Annoying Everyday Habits? Now There's a Fix for Almost Anything

cat picky eater

Story at-a-glance -

  • Cats often have habits that are both unique and mysterious, but sometimes it requires a little ingenuity to make coexistence with them gratifying and pleasant for both of you
  • Moving their cat dishes and removing food from their food dishes are just two examples of little cat habits you can fix without much trouble
  • Practical solutions to problems like how to remediate your carpet if your cat has an accident on it may take a few steps, but it’s worth the trouble to fix the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again
  • In many cases, cats are just being themselves when they do things like eat your plants, but making sure they’re not ill or missing a vital nutrient can only be determined by a visit your favorite veterinarian

By Dr. Becker

Maybe you've always known it, or maybe it often sneaks up on you when you aren't looking, but cats are awesome. They're good company, even if you don't see them half the time, and they're marvelous at proving how much they value your opinion in the most endearing and unexpected ways.

However, even though your own cat may be beautiful and more intelligent than any of the others you've met, sometimes they have issues. Not big issues, necessarily, but annoying habits or foibles that make you wonder if Fluffy's trying to tell you something and you're just not getting it.

Here are seven examples of the slightly less desirable aspects of being a human with the sometimes-challenging job of convincing your favorite furry feline who's really in charge.

1. 'I Keep Trying to Tell You, I Don't Like That Kind'

Despite having the reputation for being neat freaks, kitties sometimes aren't. You may find that even if you don't fill their dish to capacity, you sometimes walk by later to find so many bits scattered about that you have to keep a broom handy.

Then there are cats with the persnickety habit of picking up pieces of food they don't particularly care for to place carefully next to their bowl. This may be so they don't have to address the rejects twice.

She also may be letting you know that, if you really want to make her life easier, you'll eliminate unwanted food properly before putting it in her dish.

While you may not be able to keep her from sorting her food, one solution to keep her from redistributing her cat food is to invest in a rubber mat with a lip around the edges, designed initially to drain wet boots and shoes. Placing your cat's food and water bowls on the mat will help keep things tidy.

The mats are available at most gardening, home improvement or big box stores, and they're easy to clean.

2. 'I Don't Want My Bowl There, I Want It Over Here'

It's hard to know if cats are bored when they do certain things, but if your cat has the habit of pushing his water bowls to someplace other than where you initially placed it, no matter what methods you've used to break the habit, Vetstreet1 has a solution.

Place your cat's dish with a rim into a fitted cardboard box, about 4 inches high. Suspend the rim over the edge of the box. Place the bowl and box on a rug gripper, cut to size. Your cat can easily access the water, but the cardboard box seems to keep the water bowl from getting pushed around. Voilà!

Many cats have issues with the bowls themselves. Plastic bowls may leech toxins into the food and water that a cats' keen sense of smell and taste can detect, causing them to appear "finicky" when really their wise innate instincts are telling them to not consume contaminated substances. Choose glass or stainless steel dinnerware instead.

3. Humans Aren't the Only Picky Eaters

While you may do everything possible to make sure your precious kitty has everything she needs to be happy and healthy, sometimes she may seem less than happy with what you put in her bowl.

If you've already taken her to the vet to rule out a physical problem, and it appears she's just being particular, there are ways to remedy the problem. Pet lifestyle expert Sandy Robins, author of "Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat," recommends a simple but effective solution.

Try warming your cat's food just long enough for it to emit an enticing smell. Your cat's olfactory sense is powerful, so this may be just enough to get Kiki's taste buds activated enough to belly up to the bowl. (Use your finger to make sure it's not too hot first.)

4. If It's Not the Food, It Might Be the Dish

While children might argue over eating from the red dish as opposed to the blue one, cats may not be picky for quite the same reasons.

Cats' whiskers are very sensitive and for some cats small bowls can be annoying enough to cause them to appear to "play with their food," which is really an attempt to remove the food onto a flat surface, which is much easier and enjoyable on the whiskers.

You might find that it's easier for Fluffy to eat from a plate than from a bowl, and that, too, might require innovation. Here's another suggestion from Vetsreet:

"Robin Olson, cat owner, writer and president of cat rescue Kitten Associates, finds her cats prefer eating off of flat salad plates instead of from bowls. And, elevating the plate so the cats can more easily reach the food seems to be effective, particularly for older cats.

