Dear Dr. Schelling,

I'm having a Fourth of July party at my home this year and am concerned about my cat. What can I do for her to make sure she's safe during all the commotion?

– Reconciling parties and purrs

Dear Reconciling,

Fourth of July parties can be a great way to kick off the summer, but they may not be very fun for your cat. There are plenty of potential hazards that can cause your cat discomfort during the holiday festivities – from dangerous "people" food to the noise from fireworks. Check out my article, PUTTING YOUR CAT'S SAFETY AND HAPPINESS FIRST DURING YOUR JULY FOURTH PARTY, on how to keep your cat protected and in good spirits during summer celebrations.

Click here to read full article


Dear Fancy,

Our darling cat Darla sometimes looks at me and slowly blinks. What does that mean, O Wise One?

– Enraptured by our cat's eyes
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Dear Enraptured,

Darla's slow-motion blink may be her way of saying "Eye love you."

Cats show affection in many ways; some are well-known, such as purring and snuggling. But we communicate with nearly all parts of our bodies, from nose to TAIL-TIP. Our eyes are part of that communications system;

we use them not only to take in information but to convey our intentions and moods.

When our eyes are open at their widest, we may be on "full alert" because of perceived danger. Going about our normal daily routines (when we're awake), our eyes are open wide, but not quite that wide; they appear attentive yet relaxed. You probably know the blissful, "I'm in heaven," eyes-almost-closed look (often accompanied by a rumbling purr and rhythmic kneading); we practically go into a trance when our favorite humans caress us or scratch our chins just right. A fixed stare generally means "Back off; I'm about to bite or claw you." We consider that fair warning.

Some cats "kiss" with the slow blinking movement you described, and they may even respond to you doing the same: Gaze at your kitty with your eyes opened normally, then slowly close your eyes and re-open them. Don't worry if kitty doesn't return the favor; as we all know, no two cats are alike, and every cat is at least a little unpredictable. You may want to try this technique with Darla, and gauge her reaction. She may appreciate the gesture even if she doesn't always respond in kind. Conversely, when Darla blows you a "kitty kiss" with her eyes, feel free to return the favor. It can be fun and rewarding speaking "cat"!

By the way, some cats will give you a little nibble – often on the nose – as a sign of endearment. Usually you can distinguish between a love bite and a not-so-loving bite, but at first you might be somewhat taken aback. Consider "being bitten by a smitten kitten" an honor, however.

There's one recommendation I'd like to make for those endeavoring to understand the feline dialect. To grasp the nuances of what we're saying (at least some of them, sometimes), observe the whole body – ears, tail, posture, and so forth. For instance, when we hear a loud, unfamiliar noise outside, in addition to opening our eyes at full capacity we may point our ears outward – further indicating that we're ready to react to a possible threat in the vicinity.

The better you understand your cat's body language, the more you'll be able to bond with your cat and accurately determine your cat's desires and physical and emotional condition. An additional advantage of gaining fluency in feline-speak is a feeling that you're entering our mystical, magical world.

Enjoy the blink and all the other messages Darla may be sending your way!


Got a question for Fancy? Her email is

CRAZY CIRCLE: I like to give this ball a good "whap!" with my paw, watch it roll around, and then – just like that, with my superior quickness and agility – stop it in its tracks. Ha ha! (Note: This toy may be suitable for older or couch potato cats; it lets them engage in satisfying play without having to run around.)

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CATNIP ROCKET BLASTER: I have to give credit to my humans, who seem to invent endless ways to entice me with this combination toy and blast of catnip. They make the toy dance around in front me, knowing that I'll grab it. Sometimes they throw it down the hall, and I chase it down. When they're away during the day, they might leave the Catnip Rocket Blaster in not-too-difficult but not-too-easy hiding places for me to find. In every case, once I get a hold of the catnip-infused toy, I go to town. I roll around, give it the old back-kick shred, bite it every which way, and have an overall good time. Did I mention I may do a few victory pounces? I have a blast with my Catnip Rocket Blaster.

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In ancient Egypt, killing a cat was punishable by death. Cats were held in such high regard that the entire household would mourn their passing and many of them were mummified.
Catnip Rocket Blaster Crazy Circle