Of course, TLC isn’t all that your cat needs. There are the basics: food, water, a litter box. But even these things need some special attention.
- Your cat needs a high quality diet that is balanced and complete. The diet should be appropriate for your cat’s lifestage and it should be not be overfed. Obesity is a growing problem in our cat population, with over 50 percent of our pet cats reported as being overweight or obese. Feed your cat to keep him lean and fit.
- Fresh water needs to be available at all times and water consumption should be encouraged through the use of water fountains, dripping faucets, and other devices/techniques to interest your cat in his water supply. Feeding a diet of canned food can also increase your cat's moisture intake, as canned food has a high moisture content. Consider providing at least part of your cat’s nutrition through the feeding of canned food, particularly if your cat doesn’t show much interest in drinking water from the water bowl.
- Litter boxes also need special attention. Keep your cat’s litter box clean. If you have multiple cats, provide an ample number of boxes — one box per cat plus one extra. Make sure the litter box is easily accessible and in a quiet location where your cat will not be disturbed or harassed while using the box. Choose the cat litter carefully. Many cats have a litter preference and many do not appreciate strongly scented litters.
Besides food, water, and cat litter, your cat has several other essential needs.
- Scratching is a normal cat behavior. Your cat scratches to mark his territory and to stretch his muscles. Be sure to give your cat permissible scratching areas. Otherwise, your cat is likely to choose your favorite couch or armchair instead. Some cats prefer vertical surfaces for scratching. Others prefer flat or horizontal surfaces. Some cats have a texture preference as well. Experiment with different options and find out what your cat likes best.
- Cats also need a place of refuge. They need a place to retreat when they feel like being alone or when they feel threatened. A cat carrier (with the door open) works well. Cardboard boxes, paper bags, and enclosed cat beds are other options.
- Perching is a favorite feline behavior. Cats like to survey their surroundings from above. Give your cat plenty of perches where he can hang out and rest. Placing a perch near a window can give your cat the opportunity to watch the activity outdoors, something many cats enjoy. You can also place a cat bed or a towel or blanket on the perch to make it more comfortable for your cat.
- Provide plenty of toys for your cat to keep him occupied and entertained. Interactive play with your cat will encourage exercise to help keep your cat fit and your cat will enjoy the play time as well as the time spent interacting with you. Keep your cat active and you’ll have fewer problems with your cat’s weight.
- Housing your cat indoors is the healthiest option. However, there is no reason your cat can’t enjoy supervised time outdoors. Cats can learn to walk on a leash with a harness or collar. Another option is a catio, which allows your cat to spend time outdoors in an escape-proof enclosure.
A happy cat is also a healthy cat. So pay attention to your cat’s health care needs.
- All cats need regular veterinary visits. Your cat needs to be examined by your veterinarian at least once yearly. In some instances, more frequent visits may be necessary. Besides a physical examination, your veterinarian will likely recommend a blood screen and perhaps a urinalysis for your cat.
- Keep your cat up-to-date on vaccinations. Consult your veterinarian to establish a vaccination schedule specific to your cat’s needs.
- Institute an appropriate parasite control program to keep your cat free of fleas, ticks, heartworms, intestinal worms, and other parasites. Your veterinarian can help you choose safe, effective parasite control products appropriate for your individual cat.
- Don’t neglect your cat’s oral health. It’s estimated that the majority (80%) of cats over two years of age have some degree of dental disease. Brush your cat’s teeth, if possible. If not, consider using dental chews, an oral rinse, or a dental diet to help keep your cat’s teeth healthy. Your cat will need regular veterinary dental care as well.
What have I forgotten? What else do you do to keep your cat happy?
Dr. Lorie Huston