Olson places the plate on an upside-down soup bowl. This raises the dish a few inches and the ridges on the bottom of the plate help keep it from sliding around. 'The cats seem more comfortable eating that way, especially the old guys,' Olson explains."2

5. Litter, Litter Everywhere — Literally

As fastidious as your kitty may be, there are times he might emerge from his litter box with litter stuck between his toes. He can't help it. Before long, litter is in the hallway, the kitchen and on the couch. Yikes.

There are a few clever fixes you might try, however. The first one is common: a plastic or rubber mat with little nubbins that painlessly pick the bits from kitties' toes the first few steps they take out of the litter box.

As an alternative, a slightly more pleasing aesthetic might be a bath mat with deep pile that does the same thing, only it's softer.

6. No, No, Bitsy, Not on the Carpet!

Perhaps the litter box was full, or your cat felt it wasn't private enough, but once a kitty does her business on your bedroom carpet (or any carpet, really) she may get the whacky idea that that's her designated spot, no matter how thoroughly you've cleaned it. Once again, talk to your holistic vet to rule out health possibilities.

Here's something you can try that may eliminate several aspects of the problem at one time: Use a length of clear carpet protective sheeting — the kind real estate agents use for open houses — that's sticky on one side so it won't slide around.

It has neither the surface cats usually look for as a potty spot, nor the smell; you've literally covered it up. If you're not sure where the spot or spots are, shine a black light around and urine spots will show up in neon green. Blot as much of the "spill" as you can with dry paper towel or an old cotton T-shirt. Then, sprinkle pure water on the spot and blot it again until no more yellow is absorbed.

Next, soak the spot with an enzyme-based pet solution and let it sit for the prescribed length of time. You might also apply a few drops of a pure essential oil (such as lemon or lavender) to act as a deterrent. Let the spot dry thoroughly before putting the temporary plastic sheeting down.

Once you do what you can to remedy possible reasons for your cat's behavior, you might want to remind Kitty where his real litter box is. Take him there, place him in it and gently use his paws to make little digging motions in the litter to cue his instincts. This is a method that works with new kittens and might serve to remind older ones.

7. 'Eating Green' Isn't Always Good for Cats

According to Off the Grid News,3 lilies, morning glory, tulips, ivy and azaleas can be mildly toxic to cats, depending on the cat and the amount eaten. Your best bet is to try to keep these plants off your property, or keep your cat away from these plants.

Additionally, some plants aren't good for cats or anyone else, especially plants like poison ivy, or anything that's been sprayed with toxic herbicides or pesticides. You'll often see kitties out in the yard munching grass. It helps them get rid of fur balls and may even provide enzymes they wouldn't get otherwise.

When it comes to eating plants you'd rather keep intact (or using them as an outhouse), one thing to keep in mind is that cats are offput by certain scents and surfaces, which may work in your favor. These tips from The Creek Line House blog4 may be just what you're looking for:

Dried orange, lemon or lime peel is abhorrent to felines, so placing these around the base of your plants may keep them away.

A few bands of double-sided tape stuck across the four sides of your potted plants may be unbearable for cats to walk on. Most hate it when something sticks to their paws.

For whatever reason, tin foil on soil also seems to keep cats from wanting to either dig or walk on it. Tiny pinecones on top are both attractive to look at and another layer of annoyance for cats. Once they get used to not going there, you may be able to remove the shiny stuff.

Does your cat like munching your plants? Place 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper into a spray bottle with one-half cup of water and spray both blooms, leaves and plant stalks. It won't hurt cut flowers either, and Kitty will respond with utter disinterest.

Making catnip available, both inside and out, gives cats something delectable to chew on or roll around in, which will make both of you much more cheerful.

Make healthy, fresh plants available for aiding digestion, including "cat grass" or sunflower sprouts.

Kitty Idiosyncrasies: Aggravating Occasionally; Adorable, Always

One of the most interesting things about having a cat in your household is that there are so many facets to a cat's personality to appreciate. Just when you suspect Tigger of being downright subversive, he jumps on your lap, gets cheek-to-cheek and proves, once again, how adorable he is.

These are the moments when you remember why you opened your heart to your favorite fur baby, and realize that he, too, may be trying to figure out how to break the news about who the real homeowner is.