Sharing your life with a cat is a rewarding and enriching experience. Cats have so much to offer including love and companionship. But we must face the fact that along with this comes the responsibility of caring for their physical and emotional wellbeing. Cats will get sick from time to time, but there are ways to reduce the chances of this happening.
Schedule regular medical check-ups
Regular veterinary checkups are a must. Even if your cat appears to be fit and well, it is still important to have your cat thoroughly checked over by a veterinarian once a year. Often problems can be picked up early and effective action can be taken, this is far better than waiting until a disease has progressed and more damage has been caused.
Not only will your veterinarian give your cat a thorough check-up but he will also be able to advise you on cat care. As a cat ages, his requirements will change. So it is always helpful to speak to a veterinarian about the different needs of your cat throughout his life.
Cats over the age of seven should have bi-annual health checks.
Feed a high-quality, species-specific diet
Cats are obligate carnivores and have very specific dietary requirements. Therefore their nutritional needs must be met with an adequate diet specially designed for cats. Never feed your cat a diet for dogs and if you do choose to feed a raw/homemade diet for your cat, speak with your veterinarian to make sure it has all the necessary vitamins and minerals your cat requires.
There are many different options in regards to what cat owners can feed, which includes commercial diet from the supermarket, premium diet from pet stores/veterinarians, home-prepared raw and commercially prepared raw. Whichever diet suits you and your cat is a personal choice. It is always best to speak with your veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet. This is especially important in cats who have an ongoing medical condition.
Bear in mind that cats have different requirements according to age and health status too. A kitten has different dietary needs than a senior cat for example.
Watch your cat’s weight
Keep your cat indoors
In the ideal world, cats could safely roam around outdoors, relax in the sun, watch the wildlife and get some exercise, unfortunately, many risks come with the great outdoors. Cars, dogs, animal abusers, snakes, ticks, infectious diseases are just some dangers that face outdoor cats.
There is a compromise that many cat owners are embracing and that is to provide your cat with an outdoor cat enclosure. This permits your cat to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and controlled environment.
Cat-proof your home
Even keeping your cat indoors comes with some dangers, but these can be addressed by the diligent pet owner. There are many plants that are toxic to cats, even if just a minute amount is ingested, so it is always good to familiarise yourself with plants that are dangerous to cats. Also be careful with cut flowers, many of which are toxic.
Other common dangers include household cleaners, hot stoves, toilets, washing machines and tumble dryers, string/ribbon etc., electrical cords, medicines and more.
Vaccinate your cat
Ensuring your cat is vaccinated will help reduce his chances of picking up several infectious diseases. Your veterinarian can advise you on a vaccination schedule for your cat’s individual risks.
Parasite control for your cat
Parasites can have a serious impact on your cat’s health so it is important to ensure your cat remains parasite free. Common cat parasites include worms (several species, fleas, ticks and mites).
There are many great products to combat parasites these days, which include topical treatments which are applied to the back of the cat’s neck. Speak to your cat’s veterinarian who can advise on the most suitable products for your cat.
Keep your cat stress-free
Long-term stress has a detrimental impact on the immune system as well as a serious impact on their mental health. There are many causes of stress in cats some of which include; overcrowding, boredom, loneliness, changes within the household such as moving house, the addition of a new pet or family member and the death of a companion (human or animal).
The prudent cat owner should be aware of their cat’s usual behaviour and outward physical appearance. This includes the following:
- Being aware of your cat’s eating and drinking habits (eating or drinking more/less)
- Sleeping more or less
- Change in coat condition
- Condition of the eyes
- Changes in behaviour
- General wellbeing
Even subtle changes such as not waiting at the door for you (if he usually does) can be a sign that he’s not well. You know your cat better than anybody else, and what is normal with him.