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Essential cat care

Essential cat care
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Think kitties are low-maintenance? There are a few things to know about caring for a cat.

Removing claws of an outdoor cat

Removing claws of an outdoor cat
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Because of dangers such as other animals and cars, outdoor cats often live less than five years, compared to indoor cats, who live closer to 18 or 20 years, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the US. Help your outdoor cat protect itself by keeping its claws intact, says Ashley Rossman, DVM. “They need their weapons,” she says. If your pet ends up getting into a fight with another animal, it could get critically injured if it doesn’t have a way to scratch.

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Leaving food out

Leaving food out
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Pet obesity is a serious problem. There’s one main drive, says Katy Nelson, DVM: leaving a bowl of food out all day. Especially if your kibble brand is high in carbs, your cat will be tempted to overeat. “I put it to my clients like this: if you put an entire cheese pizza out on the counter and left me to my own devices, I can almost guarantee that that entire pizza would be gone by the end of the day,” she says. “Whether my body needed it or not, carbs are just not all that filling.” Tack on months or years of eating like that, and it’s no surprise your cat might carry some extra weight.

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Sticking with dry food

Sticking with dry food
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Especially if your cat can’t handle having its food out all day without over-eating, you might want to consider dishing out wet food for mealtime. “It has better water content, which is better for the kidneys,” says Dr. Rossman. Talk to your vet about how much and how often you should feed your pet.

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Avoiding the vet

Avoiding the vet
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Even seemingly healthy cats should get a check-up at the vet at least once a year, so don’t let your cat’s fear of crates keep you from keeping up with its health. Your vet might notice kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, or other conditions that you might miss. “All of these diseases may show zero or very subtle clinical signs until the disease has progressed significantly,” says Dr. Nelson. “Trust me, it’s worth the trouble to take them in to find a small problem while it’s still small.”

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Serving high-carb food

Serving high-carb food
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Sorry, vegetarians, but you might need to put your personal beliefs on hold for your cat’s sake. Cats are true carnivores, and their systems aren’t designed to digest plant-based food, says Dr. Rossman. She recommends a grain-free, meat-based diet for cats so they can get the protein they need. If you’re concerned about animal rights, consider a brand like Open Farm, which uses ethically sourced proteins.

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Making your cat an unbalanced meal

Making your cat an unbalanced meal
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If you want to know exactly what’s going into your cat’s body, think twice before prepping its food yourself. Home-cooked meals often don’t offer your cat all the nutrients it needs, so use a site like balanceit.com for recipes you can feel good feeding your pet, says Dr. Rossman.

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Skipping vaccinations for indoor cats

Skipping vaccinations for indoor cats
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Just because your cat never ventures outdoors doesn’t mean it’s safe from diseases like feline parvovirus or leukemia, says Dr. Nelson. Your cat might make a dash outside, and even supervised kitties could catch feline leukemia just by going nose to nose with another cat, she says. For your sake and your pet’s, follow your vet’s vaccination advice.

Not protecting against fleas, ticks and heartworm

Not protecting against fleas, ticks and heartworm
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Just like with vaccines, you can’t assume your indoor cat is safe from pests. If you bring in ticks or even mosquitoes, your pet could be exposed to (depending on where you live) Lyme disease, heartworms, or even the plague,” says Dr. Nelson. “Doors open and window screens aren’t foolproof,” she says. “Simple monthly preventive medications can be lifesaving for your indoor kitties.”

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Not providing shelter

Not providing shelter
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If your kitty will be roaming free at night, it will need a weather-appropriate shelter to keep it safe from the elements, especially on cold winter nights. It’s also important to know how to keep your pet safe during natural disasters. “Build some kind of shelter for them that has some warm insulation,” says Dr. Rossman.

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