Vail Pet Talk column: Thinking of adding a cat to your household?
So, you are thinking of getting a new member of your family, perhaps a new cat? Starting off on the right foot with the care for your feline friend is crucial for having a long-lived relationship, so before you bring Morris or Felix home to stay, please take note of a few suggestions for raising a healthy cat.
In the United States alone, there are more than 95 million cats in cat households. Whether the cat will be a single cat in a one-pet household or a member of a multi-pet household or even a barn cat, establishing good habits is important.
First, when you acquire your new cat or kitten, brush it daily. Not only does this allow you to bond with your feline friend, it is helpful in reducing the potential for hairball ingestion, as well as minimizing allergens emitted in the air, in addition to keeping your cat’s coat healthy.
Second, be conscious of what you feed your pet. Minimize the volume of dry food in your cat’s diet, as dry food is composed of plant originating carbohydrates, which have been proven to cause type 2 diabetes in cats and cause obesity in the less active indoor cats. In addition, unlike dogs, cats get a large portion of their daily water intake through their diet. Wet food increases the daily moisture intake, keeping your cat healthier longer.
Third, be aware of your cat’s water intake. Watch and take note of your cat’s daily water consumption, as well as urination. As cats age, diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and hyperthyroidism all cause cats to drink excessive amounts of water, so the more conscious a pet owner is to their cat’s daily water intake and output, the quicker a diagnosis and treatment plan can be made.
Fourth, have plenty of litter boxes in your home. As a rule of thumb, cats require one box plus one additional per cat in the household. Put the boxes in easily accessible areas, for example upstairs and downstairs, so a cat is not going to be tempted to start bad habits such as urinating in inappropriate places in the home. Clean the litter daily, as well, and be sure the box is not too high for an aging cat to get in an out of. Be aware that some of the clumping cat litter can adhere to cat’s paws and cause them to ingest large volumes of clay. Furthermore, dusty and scented litter can trigger asthma in some cats. So again, be aware of the types of boxes you have and the litter you put in them.
Might Not be Behavioral
Fifth, don’t assume if your cat is urinating around the house it is behavioral. Many male cats on high ash commercial diets are prone to a syndrome called Feline Urological Syndrome, resulting in life-threatening bladder infections and stones which can lead to renal failure and death. Thus, be sure your veterinarian does a complete exam on your cat as well as a urinalysis to rule out underlying disease before you assume the problem is behavioral.
Next, be sure you spay and neuter your pets. Unneutered cats tend to “spray” to mark their territory, which can result in unnecessary odors in the home. In addition, they are more prone to cat fights, resulting in more trips to the veterinarian. Female cats can be prone to developing breast cancer later in life if not spayed and can contribute to the pet overpopulation problem we have.
Finally, be cognizant of your pet’s exposure to disease and ask your veterinarian to tailor your pet’s vaccinations to what his or individual needs might be. For example, an indoor pet many require fewer vaccinations than, say, an outdoor pet that is continually exposed to feral cats and wild animals.
Most of all, enjoy your new pet and best of luck with your new family member.
Sheila Fitzpatrick, DVM, owner of Mountain Mobile Vet and The Animal Hospital Center, submitted this column. You can reach her at 970-328-7085.