How to make cat litter box upkeep easier

HELOISE

Dear Heloise: Maintaining my cats’ LITTER BOXES is important. Here are some hints I use to make the job easier:

1. I stay with the brand of litter my cats like. There are many types of litter on the market (clumping, clay, silica, sand), but they are happy with the brand we are using.

2. Experts recommend one litter box per cat, plus a spare.

3. I scoop the box every day, and scrub the box and change the litter once per week. I put a thin layer of baking soda on the bottom of the box to keep it fresh.

4. Two inches of litter is the maximum depth that is recommended.

5. If my cats stop using the litter box, my first call is to my veterinarian. Medical problems can cause these changes in behavior.

6. Plastic liners may be convenient, but if the cat scratches to bury its waste, it could poke a hole in the bag.

My cats are members of my family, and keeping them happy with a clean and accessible litter box is so important! — Ronda R. in Illinois

PET PAL

Dear Readers: Diane V. in Texarkana, Texas, sent a picture of her 14-year-old, green-eyed, white, brown and black marbled cat, Ruby. Diane says Ruby thinks she’s a dog! Ruby hangs out with the dog and chases the other cat!

To see Ruby and our other Pet Pals, visit www.Heloise.com and click on “Pet of the Week.” Do you have a furry and funny friend? Email a picture to Heloise(at)Heloise.com! — Heloise

A SALTY RECEPTION

Dear Heloise: When my dog licks my face, is she “kissing” me, or is she licking my skin because it’s salty? My husband says salty. — Becky G. in Chicago

Becky, great question, and I would say yes to kisses! Here’s the scoop: The dog learned as a puppy to lick its mother’s face for attention. If your dog licks you, and you like it and praise the dog, the dog will continue to lick you, if only to get the praise!

So keep those kisses coming! — Heloise

SAUCY CEREAL

Dear Heloise: I read your column in the (Terre Haute, Ind.) Tribune-Star. I use applesauce instead of milk or cream on crunchy cereal. For crunchy, put cereal on sauce. For less crunchy, put sauce on cereal.

In either case, I sprinkle with blueberries, strawberries or raspberries. — Nathan B., Jasonville, Ind.

SANITIZED STEPPERS

Dear Heloise: For years, I had problems with my feet smelling. A couple of years ago, I started using hand sanitizer on my feet before I went to bed and again in the morning before putting on my socks and shoes. It has helped me immensely. — A Reader in North Houston

STOWING A SUITCASE

Dear Heloise: I don’t travel very often, so keeping my suitcase smelling fresh is important. I unwrap a bar of soap and store it in the suitcase. This works well for me. — Helen M. in Los Angeles

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Dear Readers: Today’s SOUND OFF is about companies that solicit donations. — Heloise

“Dear Heloise: I get tired of all the pleas for contributions and the companies that sell your information to other companies. They spend all that money on staff, stamps, envelopes and address labels. Why not use the money for the charities instead of begging me for money?

“I finally stopped them, even the ones I liked. Just write ‘Do Not Solicit’ on the bill or request for funds and send it back to them. I kept a list so I’d be sure there were no repeats. It worked.” — JoAnn A., Booneville, Miss.

FAST FACTS

Dear Readers: Lemons not only smell fresh, but have the added advantage of multiple uses:

* Rub half a lemon over a chopping block to remove odors and kill bacteria.

* Sprinkle lemon juice over foods that tend to turn brown after they’re sliced, such as apples and avocados.

* Remove stains from plastic.

* Whiten fingernails that have turned yellow from nail polish. — Heloise

DID YOU KNOW?

Dear Readers: At room temperature, lemons will stay fresh for up to two weeks and up to six weeks in the refrigerator. — Heloise

COMPOST NO-NOS

Dear Heloise: We just bought our first home on an acre of land, and I want to compost materials for the vegetable garden we’ve started. I know there are things I shouldn’t compost, but what are they? — Molly K., Brookfield, Wis.

Molly, yes, there are several things that shouldn’t go into your compost:

* No cat or dog droppings. These might contain parasites.

* Coal or charcoal.

* Anything that has fungus, such as fungus on plants.

* Fish, cheese or meat leftovers. These attract raccoons, opossums and other critters.

* Oil and grease.

* No bones. Like coal and charcoal, these take a very long time to decompose.

So glad to know you’re starting a compost pile. This will enrich your soil with nutrients the natural way. — Heloise

EDITOR’S NOTE: Send your great money-saving or timesaving hint to to Heloise at P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, TX 78279-5000, Fax to 1-210-HELOISE, or email to Heloise@Heloise.com. She can’t answer your letter personally but will use the best hints received in her column.