Preventative wellness tips for your cat

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Preventative wellness tips for your cat - grey cat being pet

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As cat owners, it is our duty to keep our feline friends safe. Even though we can’t protect our cats from all possible illnesses or dangers, preventive care can help your cat avoid sickness, injuries, or in some cases, even death. Preventive care will improve their quality of life as well. Read on to learn several wellness tips, including:

  • Why preventive care is important
  • How to provide wellness care for your cat
  • How to create a safe environment for your cat

There are many ways you can improve your cat’s physical and mental state. Annual veterinary exams, staying up to date on vaccines, preventing parasites, and feeding a nutritious diet all go a long way in helping your cat live a long and healthy life. As the saying goes, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’. By taking a proactive approach to your cat’s health, you can be certain you’re doing everything possible to keep your cat in good health and you will be more likely to catch severe illness in its early stages.

Why is preventative wellness important for your cat?

Providing preventive care to cats is essential. Cats age more rapidly than we do and cats are very good at hiding pain and illness. If your cat only goes to the veterinarian once a year for a check-up, this is similar to a human waiting several years between doctor visits. Managing diseases and catching any illnesses early makes them easier to treat in many cases. So regular vet exams are essential to keeping your furry friend healthy. With proper preventive care, your cat can live a healthy life for many years.

What can I do to provide preventative care for my cat?

Preventive wellness for cats comes in many forms. Regular wellness exams, maintaining a vaccination schedule, dental care, and parasite prevention are all important aspects of managing cat health. Daily strategies include:

In addition, spaying or neutering can prevent many types of cancer and other illnesses, not to mention unwanted litters of kittens. Finally, microchipping greatly increases the possibility your cat will make their way home safely in the unfortunate situation they get lost.

Schedule regular wellness exams

The best way to keep your feline friend healthy and loving life is to keep up with veterinary check-ups. If you have a healthy adult cat, an annual wellness exam should suffice. It is important to keep up with annual exams even if your cat seems to be thriving. Annual exams include a head-to-tail examination to catch early signs of disease and other health indicators like parasites, obesity, joint pain, or tooth decay. Your attending veterinarian will discuss your cat’s diet and nutritional requirements, recommend the best parasite prevention for your individual needs, and detect any signs of developing health problems. This way, you and your vet can determine a course of action for any necessary treatment.

Young kittens and senior cats require wellness exams more often. A feline under a year old needs a check-up every 3-4 weeks beginning at eight weeks old to begin their vaccinations. This continues until the kitten is 4-6 months old and will help their overall health throughout their life.

After age 11, cats are considered seniors, and they need a bi-annual wellness exam, plus some additional diagnostic testing. Older cats receive blood tests and urinalysis to identify kidney disease or diabetes. These senior animals need more of a proactive preventative wellness approach to identify common age-related issues, such as joint pain, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease. Ask your veterinarian how often you should bring your pet in for a routine wellness examination.

Maintain vaccination schedule

Periodically visiting the vet is also necessary to keep your cat’s vaccinations and boosters current. Kittens require a few vaccinations to help protect them as they age. The core vaccines necessary for all cats are rabies and the FVRCP vaccine. The Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) vaccine is highly recommended for all kittens, with boosters advised for high-risk adult cats.

Rabies is a fatal disease that can also infect humans, and vaccinating pets is so important for public health that it’s a legal requirement in most areas. Feline leukemia virus is prevalent and a common cause of cancer in cats, so this vaccination is vitally important to your cat’s health. The FVRCP vaccine protects your cat from three highly contagious and potentially fatal feline diseases: Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis (FHV-1), Feline Calicivirus (FCV), and Feline Panleukopenia (FPL). These vaccines are usually given in a series of at least two shots (more for younger kittens) 3-4 weeks apart, with the frequency of boosters varying between every 1-3 years. Rabies is an exception, with no initial series and boosters required every 1-3 years.

Provide a nutritionally complete diet

To keep your cat healthy and happy, they should eat a specific balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. To ensure you are providing a quality diet, check the cat food label for a nutritional adequacy statement. You also want to make sure the cat food you provide is nutritionally complete for the right stage of your pet’s life. By following this advice, you can feel confident your cat is healthy and well fed with all of the nutrients they need.

Daily activities and playtime with your cat

An appropriate amount of activity and stimulation is necessary to keep your cat strong physically and mentally—and may help keep them from destroying your furniture. Cats like to scratch, so a scratching post is one way to help redirect this habit.

Weight management is a major issue for pet cats living in the U.S. Regular daily exercise helps your cat burn calories and prevent diseases associated with obesity, such as diabetes. Prioritizing play gives your cat an opportunity to engage in essential mental and physical activity. Playing together not only helps you bond, but also keeps your cat healthy and happy. Three to five minutes should suffice for a single session, but repeat this often as long as your cat seems interested. Bear in mind that cats are natural predators born to climb, jump, hunt, and chase. While exercising them, tap into their wild animal instincts and use cat toys for them to chase and hunt.

Take good care of your cat's oral health

Cats, like most other pets, need an excellent dental hygiene routine.

