You may have made a New Year’s resolution for yourself and set some goals to reach over the next 12 months, but it’s unlikely that these plans included your cat. Here are 10 things to consider that will help your pet have a healthy and happy new year.
Weight management and portion control: Most cats are overweight, and it is a myth that all cats are good at self-regulating their food intake. Unlimited access to dry food is the most common predisposing factor to obesity. Assess your cat’s weight and body condition. The portion sizes on most pet food labels are guidelines and don’t take your individual cat’s lifestyle and activity level into account. Ask your vet if you need help determining the proper diet and portion sizes to feed.
Identification: Does your cat wear a collar with an ID tag and/or is he microchipped? Owners of indoor-only cats don’t realize that identification might be the only way to recover their kitty in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or fire. A microchip is like an extra insurance policy – you may never need it, but if you get separated from your cat, you’ll be glad he has one.
Behavior issues: Does your cat eliminate out of the litter box or destructively scratch things? Does he bite or scratch you? Have you discussed these (or other problems) with your vet? The key to solving these problems quickly is seeking intervention right away so that the behavior doesn’t become part of your kitty’s routine. You will enjoy your cat more if he behaves appropriately. Your cat will be happier if you are happier with him. Many cats develop unwanted behaviors because they are stressed with things going on in the household. Get the help you need to find solutions and to identify triggers.
Environmental enrichment: It is easy for indoor cats to become overweight and develop undesirable behaviors when they are bored. Do you play with your cat? Does he have toys he likes and something interesting to watch through a window? http://indoorpet.osu.edu/cats/ is a great site to visit for ideas to keep your kitty stimulated and interactive.
Estate planning for your cat: I wrote a two-part series last year in this column with information about taking care of your cat in the event you are no longer able to. You cannot expect your relatives and friends to do this. You need to have a legal, written plan for handling your kitty’s future if you want to ensure what will happen to him.
Annual examination: Be sure your veterinarian examines your kitty at least once a year. You need an objective evaluation of his condition and health so that you can make good decisions about care. It is very common for owners to miss changes such as subtle, progressive weight loss with their pet. It is easier to deal with health and behavior problems when they are detected at an early stage.
Pain relief: Studies show that 60 percent to 90 percent of senior cats have arthritis or other painful conditions. Arthritis can be found in younger cats, too. Pain relief can improve your cat’s quality of life and could involve a combination of supplements, medications, modifications to the environment, and other modalities like laser therapy and acupuncture. It is very uncommon for a cat to let you know he is in pain. If you are noticing pain, it is likely quite severe. Pain is assessed through examination and X-rays. Lab work lets your vet know which medications are safe to use.
Grooming: Most cats do a decent job of keeping themselves clean, but some cats – due to their size, coat type, dental disease or lifestyle – are unable to do so. A cat’s innate nature is to be clean, and when he is not, you have to help him out. Grooming might be as simple as combing out his coat or bathing him. Some cats need body shaving or at least an under-the-tail hygiene clip.
Dental health: Cats don’t brush, and most cats develop some level of dental disease by the time they are 3 years old. Home dental care can be challenging for owners. The healthiest cats have good teeth and gums. Most cats with significant dental disease don’t complain. Most owners report that their cat is more social, active and energetic after dentistry, and that they hadn’t realized what a problem the teeth had been beforehand.
Flea and parasite control: Many great products are available for flea control, so fleas should not be pestering your kitty. Use a flea comb to monitor your cat for these annoying pests. Be sure you read labels and avoid products designed for dogs since they can contain permethrins, which are dangerous to cats. If you have a cat that gets fleas and/or hunts, you should be sure he is dewormed at least once a year since he is at a high risk of picking up internal parasites.
I hope that both you and your kitty have a great 2015!
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