Cats spend most of their day lounging and lazing about, with an occasional case of the midnight zoomies. They seem to have the perfect life—plenty of naptime, a never-ending buffet of food, and the lap of luxury in your favorite chair. But, what else can you do to improve your cat’s overall health and happiness? Here are 10 tips to ensure your feline friend lives her best life.
1: Don’t skip veterinary visits
Cat owners seem to believe their felines are impervious to illness and forgo wellness veterinary visits. According to Banfield’s State of Pet Health Report, dogs who receive veterinary care outnumber cats by an impressive 5 to 1. However, although cats are excellent at hiding signs of illness, they still require routine care. Strictly indoor kitties may not fight with strays or contract a disease from the cat down the street, but they are prone to a variety of other ailments, including obesity, urinary tract issues, diabetes, kidney disease, and osteoarthritis. Wellness visits allow us to catch a disease process in its earliest stage to provide the best outcome for your cat. Without regular check-ups and testing, it may be too late by the time your cat begins to show signs of illness.
2: Prevent parasite infestations
Do you think your cat is protected from parasites since she isn’t a hunter devouring her prey in the wild? Think again. Cats who live the life of luxury indoors aren’t safe from fleas, ticks, intestinal parasites, or heartworms. All it takes is one hitchhiker to hop aboard your pant leg or sneak through an open door, and your cat is at risk for fleas, ticks, or heartworm disease. Intestinal parasites can easily be transmitted through fecal material carried in on your shoes, and not only through ingesting small prey. Protect your cat from nutrient-sucking parasites and their disease risks with a comprehensive parasite-prevention protocol.
3: Spay or neuter when appropriate
Current American Animal Hospital Association guidelines recommend sterilization of cats by 5 months of age to prevent unwanted litters and to reduce the risk of mammary cancer in female cats and spraying/marking in male cats, but still allow kittens time to grow.
4: Create a diet and nutrition plan
Cats have unique nutritional requirements, particularly regarding taurine, an amino acid found only in animal-based protein sources. As carnivores, cats thrive on a high protein, limited carbohydrate diet. Monitor your cat’s caloric intake with small meals, ideally consisting of a canned or moist food to increase water consumption, throughout the day. Free-feeding often contributes to obesity, especially in cats who are bored and have inadequate access to environmental enrichment opportunities.
5: Engage in proper litter-box care
Cats are finicky about their bathroom setup. Size, litter, location, access, and cleanliness can make or break good elimination habits. If the litter box is too small, enclosed, dirty, or contains an unpleasant litter substrate, you may discover urine or feces in inappropriate places. Ensure your cat’s litter box is large and clean, and avoid placing it in a noisy or crowded area.
6: Set up a grooming schedule
Cats are considered pristine animals, fastidious about cleanliness. But, every cat can use a helping hand. Long-coated cats require frequent brushing, and short-haired cats need help removing dead undercoat. Also, check your cat’s ears, eyes, and teeth for any abnormalities, and keep her nails trimmed.
7: Be active, and exercise daily
It’s no secret that pets are prone to expanding waistlines. But, pet owners who show their love with treats and an always-full food dish are contributing to obesity. Changing feeding habits and nixing a sedentary lifestyle can add years to your cat’s life. Find toys that stimulate your cat’s natural behaviors and get her up and moving, aiming for 10 to 15 minutes of daily playtime.
8: Learn normal behavior
Cats are known for hiding and sleeping the day away, but knowing your cat’s “normal” will aid in times of illness. Abnormal behaviors, such as excessive sleeping, hiding, grouchiness, hissing, swatting, inappropriate elimination habits, vomiting hairballs or food, and a different activity level can indicate a medical issue that needs attention.
9: Offer varied environmental enrichment
Unfortunately, indoor cats are often bored. Cat owners may provide food, water, and love, but cats need toys, games, and a variety of mentally stimulating activities to be happy and healthy. Cats particularly enjoy vertical spaces, so build shelves along walls, provide cat towers for climbing, and offer hiding and resting places above eye level for mental health.
10: Stay safe indoors
Cats allowed outdoors are exposed to many hazards, such as vehicles, predatory animals, stray cats, contagious diseases, inclement weather, and parasites. Keep your cat indoors to keep her as safe and healthy as possible.
August 22 is National Take Your Cat to the Vet Day, but our feline friends need year-round care. Don’t let dogs win out on routine veterinary care—schedule your cat’s wellness visit and stay on top of her health-care routine.