Cats like to spend time with you…until they don’t. Despite their common preference for solitude, cats can be great companions. In order to keep your cat healthy, it’s important to understand their normal behaviors and preferences. Here at Cherokee Animal Hospital, we love cats, and we want to help you keep your kitty healthy and happy.
Guidelines to keep your cat healthy, happy, and ensure she has a great quality of life.
How to Spot a Sick Kitty
- Weight loss
- Repeated vomiting or decreased appetite
- Increase OR decrease in how much water they drink
- Changes in how much, how often or where they urinate or defecate
- Repeated episodes of soft stools (poo)
- Changes in their behavior or routine such as unusual hiding or excessive sleeping
- Repetitive head shaking, ear scratching, licking, chewing or grooming (often a hairless tummy)
- Limping, slow to rise and walk, difficulty going up stairs, no longer jumping
- Changes in the shape or symmetry of the head, face or body, new lumps or bumps
Urinary problems are one of the most common issues cat owners face.
Cats certainly have urinary tract infections, bladder stones, and other diseases that cause them to have potty problems, but the vast majority of these issues in young to middle age cats, are stress related.
FLUTD or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease is a very real illness with very specific clinical signs, but it is primarily brought on by stress. See Kitty behaviors for more information on stressed out kitties.
Below are tips to help reduce this stress and keep your kitty happy!
- Scoop each box EVERY day!
- Cats prefer a litter box that is 1.5 times it’s own length…tail included. That’s a big littler box! You can make a great, cheap litter box from a large plastic storage bin… see our favorite finds page.
- Multi-Cat Households should have one litter box per kitty plus one, to decrease potty stress. Many cats will subtly guard cat boxes and other resources (such as food, water and highly sought after resting spots) so make sure the boxes are spread throughout the house making it impossible for one cat to guard them all.
- Litter boxes should not be in areas where one cat can be trapped or surprised by another cat as they exit the box . The boxes should also be away from noisy machines such as the washer. Some cats will permanently associate fear with the box if the washer suddenly kicks on while the kitty is having a private moment!
- Fresh Step Clumpable litter is the most preferred cat litter
Unique Cat Behavior
Did you know feral cats normally spend 8 hours a day just hunting for food and water?
Cats have an innate need to hunt, so help them out. Put their food dish in a separate location from the water bowl and both of these away from the litter box.
This forces a few extra steps each day to help keep them more active. While we prefer canned Fancy Feast for most healthy cats as their primary food source, a small amount of dry kibble can be placed in various toys (pipolinousa.com) or homemade games to make them work a little harder for that extra food.
You can also get in on the game by hiding a bit of kibble around the house for your cat to “hunt” down.
While cats are social animals, colonies are generally made up of only related females (mothers, daughters, sisters). Unrelated cats can coexist but often do not truly bond and therefore have stressful relationships.
All this adds up to a lot of cat stress.
They sure don’t look stressed, sleeping all day in that sunny spot. But this stress manifests in bullying, outright fighting, urination and defecation outside the litter box, spraying, hiding, and over grooming (giving them that hairless tummy). Many of these signs are subtle, especially the bullying, and overlooked by most owners.
Our indoor cats are safer, but often overweight from lack of exercise . Also, they can be stressed out from lack of brain stimulation and inability to hunt and defend their environment from invaders.
The Best Litter Box
You can make a great litter box by cutting a hole in the side of a large plastic storage bin.
Cut the hole 3 inches from the bottom so litter will not be kicked out. Leave the lid on for kitty privacy then remove for easy scooping.
Sand the entrance edges to prevent sharp surfaces that might injure.
Cats love it! – Plenty of “butt” room!
(Use caution… a utility knife will slip on the hard plastic. A dremmel type of tool is safer and cuts more easily. Sand the entrance edges to avoid sharp surfaces ).
Best Cat Food & Other Tips
Veterinarians at Cherokee Animal Hospital in Georgia recommend…
Feed Canned Fancy Feast!
Yes, we used to say dry food was better for their teeth. Turns out, it doesn’t help the teeth at all and cats need lots of water, more than they can drink on their own. This is one reason (the other being stress) that we have so many urinary problems in cats!
Other benefits of canned Fancy Feast include… fewer calories compared to a similar volume of dry food, less highly processed, more protein and fewer carbohydrates. This is NOT true for every canned cat food. Fancy Feast in particular meets this criteria.
Train your cat to a single treat every day.
Sounds like a pain right? But if your cat is trained to receive a small, bite-sized piece of pill pockets or butter, it is much easier to slip a small pill into this type of treat if medication is needed at some point.
Stick with only a small sampling to avoid weight issues and stay away from standard hard treats that can’t be wrapped around a pill.
Teach them early that the cat carrier is their friend.
Leave it out in a quiet, out of the way, warm location so your cat might like to nap inside it. Put treats, grass or catnip in it frequently. They may not like the ride to the vet, but at least they won’t be afraid of the carrier itself!
For more specific tips on training to a cat carrier go to: www.catalystcouncil.org
These pet sites provide great information to keep your cats happy and healthy:
The Scarecrow – A motion detected water sprinkler that humanely scares off unwanted dogs and cats that get your pet all riled up. These unwanted visitors often cause great stress for your indoor cats.
The Maze Food Bowl – Made for dogs but cats can play too. Cats can use their paws to chase the food out of the maze. Similar games have been made at home using different size pill bottles glued down to a wood surface. The food gets sprinkled between the tubes so the cat has to their paws to dig the food out. Very entertaining… for everyone!
The Pipolino – A cat feeding system that they think is a toy. You control how much food they eat and they have to work to get it out. This entertains and stimulates the hunting instinct while taking care of the tummy too.
Our goal as Canton vets is to help your cat stay healthy.