Zoë Knows: 10 things that can harm your cat


Zoë’s cat Spooky

Zoë is 13 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 5) and Spooky (age 15), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.

Cat owners are some of the most dedicated and caring pet owners out there and try their very best to make sure their cat is happy and healthy at all times. But, even the best cat owners can’t know everything about their cat, right? Luckily, you can always learn more, whether it’s a health concern, tip or just advice. Here is a list of 10 things you may not know could harm your cat.

1. Flea treatment

Most cat owners are fortunate enough not to find any fleas on their cat but, if it happens, fleas are easy to treat with a simple flea bath. However, flea and lice treatments meant for dogs or humans can contain a chemical called Permethrin, which is toxic to cats. If you’re worried about harming your cat just make sure to keep treatments or medication out of reach and if your cat does get fleas, consult your veterinarian to make sure the product you intend to use is safe for cats. Many over the counter flea medications can be dangerous. Learn more here.

2. Bones

It’s no secret cats love to eat meat and sometimes they may find a tiny scrap laying on the floor, a little piece of chicken they lick off your finger or even a chunk they stole from the dinner table. This can be pretty harmless, but what isn’t harmless is bones. The bones found in any kind of meat can scratch your cat’s throat and tongues. They can also splinter and puncture their digestive track.

3. Yarn or string

Everyone knows cats love yarn and string and if you see your cat playing with it you may find it adorable or funny, but it can actually be pretty dangerous. Your cat could strangle or choke themselves with the yarn. In this case, it’s best to opt for a cat toy.

4. Human food

We’ve already established cat are meat eaters, but something that isn’t good for them is human food, especially certain foods. You’ve probably heard chocolate is bad for dogs, but it’s actually unhealthy for cats as well. Grapes and onions are also some foods your cat should also definitely not eat. For a list of foods harmful to cats click here.

5. Liquid Air fresheners

Lots of people keep air fresheners around their house, maybe even near a litter box. But air fresheners can actually be harmful to cats, or more specifically, ones that contain cationic detergent. This can burn their mouths or even their digestive system. Try to find natural or nontoxic air fresheners.

6. Scented litter

While on the topic of scents, most cats don’t like scented litter. Cats have super sensitive smell and scented litter smells very strong to them. It can aggravate or annoy your cat and some cats may choose not to use the litter at all. If you don’t want your litter box to smell, be sure to scoop it daily and fully clean it around once a week.

7. Rat poison

Poison is still poison whatever it’s meant for. Rat poison is very dangerous for your cat. Symptoms can include paralysis, little or no appetite or trembling. If you think your cat has come into contact with rat poison immediately take him/her to the vet.

8. Toiletries

Toiletries are not the best for your cat to eat. Shampoos, face cleansers or soap would not rest well in a cat’s stomach, especially if they’re toxic or unnatural. One example is dental floss. Dental floss is like string but smoother and slimmer, so your cat getting a hold of it would be a problem because t’s easy to swallow or choke on. Try to keep toiletries contained.

9. Dryer sheets

Dryer sheets seem harmless right? Actually they’re not. Dryer sheets usually contain benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, ethanol, a- terpinol and ethyl acetate. These chemicals are harmful to your cat and its best if you keep them out of reach.

10. House plants

Lots of people know plants aren’t always safe for cats, but choose to ignore it thinking that it doesn’t matter. But cats can and will eat plants. They can get really sick too. If you want, you can go to a pet store and buy grass meant for cats for your cat to munch on, but in the meantime, research plants that are safe for cats. You can find a long list of toxic plants here.

Did any of these surprise you? Did you already know any of these? Whether you knew a few or none, I hope you learned something new that could help you become a better owner and your cat happier.

Zoë Knows: Cats & Dogs

Zoë is 12 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.


