7 Life Hacks Cat Owners Will Love

cat with food mat
Credit: Caroline Golon
A boot mat is a simple way to contain the stray kibble a kitty like Rufus, pictured here, might knock out of his food bowl.

Even the best things in life, like living with cats, come with certain challenges. Think: messes, smells and even finding the right ways to entice your finicky felines to eat. But with a little creativity and patience, you can find some simple workarounds for some of the less desirable aspects of cat ownership. Here are a few ideas to try!

Dinnertime Mess

Despite their reputation for being fastidiously neat, many cats are not so pristine when they’re chowing down. If you’re tired of stepping on stray kibble, try placing food and water dishes on a rubber boot mat with raised edges (available at home improvement or gardening stores).

The raised edges catch the wayward kibble and clumps of canned food that typically end up on the floor. The boot mat also helps protect your floors from water bowl spills. Plus, the rubber mat is a breeze to clean.

Water Bowl Woes

What is it about some cats and their water bowls? Vicki Boatright, a pet portrait artist from Canton, Ohio, grew tired of how her cat, Who, would push the water bowl around the kitchen floor, making a mess and often pushing it right into Boatright’s unsuspecting path, causing near accidents. “No matter what kind of dish I use or where I put it, he likes to scoot the dish across the floor,” Boatright explains. “I have tried a heavy pottery fountain and an assortment of cat and dog bowls that, in theory, should have worked.”

Boatright has finally come up with a solution. She places a bowl with a rim in a fitted cardboard box, suspending the rim over the edge of the box. The box is about four inches high, so her cats can easily access the water. Then she places the bowl and box on a rug gripper cut to size. The cardboard box seems to deter the playful kitty who is no longer interested in pushing his water bowl around, so the floor is now dry and safe.

Finicky Felines and Food

Cats have a reputation for being choosy eaters and, as cat owners, we will do almost anything to get them to eat. If you notice a drop-off in your cat's appetite, schedule a visit with your vet to make sure the problem isn't medical. If it turns out that your kitty is just being "particular," we may have some solutions for you.  Sandy Robins, pet lifestyle expert and the author of  Making the Most of All Nine Lives: The Extraordinary Life of Buffy the Cat, recommends heating up canned food slightly in the microwave, just enough to give it some warmth, so it puts off more odor to entice the cat to eat. ( This is a trick our own Dr. Marty Becker recommends, too!) Be sure to test the temperature with your finger before you offer your kitty the meal.

Issues With the Dish 

Sometimes, however, it’s not the food itself but what the food is served in that makes a difference. 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, she explains. 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.

Litter Tracking

Cats can’t help it. Litter sticks to their paws, and when they jump out of the litterbox after finishing up their business, they bring it with them wherever they traverse next. There are many plastic and rubber litter mats on the market, but if you prefer a softer look, you can also try placing a deep-piled bath mat in front of your litter box to help catch the stray bits. A cat’s paws sink into the soft, deep material that catches the litter remnants.

Carpet Protection

The last thing you want is for a cat to do his business on your carpet, because once he goes once, it can be difficult to clean the area thoroughly enough so that he doesn’t return to do it again! If you have an area of particular concern (as in, perhaps your kitty has already used the area as a potty once or twice), try using temporary carpet protection sheeting, which is a plastic sheet that’s sticky on one side. Movers and painters use this to protect homeowners’ carpet when they’re doing their work. You can buy it at any home improvement store. First, be sure to clean the soiled area thoroughly and follow up with an enzymatic cleaner to help neutralize the odor. Because the covering is plastic, it may dissuade your cat from going back to the spot. Best of all, it (mostly) blends in with your carpet!

Of course, if pooping or  peeing outside the litterbox happens regularly, it's a good idea to discuss the situation with your vet to rule out any possible health concerns.

Plants in Peril

Plenty of cat owners forgo having even pet-safe potted plants in their homes, because their cats love to dig, play, lie or even potty in the dirt at the base of the plant. Stacy Mantle, a writer in Phoenix, grew tired of dirt strewn on her floors from playful cats. She now uses a layer of aluminum foil with pine cones on top of it placed on the soil around the plant to dissuade her cats from digging in. This is sometimes effective and blends in with the color of the soil, so it doesn’t create an eyesore.

Cats are truly wonderful companions with many lessons to teach us, and if you can find some innovative solutions to some of the accompanying challenges, you’ll find your coexistence almost perfect. What hacks have you discovered work well in your household? 

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