I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions (I’m pretty sure most don’t survive the month of January). But, the end of one year and the beginning of the next does offer a perfect opportunity to assess what’s going on in our lives. Take a look at this Top 10 list of New Year’s resolutions for cat owners. I know I should consider at least a few of them; how about you?
1. Clean the litter box(es) every day. You know how you’ll search out the cleanest stall in a public bathroom? Sometimes I see my cats doing the equivalent with the litter boxes in our house. Cats are fastidious creatures, and it has to gross them out to be forced to use a dirty box. Keeping boxes clean is even more essential if you have an "inappropriate eliminator" in the house.
2. Continuing the litter box theme: Dump the old litter, wash out the box, and refill with clean litter at least one a month. No matter how good a scooper you are, litter boxes need to be thoroughly sanitized from time to time.
3. Now that we’ve got the "outs" covered, how about the "ins"? Keep fresh, clean water available at all times. Scrub out the bowls at least weekly to get rid of that slime that accumulates on the bottom. Consider a kitty fountain if your cat prefers to drink from running water. Feed the best food that your budget allows. High protein, low carbohydrate diets are ideal in most circumstances.
4. If it has been over a year since a cat’s last checkup (over six months for cats older than seven), make an appointment for a wellness exam with your veterinarian. Place a priority on feline health care. Consider veterinary pet insurance or setting aside some money in a savings account for your pet’s health care.
5. Encourage cats to exercise, particularly if they are overweight. Find toys that promote activity like a kitty fishing pole, a laser pointer that you can shine across walls and the floor, or even just a crumpled up piece of paper that cats can chase.
6. Spend time with your cats, whether that involves play, petting, grooming, or providing a warm lap for a snooze. For those times when you have to be gone, try to provide some type of entertainment. Placing a bird feeder in front of a window is a good option and so is having a few toys that you pull out only when you are leaving. A warm, sunny place to nap also helps pass the time.
7. For indoor cats, look into leash training, a cat enclosure for the backyard, or a kitty stroller so they can enjoy some safe time in the great outdoors.
8. For outdoor cats, find a collar and tag combination that they will wear. A 2010 AVMA study showed that approximately three quarters of cats will wear collars, but that a microchip is an important backup for those pets that lose theirs.
9. If you are looking to bring a cat into your home, adopt! Millions of animals are euthanized in shelters every year, and most would make wonderful pets.
10. If you are not in a position to adopt a cat, consider donating to a cat rescue organization. Small, local groups often have the greatest need, but national and international organizations could use your help as well. If you don’t have a favorite feline charity, use charitynavigator.org to find one that you can trust. Just type "cat" into their search box. If your finances don’t permit a cash donation, what about volunteering? This is a great way to help cats and meet other cat enthusiasts.
Dr. Jennifer Coates