Zoë’s Aunt Kelly with Oliver, who was rescued when they found him on a hike near Oliver, BC

You’re sure to recognize the expression “fighting like cats and dogs”. That’s because cats and dogs sometimes don’t get along. So can you have a cat and dog together in one household? I wanted to find out. I turned to my Aunt Kelly, whose family is full of animals and animal lovers. Over the years, she’s had so many pets (cats and dogs alike), that it’s almost impossible to count.

The first time she had a cat and dog together was when they were living in Japan. They adopted a stray kitten, Claude, and an abandoned puppy, Byrtnoth, within the same week. The puppy and the kitten were the same tiny size and they cuddled up together from day one, licking one another. They were inseparable.

I interviewed my Aunt Kelly and here’s what she had to say:

Zoë: In your opinion, can cats and dogs live together?
Kelly: Yes, they can. We have done it several times and it has always, with a little work, been a success.


Claude and Byrtnoth shortly after being rescued

Zoë: How did you first introduce your cats and dogs?
Kelly: I had two cats (Reggie, 11 and Oliver, 10) who we were introducing to our new dog (Apollo, 6). Apollo had never seen cats before. We kept the cats in a separate room and let Apollo explore the house. The animals could all see each other through a glass door, though Apollo didn’t care. We waited until Apollo was asleep and quiet and let Ollie in. He walked up and smacked him. Apollo didn’t care and went back to sleep.


Oliver and Jellybean taking a nap

Zoë: How about your new 5-year old adopted cat Jellybean?
Kelly: We put Jellybean in one room and let her get used to the surroundings for a couple days and didn’t let either the cat or dog in. After three days we let Ollie the cat get onto the bed with Jeff (Kelly’s husband) laying between them. Ollie walked over and sniffed the new cat. Jellybean woke up and smacked him in the face. After that we split the house in two with our glass doors. Jellybean had half the house, Ollie and Apollo had the other half. They could see each other through the glass doors and they ate beside them. After a little bit, we opened the glass door as they were eating. We took away the bowls when they finished. Jellybean licked Ollie and got mad because he was so dirty (she’s a very very clean cat).


Their new puppy Hugo out for a walk.

Zoë: You now have a new puppy named Hugo. How did you handle the introductions with him?
Kelly: Both the cats were already used to dogs and Hugo was so young (5 months) that we didn’t think he would have much of a problem, even though he’d never lived in a house before.

Zoë: Did you find better ways to introduce them as you kept doing it?
Kelly: Yes, definitely with the cats more then the dogs.

Zoë: What techniques would you recommend?
Kelly: Definitely introducing through the glass doors was really good. They can see each other but can’t get to each other. And the feeding too. You can do it with a baby gate as well.

Zoë:  Anything else you’d like to add?
Kelly: Really be careful as you don’t want to imprint bad behaviour on them, that will take longer to undo. It may seem like a lot of work but its worth it, now the cats are totally okay with each other and Hugo is… well he’s a work in progress, he’s a puppy after all!

Zoë Knows: Cats & Christmas

Zoë is 12 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.

Libra with tree

Zoë’s cat Libra hanging out under the tree

I don’t think I’ve met anyone who doesn’t like Christmas, not even my cats. The problem is Christmas can be a little dangerous for them and some of the things they enjoy most are very risky for their safety. So as a cat owner it’s my responsibility to know how to keep my cat safe.

#1. The Christmas Tree

A Christmas tree is one of the most iconic symbols of Christmas, and why wouldn’t it be? You decorate it, put presents underneath it and gather around it with your family on Christmas morning. But you know who else loves it? Your cat. Cat’s LOVE to climb up Christmas trees and pull down the decorations. If you don’t want your cat swatting at your tree, consider not putting decorations on the bottom. The needles of live Christmas trees are poisonous for cats and can cause symptoms like oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea and trembling. Artificial trees can also be dangerous if eaten because of the toxins they release. Make sure your tree is secure so your cat won’t climb it. If you put your tree in the middle of the room your cat might see it as a play structure and will be climb it from all sides. It will also be easy to knock over if your cat does get in it.

