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You are the purr that heals, the curtain ninja that entertains, the in-house Zen master. They are the cats we invite into our homes, and in February, their wellbeing is our focus during National Cat Health Month.
Pet cats are diverse and complex beings, regardless of whether they are avid couch surfers or indoor and outdoor cats who love to have adventures with you in the backyard, to go on harness and leash or to ride in a stroller. And they rely on us to keep them healthy.
Dr. Erin Katribe, Medical Director of the national animal welfare organization Best Friends Animal Society, urges people to look at every aspect of their lives with you.
The most necessary
“Perhaps the most important thing you can do to keep your cat healthy is to make sure you are providing the basics in the best possible way. These basic requirements are food, water, litter box, and exercise.
“The ancestors of cats did not eat or stay as hydrated as our domestic cats. The dry nibble, which is the most convenient for the owners to feed, is very different from their natural diet. If you are able to feed your pet canned food, it is a much closer approximation of their ancestral diet than dry, ”said Katribe.
More attention is being paid to the problem of obesity in domestic cats, said Katribe. “It can lead to diseases like diabetes (feline diabetes is very similar to type 2 diabetes in humans). Therefore, it is important that your cat is at a healthy weight by monitoring and adjusting the amount of food in order to stay healthy. Obesity can also lead to arthritis and joint pain. Your veterinarian can help determine your pet’s healthy weight and guide you through diet and food changes to achieve that healthy weight. “
That brings us to how important exercise is for cats. “It’s not just dogs that need exercise – cats need it too,” said Katribe. “While you can exercise cats and exercise on a leash, and many cats enjoy it, most pet cats prefer a more private form of exercise. Providing toys and playing with laser pointers or string toys to exercise are great ways to keep them active. Not only is this mentally stimulating, but it can also help prevent obesity, which can lead to other diseases. “
Nobody really wants to talk about litter boxes, but this is an important topic for domestic cats, Katribe said. Litter boxes should be placed in convenient locations for the cat, rather than hidden away in a remote part of the house, to avoid behavioral abuse. If a cat begins to urinate outside the box, it can be for a number of reasons. Dirty boxes or boxes that are too far from the path can contribute, or it can be a much deeper problem, like urinary tract infection or kidney disease. See a veterinarian immediately if you notice any changes in the litter box habit.
One way to keep your cat healthy is to schedule regular spa visits with your veterinarian, Katribe said. In addition to vaccines for disease prevention (also important for domestic cats), these visits include a thorough physical exam and additional tests that can be vital in detecting disease early.
“Cats are masters at hiding diseases, which their ancestors probably developed as a tool for survival. For the cat parents, however, it means that if Fluffy is actually showing signs of illness, their situation may be much more serious than you think, and that something has been going on for some time. If you notice even minor changes in your cat’s health or behavior, it will be better for both of you to see a veterinarian sooner rather than later. Resolving problems early means a much greater chance of successful treatment and likely less stress for them and also less financial costs. “
Cats help get home
One of the most stressful events in a pet parent’s life is the loss of their pet companion. For cats, this can mean a cat only slides out the door indoors, or a cat outside may not return home as normal. For cats that end up in our country’s animal shelters, only about 5% of them make it back to their owners.
“One way to increase the number of cats returning to their families is by using the pass,” said Katribe.
Collars and tags are a low-tech way to accomplish this. Anyone can read the label and help the pet return home. However, Katribe warned that cats could lose their collars: “An even better solution, besides a cat-specific collar, is a microchip. Microchips are small technical pieces the size of a large grain of rice that are implanted under the skin. When the pet is scanned with a microchip scanner, the scanner will display a number that is unique to that chip and pet. If you are registered online (don’t forget this important step!) This number will link the pet back to your contact information. Shelters and animal control agencies generally scan pets when they enter the shelter. This can result in pets returning to their homes much faster and with greater chances of success. “
The meaning of spay / neuter
Spaying or neutering cats not only helps them live healthier lives, Katribe said, but it also helps save the lives of cats across the country.
“For the individual cat, sterilization can reduce or eliminate the risk of certain types of cancer and reduce undesirable or dangerous behaviors such as urinating, fighting or roaming. And the sad truth is that cats are twice as likely to lose their lives as dogs in our nation’s animal shelters simply because there aren’t enough homes for everyone. Spaying and neutering pet cats prevents more kittens from being born and allows more cats that end up in shelters to have a chance at life, ”said Katribe.
Katribe added that progressive rescue strategies like cat programs have been implemented nationally in many animal shelters as an alternative to cats losing their lives unnecessarily. Visit the Best Friends website for more information.