Q: My 14-year-old male cat keeps pulling up threads on new carpet on my previously wood stairs. Please help! What can I do or use to prevent this from continuing? I have been clipping his nails regularly. I have aluminum foil over the first few steps. I have a big piece of cardboard blocking the stair entry. Somehow he gets on them anyway and I will notice a new pull. I am beside myself! --Janice Twibell, Westbury
A: From the cat's point of view, your steps were newly carpeted just for his enjoyment! He has no idea the fabric on the once-barren steps that feels so good to him can possibly have any monetary value. He has no concept of money at all.
There are many ways to dissuade him from using his claws on the carpet in addition to the methods you have used. I have found that putting strips of double-sided tape on the edges of the steps works very well and is more convenient than aluminum foil and cardboard.
No matter what you do, however, he will do his best to go around those repellents if he has no other place to use his claws. Get one of those big cat trees that have shelves covered with carpet. Place this near the stairs and make it as attractive to him as you have made the stairs unattractive with the tape and such. The best way to do this is by spreading loose catnip all over the shelves.
Now when he walks over to the stairs to use his claws and finds them unattractive, he will see and smell the cat tree as an alternative, walk away from the steps and use his claws on the carpeting of the cat tree. Thus you have tricked him into making your idea his idea.
As time goes on and he no longer thinks of the carpeted steps as an option, you can remove the tape and other barriers.
Q: I grew catnip in my garden this year with the idea of drying it in the fall and making my own cat toys. However, I do not think I will ever get to do this, as my cats spend a great part of the day rolling around in the catnip bed and crushing all the plants. Plus, in the morning the plants are all crushed again by the stray cats in my neighborhood.
Can my cats overdose from all this catnip? They seem fine when they are out of the bed, but while they are rolling and lounging in it, they certainly look like they are in another world.
If you think that their visits to the catnip bed should be restricted, then I will build a cage around it -- but they seem to enjoy it so. --Annie Richards, Southampton
A: You really do not need to worry here. The element in catnip that cats enjoy so much never enters their bloodstream when they inhale it or eat it. The reaction you see is merely in response to the smell and taste. It is not a narcotic at all, and any cat can snap out of a catnip high whenever it chooses to do so. I would imagine that is a similar experience to when I smell a basil leaf on a hot summer day. For a moment, I forget everything and concentrate just on the smell of the basil.
Catnip is in the mint family, and, like most mint plants, it grows quickly, so even though your cats seem to be abusing it a bit, I am sure you will have plenty to dry in the fall for your cats' winter enjoyment. So I would advise you to continue to allow them to enjoy themselves this summer in the catnip bed.
Q: I have lived here for 22 years now and I have never had a rabbit in my backyard -- but just this week, I have seen a wild cottontail rabbit in my backyard every morning. I am quite pleased with this, as I feed the wild birds and chipmunks and enjoy my backyard being considered a sanctuary by them. What kind of food can I put out to encourage this rabbit to stay and have a family in my yard? --James Adams, Lakeview
A: The numbers of Eastern cottontail rabbits are declining in the Northeast, so your desire to encourage their population growth is admirable. However, diet is not the issue. Rabbits mainly eat grass and there is no lack of that in suburbia.
Of course, they occasionally will munch vegetables in a garden or newly planted flowers, but such intrusions are easily preventable with low fences.
If you really want to help the populations of cottontails, what they most need is cover. Manicured yards just do not have the cover these animals need, and that is why they are on a decline. Consider planting thickets of shrubs such as rambling-type rose bushes. These would allow the bunnies to escape from predators and raise their young.