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5 resolutions to make 2010 the best year ever for your cat

1. I will keep my cat indoors

The number one thing you can do to keep your cat healthy and happy is to keep her indoors (see: Advice from the Expert). Indoor-only cats have a life span of 15 years and upward. Outdoor cats on average live less than 5 years, due to their exposure to attacks by animals, both domestic and wild, pesticides and other poisons, traps, viruses, cars, temperature extremes and, sadly, human cruelty. If you’ve been allowing your cat to go outdoors, make 2010 the year you give your cat the greatest gift of all – a safe, long and healthy indoor life.

For more info: Keeping Your Cat Safe and Happy at Home

2. I will give my cat plenty of physical exercise and mental stimulation

Now that you’ve resolved to keep your cat indoors, you’ll need to keep her from turning into the feline equivalent of a couch potato. Cats need both exercise and stimulation, so make sure your cat gets both a physical and mental workout every day. Cats get bored with the same old food, play things and routine just like people, so mix things up for them and give them plenty to do. You’ll be rewarded with a more interesting and interested friend.

For more info: Cats need variety and stimulation for optimal health

3. I will reward my cat for the behavior I want, not for the behavior I don’t

If you pick up your cat every time she cries, you’ll get a cat that constantly cries for attention. If you pet and kiss your cat whenever she purrs, your cat will purr like crazy. Reward the behavior you want, and ignore the behavior you don’t, unless it’s behavior that needs correcting, like inappropriate scratching or eliminating outside the litter box. But even with the behavior you don’t want, give the minimum amount of correction necessary and don’t make a big deal out of it, instead rewarding your cat when she goes inside the box or scratches her scratching post. Your cat craves your attention and while she’d prefer positive attention, just like a child, she’ll get attention any way she can. If she gets better and more positive attention when she behaves, you greatly increase your chances of having a well-behaved, well-adjusted cat.

For more info: Training your cat to do tricks

4. I will take care of my cat’s teeth

You feed your cat a well-balanced diet, you keep her indoors, you play with her and you take her to the vet regularly. But when was the last time you checked her teeth or took her to the dentist? Gum disease is a major factor contributing to poor health and even death, especially in older cats. The best time to start feline dental care, however, is when your cat is a kitten. Brushing your cat’s teeth once or twice a week need not be a chore if you start training your cat when she is young. Regardless of whether or not you brush your cat’s teeth, however, a yearly dental exam and cleaning can add years to your cat’s life and prevent a great deal of unnecessary pain and discomfort. And note that unless your cat is exceptionally difficult when being handled by strangers, it is worth searching out a place that provides anesthesia-free pet dental cleanings.

For more info: Regular dental care is necessary for your cat’s good health

5. I will watch my cat’s weight

Overweight cats are susceptible to the same diseases as overweight people: heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease, to name just a few. Feeding your cat a diet rated as “complete and balanced” by AAFCO, the Association of American Feed Control Officials, is a good way to start, as is feeding at set times rather than leaving food out for your cat to eat at-will. Not sure how much to give your cat? Start with the amount recommended on the pet food label, and adjust as needed based on your cat’s weight, activity level, life stage and appearance. And keep in mind – no crash dieting for cats! Rapid weight loss places a cat at risk of developing feline hepatic lipidosis, an ailment unique to cats, which is almost always fatal if left untreated. Restricting your cat’s food intake is never fun, but it beats heart disease and vet bills any day.

For more info: The fat cat and the absentee pet parent

Here's wishing you and your cat(s) a very happy, healthy and safe 2010!

Comments

  • Vince Lamb - Detroit Science News Examiner 4 years ago

    Hi, Jackie! I never thought we'd end up working for the same employer, but we are. It's your former classmate, who you knew as Richard, coming by to check out your column, which I recognize as good advice. Keep up the good work, as I'm looking forward to more informative articles on cats and other pets.

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