Cat parents are as diverse a group of people as any. We come from all backgrounds, lifestyles, and corners of the world. But there's at least one thing we have in common:
We love our four-legged family members, and we want them to enjoy long, healthy, happy lives.
Your kitty certainly deserves no less! This September, we're honoring Happy Healthy Cat Month, and to do so we're sharing the top “to-do's” that will help your feline thrive.
You'll learn about tips from several important areas of feline wellness: health, nutrition, safety, playtime, socialization, and more. Incorporating these tips into your cat's life and routine will help her stay healthy, well-adjusted, and purrrfectly happy in her own way.
A healthy life starts with a good foundation! These tips cover the feline basics:
1. Preventive Vet Visits
Is your kitty healthy? Sometimes it can be hard to tell. Cats are quite stoic creatures—they don't always like to show they're feeling ill.
The truth is, a feline can have a health problem for months without showing any signs!
To prevent health issues—or detect and treat them earlier—take your kitty in for her routine pet wellness exams. The ASPCA recommends a once-yearly check up. Your animal may need more depending on her health status and specific needs.
When you're at the vet, be sure to ask about preventive dental care, too. This may include in-office dental cleanings and at-home techniques to keep her teeth and gums clean. Yes, you can brush a cat's teeth! (Using pet-safe, vet-approved tools and techniques, of course.)
Why is pet dental care so important? Because poor oral health in cats is linked with shorter lifespans, painful dental problems, and expensive vet bills!
2. Pest Prevention
Fleas, ticks, and other critters are more than annoying. They can transmit diseases and parasites to your cat, many of which can be life-threatening.
These can include:
- Lyme disease
- Feline toxoplasmosis
In almost all cases, prevention is cheaper and easier than treatment. Talk to your vet about parasite prevention (which may include topical and/or oral medications) and be vigilant with your plan! For optimal protection, it should be maintained all year round—even if your kitty is indoors-only.
3. Pet Health Insurance
Unexpected accidents and illnesses can befall our beloved animals at any time. In the event of a surprise issue that requires a visit (or few) to the vet, having health insurance can provide great peace of mind, because those big vet bills can be partially or even fully covered by a pet health insurance plan.
A good pet insurance plan also ensures your animal gets the humane, timely, and appropriate care she needs.
When shopping for a plan, be sure to read the fine print and customer reviews. For instance, many companies do not cover congenital conditions if the pet is insured after 2 years of age.
Likewise, some companies are faster at processing claims than others, require different deductibles and premiums, and offer multi-pet discounts.
Your cat can truly thrive if she's eating the right foods—and enough of it. Here's are your top feline dietary tips to keep in mind:
1. Give Her Good Food
Cats evolved as hunters and are obligate carnivores—they must consume animal protein, including fish and fowl.
In general, kitties need diets that are high in protein, low in carbs, and provide a range of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. However, your kitty's specific nutritional needs may differ, so communicate regularly with your vet about her best diet.
Cat food should have real meat listed as one of the first few ingredients. Avoid low-quality brands filled with fillers, artificial colors, additives, and “by-product” ingredients. You can see in our article about the best cat food which brands we recommend based on their ingredients and overall quality.
2. Avoid Obesity
Feline obesity is a growing problem (no pun intended). It's been estimated that at least 100 million cats and dogs are currently overweight or obese! And like humans, cats and dogs who are overweight have a greater risk of health problems including arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
In addition to encouraging regular exercise, give your cat the right amount of food—enough to support activity and lean body mass. No more, no less. Your vet can give you specific guidance based on your kitty's overall health, activity level, and dietary goals, etc. (e.g., weight loss, kidney health, etc.).
Keeping Kitty Safe: Pet Microchipping and Collars
Every year, thousands and thousands of cats go missing. Sadly, the vast majority of them are never reunited with their human families!
