The Water Bowl
Breed & Health Resources

Keeping Your Cat Happy and Healthy

By Dusty Rainbolt

happy cat

Cat lovers rejoice. To improve feline health by focusing on feline happiness, September has been designated as Happy Cat Month, created by the CATalyst Council. Scientific studies show that happy cats are healthier cats, and vice versa.

Visit the Vet

One way we make our kitties happy is to take them to the vet once or twice a year. (Of course, we’re looking at long-term happiness, not necessarily happiness on the spot.)

Did you know that dogs are five times more likely to see a vet than their feline counterparts? People assume cats are healthy if they don’t appear sick. But kitties are masters at masking illness, so looks can be deceiving. Preventive vet care will help keep your cat healthy by catching illnesses earlier when they’re more easily treated.

If you worry about your cat’s (and your) anxiety level, go to a cat-friendly or Fear Fear(SM) veterinary practice or contact a mobile vet to give your feline the once-over in your home. (Keep reading for tips about acclimating your kitty to the carrier.) Since cats are so good at hiding symptoms, take him to the vet if you notice:

  • Straining in the litter box (especially males) or repeated attempts to go to the bathroom with no results. (Go to the vet right now. This is a life and death emergency.)
  • Litter box habits have changed - missing the box, diarrhea, constipation, blood in urine or stool, or going more frequently than before
  • Labored breathing
  • Change in behavior- suddenly missing the litter box, sleeping in a different place, hiding, more aggressive
  • Seizures
  • Persistent vomiting, vomiting more than twice in 24 hours, vomiting occasionally over weeks or months.
  • Bleeding
  • Lethargy, staggering, or stumbling
  • Lameness or favoring a limb
  • Any symptom that persists for longer than 48 hours or gets noticeably worse quickly
  • Change in appetite - suddenly hungry all the time or loss of appetite.
  • Bad breath

Make Friends with the Carrier

Right now he views the carrier as the vet transportation device, but you can change his perception from a scary prison to a sanctuary.

Place the open carrier in the room where your cat spends most of his time. Put a towel inside and occasionally toss a treat or catnip within to encourage your cat to get comfortable. Once he’s sneaking naps in there, take him for a trip around the block. Have one of the kids give him treats during the excursion. Follow up with some trips to the vet for treats only—no thermometers.

ID Your Cat

Whether your cat roams the neighborhood or lives exclusively inside, microchips, collars, and visible ID tags are a good idea. If he ever escapes or gets lost, a microchip can make a happy reunion possible even if he loses his collar.

Keep Kitty Inside

The lifespan of an indoor cat runs 14 to 18 years, whereas a cat who goes outside averages four to eight years. Keeping your cat inside will protect him from lethal viruses, parasites, predators and cars.

Make Your Cat’s Environment More Interesting

You can’t just lock him inside and, taadaa—happy, healthy cat. He’s not in jail; he needs something to do. In the wild, a cat sleeps 16 hours a day, but the rest of the time he’s very active. Offer him the same opportunities he’d have outside - to hunt, chase, jump, climb, scratch, pounce, hide, and problem solve.

Put his kibble inside a food puzzle or other hunting toy. He has to knock it around to eat. He gets exercise and it’s more fun than grazing from a food bowl.

Cats are predators and love the thrill of the hunt even when it’s not the real thing. When you’re home, encourage him to exercise with a feather toy or a laser pointer. He just needs ten minutes of active play twice a day. Feed him immediately afterward. After all, every successful hunt ends with a meal.

Legal Scratching Opportunities

Scratching is a natural cat activity. Set up a legal (yet satisfying) place for your cat to dig in and he'll likely avoid the furniture. Provide a scratching post or cardboard scatcher tall (or long) enough for him to fully stretch his back and stable enough to stay in place even when he gives it a good yank.

Clean Litter Box

If your cat lived outside, he’d always have access to a clean bathroom. Scoop his box daily. Research shows that cats prefer large open litter boxes fill with unscented litter.

Hiding Places

A simple paper bag (with the handles removed) can give your kitty a place to hide. Clear off a shelf on your bookcase to give Fluffy an elevated place to observe his territory.

Show More Affection

Cats want your attention, but they have different preferences. Some kitties see affection as a warm lap and chin scratches, others think a vigorous game of kill the feather fills the bill, still others thrive on learning new tricks and skills through clicker training. Experiment to learn what your kitty prefers.

While you can't predict when your pet is going to get sick or injured, you can protect yourself from expensive veterinary bills. Embrace Pet Insurance gives you the freedom to do what’s best for your pet without stressing over the cost. Easily personalize your coverage to fit your budget and your pet’s needs, then visit any vet for nose-to-tail coverage. Check out what the Embrace plan covers or compare pet insurance providers to learn more.

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