1. Keep Your Cat Well-Groomed
It might seem strange to think of grooming as part of cat wellness but it is very important.
Regular brushing keeps your cat’s hair in good condition by removing dirt, preventing tangles, keeping the skin clear and spreading the natural oils throughout the coat. Regular brushing also reduces the occurrence of hairballs that can develop in the digestive tract, as there is less excess hair for your cat to have to clean up.
Depending on your cat’s personality, grooming time might be a welcomed event that your cat gets to spend extra time with you–or it could be avoided at all costs (or it could be the newest reason for your cat to plot your demise). Whatever the case, it’s best to plan these grooming sessions when your cat is happy and relaxed–perhaps after some exercise or after dinner time. Cats are highly intuitive and can sense stress and tension, so be sure to schedule a grooming time when you aren’t in a bad mood. Keep your first grooming session short, carefully watching how your cat is responding to the different areas you’re brushing. If your cat is stressed out or too fussy, cut the session short and try again later. Gradually increase the frequency of sessions until your pet knows the routine. The general rule for brushing is once a week for short hair cats and once a day for long hair cats. Be sure to pile on the praise after each grooming session, complete with treats so that your cat has a positive association with grooming time.
Keeping your cat’s nails neat is part of a complete cat wellness plan and for the furniture in your home. If you haven’t clipped your cat’s nails before, start slow by getting your cat used to you touching their feet by massaging their legs and paws. Rub the legs, touch and press down on the individual toes, giving treats as you do this and praising your brave kitty. Give these daily foot massage for about a week before a nail clipping or until your cat seems comfortable enough. Your aim should be to clip just before the point where the nail begins to curl, avoiding the vein that runs into the nail.
Always begin with a good brushing to remove any excess hair, dirt and debris from your cat’s fur. Follow that up with a quick nail clipping, to maintain nail health and for your own safety during bath time! Fill the tub or sink with a few inches of lukewarm water and use a rubber mat or something similar that will provide traction and steady your cat’s footing while in the bath. Gently massage a calming shampoo into your cat’s coat and thoroughly rinse with a spray hose or pitcher, avoiding the eyes, ears and nose. Have a warm, cozy towel ready to wrap your cat up in to dry off. Give your little diva plenty of praise and her favorite treat for being so well behaved and patient.
2. Find a Balance Between Wet and Dry Food
Both wet and dry food have their own set of benefits, and the balance you find between them may depend on both your cat’s preference and your cat’s health.
Cats on dry food diets are slightly more prone to obesity and diabetes than cats on a wet food diet. This is party due to the fact that owners typically leave the dry food out all day for cats, giving them free access to food anytime they want, as well as the high carbohydrate levels in dry food. Cats eating only dry food also typically don’t get enough water in their diet, compared to cats on a wet food diet, or cats eating a mixture of dry and wet food. Dry food also presents benefits to your cat’s health, such as good dental health. The texture of the dry food massages the gums, removes plaque and helps keeps the teeth white. Buying dry food is often more convenient and cost effective, as consumers buy it in larger quantities and it is easier to store.
Wet food typically contains a protein source such as tuna or chicken and helps cats develop strong bones and muscles. Pay attention to the ingredients when buying canned cat food, and be sure that the first ingredient listed is a high quality animal protein source. Wet food can also be easier to chew for cats with sensitive teeth or mouths. Consult your veterinarian for an individual meal plan that will match your cat’s health needs.
3. Keep Your Cat Hydrated
The amount of water your cat is consuming goes back to whether your cat is on a dry food diet, a wet food diet, or a mix of the two. Though there should always be a bowl of water available during meal time, it’s even more important if your cat is on a straight dry food diet. Watch your cat carefully for signs of dehydration and offer multiple water bowls around the house and keep them full and fresh. If your cat doesn’t seem to like to drink water, try flavoring it with some tuna juice, or adding an ice cube to the food bowl.
4. Always Keep a Clean Litter Box Available
If you don’t want accidents happening in your house, it’s critical that you clean your cat’s litter box every day and change the litter weekly. Cats are extremely clean animals and if their box is too smelly or dirty, they will find a cleaner spot to do their business, such as your nice white carpet. It’s also important to have enough litter boxes spread throughout the house. Experts recommend one box per cat, plus one. So a household with three cats should have four litter boxes. Find places for the litter boxes that are away from loud appliances and high traffic areas, so that your cats are comfortable using it.
5. Get Your Cat a Scratching Post
Much like the problems that come with a cat that doesn’t have a clean litter box to use, if your cat doesn’t have something to scratch on, it could very well be your leather couch. If you are introducing your cat to a scratching post for the first time, make it as appealing as possible to your cat. Place it in the center of the room, not an empty corner, where it would be easier for your cat to ignore. Sprinkle catnip onto the scratching post and praise your cat for using it. Gradually move the scratching post to a more suitable area, once your cat has gotten used to using it. A scratching post provides great exercise, reduces stress, keeps their claws healthy and shaped, and is great for kittens with a lot of energy.
If your cat is a climber, consider a cat tree that offers a safe and appropriate place to climb. This is an especially good option in multi-cat homes where there may be tension between the siblings, or if their current climbing areas are inappropriate or dangerous.
6. Spay or Neuter Your Cat
Thousands of unwanted cats are put down every year because they can’t find a home. This devastating number could be avoided if more people spayed or neutered their cats at an early age. Males are less aggressive and better behaved after being neutered, focusing more of their attention on their human family instead of finding a mate. Females are extremely uncomfortable when they go into heat and will live longer, healthier lives if they are spayed. Help fight the overpopulation by spaying or neutering your cat.
7. Regular Veterinary Check Ups
Annual checkups will ensure your cat is up-to-date on vaccinations and it will give your veterinarian a chance to notice any developing illnesses or symptoms that you may have missed. Record appointments, vaccines and basic health information in a Jeffers health record booklet.