If the unthinkable ever happens and your kitty goes missing, there's at least one thing you can do to drastically improve your chances of reconnecting with her:
Get her microchipped!
Pet microchipping can be done in a simple office visit. The procedure is virtually painless for your feline. All it requires is a hypodermic needle to implant a small device (about the size of a grain of rice) just beneath her skin, usually between her shoulders.
To be clear, ID tags and collars are important. But they can fall off, be removed, or get stuck on things (by the way, this is why all kitty collars should feature a breakaway option to avoid choking!).
Meanwhile, a pet microchip provides permanent identification. It can't fall off or be removed, and it's virtually invisible. Your cat won't even know it's there!
- When stray or lost animals are surrendered to an animal hospital or shelter, staff members can screen stray animals with a microchip registering device (this technology is increasingly common). If a microchip is present, it will activate and send a signal to the microchip database registry. The registry can then access your privately stored contact info and let you know she's been found!
Making Your Home Cat Friendly
Cats deserve to be in environments that they can play in and explore! Here are some simple ways to make your humble abode more cat friendly:
1. Give Her a Place to Climb
It's well-known that cats love to climb. To help stimulate her physically and mentally, give her places to explore your home vertically, such as cat trees or sturdy and creative shelving units.
2. Give Her a Place to Scratch
Scratching is a natural kitty habit that's good for a feline's physical and mental health. Instead of trying to stop her from doing it, provide her a sturdy scratching post, instead. This way, she can scratch to her heart's desire—and you won't have to worry about your furniture getting ruined or her claws getting stuck in upholstery!
3. Consider Outdoors Access
Do you want to let your kitty venture outdoors but are worried about her safety? Training her on a harness and leash is a safe way for her to enjoy the outside without putting her safety at excessive risk. Start slow to build up her confidence, and get her used to wearing the harness and leash around the house before exploring the great outdoors.
4. Create the Purrfect Litter Box Set Up
Cats are clean. In fact, this may be one of the things we love about them the most! Of course, this means kitties can be particular and meticulous about their hygiene, which may frustrate you if you're trying to find her the right litter box.
Be sure to read reviews and choose a litter box that suits your little one's temperament, size, health needs, and toileting preferences.
Options include: covered box, deep tray, automatic, natural litter, and so on. Place the litter box in a private, low-traffic area of the home, and scoop it out at least every other day. Let the humans in the house make it a team effort!
More than one cat? You'll need more than one litter box since kitties can get territorial about their bathrooms. And consider keeping an extra one on hand.
Playtime for Healthy Kitties
The famous Greek philosopher Plato once said, “Life must be lived as play.” We wonder if he had a cat! Here are ways to promote healthy play with your fun furball:
1. Offer Toys to Help You Bond
Playing with your kitty is good for your kitty and you! Aim for 15 minutes per day of playtime to help her bond, learn to socialize appropriately, relieve anxiety and aggression, and feel more confident and relaxed…
…and expect to feel happier and more relaxed yourself!
2. Offer Ways for Her to “Hunt”
All felines are born to hunt. So whether your kitty is indoors only or indoors/outdoors, she should be provided with opportunities to stalk “prey” and exercise her natural instincts.
To enrich her mental stimulation and physical development, create situations that allow her to flex and devleop her natural hunting prowess. Try food-dispensing cat treat toys, cat puzzle toys, or robotic mouse-like toys.
Grow The Feline Family! Adopt Another Kitty
Don't let your feline's independence throw you off! Cats are social by nature, so having multi-kitty home can be an excellent way to keep your animals happy and well-adjusted.
Take time to properly introduce new four-legged family members to make sure everyone feels right at home!
With the right amount of love, attention, and support, your kitty can expect to live a long, happy, and active life. As if that's not great news already, ensuring your pet stays healthy can also save YOU time, money, and energy!
Which of the above tips do you already practice? Which ones surprise you the most? Is there anything else you do to help your animal stay well? We want to know your insights!
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