Help Your Cat Get Healthier This Year

Cat being examined by veterinarian
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Resolve to take your cat to the veterinarian for his annual exam.

I don’t know about you, but I often make New Year’s resolutions for my pets as well as for myself. Heck, we could all use a little improvement every year, whether we've got two legs or four. Resolutions for our pets are often similar to the ones we make for ourselves. We might have goals to help them lose weight, have a shinier coat or learn a few new tricks.

For 2016, I’d like to suggest that cat owners set themselves a more overarching goal: to get your cat healthy. If you’re already feeding him high-quality food and taking him to the veterinarian when he’s feeling under the weather, you might wonder what else he needs. There's always room for improvement, and I’m here to share the latest and greatest tips on getting and keeping cats in the best health of their lives.

Dietary Dos and Don'ts

Stop leaving food out all the time. It’s easy to set down a bowl of dry food and refill it when it gets low, but free-feeding isn’t good for your cat’s health. It makes him more likely to overeat and less likely to burn fat. That’s the road to diabetes, my friends.

Measure food. You can’t count on your cat to control his intake, so you need to do it for him. Use an actual measuring cup and level it off instead of giving a heaping amount. Remember that the recommended amount on the bag is simply a guideline. It’s okay to feed a little less if your tabby is tubby and to add a little more if his ribs are starting to show. Use your eyes and hands to gauge his condition. When you look at your cat from above, he should have a visible waist. When you put your hands on him, you should be able to feel his ribs through a thin layer of fat and muscle.

Add canned food to meals. Cats are often at least a little bit dehydrated, and the high water content of wet food provides liquid they might be reluctant to take any other way.

Make water appealing. Cats might drink more water if they noticed its presence. They’re not very good at seeing still water in a bowl, but the burble and motion of a fountain can draw their attention. They’re also not fond of wetting their whiskers, so a deep, narrow-diameter bowl is a better choice than a wide, shallow one.

Exercise Efforts

Turn mealtime into workout time. Before you leave for work, put half of your cat’s daily allotment of food into a puzzle toy. His nose will do the rest. When he smells the food, he’ll start pushing or rolling the toy to try to get at it. He’ll stay busy and active during the day as he “hunts” for his food.

Schedule playtime. In at least one respect, cats are a lot easier to care for than dogs. A three- to five-minute playtime a couple of times a day may be all the exercise they need. Waggle a teaser toy for your cat to flip over (while you sit comfortably on the sofa) or toss a Ping Pong ball down the hall or stairs for them to chase.

Self-exercise. If your cat doesn't have joint problems such as arthritis, put treats up high so he has to jump up for them. Possibilities include on top of the washing machine, sofa or bed or on the highest level of his cat tree. You do have a tall scratching post or cat tree, right? It’s the perfect way for him to stretch and leap as well as to leave his mark in the household without destroying your furniture.

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