Cat Wellness Care Tips

This month we are taking the time to talk about cat wellness. Whether your cat is young, old, indoor or outdoor the following will help you and help your kitty cat live a long and healthy life. There are a lot of topics to cover in regards to cat wellness but for today we are going to touch on a few of the basics. Such as nail trimming, getting to the vet, and environmental needs.

Environmental Needs

What are environmental needs? Environmental needs include a cat’s physical surroundings as well as their social interactions with humans and other pets. Cats often do not express obvious signs of stress, pain or sickness that we can easily recognize. If we are proactive we can potentially avoid environmental stressors that can cause unwanted behaviors and even impact health.

1. Provide a safe place: Every cat needs a safe and secure place where it can retreat so that it feels protected and safe and maybe even take a nap in. The cat should have the ability to exit and enter, preferably from 2 sides, if it were to feel threatened. Most cats prefer that the safe space is big enough to fit only themselves, has sides around it and is raised off the ground. Cats are territorial animals. They feel threatened when their territory is disturbed.

2. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources: Key resources include food, water, litter box area, scratching areas, play space, and resting/sleeping areas. These recourses should be separated from each other so that cats have free access without being challenged by others in the home, people or animals alike. This will help reduce stress and the risk of competition. Cats by nature are very clean and need adequate space to do their “business” Location, box size and number of boxes is key in avoiding accidents or behavior-related elimination. Never punish your cat for house-soiling. Punishment can lead to fear-related aggression, stress, and encourages urinating in less obvious areas.

3. Provide the opportunity for play and predatory behavior: Play and predatory behaviors allow cats to fulfill their natural need to hunt. Play can be stimulated with a variety of toys. Cats need to be able to capture the “prey” at least intermittently to prevent frustrations. Encouraging playful hunting of toys will help the cat learn to avoid going after your hands and feet for play. You can further this by rotating your cat’s toys so they do not get bored and rewarding with treats to provide positive reinforcement for appropriate play. For multi-cat households, be sure to play with them individually too.

4. Provide positive and consistent human-cat social interactions: Cats are finicky creatures and often come off aloof. Wanting attention on their own time or changing their minds halfway through getting a pet on the head. It’s important to remember that every cat interacts differently and to respect the cat’s individual preferences. Cats use scent, posturing, and vocalizations to communicate their happiness or unhappiness. Cat’s social structure differs from ours. Cats may be content as a single cat or may prefer living with other cats. Preferably related cats such as siblings.

5. Provide an environment that respects the importance of the cat’s sense of smell: Cats have a superior sense of smell and hearing. Stress can occur due to strong or strange smells or sounds, which are undetectable or insignificant to us. Unlike humans, cats use their sense of smell to evaluate their surrounds. Cats mark their scent by rubbing their face and body, which deposits natural pheromones to establish boundaries within which they feel safe and secure. It’s best to avoid cleaning their scent off these areas, especially when a new cat is introduced into the home or there are other changes with pets, people or the environment of the home. The use of pheromones, such as Feliway, can mimic a cat’s natural pheromones to provide a calming effect in a stressful situation. There are also calming treats too. Some smells can be threatening to cats, such as the scent of unfamiliar animals or the use of scented products, cleaners or detergents. Threatening smells and the inability to rub their scent can sometimes lead to problematic behaviors such as urinating or defecating outside the box, spraying or scratching in undesirable areas. In some cases, a stress-related illness may develop.

Physical Needs

Now that you have your cat’s environment needs met, let’s move on to caring for some of your cat’s physical needs. One of the most forgotten “need” is nail trims. For most owners, this is a daunting task that is scary and stressful for both humans and cats. Cat’s nails grow just like ours and need to be trimmed regularly to avoid snagging them on things that can cause the nail to break below the nerve or grow into the paw pad, both painful and costly if untreated. Here is what you need to do:

1. Hold your cat in your lap. You can also wrap them in a towel or blanket for added support and comfort.

2. Gently take one of your cat’s paws in the fingers of your left hand, and press a toe pad enough to extend the claw. Note where the quick is. Cat’s nails are clear and you should be able to see the “pink” of the blood supply. Good lighting is key to seeing this.

3. Position the clippers with your right hand about halfway between the end of the quick and the pointed tip of the claw. You‘ll trim just the sharp tip off the nail. Once you’re comfortable that your cat accepts the trimming, you can continue.

4. Clip all the nails. If your cat is polydactyl be sure to check for those extra toes nails hiding in the folds.

5. Release your cat’s toe and quickly give them a treat.

Don’t feel bad if you and your kitty are not able to do this together. Give us a call to schedule a nail trim and we will be happy to help.

Preventative Care

This leads me to our last topic for today’s blog, getting your cat in to see the veterinarian. Providing good health care, especially preventive health care, can allow your cat(s) to have longer, and more comfortable lives. This can only happen if your cat sees the veterinarian at least once a year or every 6 months for senior cats or cats with ongoing disease treatment. These annual or bimanual visits allow you to ask questions, see how your cat is aging, keep up on vaccines, blood work, and flea prevention to name a few things. BUT just getting to vet can be half the battle.

Cats are most comfortable with familiar surroundings and need time to adjust to the unfamiliar. Carriers can be very scary to some cats. The goal is for your cat to learn to associate the carrier with positive experiences and to routinely enter voluntarily. Place the carrier a familiar area at home by leaving it in a room where your cat likes to hang out. Provide a comfy bed or clothing with your scent on it. You can put some of their favorite treats in there too. Stay calm. Cats can sense our anxiety which may cause them to also become anxious. This would also be a good time to use Feliway. Hopefully after some time, even weeks, your cat will learn to trust the carrier. Once you get to the clinic, we here at Helping Hands will continue to use Fear Free tactics to ensure your pet has the best experience possible so you can continue to provide the best health care for your furry friend.