Cats may seem pretty self-sufficient, especially compared with dogs, who need constant letting in and out, plenty of walks, and extra grooming help. Cats can typically tend to most of their self-care needs—but that doesn’t mean that your cat is low maintenance and doesn’t need a helping hand. Without adequate environmental enrichment, proper physical and mental stimulation, and basic resources, your cat can become bored, stressed, and unhealthy. Keep your cat happy and healthy by following our list of do’s and don’ts.
DO provide your cat with plenty of appropriate scratching surfaces
As a house pet, your cat may not be able to scratch to their heart’s content. Rather than scratching on trees, fence posts, and brush for their nail care, your cat likely has turned to your furniture, curtains, and carpet, which does not make you happy. So, provide your cat with approved scratching surfaces. Offer them horizontal and vertical options in a variety of materials, such as sisal, cardboard, and wood, and place the scratch pads where your cat currently hangs out or scratches, like windows, sofa arms, and doorways. Ensure the scratch pads are at least as long as your fully stretched out cat, and encourage use by praising and treating your cat when they scratch appropriately.
DON’T disregard litter box hygiene and placement
Litter box hygiene and placement is crucial for keeping your cat in their box. No feline in their right mind would want to use a dirty litter box next to a noisy appliance, or in a busy family room. They also may not want to trek down to the basement every time, and may create their own bathroom elsewhere. To ensure your cat’s bathroom experience is pleasant and appropriate, provide at least two litter boxes in different home areas. Most cats prefer fine-textured, unscented litter, but you may need to try different types to learn your cat’s preference. Scoop the boxes daily, and disinfect weekly with an unscented disinfectant. Ensure the boxes are placed in quiet areas, but close enough that they are easily accessible. If you put all these tips in action, your cat should stick to their box when eliminating.
DO give your cat opportunities to exercise their natural behaviors
Although cats are domesticated, they still need to practice their natural instincts. As a predator and a prey species, cats like to perch up high to keep watch over their territory, whether for possible threats or food. They also need places to hide and relax. You can resolve both needs by placing climbing towers with perches and hideouts in strategic areas, such as next to windows, around your home.
Additionally, consider your cat’s needs to stalk, pounce, and “kill” prey. Each cat has a different prey preference, and learning what your pet prefers is key to encouraging exercise and preventing your pet from becoming sedentary and gaining weight from lack of activity. Try a variety of toys that mimic birds, bugs, and mice. Feathery toys that chirp or can be “flown” over your cat’s head are great for bird-loving cats, whereas toys that skitter across the floor are ideal as bug replacements. Plush toys and those with long tails can entice a rodent-hunting cat to play.
DON’T overfeed your cat
Without proper enrichment, indoor cats can become bored and will eat to fill their free time. They will gorge on a full food dish, when they should eat several small meals a day as they would naturally. To help prevent your cat from overeating, portion out three to four meals each day, and place the meals in puzzle feeders. Rubber Kongs can hold a mixture of wet and dry food, canned food can be smeared across ridged mats, and kibble can be hidden in snuffle mats.
DO schedule regular wellness care for your cat
Nothing keeps your cat healthier than regular wellness care, which consists of physical exams, screening tests, vaccinations, parasite preventives, and recommendations geared toward your cat’s health status and lifestyle. With regular wellness care, we can prevent infectious diseases and parasitic infections, and help ward off health issues through early treatment and management.
While you provide the bulk of the care your cat needs to stay happy and healthy, lean on your Parker Center Animal Clinic team to handle the rest. Give us a call to schedule your feline friend’s wellness visit.