Did you know that February is National Cat Health Month? This event is designed to remind us that our cats need regular care just like we do.
If you're like me, sometimes you take your cat's health for granted. I confess that I'm guilty of getting my dogs to the vet regularly, but when it comes to my cat, I'm not as vigilant.
According to a 2016 study, 49% of cat owners took their cats to the vet for a routine visit versus 68% of dog owners. This is actually an improvement over previous years where half the number of cats were taken in for routine visits versus dogs.
If you don't relish the thought of taking your cat to the vet, you're not alone. There are Internet memes galore that describe a cat's perceived aversion to going to the veterinarian's office.
While these Internet images are funny, they do describe a true problem that cat owners worry about. Many cats hate going in their carriers. It's a rare cat that loves a car ride. The thought of shoving an unwilling and armed cat into a carrier is overwhelming.
Yet a carrier is safest for transporting a cat. And once you're at the vet's office, it's always nice to know your cat is safely contained, especially if you're at a practice that treats a variety of species, including intimidating-looking large dogs.
Some tips for getting your cat in their carrier with minimal fuss include allowing your cat to get used to their carrier ahead of time. Put some of their favorite bedding into their carrier and leave it open for your cat to explore at their leisure. Cats love boxes, and caves, so it's not a stretch for your cat to start thinking of their carrier as a little hideaway spot that's just for them.
Plus, letting your cat go into the carrier on their own and relaxing in it will make it a much better experience rather than just pulling it out only when it means going to the veterinary office.
If your cat likes catnip, try sprinkling some inside their open carrier to enhance the experience. We recommend some good old Meowijuana for discerning cats. And yes, that's a real brand of some of the best cat weed you can buy.
Cats are actually really good about hiding their illnesses. The reason for this is that in nature, the sick animals are often the ones that get eaten. Cats are genetically programmed to hide any weaknesses they may have, so if you even have an inkling that something might be different about your cat, it's a good idea to take them to the vet ASAP.
A better plan is to visit your vet as recommended for routine care. This is usually every six months to a year, depending on your cat's needs. That way, if your cat has subtle changes in blood work or in weight, your vet will catch developing problems early, which can save lots of money in the long run.
In addition to National Cat Health Month, February is also National Prevent a Litter Month. If your cat hasn't been spayed or neutered yet, February is a great month to take advantage of reduced rates for sterilization procedures that many clinics offer. Not only will spaying and neutering help with pet overpopulation, altered cats are less prone to wander, less prone to spraying, and are less likely to get into fights with other cats.
Certain cancers can also be prevented with spaying and neutering, so talk to your veterinarian about getting your pet altered today.
If your cat is undergoing a spay or neuter procedure, your vet will also be able to check their teeth. That's handy because February is also Pet Dental Health Month. Many veterinary clinics offer specials for pet teeth cleaning services to honor the occasion.
This observance is important for cats because most cats (over 70%) have signs of periodontal disease by three years of age. Not only can periodontal disease cause your kitty's kisses to be less fresh, it can cause tooth loss and difficulty eating. Periodontal infections have been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and other life-threatening disorders.
Ask your vet what you can do to help keep your cat's teeth clean.
Keeping your cat healthy is important every month, not just February! And of course, the purrfect care starts at home and not just with your veterinarian. What can you do to help keep your cat healthy?
This is a bit of a sticky topic because there are lots of health benefits to cats that have outdoor access including better fitness and natural mental enrichment that is very difficult to replicate indoors. Try as you might, some cats that have lived outdoors will never fully adjust to indoor living.
In multiple cat homes, there can be behavioral challenges for cats that don't have enough room. I've experienced this personally. It was only when I started letting my cats outside that they started getting along, stopped making urine barriers (i.e., peeing on the beds and sofas), and stopped shredding the furniture. Previous to this, I had provided lots of exercise time, enrichment, vertical spaces, and used expensive pheromone products to curb unwanted behaviors.
But little Ms. Boo was a high-level huntress and used to hunt my other cat. Letting her go outside finally gave her the outlet she needed. She loved it, and my shy cat appreciated the reprieve.
But now my favorite cat is also gone. She disappeared without a trace on August 5th, 2017. A couple of her faded "Lost" posters still hang around the neighborhood six months later. I'm sad every time I see them.
Ms. Boo likely got picked off by an owl. Hopefully, she just got taken in by a well-meaning neighbor. If I had to do it again, I'd choose to keep her inside, even with all of the chaos.
Outdoor cats are vulnerable to predators like coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks, and owls. These animals have learned to thrive in the suburbs and even in some cities. Outdoor cats can also be hit by cars, poisoned by rogue bird conservationists, or simply stolen.
Provide your cat with a nutritious, well-balanced diet and be sure not to overfeed. Keep your cat active by providing them with interactive cat toys and indoor cat trees that they can scratch and climb. Having a balanced diet in the correct quantities and plenty of exercise will keep your cat happy, healthy, and at their ideal weight.
According to a 2016 survey, 58.9% of cats are overweight! This is a big problem because obese pets are at increased risk for developing weight-related disorders such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and more. You can learn more about keeping your pet at a healthy weight on this really well-written article from Cats Gone Healthy.
We know you love your cat year-round, but it's always nice to have a reminder to care for our cats with National Cat Health Month!
How will you show your cat love, especially during the month of February?
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