Here is the next list…the balance to the doggy-do list…a list of things that I believe will increase the odds of a long and healthy life for your cat.
Thank you for your help creating this list! And THANK YOU for being such awesome owners that you do not even need this list. It has refocused me -yes Max the Cat is spoiled rotten, but what else can I be doing?? Here’s what I’ve got…
1. Indoor cats live an average of thirteen years. Outdoor cats live an average of three years.*
2. Do not continue reading this list until Number One makes you gasp or cry or vow something.*
3. Is your kitty indoors? Will she be forevermore, no matter how she begs and carries on?* Then you may continue!
4. Ten years people!* That is five times better than the study that showed skinny dogs live two years longer than normal weight or overweight dogs! OK, OK, you have moved on, I will too!
5. Have your cat spayed or neutered. If you can not afford a surgeon, one will be provided for you…there are many options in Omaha and most other communities. Kitties from Nebraska Humane Society are spayed or neutered before they are placed for adoption. I know you though, you are a Cat Saver, and you have been known to snatch up kittens by their scruff and save them from oncoming cars. If you are now looking into her cute little eyes, and wondering how you will afford your new “free” kitten, check out these awesome groups:
If you need help finding equally awesome groups to help with pet care costs in your community, let me know. Omaha is not the only community with wonderful pet-loving people!
6. Have one more litter box than you have cats.
7. Keep a litter box on each level of the house.
8. Keep the litter boxes as clean as possible. It is ideal to scoop them daily and clean them weekly.
9. Some cats prefer covered litter boxes, and some prefer uncovered. Some prefer a deep box, and some shallow. And every cat has a different opinion on the best cat litter. Unfortunately, the only way to know is by trial and error. All cats should have their boxes in as secluded an area as possible. Make sure if there is more than one cat in the household, or dogs, that no one is getting “bullied” out of using the litter box.
10. If your cat is urinating or defecating outside of the box, have a wellness exam done. Bring a urine and fecal sample, or allow the veterinary team to collect and analyze samples. Most common medical causes of not using the litter box are urinary tract infections and urinary crystals. Other causes include GI upset caused by parasites or other tummy-upsetters, urinary stones, kidney disease, and even arthritis or other causes of pain.
11. Sometimes a medical issue will occur and resolve, but your cat will associate the pain he felt with using his litter box, and now you have a behavioral issue. Cats will also sometimes decide they prefer a different substrate than the litter – usually your daughter’s beautiful blue dress she was planning on wearing to church the next day. Be patient and work with the veterinary team to use behavior modification to encourage him to use his box again.
12. If there are litter box issues, behavioral or medical, or a combination of both, try the cat litter called Cat Attract.
13. Choose a kitten or cat food that will keep your pet the healthiest. For healthy adult cats, my favorite is Science Diet Indoor Cat.
14. Take an entire week to introduce your new kitty to your resident kitties. Start in separate rooms with closed doors. Give the resident kitties run of the house as usual, and have the new kitty in a small room (bathroom or laundry room) with a comfy bed, food and water and a litter box. Make sure the “mini-kitchen” and “mini-restroom” are as far away from each other as is possible in such a small space. Some owners hesitate to “lock up” their new kitty, but I promise this will really help if you already have kitties at home! And in the grand scheme of things, it is one week out of a lifetime. After a week, move to supervised time together. If that goes well, move to unsupervised time together and run of the house for the entire pride.
15. Make sure you have a veterinary team and an emergency veterinary team you can trust.
16. Keep your cat at a healthy weight. You should be able to feel ribs and backbone when you are petting him or her, but not see them. For ideas on this “simple” but not easy task…see the previous newsletter, Keeping Your Kitty at a Healthy Weight
18. Bring your cat in for veterinary wellness exams twice a year.
19. Get regular bloodwork screenings. It seems to be a hobby for cats to develop chronic, but manageable diseases. Some of their favorites are chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, inflammatory bowel disease and fatty liver disease.
20. After about seven years of age, consider a yearly thyroid check with the rest of the bloodwork. Hyperthyroidism becomes more common in older cats. It’s one of those super-serious diseases, that is very satisfying to treat because cats tend to do incredibly well with treatment.
21. Get regular fecal exams.
22. Get regular dewormings.
23. Keep your pet flea-free.
24. Keep your pet tick-free.
25. Keep your pet heartworm-free. Cats are not natural hosts for heartworms, but they are infected at the rate of roughly ten percent of that of dogs in any given community. In Omaha, a dog has a ten percent chance each year of contracting heartworm disease if he is not on a heartworm preventative (ZERO PERCENT if he is!!), so about 1% of cats who are not on a heartworm preventative (again, ZERO PERCENT if they are) will contract heartworm disease in any given year. Because they are not a natural host, heartworms have a more difficult time setting up shop in a kitty, but once they do, the damage is often much more severe, and the most common “sign” of heartworm disease in a cat is sudden death.
