We all want the best for our pets. We want to make sure our cats are with us to provide companionship and entertainment for as long as possible. We also want to make sure that our cats are comfortable, safe, healthy, and happy. Let's talk about a few ways to make sure that happens.
Feed your cat a good diet
As with people, the healthier your cat's diet, the healthier your cat will be. A cat's nutritional needs are unique. As carnivores, they require a higher percentage of protein in their diet than does a dog. In addition, that protein must be derived from an animal source. They also require several unique essential nutrients in their diet, such as taurine and arachidonic acid.
Choose a diet that is made specifically for cats. A complete, well-balanced feline diet will meet all of your cat's nutritional needs. The diet should also be appropriate for your cat's life stage. Kittens need a growth formula. Their nutritional needs are different than those of an adult cat because they are growing. For most adult cats, a feline maintenance diet is appropriate. However, senior cats and cats with chronic illnesses may require a specialized diet, depending on their individual health needs.
Keep your cat fit and lean
Obesity is a growing problem and has reached epidemic proportions in our pet cats. Surveys estimate that over 50% of our cats are overweight or obese, according to the veterinarians who care for them. However, cat owners sometimes have a difficult time evaluating their cat's weight and often mistakenly believe their cat is at an ideal weight. Ask your veterinarian to help you evaluate your cat's weight. Your veterinarian can also show how you how to determine if your cat is at an ideal body weight.
Feed your cat appropriately, in quantities that keep your cat lean. Avoid overfeeding. This may mean measuring the amount of food offered daily rather than allowing your cat to feed free choice. Some cats will maintain their weight fed free choice but many will overeat and develop weight problems.
Encourage your cat to exercise. Provide plenty of toys to entertain your cat and put aside a little time each day to spend playing with your cat. Interactive play is often required to encourage your cat to exercise and it will also give you time to bond with your cat. You can promote even more physical activity by feeding your cat in different locations throughout your home or even hiding small amounts of food and allowing your cat to track it down. Food puzzles are another good way to encourage exercise. Your cat's entire daily food allotment can be hidden in a food puzzle, if desired.
Keep your cat indoors
Keeping your cat indoors will keep your cat safe from many of the most serious infectious diseases. It will also keep him safe from car accidents, fights with other animals, and other types of injuries. Your neighbors will appreciate your consideration as well.
For cats that like to explore outdoors, a catio is an option. You can also use a harness and leash to take your cat outdoors.
Provide plenty of enrichment for your cat
Enrichment is something that is required for all cats. Enrichment should include perches, scratching posts, resting areas, refuges, toys, and other items that keep your cat entertained and stimulated. Indoor cats often become bored and with boredom comes stress. Stress in turn can cause disease for your cat. Items which enrich your cat's environment will help prevent this and will help satisfy your cat's basic needs. For more information about enriching your cat's environment, visit the Indoor Pet Initiative.
Keep your cat free of parasites
Parasites such as fleas, ticks, heartworms, and intestinal worms can infect even indoor cats, contrary to popular belief. These parasites can also carry other diseases to your cat. Some of these diseases are also transmissible to you and your family. Talk to your veterinarian about beginning a parasite prevention plan for your cat. There are a number of options that are safe and effective. Your veterinarian will be able to help you establish a plan that is appropriate for your individual cat.
Don't forget about your cat's oral health
Did you know that 80% of cats over the age of two already have dental disease? It's true.
Brushing your cat's teeth is best way to take care of your cat's mouth. However, if your cat will not allow brushing, there are other options. Dental chews and treats, oral rinses, and dental diets are available to help keep your cat's mouth healthy.
Your cat also needs regular veterinary dental care. Your veterinarian will be able to do a cursory examination with your cat awake. But your cat will need to undergo anesthesia to have a thorough examination of the mouth (which may include radiographs) and to have his teeth cleaned both above and below the gumline. Cleaning below the gumline is necessary as this is where dental decay and disease begins.
Keep your cat up-to-date on vaccines
Even indoor cats need to be vaccinated. Vaccinations and vaccination schedules should be individualized. What your cat needs may not be the same as what your neighbor's cat needs. Lifestyle and risk should be taken into account when determining which vaccinations a cat needs and how often they need to be given. Your veterinarian will help you decide what is best for your cat.
Make sure your cat visits the veterinarian regularly for an examination
Regular veterinary visits are important for cats, just like they are for dogs, even if your cat is not due for vaccinations. It can be difficult to get your cat to the veterinarian but there are things you can do to that will help make the trip less stressful. Acclimating your cat to a carrier is one of the most important things you can do prior to your next veterinary visit. Watch the accompanying video to learn how.
Veterinary exams are important because cats are good at hiding signs of illness. Even the most observant of cat owners cannot always tell when their cat is experiencing health issues until the disease becomes quite serious. Regular veterinary visits can uncover these illnesses in the early stages, when treatment is most likely to be successful. Early treatment is also likely to be less expensive for you as well.
Include your cat in your emergency plans
You never know when an emergency might strike. Hopefully, it never happens to you. But if it does, you likely won't have a lot of time to plan. So make emergency plans in advance and make sure your cat is included in those plans. If you're forced to evacuate your home, never leave your cat behind, even if you think you'll only be away from your home a short time. Learn more about preparing for disasters in this FEMA brochure: Preparing your pets for emergencies make sense. Get ready now.