#2. Decorations

Cats also love tinsel. If you think putting it high up on your tree will prevent your cat from getting to it, remember cats can climb trees and will if they see something they want to play with. Once a cat gets it’s paws on tinsel they might swallow and choke on it. Decorations such as ribbons are also very dangerous should your cat eat one or if it gets around their neck.

#3. Holiday plants

Don’t you love holly, mistletoe a poinsettias? Well your cat doesn’t. These plants are all very poisonous to your cat. Mistletoe causes vomiting, diarrhea, breathing difficulties, erratic behaviour, hallucinations, collapsing and death. Holly causes vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Fortunately, poinsettias are less dangerous. They cause mouth and stomach irritation and sometimes vomiting. If you choose to display these plants, remember to put them in places your cat will have trouble getting too. Also be sure to know the symptoms of poisoning so you can keep an eye out for them.

#4. Visitors

Holiday parties are a super awesome part of the holidays, but they can be quite overwhelming for your cat. Maybe your cat is very social and loves visitors, but it’s most likely your cat will be pretty scared. Have a visitor free room and politely ask your guests not to go in there. Keep a litter box, some food, kitty toys, beds and blankets in the room to make your cat feel comfortable. Close the door as your guests are coming in so your cat doesn’t get out, but afterwards leave the door open a bit. That way your cat can get in and out if he wants to.

#5. Other hazards

Some people like to incorporate Christmas food into their cats diet, but I suggest keeping human food away from them. Especially rich fatty foods which can make your cat sick.

Artificial snow is also always poisonous. I love lighting candles in the winter, but I need to always remember to never leave a lit candle unattended and keep a watchful eye on it. Cats are curious creatures!

Yes the holidays can be a potentially dangerous time, but you can keep your cat safe by following these simple steps. With these tips you can enjoy Christmas without worrying about holiday hazards.

Zoë Knows: Cats & Halloween

Zoë is 12 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.


This is Zoë’s cat Spooky

Halloween is an amazing time of the year and one of my favourite holidays! But, as a cat owner, I have to remember this can also be a dangerous holiday for my cats. That’s why I decided to write this article to help you keep your cats safe on Halloween.

1. Costumes? Really? For a cat? That may not be a good idea. Some people like to dress up their pets on Halloween, but usually your cat won’t like it. It can make them uncomfortable, scared and uneasy so I suggest skipping costumes.

2. If you’re one of those people who loves going all out on your Halloween costumes that’s awesome, but may also be a bit dangerous. Things like face paint, fake blood or small plastic accessories that go with your costume can be very harmful to your cat if they eat them. Make sure to keep all your costume supplies safe in a drawer away from your cat. Same goes for decorations.

3. On Halloween night there will be trick or treaters coming to your door so remember to make sure your cat is safe and secure. I suggest putting your cat in a different room, but one that she feels comfortable with. For instance, don’t lock your cat inside a small room she doesn’t usually go in to. Put her inside a large room she likes to sleep in and make it really cozy with lots of blankets, cat beds, toys, food, water and maybe even a litter box. You should go check on her once in a while to make sure she’s happy.

4. Fireworks. You probably know how noisy they are and you also know they can really scare cats. Please don’t leave your windows open anywhere in the house, especially in the room your cat is in. You might also want to close the blinds. Think of ways to keep your cat feeling safe inside the room. You could put cardboard boxes in the room and put a blanket inside and give your cat places to hide.

5. And finally, always remember to keep your cat indoors. VOKRA only adopts to indoor homes because it gives cats the best opportunity to live long and healthy lives. You’ll also have fewer worrisome nights.

By following these simple tips there’s no reason why you and your cats can’t enjoy and safe and fun Halloween!


Zoë Knows: How to Pet Your Cat

Zoë is 11 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook and swim at the beach.

Most cat owners are confused for many different reasons, one of them being how to pet your cat. Which is why when I came across a study where they tried to answer this complicated question, I immediately wanted to learn more.

