Don't Make These 5 Cat Care Mistakes

4. Use products made for dogs (or horses, or any other species, including people) on your cat. Tylenol can kill your cat. So can aspirin. So can flea-control products labeled for dogs. In fact, cats are super sensitive to so many things we don’t give a moment’s thought to that I will go so far as to say you should use only products that are labeled for cats (and read the label carefully: That same product might not be OK for kittens). The ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center’s website has a comprehensive list of dangerous substances, as well as plants that can be harmful to your cats. And, of course, when in doubt, ask your veterinarian — she knows what's safe and what isn't for your feline.

5. Ignore your cat’s litterbox. If you show me someone who claims to actually enjoy cleaning the litterbox, I’ll show you a liar. OK, maybe an exaggerator. I know lots of people who don’t mind cleaning the litterbox, but I’ve yet to meet one who’d honestly prefer it over a free day at Disneyworld. So, no, nobody really enjoys this essential task, but it’s one you avoid at your peril — and your cat's. If you don’t keep the litterbox clean, you’re upping the chances that your cat won’t use it, for obvious reasons. More importantly, though, cleaning the litterbox daily means you know what your cat’s up to, what’s normal and what’s not. And because cats are so darn secretive with signs of illness or pain, cleaning the litterbox is one of the few ways to get the clues you need. So don’t ignore the box: Keeping the box clean can keep you in the loop with your cat’s health.

These five "don'ts" aren’t the only ones I can offer, but I think paying attention to them will go a long, long way to giving you the power to keep your cat as healthy as possible. I still recommend regular wellness checks to help you to catch the things that are percolating below the surface, but if you make a practice of avoiding things that risky for your cat, he will have fewer health problems and will just be happier.

And so will you, which makes me happy too.

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