nothing makes a wrapped present prettier than a curly bow made out of ribbon. As soon as you open the gift, however, you usually toss it in the trash. Before you get rid of that ribbon, let your cat have some fun with it. You can wiggle the bow around on the floor. I guarantee that she will chase it around like a kitten. The erratic movement of the ribbon brings out the predator in your cat.

There's really no reason to shell out tons of money for gimmicky cat toys. They will only last a limited amount of time. Instead, take a look around your house, and see what your feline might want to chase after for free.

Black cats are the least likely to be adopted

Consider a black cat the next time you adopt a pet.

The stray pet population is out of control. Shelters are overpopulated, and cats and dogs are constantly being dumped by their owners. Anyone who is looking for a new furry friend should adopt a shelter pet. As a crazy cat lady, I can tell you that all of my felines were strays at one time. Had I not been there to save them, they probably would have died in a cage.

Unfortunately, dogs are more likely to be adopted than cats. Young animals find homes easier than seniors. An elderly black cat is the least likely to find a forever home. No one wants an old, black cat. Statistics show that any other color of kitty is more likely to be adopted than a black one. That's just ridiculous.I happen to own the sweetest, most loving black kitty ever. His name is Inky, and he was the result of an unwanted litter. All of his brothers and sisters were quickly adopted, but no one wanted cute, little Inky. I instantly fell in love with him, however. In fact, he is rubbing against my shins as I'm typing this.

Why didn't anyone else consider taking him home?

It seems that too many humans are superstitious. Black cats are supposedly bring bad luck. I believe that it's seven years bad luck, to be exact. Do I believe this? Of course not. My black kitty crosses my path at least a dozen times a day, and I've not had anything unfortunate happen to me. In fact, ever since I adopted this sleek kitty, I've felt more blessed than ever.

Perhaps the bad luck associated with black cats doesn't actually involve humans. The cat itself is the recipient of the bad luck, since no one will give them a chance. They are half as likely to be adopted than those with Garfield markings. If these kitties aren't adopted at the shelter, they are euthanized. That's a sad ending for an animal that could have brought joy to someone.

The next time you are looking for a new kitty, don't forget the black ones! They are beautiful and will love you forever. Plus, they make a great decoration addition come Halloween! Of course, if you already have a home full of kitties, please make sure that they are all fixed to avoid adding to the unwanted pet population.

The healing power of purring

Scientific research reveals astonishing results

Why exactly do cats purr?

That's a question that has baffled scientists for decades. If you ask a cat lover, they will tell you that cats purr to simply express love and happiness. Scientists, on the other hand, feel that there must be a technical reason behind this response. In fact, many researchers have studied the act of purring just to figure out the answer.

What scientific research has discovered is simply astonishing.

Purring is a way to heal.

Can that be true? According to researchers, yes. They have discovered that the vibrations created from purring are at specific frequencies. These sound frequencies may be therapeutic to both felines and their owners. Testing shows that these vibrations actually improve bone density and reduce muscle atrophy. How this works is still unknown. Some scientists feel that cats purr in order to heal their own bodies during periods of rest. We all know that cats sleep 18 or more hours a day.

Cats not only purr when they are content, but they also purr during times of distress. A cat may purr more often after surgery. Are they doing this to heal their body faster? Perhaps.

What does this mean for cat owners? In simple terms, allowing a sleeping cat to purr on your lap may also invigorate your own bones and muscles. Your skeletal system may benefit from the vibration frequencies. Can we be certain of this? No, but there is no harm in testing it out.

So while no one really knows why cats purr, or even how they do it, there may be something more powerful behind the sound. Let your kitties purr around you on a regular basis. While your cat might just be showing affection, he may also be slowly healing your body. That's pretty powerful.

Dealing with a smelly litter box

As a crazy cat lady, I several litter boxes in my house -- four to be exact. Two of them are in the kitchen, while the others reside in my bedroom. There is nothing worse than coming home after a long day at the office, only to be greeted by the foul aroma of a freshly used litter pan as soon as you open the front door. What can you do to keep your home smelling rosy when your cat's potty isn't so fresh?

Scoop your litter boxes on a daily basis.

This may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by the number of cat owners that only empty their litter box on trash night. Conventional clay litter may have an attractive price, but it doesn't work well for scooping the poop. I prefer to use a clumping litter instead. I scoop the boxes every morning before I go to work, and once again before heading to bed. Most people who come over to my house have no clue that a litter box is only a few feet away. Scooping your boxes everyday is essential to keeping your home smelling fresh.

Deep clean the boxes once a month.

That's right, as long as you scoop every day, you only need to wash and bleach the litter box once a month. Dump out all of the litter, and rinse the box outside with a water hose. Use a high pressure nozzle to remove any residue. Pour equal parts of water and bleach into the bottom of the pan. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes. Rinse the box a final time, and allow it to air dry.

Add baking soda to the bottom of the litter box.

Baking soda absorbs aromas. That's why your mother used to keep an open box in the fridge. The same concept works in a litter box. Sprinkle a generous amount into the bottom of the pan before adding fresh litter. You can even use it between deep cleanings or after an especially potent incident. There's no need to invest in pricey litter box deodorizers. Look at the main's baking soda!

Following these simple tips will eliminate most of the litter box smell from your house. Of course, you never know when your cat may have explosive diarrhea, so keep a bottle of air freshener nearby in the event of an emergency. Neither you nor your cat want to smell an unclean litter pan.