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As a cat owner, you already know that one of the primary benefits of having such a pet is that cats are notoriously self-reliant.
However, just because Whiskers doesn’t need you for much beyond the occasional snuggles and cleaning out the litter box, there are plenty of ways that you can help keep your cat healthy.
Today we want to share some of the most vital aspects of your pet’s health and wellness. Even if your cat is particularly independent, it’s still imperative that you take the time to give it the best life it deserves.
After all, your cat is part of the family.
Grooming and Hygiene
One of the things that your feline is exceptional at is cleaning itself. You’ve seen your cat lick every inch of its body, trying to get rid of a variety of issues, such as matting, dirt, and excess hair.
However, while your cat may be good at doing this on the regular, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t step in to assist every once in a while.
That being said, grooming your cat isn’t something you can usually do right away. Since cats are so used to doing things themselves, it can be more than a little stressful to allow you to step in and take over, even if it’s not that often.
However, as clean as your cat’s tongue probably is, a thorough grooming session is ideal for your pet so that it can feel refreshed and cleaner than usual.
Just make sure that you’re going about it the right way.
Make Grooming Enjoyable
As you have likely already discovered, your cat will let you know if it’s not enjoying something. When it comes to grooming, you have to take a cautious approach at first and build a foundation of both trust and mutual benefit.
If you’re not willing to be patient and respectful of your cat, then you’re probably going to have a bad time with grooming.
However, if you’re open to the process, then it will not only ensure that your pet is cleaner, but it will help you bond together.
Start with short sessions of a few minutes each.
Once your cat gets used to you grooming it, then you can go longer as necessary. Be aware of times when your feline is stressed out – in those situations, it’s probably not a good idea to start grooming. Instead, wait until your pet is more calm and relaxed, like after eating.
As much as Whiskers may try to manage all of the fur that sheds from its body, there’s probably more than enough to go around (as your furniture and clothing can attest). Thus, it’s imperative that you brush regularly. If your cat is a longhair, then you probably have to do it every day to manage the amount of shedding that occurs.
When trying to brush your cat, it helps to find something that makes the process more enjoyable.
For example, a glove brush can make it easier to connect with your pet, since it feels like you’re petting it.
Take extra care around the chest and belly, as these are sensitive areas.
If you were ever curious why cats start attacking you when rubbing their bellies, that’s why.
It’s a defense mechanism.
Once your feline gets used to daily or regular brushing, the experience will become much smoother and more comfortable. In some cases, your cat may start coming to you for its next session, seeing the benefit of having you do all of the hard work.
Another thing to look for when brushing is any tangles and knots that may need extra attention.
Chances are that your cat won’t let you mess with these areas at first, but you will have to find a way to get them out, even if you have to cut the fur to get the job done.
Finally, use this time as an opportunity to inspect your cat’s fur and skin for abnormalities. See if there are any bumps or sensitive spots on the surface, as these could be signs of an infection or infestation (i.e., fleas).
Tips for Bathing Your Cat
Although there are cats that can appreciate the cleansing power of water, most felines avoid it like the plague. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to bathe your kitty – just that you have to be careful when doing so.
Baths should happen regularly to ensure that your pet’s coat is always clean and shiny. If your cat gets particularly dirty from something (i.e., being outside), then you may have to do it more frequently.
When bathing your cat, here are some things to keep in mind.
Brush away any dead fur first.
Place a rubber mat on the bottom of the bath for stability.
Make sure that the water is lukewarm so that it doesn’t shock your pet.
If necessary, start slow by dripping water along its body. Give your cat time to get used to getting wet. After the first couple of baths, this will be a lot easier for both of you.
A spray hose is ideal for helping clean your cat’s body. Be sure to avoid spraying its face and ears.
If you don’t have a spray hose, pouring water from a pitcher or cup will suffice.
Use cat shampoo as this will avoid any adverse reactions.
Gently rub the shampoo into the fur, then slowly rinse it out. You should be working from head to tail.
Use a large towel to help dry your cat. Like dogs, cats will try to shake themselves dry. While your pet will do this no matter what, drying it first with a towel will limit the mess caused by shaking.
If your cat starts to freak out when placed in water, then stop the bath immediately. You don’t want to stress your pet. Next time, start slower and build up to the bath. It may take a few sessions before it lets you soak the fur, so you have to be patient (especially if you want to avoid getting clawed).
Can You Trim Your Cat’s Nails?
Since cats have retractable claws, they aren’t usually as much of an issue as a dog’s toenails. However, that also means that the nails can be much harder to manage since they aren’t always accessible.
However, trimming your cat’s nails is an integral part of the grooming process. Here are some tips to get it done right.
Massage Your Cat’s Feet First
As with everything we’ve discussed, you have to earn your cat’s trust before it lets you clip its nails. Thus, before breaking out the clippers, the first step is to make sure that your pet will be okay with touching its feet. Start by feeling the leg and then massaging each foot, including individual toes.
