Responsible cat owners want to provide the right care to make sure their feline friend lives a long and healthy life. Like all other animals, cats have basic needs that owners need to be aware of to avoid poor health.
Domestic cats have three basic requirements for good health. Firstly, they need a clean, safe environment that protects them from injury due to wild animals, stray pets, and road hazards. Indoor cats are also less susceptible to diseases spread by wandering cats. Feline immunodeficiency virus is one such disease that is more likely to affect outdoor pet cats.
The idea of environmental enrichment is becoming more and more important. This involves providing an environment where a cat can express their natural behaviors, such as stalking and hunting. It’s associated with a lower incidence of behavioral problems and a much happier cat. The Indoor Pet Initiative developed by Ohio State University has great ideas on how you can give your cat a stimulating and enjoyable environment.
Secondly, they require an appropriate diet that gives them the right amount of protein, minerals, nutrients, and calories. The easiest way to do this is to feed a diet that’s been assessed by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) as being nutritionally balanced.
There is, of course, the danger of too much nutrition as well. Cats that are overfed can become obese, and have an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes and osteoarthritis.
Fresh water should always be available. How much a cat drinks depends on their diet; canned food contains a lot of water so cats that eat a predominantly canned diet are likely to drink less water.
One other aspect of nutrition cat owners need to be aware of is the use of prescription diets. These are specific foods that are designed to help treat medical conditions such as kidney disease. If your cat has been prescribed such a food, it’s important that they’re fed it as directed.
Finally, cats need a health care plan that includes regular vaccinations, parasite control and neutering. Fleas, ticks, and worms are most common parasites in cats and all can make them unwell. Vaccinations protect against respiratory tract infections, rabies and feline leukemia virus. Your vet will help to develop an appropriate schedule for your cat’s vaccinations and parasite treatments.
Other considerations to keep your cat healthy and happy include regular grooming (especially for longhaired cats to avoid uncomfortable and sometimes painful knots and matts), nail trims as necessary and making sure you have a safe place for them when you go on vacation.
These suggestions don’t take long and aren’t usually costly, and they’ll make sure your feline best friend stays physically and mentally well for their entire lifetime.
Article courtesy Dr Rosie Brown BVSc (Hons)
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