The study was done with 54 different cats at the University of Lincoln in the UK. One thing that I found particularly interesting was the study suggested that cats like to be petted on places containing scent glands. This is probably because when cats rub their scent glands on something they’re spreading their scent on it confirming that object belongs to them. So when you rub them on their scent glands it reminds them you are “theirs” and gives them a sense of familiarity. Also, since you’re rubbing them on their scent glands obviously they’ll recognize your smell and recognize you as well.


Patty, my aunt’s cat, showing off her belly.

The places you should pet your cat are their faces, especially around their lips, chins and cheeks, all of which containing scent glands. Petting your cat on their belly is risky, but can be done sometimes. For example, my first cat that I adopted as a kitten lets me rub her stomach. My other cat, who moved in at age 10 doesn’t let me touch his belly. Cats feel vulnerable when their stomachs are exposed, since in the wild its one of their weakest spots. The researchers didn’t try to pet the cats on their stomach. The study implied that you shouldn’t pet your cat on the base of their tale. But another source said that petting the base of your cats tail is something to encourage and that your cat will love it. Truthfully, I believe the second article, since every cat I’ve met seems to like it. Petting your cat on their body is okay, but not amazing.

Now that you understand how to pet your cat without irritating them, lets move on to the benefits of having one.

The most obvious fact would be that they boost your self-esteem. People with pets tend to be confident and less fearfull, which can lead to a better lifestyle. When you look fearful and insecure people tend to think that you’re fearfull and insecure. So if you present yourself as a confident person people will believe this on sight. And remember, humans can be very judgemental and tend to judge you by your first impression. More people will approach you kindly if you carry yourself with poise.

If you grow up with a pet there is less of a chance of you becoming allergic to that animal. While people without pets as a kid may become allergic around the age of 18, someone with a pet has a 50% less chance of developing allergies.

Pets can give so much comfort to us humans during times of trouble. Mourning, painful treatment or even just a bad day can all be comforted with your furry friend. Some cancer patients have said they would have stopped their chemotherapy if it had not been for the service animal that worked at the hospital playing and cuddling with patients.

One of the most astounding facts is that pets can be health detectives. Pets can smell drops in bloodsuger, and some dogs (and hopefully cats will follow) are being trained to smell and sound the alarm if their sick owner is in serious trouble.

Pets can also be an ambulance in action. I’ve hear lots of stories where cats have gotten help or alerted their owners about oncoming trouble. Things like gas leaks, injuries or fires have been prevented from getting out of hand by a cat.

You probably already know how lucky you are to have your very own pet/confidence booster/health detective/best friend, but I can’t help but keep reminding you. Your cat has always known how to keep you happy and now you know how to keep your cat happy as well. And hopefully you’ve learnt some amazing facts along the way. Don’t take your pets for granted. They help millions of people through their troubles every single day.

Zoë Knows: Keeping Your Cat Cool in the Summer

Zoë is 11 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook, and swim at the beach. 

Yes, cats like to be warm, and can usually be found sleeping in the sunniest spots of the house, but what many cat owners don’t feel the need to consider is that cats (like humans) do experience discomfort in the heat. So as the temperature rises, it’s your job as a cat owner to know how to keep your cat happy this Summer and for years to come.

My grandparents' cat, Ginny, cooling her belly

My grandparents’ cat, Ginny, cooling her belly

#1. It’s as important for cats to stay hydrated as it is for humans. Some owners like to put ice cubes in their cat’s water bowl, but I prefer to use refrigerated water and sometimes freeze the bowl. You should also make sure to refill the bowls frequently and maybe have multiple bowls around your house.

#2. Another way to keep your cat cool is to give them little “baths”. But don’t worry, you won’t need to dunk your cat in freezing water, a scenario only resulting in scratches and hissing. All you need to do is fill a bowl with cold water and find your cat. It’s best to do this when your cat is lying down, or maybe a bit tired. You definitely don’t want to force this on your cat, certain cats might not like this. Either wet your hands, or wet a small towel and gently rub your cat. If you have a kitten, it may remind them of their mother grooming them.

