Making a few New Year’s resolutions to improve your cat’s lifestyle means you’ll both enjoy the benefits of a fresh start!
Most of us make a few New Year’s resolutions — exercise more, lose weight, improve our eating habits. While our cats couldn’t care less if it’s a new year or not, we can also make a few resolutions for them, to help ensure their health and safety and enhance our relationship with them.
1. If it’s been a while since your kitty has had a “once-over” at the veterinarian, make an appointment. Be sure to write down any questions you may have. If she’s over the age of seven, ask for a full blood panel and urinalysis.
2. Vaccinations are a hot-button topic. Protocols have changed over the years and your cat’s lifestyle is a big factor in determining which vaccinations she needs. For example, an inside-only cat or one that has health problems should be minimally vaccinated, if at all. As your vet about titers instead of annual boosters.
3. Read the labels on the cat foods you buy and investigate the ingredients. Is this the best nutrition you can provide? Consider eliminating or reducing low-end kibble – it’s a big cause of obesity, diabetes, and urinary problems. Feed a variety of high quality whole meat-based foods to prevent finickiness and to avoid any deficiencies.
4. Make daily time for play. Playing keeps your cat physically fit and mentally stimulated, redirects her energy in a constructive way, and helps prevent obesity. A high-energy kitty can benefit from clicker training and even agility. Regular daytime play can help your cat sleep through the night.
5. Groom your cat for 15 minutes once or twice a week. It’s an opportunity to evaluate her overall health, and helps reduce hairballs and matting. Make it a positive experience by offering treats and lots of praise. Regular grooming also reduces your own stress levels and helps strengthen your bond with your cat.
6. If you have an outside cat, consider the hazards of letting her wander. Coyotes can be found in all parts of the country these days, even in relatively urban areas. Even if there’s no hostile wildlife to contend with, there’s traffic. If you have an indoor cat, think of how you can improve her environment. In both cases, an outdoor enclosure (“catio”) and/or leash training may be part of the solution.
7. Learn to safely clip your cat’s claws instead of risking scratches or snags, or resorting to declawing, an inhumane procedure that may cause behavior problems and arthritis. If your cat won’t let you trim her claws, ask for help from your veterinarian.
8. Look into obtaining health insurance. Veterinary expenses for major illnesses or accidents can eat a big hole in even the most carefully maintained budget. Having health insurance for your cat may spell the different between treatment and euthanasia.
9. Make sure your cat has ID. Microchipping is a quick and easy way to trace a lost kitty. All the care in the world doesn’t prevent accidental escapes, and a chip will help ensure her safe return.
10. Grow some catnip or cat grass in a pot on the windowsill. Cats like to nibble on greenery, and it may save your houseplants. Rub dried catnip onto scratching posts to encourage their use.
11. Contribute in some way to an animal welfare organization or your local shelter. Volunteer your time. Make a donation. Sign up to feed a feral colony. Or better yet, adopt a kitten or cat that needs a loving home. Do I dare say two are better than one?
12. Continue to advance your education on cat care, through magazines like Animal Wellness, or with a book on the subject. You’ll be surprised at what you can learn. A couple of good book choices are Your Cat by veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins, and The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care by Celeste Yarnall and veterinarian Dr. Jean Hofve. Cat Sense by John Bradshaw offers some wonderful insight into cats, their interaction with us and with each other. If your cat has a chronic disease, it’s a good idea to learn all you can from reliable sources so you can have knowledgeable conversations with your veterinarian.
Our cats give us so much unconditional love. We can return that love by resolving to pay a little more attention to their welfare. Here’s hoping the New Year finds you snuggled up with a healthy, happy feline!
Sally E. Bahner specializes in cat-related issues, specifically nutrition, holistic care and behavior. She has offered her services as a feline behavior and care consultant and gives classes on cat care. Sally is the resident cat behavior expert on Tracie Hotchner’s Cat Chat radio program, and a member of the Cat Writers’ Association and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.