DEAR DR. FOX: Our problem isn't a huge one, but it drives us crazy all the same.
We have a wonderful 3 1/2-year-old feral cat who adopted us after a blizzard in 2010. Tips is very sweet and is a really good boy, but he has a habit of laying down in his litter box. He usually lays on his side -- maybe he's trying to scratch his back? Our vet has never heard of a cat doing this. We get unscented, dust-free litter, but when he jumps out, he is covered and smells like litter. If I catch him, I say "No."
He doesn't do it all the time, mostly when I clean the box and add new litter or if I add a refresher scoop when needed. We clean the box every time he uses it, and he has his own box. We have another older cat, Boomer, but they each have their own food, water and litter boxes.
Both cats get along very well; in fact, he's been the best thing that has happened to our older cat, who now plays and acts so much younger! Have you ever heard of such a crazy thing? Maybe he needs his back scratched more often? -- K.O., Brick, N.J.
DEAR K.O.: Your issue has a comic dimension, but I can empathize fully with having to clean the litter from your cat's fur.
I have one solution to offer: Try shredded paper or Purina's Yesterday's News cat litter made from newspapers. It's not very absorbent, but it's at least a recycled product and should not adhere to your litter box-basking feline. He may like the odor and texture of the litter material, so a change may do the trick. I never advise using litter that has chemical fragrances and deodorants added, since these could be a feline health hazard.
Thanks for reminding readers how a younger, easygoing cat can bring new life to an older one like your Boomer.
DEAR DR. FOX: I have a 4-month-old kitten who doesn't meow! Or at least not that we can hear. She opens her mouth as if attempting to meow, but nothing comes out. She does it when she wants to be picked up. She stops running around the house like she's crazy and just cuddles when she does the open-mouth thing. She only squeaks occasionally, usually when jumping onto the bed.
I have heard about the "Silent Meow Theory," where some cats meow in a pitch that humans cannot hear. Is this a real thing? I'd appreciate any information you could provide on this mystery. -- S.E., Kansas City, Mo.
Dear S.E.: I am not aware of any research regarding the "silent meow" of cats who purportedly emit a high-frequency sound (as "singing" mice do), and I very much doubt its veracity.
My impression from decades of studying cat behavior is that some cats are simply less vocally articulate and motivated than others -- for example, Siamese cats are big "talkers." Furthermore, as they mature, some cats develop more voice. Others cats remain relatively silent while living with a more vocal cat who does all the meowing in the house, but become more vocal after the passing of the vocal companion.
Be patient. As your kitten matures, so may her vocal abilities. Since cats are copycat mimics, you might try making cat "meows" and other cat sounds that may motivate your young cat to be more vocally responsive.
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