26. Get core vaccines. For cats, these include feline viral rhinotracheitis (herpes), calicivirus, panleukopenia and rabies. Other vaccines may be helpful for your cat, depending on where you live and what he may be exposed to. Outdoor kitties (sigh…please?) should be vaccinated for feline leukemia.
27. Look through your environment as if you are a cat looking to get something stuck in your GI tract. They especially like string and yarn. I also knew a cat who enjoyed Nerf footballs, but I do not think that is typical. Hide that stuff.
28. Do the same with potential toxins. My two least favorite (and cats’ favorites) are antifreeze and lilies. Both super fun to eat, apparently, and super dangerous to their little kidneys.
29. Feed small, frequent meals or free-feed. Politely request that your cat stop eating just when his or her metabolic needs are met for the day.
30. Provide strict supervision around kids until everyone is friends.
31. I believe it is ideal to let cats keep all of their claws whenever possible. Decide what you believe about declawing before your cat is mature or fat. Then it is too late and you are stuck with four canine teeth and eighteen claws to watch out for.
32. To manage a clawed cat, consider providing horizontal and vertical scratching posts, having regular nail trims done, using SoftPaws and not annoying your cat.
33. Have a pet budget (food, litter box and litter, scratching post, toys, treats, grooming, training, veterinary care, other) and an emergency medical fund set aside.
34. Use all positive reinforcement to train your cat. HA! If he agrees to being trained, that is. Regardless, no negative reinforcement. Cats can’t process it, and, of course, it is mean. And you are not mean. You are nice. You are a cat person.
35. Have fresh water available all of the time. Consider providing running water or even a pet fountain to encourage adequate drinking.
36. Provide plenty of fun, safe treats and catnip. Catnip will not actually extend the life of your cat, but neither will it shorten it as some contend. And it will make it more enjoyable!
37. Laser pointers will not destroy your cat’s retinas and make him go blind. Not exercising will eventually catch up with him though, so if he likes it, let him chase the little red dot. He will have fun and get exercise, and you will…have fun.
38. Have medical issues checked and treated early, and have chronic issues treated as often as needed.
39. Cats are living longer than ever, because you (pet owners) are awesome. Because cats are living longer, we are seeing more and more things we never saw before. I also think we are recognizing painful conditions in cats that we were missing in the past. The most notable example of both of these is feline osteoarthritis. If your kitty is not jumping like she used to, not grooming as well, not playing or interacting like before, have her checked. We will do the same thorough exam as always, but we have more test options than ever before, and more options for treating acute and chronic pain than ever before. Cats hide pain even better than dogs do, but I think the veterinary community is getting better at finding painful conditions than we were before, and we are not content to let your pet be in any pain, when we have the ability to find its source and cure or manage it.
40. I know I started with averages, but do not go by averages. Max the Cat
is thirteen years old and completely healthy. He was neutered by a veterinary student and grew up at Iowa State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Having been raised by hundreds of animal lovers, he is the friendliest, most well-socialized cat I know! He was one of two blood donors for two years, and was allowed to “retire” and join our family when I graduated. I am not opposed to declawing, but Max was two years old and fat when we adopted him, so I did not declaw him, and he has been a perfect gentleman with all of his claws…to the dogs, the kids, even the couches. Yup, he is the perfect cat.
Um, except that blue dress of #11 was sort of inspired by a true story…
*I know I can be a bit of a smart alec when begging you to keep your cat inside. For an excellent article that explains much better WHY the outdoors is such a dangerous place for cats, and how to keep them happy indoors, please read Darlene Arden
‘s “Weighing the Safety Issues of Outdoor ‘Freedom’ Against Feline Happiness
.”Article © 1999 Darlene Arden. First published in Catnip, February 1999, used with permission. (Thank you so much, Pet Expert
Here is a fun article that came out in Parade Magazine the same day as this one…Should You Adopt a Hard Luck Cat?
by Dr. Marty Becker** and Gina Spadafori.**I want to be like Dr. Becker when I grow up, only prettier.
In all seriousness, he is a veterinarian I very much admire. He has done much to encourage and celebrate the human-animal bond, and I read his stuff whenever I find it!
Yup, all those different links go somewhere! Check them out, especially Darlene Arden’s website and twitter. I have been having fun linking to pictures and other great resources ever since Dave
taught me how!