By Kathy Blumenstock
With a cat or two around the house, even the most dedicated cat parent may slack off and take Kitty’s presence for granted. Even the simplest oversight may have big consequences on your cat’s well being and quality of life. Here are 8 things you should NEVER do to your fave feline.
Editors’ Note: The slideshow “8 Things You Should Never Do to Your Cat” was not created as a definitive and complete guide to cat care, but rather as a reminder of the small daily interactions many established cat owners have with their beloved companions.
Our goal was for cat owners to enhance those often-overlooked, common instances with increased presence and concern via suggestions from our experts. While the petMD team does not recommend declawing, that practice was not included in this list as it is considered to be an extreme measure and not something that fit into our original concept for this piece. That said, many of our readers on social media have requested a thorough treatment on the topic and we plan to deliver one in the coming weeks. Thank you as always for your heartfelt and passionate comments. We have the utmost respect for you and ask that you extend that respect on to one another as well.
- The petMD Team
Your cat stays indoors and rarely comes in contact with other animals. Why bother with a flea and heartworm preventive for an indoor cat? Believe it or not, fleas and the mosquitos that carry heartworms can easily enter your home and cause big problems for cats. You may walk fleas into your home after visiting a friend with a dog or cat, and mosquitos can zip through a door or window that is left open for just a few seconds. With plenty of prescription flea and tick prevention and heartworm prevention products available, keeping your cat free of fleas and heartworms has never been easier.
(Not-so-fun-fact: There is no good way to get rid of heartworms in cats, and infections can be fatal.)
Think your cat longs to explore all of springtime’s splendors on her own? Hey, she knows where she lives and she’d never wander off, right? Wrong. Your indoor kitty’s reaction to the great outdoors might be curiosity, confusion, or fright. She may dart away into traffic or cower under a bush when a strange dog approaches. Keep Kitty safely harnessed, leashed, and reassured by your presence when outdoors, for her peace of mind and yours.
Loosely screened windows can pose a hazard to curious cats. Excitement over a robin’s fly-by may cause your mellow tabby to accidentally dislodge that screen and plummet to the ground. If you’re at work when the incident happens, hours could pass before you realize your cat is hurt or missing. Ensure that your window screens are sturdy and limit window openings to an inch or two when you’re not around to keep Kitty safely indoors.
Your cat seems healthy. She eats well, looks good, and hasn’t changed her activity level. But cats, like the rest of us, can experience subtle health shifts, from poor vision to kidney dysfunction. Felines are masters at concealing their ills and compensating for problems. An annual vet exam can pinpoint the start of any health concerns and treat minor issues before they become major issues.
“At the very least, you’ll have a baseline for comparison if any problems crop up,” said Dr. Brad LeVora of Little Seneca Animal Hospital in Germantown, MD. “With the cat’s health history documented, there should be fewer surprises.”
Most cats dislike traveling and resent being cooped up in their cat carriers, but a free-range cat in a moving vehicle can become a terrified, furry missile. An unconfined cat is distracting to the driver, and vulnerable to injury or escape. With your cat on the loose, ping-ponging around the car, your final destination is disaster. Buckle your cat’s carrier in place for a safe road trip.
An inquisitive tabby poking her nose into that roasted chicken cooling on the countertop may be annoying, but she does not deserve to be treated like a feline Frisbee. Pushing or throwing your cat in frustration can harm her, both physically and in spirit. Always handle your cat with gentle care, and your cat is more likely to respond to your wishes.
Cats are not fond of anyone touching their precious pearly whites, and your cat’s reluctance to open wide may have convinced you that cat dental treats are enough to protect Kitty’s smile. But plaque buildup eventually turns to tartar, which can lead to pain and even tooth loss down the road. Brushing your cat’s teeth daily, or at least a few times each week, is the best way keep Kitty’s gums and teeth healthy and reduce the frequency of expensive, professional dental cleanings.
Felines are self-grooming and their constantly busy tongues capture loose fur, which is then swallowed. When your cat hacks up a hairball, you probably just sigh in annoyance—that’s how cats are, right?—and clean up the mess. But lending a hand in grooming can greatly reduce the amount of hair your cat ingests, which means there’s less to be processed or spewed up. Cats don’t enjoy hurling those hairballs any more than we enjoy removing them from the living room carpet. Frequent hairballs can also be a sign of gastrointestinal disease. Talk to your veterinarian if you have to clean up more than one or two a month.