Many people consider cats to be low maintenance compared to dogs, but like all pets they need regular care to stay healthy—some cats more than others. While cats can wash themselves and don’t need walks outdoors, they do rely on their cat parents to provide them with a safe environment and healthy routines. In honor of Pet Wellness Month this October, learn how you can help your cat live their best life.
Why Cat Wellness Exams Are Important
A cat wellness exam is a routine physical for cats who seem healthy. Cat wellness exams are an important part of preventive care and maintaining good health, as opposed to only taking your cat to the vet when they’re sick.
How Often Should Cats Go to the Vet?
All cats need a yearly wellness exam by a veterinarian. Annual checkups help your vet establish what’s normal for your cat, so they can more easily identify potential problems if something changes. Kittens need to see the vet every few weeks until about four months old for a series of vaccinations, and may need checkups every few months while they’re maturing.
Understandably, many cat parents want to know how much wellness exams cost. The price will vary depending on where you live, the vet you choose, and whether any vaccines, tests or treatments (such as heartworm prevention) are called for. Pet insurance may help cover routine wellness exams and preventive care, as well as emergency vet visits.
Senior Cat Wellness
Most vets recommend twice yearly checkups for senior cats, which means cats who are eleven and older. Senior cats have a greater risk of age-related problems, and early detection is important to catch diseases when they’re the most treatable. Senior cat wellness exams often involve additional procedures such as bloodwork, blood pressure testing, and urine/stool samples.
How Litter Boxes and Cat Health Are Connected
Keeping your cat’s litter box clean is an important part of keeping them healthy. Dirty litter boxes increase the risk of cats getting sick with a urinary tract disease called feline idiopathic cystitis (FIC), or even a life-threatening condition called feline urethral obstruction.
Cats don’t like stepping in dirty litter boxes and may avoid using the litter box. This can mean doing their business outside the litter box (not ideal) or urinating much less often—which causes concentrated urine and potentially serious health issues. Side note: if your cat starts eliminating outside the litter box it could signal a health problem, so get them a checkup to make sure!
Ideally, a household has one litter box per cat, plus one extra. Some cats refuse to share, and even if you have a solo cat they’ll appreciate having additional clean litter to use. Place litter boxes away from your cat’s food and water in a quiet location and consider having a litter box on each level of your home if your senior cat has difficulties with stairs.
Learn more about litter box training, including how to choose the right type of box and litter.
How Exercise Supports Cat Wellness
Just like people, cats need regular exercise for weight management and to help burn off energy. Being proactive about exercising your cat makes it less likely they’ll work off that energy shredding curtains instead! Exercising your cat also keeps their muscles toned and can help prevent anxiety, boredom, and depression.
How Much Exercise Do Cats Need?
Many vets and cat behaviorists recommend anywhere from 20-60 minutes a day, depending on your cat’s age and overall health. In general, 30 minutes a day is a good rule of thumb.
How to Exercise Your Cat
Playing with your cat is a great way to exercise them and strengthen your bond. Wand toys, laser pointers, and stuffed animals can all be used to keep your cat active and engaged. You can even try a cat exercise wheel if your cat loves to run and chase. Cat trees and scratching posts are a good way for cats to exercise their climbing and scratching instincts.
Try splitting up play sessions into short, intense bursts lasting five to ten minutes. This mimics the instinctive behaviors cats have in the wild as predators hunting prey.
Can You Walk a Cat?
Walking is great exercise, and you can absolutely take your cat for a walk, as long as they’re willing. Never force the issue if your cat doesn’t want to walk outdoors or play. You’ll need to get a harness and leash specifically designed for cats. Let them get familiar with the new gear gradually, rewarding your cat with a treat when they let you put the harness on. Try a walk around the yard before venturing out into the neighborhood, and always make sure your cat is wearing an ID tag during walks.
Regular Grooming Helps Cats Feel (and Look!) Their Best
Cats groom themselves regularly and don’t need baths the way dogs do. But cats do benefit from regular brushing, which promotes cat wellness in several ways:
- Removes shedding hair and dry skin
- Prevents matted fur
- Reduces hairballs
- Stimulates circulation and distributes natural oils for a healthy coat
Brushing your cat once or twice a week also strengthens your bond, as many cats love being brushed. If your cat hates brushing, try to make it a positive experience by rewarding them with treats, and always stop if they become agitated.
Nail trimming is also good for your cat, because it keeps their claws from getting caught and torn, which can be extremely painful. If you’re not comfortable trimming your cat’s nails, make an appointment with a professional groomer or veterinarian.
Brushing your cat’s teeth at home and getting periodic professional cleanings helps prevent dental diseases that can cause painful symptoms and lead to more serious health problems. Just make sure to use a toothpaste for cats, since toothpaste for humans is toxic to pets.
Taking the time to groom your cat on a regular basis will also make it easier for you to notice potential health issues early, before they turn into more serious problems.
How to Support Your Cat’s Mental Wellbeing
As a cat parent, you already know how much cats can benefit your mental health. Surveys have found cat parents report higher levels of happiness and confidence, and fewer problems managing stress and loneliness, compared to people without pets.
Just like us, cats benefit from companionship and affection, and sometimes need help managing negative emotions like anxiety and depression. The good news is, all the tips and routines that support a cat’s physical health also promote good mental health in cats. There are also a few easy ways you can specifically support your cat’s mental health:
Try and keep a regular schedule, because cats feel more safe and secure with a predictable routine. If changes need to be made, try to make them gradually to give your cat time to adjust.
Mental stimulation is a must for cats, who are naturally curious. Playtime can be part of providing mental stimulation, as can a perch where your cat can look out the window. Cat enrichment activities like puzzles are another great option.
Give your cat something to scratch. Scratching is a deeply ingrained, instinctive behavior that helps cats express emotions and mark their territory. Letting your cat behave naturally is better for their mental health than trying to get them to stop scratching altogether. Learn more about how to get your cat to stop scratching your furniture.
Give your cat love and affection. Spend quality time with your cat every day, even when you feel busy. Remember that while you have a job, people to see, and places to go, all your cat has is you.
A Natural Diet Is the Foundation of Cat Wellness
Cats are carnivores, and they need to eat a diet high in quality protein. In the wild, cats get the majority of their calories from protein and fat, with only around 10-15% coming from carbs.
Hydration is another important aspect of cat nutrition, and a moisture-rich diet is one way to help hydrate a cat who doesn’t drink much water. If your cat eats dry food, be sure to keep their water dish clean and full, or try a water fountain, which some cats prefer.
Stella & Chewy’s cat food recipes offer 100% complete and balanced nutrition with responsibly sourced animal proteins and none of the bad stuff. Our frozen raw cat food and freeze-dried raw cat food recipes mirror your cat’s ancestral diet with 98% meat, organs, and bone. We also offer a variety of hydrating and protein-rich wet cat food recipes. Stella’s Solutions recipes are dinner mixers formulated to support healthy digestion and a healthy skin and coat.
Learn more about what to feed a cat, the benefits of a raw diet for cats, or reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org for help choosing the best food for your furball!
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