Over time, this process will endear your cat to the sensation of having its feet touched, which will make clipping that much easier.
Use Sharp Clippers
You’ll have to act fast to get the job done, although that doesn’t mean you should rush through it. Also, be aware that your cat may only let you do one or two feet at a time. Sharp clippers will help expedite the experience and make it easier for both of you.
Only Clip the Tips
As with dogs, cats have a nerve running through their claws. Thus, if you clip too much, it will be painful and could cause bleeding (as well as mistrust for next time). Only work on the white tips, and avoid any pink areas.
Watch Out for Hair Growing in the Toes
If your cat licks its paws excessively, then chances are that hair is growing between its toes. When clipping the nails, look for these hairs and trim them as well to reduce the irritation they cause.
Is Declawing Safe?
For many cat owners, they don’t want to deal with the process of clipping and trimming their cat’s nails. As such, they may decide that declawing is the way to go.
Unfortunately, although this process may get the job done, it’s harmful to your feline. Because claws will grow back eventually, declawing involves surgery to remove the tips of the toes (think of it like cutting your fingertips off).
If you do declaw your cat, it can affect your pet in a variety of ways – none of them good. Just because it’s more convenient for you doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Instead, manage your cat’s nails by trimming regularly, and you should be okay.
An alternative is to take your cat to a professional groomer if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Dental Care for Your Cat
As with humans, you’ll have to brush your cat’s teeth and watch out for any signs of dental decay and gum disease. Cats can suffer from a range of disorders and conditions, so paying attention to your pet’s mouth should be an integral part of the grooming process.
You’re going to need to pull up your cat’s lips to inspect the gums. As with everything else, make sure that your cat is okay with this by starting slow and building trust. Also, you can do a sniff test to see if your feline’s mouth has any strong odors.
Look for any signs of infection, including bumps, red marks, and pus. Also, if your cat is having trouble eating or starts drooling at all, it could be a sign of infection. In any of these cases, you’ll want to take your cat to the vet to get it checked out.
Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
Before you break out the brush and the toothpaste, a good way to get your pet used to the experience is to start with a cotton swab. Gently move it around the mouth and over the teeth. Once your feline is used to that, then add some cat-formulated toothpaste.
A little dab is perfect so that it can get used to the smell and the taste. Never use human toothpaste as it can have adverse effects.
When it comes to brushing, make sure to buy a cat toothbrush. The bristles will be soft, and the brush head will be much smaller than what you use. Gently rub the brush along the teeth to remove any plaque. We suggest you start with the brush first and then add paste after your cat is used to the experience.
You can also get recommendations from your vet, particularly when it comes to finding a brush and toothpaste. In some cases, all it may take is salt water to clean the teeth, so ask what is right for your feline.
Finally, a chew toy may be an excellent way to help keep your cat’s mouth clean in between brushings. Some of these toys can help remove plaque and stimulate the gums.
Unfortunately, your cat’s ears can be a hotbed of activity for parasites and germs. Thus, it’s imperative that you take the time to inspect its ears regularly.
Start by massaging the ears and letting your cat get used to the feeling. Do a visual inspection of both the outer and inner ear, looking for any signs of infection. Swelling, pus, or abnormal coloration should be noted, and you may want to take your cat to the vet if you notice anything peculiar.
Keep in mind that some wax is normal, but a lot could be a sign of something wrong.
Cleaning the Ear
You’ll need to use a cleaning formula that’s designed for cats. We recommend asking your vet for a particular brand or solution.
Gently massage the ear, working the cleaner into the inside and outside. Try to remove any debris or excess wax. However, don’t rub too hard as that can be uncomfortable for your kitty.
When in doubt, consult your veterinarian. Any discharge, strong odors, or the presence of mites (tiny black dots on the ear) should be inspected by a professional. In some cases, you may have to administer ear medicine to treat the condition.
Fleas and Ticks
As with any furry pet living in your house, fleas and ticks are going to be a primary concern. If your cat goes outdoors for most of the day, then you have to be extra vigilant to help prevent an infestation from taking hold.
Even indoor cats can still get fleas, particularly if you have a multi-pet household. Thus, you’ll want to follow these tips to ensure that your feline doesn’t get fleas.
Inspect Regularly – checking your cat’s fur for fleas and ticks is an excellent way to spot a problem before it worsens. Usually, you can do this during brushing.
Use a Recommended Prevention Plan – your vet can offer some flea treatments that will protect your feline and keep fleas and ticks from taking hold.
Inspect Other Pets – if you have dogs, then you have to make sure that they are not bringing fleas into the home after being outside. You’ll want to inspect all of your pets to ensure that one isn’t affecting the others.
Keep Your Home Clean – fleas can breed insanely fast, so you have to be sure that they don’t multiply once they’re in your home. Be sure to vacuum often, as well as clean any surfaces where fleas can lay eggs.
