Cats are so independent. Cats need nothing from their owners except feeding. Cats prefer to be left alone… bet you’ve heard a few of these before! Many well-intentioned people genuinely believe these statements about our feline friends. The truth of the matter is, though, that cats are social creatures with a variety of needs. As their owner, companion and pack-mate, you play a big part in meeting those needs. From social to environmental, from physical to psychological, cats rely on their humans to take care of them and their health. In this article, I’ll take you through some of the ways you can make sure your kitty is happy and healthy and living its best life!
This is a pretty obvious one, but an annual trip to the vet (or two, if your cat is on the elderly side) is key in keeping your cat in top form. Even if they seem to be thriving, go anyway. Peace of mind is better than worry, and the vet knows the right questions to ask that might guide you to notice something out of the ordinary. You can find a vet clinic that is especially cat-friendly (think separate waiting rooms from dogs) to make the event less of an ordeal, or just spoil them afterwards. In the same vein of preventative care, keep up to date with flea, tick and worming treatments. It’s super easy for cats to pick up these gremlins and the treatments do them no harm, if not actively protect them. Why not ask your vet for their recommendations, since you’re there anyway?
Boredom is one of the great causes of bad behavior in a cat. Inappropriate urination, destruction and aggression can be signs of a bored cat. Giving them things to do to keep their minds occupied will go a long way to keeping them stimulated and happy. The best thing you can do is play with them. Trail ribbons to allow them to pounce or wave something fluttery on a stick to let them leap. They’re naturally curious animals, so giving them a challenge will keep them occupied for hours. Like zoos do with their big cats, you can get puzzles or games that release a treat when ‘solved’. This satisfies their need to hunt, as they’ve essentially just tracked down their prey. Another way to keep your cat mentally stimulated is to have a birdbath or tree visible through an easily accessible window. This is the equivalent of Cat-TV! Ideally, if you could have more than one cat, they will keep each other company and entertained.
This one goes hand in hand with the entertainment. Cats are tiny athletes. Yes, they sleep a lot, but when they’re awake they love to be active. Give them the run of the whole house, if possible, letting them explore every nook and cranny. Climbing and jumping are two other ways cats get a work-out, so cat towers are good to let them get on a higher level. Shelves and ledges are a dream destination, so the more places they can perch, the better. Like little Jaguars, they enjoy surveying things from above. Scratching posts help them stretch while keeping their claws tidy and clean. Rubbing it with little of catnip encourages them to use it, saving your furniture while giving the cats the pleasurable mild high that comes with.
Cats that eat well are healthier through the simple fact of nutrition. A well-balanced diet for a kitty might consist of some high-quality dry food, combined with small amounts of fresh meat. The meat doesn’t necessarily need to be the same as what you’d eat yourself, but a local butcher’s will likely have some offcuts that you can pick up for cheap. Since dry food doesn’t have the same kind of water content as wet food (or a juicy rodent), you’ll need to make sure they have plenty of fresh water available to keep those hydration levels up. When it comes to food, just make sure they’re not having too much of a good thing. An overweight or underweight cat can have a range of health issues, so monitoring how much they eat is important. If you notice great changes either up or down, it might be time to pay a visit to your friendly local vet.
Cats, more than any other animals, seem to love a good fresh look. They spend hours getting their hairdo just so, and don’t get me started on the nails! But seriously, grooming is really important for both happiness and health and they do need your help. Long-haired cats in particular can ingest large amounts of fur, and whatever is caught amongst it. The furballs they produce, though normal, are no more pleasant for a cat to produce than they are for you to hear. Or clean up! Brushing your cat daily helps remove excess fur and dirt, and doubles as a bonding exercise. An adult cat not used to this treatment can resist at first, but try combining brushing time with feeding time, or offer treats for submission. Together you can keep that coat glossy and gorgeous, and that cat happy and healthy.
Cats love to be around their chosen people, and often opt to sleep on our beds, or faces, if we’d let them. They still need a ‘room of one’s own’, so to speak; somewhere they can retreat to for some peace and quiet when desired. This doesn’t need to be big, or a whole room, but it should be quiet and out of the thoroughfare of the house. Make them up a cozy nest with soft blankets or a cat bed. Their litter box can be in this area, but some distance away from food and water dishes. No one likes eating in the bathroom! On the subject of litter boxes, the usual rules apply: keep them clean, have one more than the number of cats you have, and use a litter you know kitty likes. All of these small measures keep your cat happy, allowing for good rest and good bathroom habits, which all contribute to a healthier cat.
All pets deserve their owners’ full love and attention, and cats shouldn’t be relegated to the low-maintenance category. Even just being aware of the myriad needs your cat has will make you a more conscious, careful cat parent. You’ll enjoy the shared time yourself, and kitty will thrive under all the attention. A closer relationship also means you’re better placed when your cat is feeling poorly, as you’re much more likely to notice a change if you spend time together regularly. So get playing and you’ll get them purring, unless they’re too busy watching their TV, that is!