Why Your Cat’s Health is Important
Many people do not realize that the average cat can live up to 20 years! Therefore, it is essential that your cat’s health is a top priority in order to ensure your cat will get to spend as many of those years without health problems, happy and by your side.
How to Spot Feline Health Issues
A cat’s health has a direct effect on how comfortable and happy she is. Because cats are very different from dogs and other pets in the way they’re cared for, it is important to learn about your cat’s general health before you take action. When you notice her behaving differently (changing normal behavior), or when you see any changes in her appearance, there could be a problem.
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A cat that is ill will show changes in some of the following: overall energy level, sociability, coat appearance and/or amount of shedding, appetite, litterbox usage, breathing or discharges from the eyes or nose.
Sometimes cats may act differently just because they have some difficulty with certain things, such as getting up stairs or climbing into things because of arthritis or hip dysplasia. They may not have an injury that you think they do—and those physical problems don’t cause any issues that we know of—so why are they acting more like an old person than a 20-something? The thing is…it’s hard to know what the real reasons are behind their behavior at times!
Essentials of Caring For Your Cat from Kitten to Senior Cat
Caring for an adult cat is different from caring for a kitten—the former requires more attention to their specific needs, while the latter demands more energy and time in general.
Kittens have plenty of energy, but they also have developing immune systems that need extra protection from disease. That means keeping up with vaccinations and checking regularly for parasites like fleas and worms. Kittens are also more prone to injury than older cats since they’re still learning their limits; keep sharp objects out of their reach, don’t let them outside (even if you think they can take care of themselves), and discourage unsafe behavior like climbing too high or jumping on areas that could collapse underneath them. And when it comes to dietary needs, kittens are constantly growing so you’ll want to be sure they’re getting enough calories—consult your vet on how much food is ideal for your kitten’s size, breed, and activity level.
As fun as it is to play with young cats all day long (and believe us: we understand how fun it is!), you won’t be able to do that forever. Adult cats aren’t as active or prone to injury as kittens are; instead of chasing after toys all day long or getting into precarious situations around the house, their main activity will be sleeping. But don’t worry: giving an older cat lots of naps actually contributes to better health by helping them build immunity against infections and reinforcing positive behaviors (like using the litterbox). The key here is balance: along with regular sleep schedules should come regular play sessions so your cat doesn’t become too sedentary. You’ll also want to start taking notice of any lumps or bumps on their body—adulthood brings a greater susceptibility to cancerous growths which may require immediate treatment.
Senior cats enter another stage of life entirely. They may still have their unique personalities, but senior cats are more likely to become inactive and lose weight because they no longer need to hunt for prey. Make sure you’re still giving them playtime to keep them fit, and as we discuss below, making sure that they’re getting the correct diet for their stage of life.
Keeping Cats Healthy With Diet & Nutrition
As obligate carnivores, cats have a unique nutritional requirement in comparison to other animals. It’s important to note that cats do need a range of foods – but they’re not the same as the ones for human consumption. As numerous studies from the American Veterinary Medical Association have shown, Cats require the necessary energy, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water that are typically found in the prey of wild cats—rabbits and mice.
The proper diet isn’t just for maintaining a healthy weight, it’s also important for avoiding health problems such as chronic kidney disease.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you choose your cat’s nutrition:
- Cats need taurine (an amino acid) in their diet. Without it, they may develop a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. Kittens that don’t get enough of this essential nutrient during their first two months could develop eye problems later on. Fortunately for your cat companion, most commercial pet food has adequate amounts of taurine these days.
- Dry food is not a great option for felines because of its high carbohydrate content. Carbohydrate-rich foods can make your cat gain weight and possibly even lead to diabetes or other medical issues because cats aren’t well adapted to metabolize carbohydrates efficiently in the same way dogs or humans do. Cats also tend not to drink enough water when eating dry food due to being descended from desert dwellers who didn’t have access to water consistently like we do today!
- Wet food is more ideal than dry because it’s higher in protein and lower in carbs; it contains more moisture which is vital for healthy urinary tracts; and it gives them an outlet for one of their natural drives: hunting! Canned wet food also comes closer to satisfying a feline’s nutritional requirements than dry foods do since they’re processed less and therefore retain more nutrients during manufacturing (just like with our own human diets). We recommend feeding your kitty wet food over its dry counterpart at least once per day—if possible–to promote good health down the road (because nobody wants kidney failure).
You should also note that a cat’s optimal diet changes over his life. The food for a kitten is different from that of an adult cat, and the right dietary mix is yet different for senior cats.
Lastly, don’t forget the water! Access to fresh water is just as important as the food a pet parent gives. Make sure you’re changing the water bowl frequently.
Keeping Your Cat’s Weight Optimal
It’s important to feed your kitty a balanced diet that provides the proper nutrients for their age and activity level. Cats who are less active may need fewer calories than those who are on the run all the time.
