5 Common Mistakes Made By Cat Parents and How to Avoid Them

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM
By Brittany Kleszynski, DVM on Nov. 7, 2023
woman snuggling with cat

Whether you are a first-time cat parent or have years of experience, you want what’s best for your furry feline. To help keep your cat healthy and happy, avoid these five common mistakes.

1. Skipping Annual Vet Exams

Annual wellness exams are critical to promote your cat’s optimal health and well-being. During these exams, your veterinarian:

  • Does a full head-to-toe assessment of your cat

  • Discusses any concerns or questions you may have

  • Runs bloodwork to check for signs of infection, inflammation, and underlying disease

  • Ensures your cat is up to date on vaccines, intestinal parasite screening and deworming, and external parasite protection

Depending on your cat’s age, they may be more likely to experience certain health conditions. For example, kittens commonly suffer from upper respiratory tract infections, intestinal parasites, and ear mites. Adult cats can develop urinary tract issues, dental disease, and obesity.

As cats age, more frequent veterinary care becomes important. Senior cats over the age of 10 benefit from twice-yearly exams because their health can change rapidly. Older cats are at increased risk of developing hyperthyroidism, arthritis, kidney disease, and cancer. If left untreated, these diseases can progress in severity.

Cats are excellent at hiding pain and sickness, so you may not notice that something is wrong until the illness has progressed, making treatment more difficult and expensive.

Through routine veterinary care, veterinarians can identify health concerns early, so appropriate care and treatment can begin. Delaying diagnosis and treatment leads to reduced quality of life and, in some cases, a shortened life span. To prevent this, always bring your cat in for their regular checkups.

2. Forgetting Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Preventive Medications

Parasite prevention is recommended for all cats—even indoor cats—to protect against fleasticks, and heartworm disease. Fleas can lead to severe skin inflammation, anemia, and blood-borne infections. Ticks can transmit various diseases including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and cytauxzoonosis.

Heartworm disease is transmitted by mosquitoes. There is no cure for heartworm disease in cats, so the disease is often fatal. For this reason, heartworm prevention is critical for cats. 

As an added bonus, some heartworm preventives also treat and prevent ear mites, which can lead to extreme discomfort and irritation within the ear canals. Advantage Multi® and Bravecto Plus® are two great products with this added benefit.

Parasite prevention should be continued year-round. Even if your cat never goes outside, they are still at risk of coming into contact with fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes that could find their way into your home and wreak havoc. To prevent lapses in your cat’s coverage, ensure that no doses are missed or given late.

There are various topical products available for parasite control in cats. Consult with your veterinarian to find the best product to meet your cat’s needs.

3. Overfeeding During Mealtimes

Overfeeding is a common but avoidable mistake many cat parents make. It happens when a cat’s bowl is freely refilled multiple times throughout the day or too many treats are offered.

Overfeeding your cat can lead to obesity and increase your cat’s risk of developing various health conditions that can shorten their lifespan. Some of these include heart disease and liver disease, arthritis, pancreatitis, and diabetes.

To avoid overfeeding your cat, only a specific amount of food, which can be split between two measured meals, should be given per day. The amount of food depends on your cat’s weight, life stage, and health status.

Feeding guidelines on the back of the cat food bag are helpful for pet parents, and your veterinarian can also provide feeding recommendations based on your cat’s needs.

4. Ditching the Toothbrush and Dental Care

Regular dental care is important to maintain good oral hygiene and prevent oral diseases in cats. Without proper dental care, cats have an increased risk of gingivitis, a disease that causes inflammation and bleeding of the gums.

Plaque also builds up on the teeth, which can lead to tooth decay and the need for surgical removal of the affected teeth. Cats with dental disease are often in significant pain and will often refuse to eat or drink.

Gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which happens when the ligaments that hold the teeth to the gums weaken. This results in deep pockets between the teeth that can become infected. Teeth loosen and eventually fall out if periodontal disease is left untreated.

To keep your cat’s teeth healthy, regular dental care—at home and with your veterinarian—is key:

  • Use a cat-specific toothbrush and toothpaste at least a couple of times each week to reduce plaque buildup.

  • Feed hard kibble and provide dental treats, such as Greenies®, to scrape the teeth clean.

  • Schedule regular professional dental cleanings with your veterinarian. Annual cleanings are common, but your veterinarian will recommend the frequency best for your cat.

During dental cleanings, your veterinarian will use special tools to remove plaque buildup, clean around and underneath the gumline, and clean and polish your cat’s teeth. Dental cleanings are done under general anesthesia, and any problematic teeth can be removed during the surgery.

5. Not Paying Attention to Hairballs

Hairballs are a common problem in cats, resulting from grooming and swallowing fur. Long-haired cats tend to experience more hairballs than short-haired cats. Although bringing up a hairball once a week is typical for many cats, if hairballs become a daily occurrence, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

Sometimes hairballs can be a sign of underlying behavioral problems, such as anxiety or compulsive behavior. These cats may continually lick their fur, which can result in more frequent hairballs and bald patches. Underlying medical conditions, such as gastrointestinal disease, may also contribute to hairball formation.

Take the proper steps to avoid these common mistakes and keep your cat safe, healthy, and happy. If you ever have questions or concerns regarding your cat’s care, consult your veterinarian for guidance.

Featured Image: Linda Raymond/iStock via Getty Images Plus

Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Brittany Kleszynski, DVM


Dr. Brittany Kleszynski is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer who specializes in creating meaningful content that engages readers...

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