While cats are generally considered more low maintenance than dogs, they still require specialized care to ensure they remain happy and healthy. Here are five rules that will help your feline friend remain in tip-top shape.
#1: Feed your cat a healthy diet
More than half the United States pet population is overweight or obese, and those extra pounds can create a ton of health issues. Overweight cats are more likely to develop diabetes, osteoarthritis, skin problems, urinary issues, and cancer, so feeding your cat the correct diet will help keep them healthy.
A common contributor to feline weight gain is pet owners leaving a dish full of dry food out at all times. Bored cats will turn to food to fill their empty hours and overeat, which is a two-part problem. Providing environmental enrichment will help keep your cat occupied, but they should not have access to unlimited food. Instead, calculate how many calories your cat needs each day, and divide that amount into meals. Determine the number of calories in each serving of canned or dry food, and feed appropriate portions, to ensure your feline friend remains at a healthy weight.
#2: Ensure your cat receives plenty of exercise and mental stimulation
Bored cats can easily become stressed, which in turn can affect many aspects of their health. Stress can lead to feline idiopathic cystitis, an inflammatory urinary condition that can be challenging to manage. Stress can also cause cats to groom excessively, change their behavior, eliminate in inappropriate areas, and gain weight.
Engage in daily exercise sessions with your cat to provide physical and mental stimulation. Keep sessions short, as your cat will likely lose interest more quickly than a dog. Provide your cat with a variety of toys to determine their preference, as some cats would rather bat at feather wands, while others are drawn to small stuffed toys they can pick up and carry. Finding the right toy type is key to encouraging your cat to be more active.
#3: Provide your cat with natural behavior outlets
Cats are a predator and a prey species, and their unique needs must be met. To satisfy both sides of their nature, your cat will require a tall lookout tower so they can survey their domain. The tower should also contain a hiding place that will help your cat feel secure and give them a place to retreat. Additionally, ensure your cat has access to multiple scratching surfaces. Scratching is a natural cat behavior that can ruin the pet-pet owner bond if no appropriate outlet is available. Most cats like a sisal material for scratching, but experiment with other fibers to determine your cat’s preference. Also, provide horizontal and vertical scratching surfaces that allow your cat to fully stretch out when they use their post or pad.
#4: Practice proper litter box hygiene
Inappropriate elimination is another common cat owner complaint. However, many elimination issues can be resolved through proper litter box hygiene. Cats are finicky about their litter boxes, and if the least problem arises, they may shun their box. To keep your feline friend inside their box, follow these litter box guidelines:
- Provide multiple litter boxes — Cats should have multiple litter boxes to choose from, and too few boxes in a multi-cat household can lead to inappropriate elimination. For example, two cats should have at least three boxes placed in different home areas.
- Stick to your cat’s preferred litter type — Most cats prefer a fine, unscented litter rather than a heavily perfumed type. You may need to experiment with your cat’s litter to find the type they like best.
- Clean the box frequently — A dirty litter box will prompt your cat to eliminate in a clean spot, which may be your bed, closet, or a pile of clean laundry. Scoop the box twice per day, and dump all the litter and disinfect the box weekly.
#5: Schedule regular veterinary care to prevent serious illnesses in your cat
Many diseases can be prevented through routine veterinary care and vaccinations. In addition, serious illnesses can be caught early by establishing a baseline of your cat’s “normal” health with diagnostic testing. Abnormalities in subsequent test results or changes in typical patterns can indicate your cat is developing a medical condition that can be better treated when caught early. And, while your cat is at their wellness visit, you can ask questions about their care with our Town & Country veterinarian, to help your feline friend live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Set your cat up for success by keeping them in great shape through regular preventive care. Give our team a call to schedule your pet’s next wellness visit.
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