#3. If you’re cat is longhaired, you might want to give them a small haircut. This will not only make it more comfortable for them, but it will be easier for you to groom them. You should also groom your cat more often since in the summer cats shed a lot.

#4. Your cat needs a cool place to sleep. Keep a few spaces uncovered by carpet or blankets for your cat to lie on. If your windows need to be open, you should have secure screens, of course. But we have had too many VOKRA foster cats push screens out and escape this summer! We recommend that windows be locked in place and not open more than two inches. Consider putting a fan near one of your cat’s favourite sleeping spots. Make sure that shade is available and that your cat is never overheating.

#5. When we’re focusing on what to do, its hard to remember that there are things that we shouldn’t do. First of all is gel packs. We do not recommend using these to keep your cat cool as they may contain toxic ingredients that may be dangerous to your cat if they chew on the pack. Ice packs under towels are okay though.

Any time you see your cat panting, having trouble breathing, (looking like he’s) losing consciousness or even drooling take action and go to a vet immediately. Make sure to keep a close eye on your cat, especially if your cat is a senior.

Though this past week or two our weather hasn’t been super sunny, it’s still important to know the basics. Once you know that your cat is safe, both you and your cat can relax and enjoy the long, hot summer break.

My cat, Libra, considering a cool bath

My cat, Libra, considering a cool bath

Zoë Knows: Caring for your Aging Cat

We are thrilled to introduce a new series on the VOKRA Blog — Zoë Knows!

Zoë is 11 years old and loves cats. She loves learning about cats and how best to take care of them and has agreed to share her knowledge with us as she learns. When she’s not hanging out with her two cats Libra (age 4) and Spooky (age 14), Zoë likes to read, draw, cook, and swim at the beach. We hope you enjoy Zoë’s first blog post. Over to you, Zoë!

Zoë and Libra

Zoë and Libra

Taking care of your cat is hard work, and this task can become much more difficult as your cat ages. But I find that these tips really help me with my old cat.

1. Take your cat to the vet

As your cat ages, they can develop many injuries or diseases. So taking your cat for check ups is an important way to keep your cat healthy. For example, we took my cat (who is 15 this September) to the vet. We found out that he had Kidney Disease and Arthritis. After that we knew the requirements to keep him healthy and realized that we had been doing some things wrong. But don’t worry, you don’t have to take your cat that much.

2. “Home Check-ups” 

If you know that your cat might be developing something, it’s a good idea to know the symptoms. That way you could do “home check-ups”. That’s when you just make sure your cat is healthy by doing small things that a vet might do. That way, if you think your cat is sick, you can take action immediately, instead of it being last minute.

3. Food

Food is very important. Make sure that you feed your cat food specified for old cats, or a type of sickness that you’re cat has. If you have two cats, it’s important to feed them separately. My youngest cat (4 years old) is overweight, so we feed her special food, but my other cat is a bit sick, and too skinny, so we feed him special food. But we have to monitor them so they don’t steal each other’s food.

4. Attention

Although this may seem greedy, your cat wants attention. Don’t focus completely on your new kitten, give both cats attention. Cats love their owners and want their owners to love them too. Make sure to treat your cat the same way you did when your cat was an adorable kitten.

5. Normal Needs…That you need to do

Normal needs suddenly become very important. Cleaning the litter (cats are very stubborn so they may not want to use the litter box unless it’s very clean), grooming (cats become less flexible as they age and might not feel like cleaning themselves and might need help), or even feeding schedules (I find it helps so my cats know when they have food). Also, peace and quiet! Give your cat attention, but don’t overwhelm her. Try to keep your cat active, but don’t push her too far.

As I said before, taking care of your aging cat is hard work, but in the end, it’s all worth it. These steps aren’t that hard, and they will keep your cat happy and healthy.

Spooky says, "Thanks for taking such good care of me, Zoë."

Spooky says, “Thanks for taking such good care of me, Zoë.”