You can generally determine if your cat is overweight by feeling their ribcage (it should be easily felt with a light covering of fat) and looking at them from above. If you see a “waist” directly behind their rib cage, then they’re likely at a good weight, but if you see no narrowing or only see widening behind the ribs, it’s likely your cat needs to lose some pounds.
If you do find that your feline has become too pudgy, don’t feel bad—this happens more often than you might think.
About 58% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese, so it’s definitely something to be aware of as a pet parent! Once you’ve identified that there is an issue, here are some steps you can take:
- Cut back on treats
- Be mindful of how much food you’re giving them at mealtimes (ask your vet for recommendations)
- Get them more exercise (this could include playing with them more frequently at home or taking them on walks – try walking on a leash!). Remember, an active cat is a healthy cat.
Spotting Cat Health Issues in the Litterbox
How often should your cat be urinating and defecating? Healthy cats typically use the litter box between 1 to 7 times per day. Every cat is different, but keeping an eye on this will help you spot any changes in frequency that might be concerning.
Also pay attention to changes in litter box odors – those can be a flag for cat health problems.
What does a healthy stool look like? Stools should be marbled and firm, with texture similar to Play-Doh—anything too hard or too soft might indicate health issues. The color of the stool can vary from brown to grey, depending on your cat’s diet, but if it strays outside of those colors, it could indicate an issue. If you see blood or mucus in their litterbox (or anywhere else), take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
How often should you be changing the litter box? This depends on how many cats you have and how many boxes you have for them, but here are some general guidelines: for one cat with one box, change it at least once every other day; for two cats with two boxes, change each box daily; for three cats with two boxes, empty both boxes twice daily; if your house has more than three cats in it and only has two litterboxes… It’s time to add another!
Specific Cat Health Issues to Look Out For
While some pet parents want their cat to have kittens, it’s a good idea to get your cat neutered, especially if you plan on adopting another one. Both male and female cats have higher chances of developing certain ailments if they haven’t been fixed or spayed. The most common ailment in male cats is testicular cancer, which can be avoided by having them neutered at an early age. Female cats who aren’t fixed may develop uterine infections that can cause life-threatening conditions for your pet. Take it from me: no one wants to hear “your cat has a urinary tract infection” from their vet, but it’s something you’ll want to stay on top of.
Another health issue that you may encounter is feline infectious disease (FIV). This particular disease attacks the immune system, so your cat will become more susceptible to getting other illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections and blood diseases. While there isn’t a cure for FIV, vaccines are available in order to prevent it from happening altogether. Additionally, keeping your pet indoors will decrease their risk of catching the virus through infected bites or scratches from other cats.
Lastly, several illnesses arise as a result of obesity and poor nutrition in felines. Cats fed only dry food lack the moisture found in wet food and can suffer complications due to dehydration. This type of diet also increases the chance of diabetes mellitus and renal failure in felines over time. A solution for these issues is simple: increase the amount of water given to your cat and add wet food into their diet!
Visiting the Vet with your Cat
If your cat is healthy and has no current medical issues, you should still visit the vet once a year for a checkup. Even if your cat seems perfectly fine, visiting the vet will help ensure that he or she remains in good health. It’s also important to bring your cat to the vet if you notice any changes in behavior or appearance, whether it’s a tender area on their body or an increase in drinking water. Keep in mind that cats are excellent at hiding illness by instinct because they’re predators who like to appear strong and healthy at all times—even when they’re not!
It can be tricky finding the right veterinarian for you and your cat, but there are several ways to find one that suits both of your needs. One way is by asking around—do your friends or neighbors know of any good vets? Have they had positive experiences with any veterinarians? Did they have negative experiences with anyone? These stories can give you an idea of what kind of veterinary services are available nearby. Another option is using online directories such as Yelp.com or Angie’s List. You can also search for vets on Google Maps; many vets have their own website where you can get a feel for how comfortable you’ll be working with them and read reviews from previous clients before making an appointment.
You’ve found a veterinarian who accepts new patients and seems like someone who’d be great to work with! Now what? When preparing your appointment, make sure to keep track of anything out of the ordinary that’s happened with your cat since his last checkup—this will help inform him of any changes since then. For example, say his thirst has increased over time: that could show an issue with dehydration or kidney disease, so it’s important to mention this information during exam time! If possible try bringing along records from past visits as well as vaccination history since these will assist both parties during the visit.
Also remember that your cat needs more than just the check-ups. For a full cat health care regimen, following the treatments your vet gives is critical to ensuring a long and happy life.
What to Do Next
There are may kind of pet owners – and now that you know what to look out for, you’re on your way to being one of the best cat pet parents out there! Here’s what to do next:
- Make an appointment with a vet. If your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms above, or if you think it’s time for a yearly checkup, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your cat will thank you!
- Learn more about cat health. It’s important to be well-informed about your cat’s overall health and how to keep them happy and healthy!
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