Since most people have indoor cats, making sure that your pet gets enough exercise is more than a little challenging. Unlike dogs, where you can take them for a walk or a run regularly, cats are usually not as active. That’s one of the side effects of sleeping for most of the day.
Still, there are plenty of ways that you can help your cat stay fit, especially if it’s starting to put on a little weight.
Play With Your Cat
Although you can’t take your feline for a walk (in most cases, at least), you can still play with it regularly. Cats love jumping into boxes (if YouTube is to be believed), as well as chasing toys and small objects. Thus, take the time to play with your kitty on a daily or weekly basis. Your cat may prefer some toys over others, so be sure to try a variety of options to see what works best.
Scratching Pads and Cat Condos
Climbing is an essential part of a cat’s physical activity, so by having a cat condo in your home, you’re making it easier for your pet to stay mobile. Also, if it’s made of scratchable material, your cat will take advantage and work out its muscles by clawing the posts regularly.
Consult Your Vet
If your kitty is putting on weight, then you’ll want to talk to your vet about any weight loss options. Usually, adjusting your pet’s diet will yield the best results, but we’ll talk about nutrition later in this article.
Indoor vs. Outdoor Cats
Cats are a unique type of pet because they can come in two varieties: indoor and outdoor. For the most part, domestic house cats rarely go outside, but plenty of these pets love to wander around and go exploring.
Thus, we want to take a look at the various health issues that may come from both indoor and outdoor felines.
Indoor Health Problems
Obesity – eating all day and not moving around can cause your cat to pack on pounds quickly.
Diabetes and Other Overweight Conditions – as with humans, being fat is harmful to your cat’s health and can result in various health problems.
Boredom – although cats sleep for most of the day, they still need stimulation. Boredom can cause all kinds of issues, which will usually manifest with destructive behavior.
Overall, indoor cats are often healthier because they aren’t as exposed to various environmental hazards. Thus, if you have an outdoor cat, you’ll have to be extra vigilant.
Outdoor Health Problems
Disease – chances are that your cat will run across feral felines from time to time. These cats can carry a variety of diseases and pass them to your pet.
Pregnancy – spaying your cat will help prevent this from happening, but if your pet is fertile, then you shouldn’t be surprised if she gets pregnant.
Fights/Injury – running into feral cats can be a problem for a couple of reasons, the second of which is finding aggressive felines that may attack your pet. Other animals could attack your cat as well, such as dogs.
Cars – while unlikely, your cat may get hit by a car on accident. Unfortunately, unless someone finds your pet and contacts you, it’ll be hard to know what happened.
Stuck in a Tree – we all know this cliche, but it’s based in reality. Cats love to climb, but sometimes, they can’t get back down.
Poisons/Toxins – the world is a dangerous place, and your cat may find itself somewhere unsafe where it could be exposed to various toxic chemicals or elements.
Overall, having an outdoor cat can be stressful at times, so you want to take precautions. Make sure that your pet is chipped and has a collar so people can report to you if it goes missing. Also, pay attention to any health issues, like injuries, scars, abnormal behavior, and skin problems.
Feeding and Hydrating Your Cat
Part of having a healthy kitty is making sure that it’s well fed. However, there’s more to nutrition than just buying cat food and calling it a day. Here are some things to consider when trying to improve your pet’s diet.
Use Natural Food
Look at the label. Filler ingredients like corn or wheat aren’t going to be doing your cat any favors. Instead, buy food with more meat and vegetables. Cats are obligate carnivores, so they have to eat meat protein regularly. Veggie or vegan diets are a no-no for your pet.
Use Portion Control
Although cats are better at regulating their eating habits than dogs, they can still overeat when tempted. Rather than leaving a massive pile of food out, use a system of portion control.
Typically, feeding your pet twice a day is sufficient. However, you don’t have to remove the food after a certain time (unlike with dogs). Instead, let your cat eat at its leisure. As long as you don’t put more out than necessary, weight gain shouldn’t be a problem.
Milk Does More Harm Than Good
Yes, we’ve all seen cats lapping up milk. However, most felines can’t process lactase, which means that milk and other dairy products aren’t good for your pet. In many cases, it may cause vomiting or diarrhea.
Always Clean and Refill Your Cat’s Water Dish
Cats are notorious about clean water. If the dish is dirty, chances are that Whiskers won’t touch it (you’ve probably experienced this before). Thus, rinse out the water dish and keep it filled at all times. Cats are excellent about hydrating themselves.
Feed More to Active Kitties
If your cat plays a lot, then you’ll want to increase your food portions. On the flip side, if your cat is especially lazy (like Garfield lazy), you’ll want to reduce its food intake. Talk to your vet about the right maintenance level for your cat.
Even though cats are usually better about taking care of themselves, you shouldn’t be taking a backseat to your pet’s health and wellness. Having a healthy kitty is all about vigilance and patience, so make sure that you’re putting the time and effort into making your cat’s life better.