Preventive care helps keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy and it is easy to build proactive oral hygiene into your cat’s routine to prevent dental disease. Brushing your pet's teeth daily with either a cat toothbrush or simply a damp cloth wrapped around your finger will help you stay on top of their oral hygiene and prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

A healthy cat's teeth should be clean, white, and chip-free. The gums should not have sores or lesions and should look pink and healthy. There also should be no redness, swelling, or bleeding. Check your cat's mouth from front to back frequently for these symptoms. It is time for a vet check-up and potentially a dental cleaning if you see any evidence of dental disease.

Parasite prevention plan for your cat

Parasites are another problem that can affect a cat's well-being. The best way to prevent infection is regular use of veterinarian-recommended parasite control medications. In addition, talk to your vet about flea and tick prevention products.

Another aspect of your cat’s health to keep an eye on is their feces. When clearing your cat’s litter, take note of anything out of the ordinary, including loose stool, blood in the stool, and overall quantity.

Microscopic analysis of a fecal sample for parasites at least two to four times during the first year of life and twice a year thereafter allows for early identification of intestinal parasites. A general recommendation for parasite prevention is deworming kittens bi-weekly for two to eight weeks and then monthly for another six months. Work with a vet to pick a plan for your cat and stick to the prescribed dosage and timing to ensure your cat’s parasite control is effective.

When to spay/neuter your cat

Technically, it is considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. Generally, veterinarians recommend spaying or neutering your kitten at about 5-6 months of age. These types of surgeries are important when caring for your cat. Sterilization helps prevent diseases, such as mammary gland tumors and uterine cancer, undesirable behaviors, and unwanted litters of kittens.

Get your cat microchipped

As a responsible pet owner, you should microchip your domestic cat, just in case they do get lost. Shelters or veterinarians can use the microchip to track down an owner in this situation and have a higher chance of returning the animal home rather than if they were not microchipped. Microchips are not painful or dangerous and provide a reliable way to be reunited with your lost cat.

How can I ensure a safe environment for my cat?

Cats are hard to secure, especially outdoor cats, due to their climbing tendencies. Indoor cats require the opportunity to escape, whereas outside cats may explore where they please. Consider the wildlife in your area before letting your cat outside on its own. There are products, such as cat leashes, to take indoor cats on walks. Other actions you can take include putting away any potentially poisonous items and chemicals. It is crucial to create a safe environment for your cat. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Create multiple private and secure places for indoor cats. Most indoor cats like to retreat to personal space to sleep or be alone. Make sure there are places in your home they can do just that.
  • Give them all the living necessities. Ensure you always have the essentials available for your cat, including food, fresh water, and a clean litter box.
  • Remove dangers from curious kitties. Many products are unsafe for cats. Examples of products that need to be out of reach are rodent poisons, lawn chemicals, and poisonous plants, such as lilies. Keep the environment safe by being aware of open windows that can lead to balconies on high buildings or lots of traffic.
  • Respect your cat's natural behavior. Cats are not always social beings. To avoid a scratch or bite, stay attuned to your cat’s body language. If they start acting irritated, let your cat have its space.
  • Supervise interaction with other pets and people. Again, cats are only sometimes easygoing. Watch your pets if they are interacting with other people's animals or children who can not read the social signs of an unhappy cat.

“An unfamiliar or unsafe environment can significantly affect not only a cat’s emotions but their well-being in general,” says Dr. Jo Myers, a veterinarian at Vetster. “Even though your cat may be well-socialized and confident, they still require access to private space where they can retreat to any time they want to feel safe.” Helping cats feel safe at home will not only improve their life experience but keep them happy and healthy for longer.

Maximizing your cat's life

Follow these tips to keep your kitties happy and healthy. Cats have physical, intellectual, and emotional needs. By implementing preventive care, such as a nutritious diet, exercise, and environmental enrichment into your regular routine, you will be doing everything you can to help your cat stay happy for many years to come. If you have any questions about preventive wellness tips for your cat, book an online virtual care appointment with Vetster to understand the best way to keep your furry friends' health in check.

FAQ - Preventative wellness tips for your cat

Is it expensive to own a cat?

According to the ASPCA, the annual budget for your cat is estimated around $634. This includes medical expenses for annual checkups, vaccinations, and parasite prevention, as well as cat food, treats, and toys.

Is it harmful to let my cat outdoors?

Letting cats outside can be dangerous, so consider your surroundings before allowing your house pet to explore your backyard. The outdoors consists of other animals, pests like fleas and ticks, and oncoming traffic, so keeping your cat indoors can help you avoid these issues.

Even though there are predators that will hunt cats, such as coyotes, there is also prey that become victims of our beloved feline friends. According to the American Bird Conservancy, cats have contributed to the extinction of 63 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles in the wild. So evaluate your backyard before letting your cat outside unsupervised.

Should I give my cat milk?

Cow milk is, in fact, bad for cats. You might be surprised to learn cats are lactose intolerant, meaning they don't have an enzyme called lactase in their intestines needed to digest the sugar in milk (lactose). Regular cow’s milk can cause an upset stomach or severe diarrhea. There is no benefit to giving your cat a milk product, but some cats can tolerate lactose-free milk that is specially formulated for cats, or goat milk.