Until about 40 years ago the cat was thought to be an outdoor pet, but its independent nature and the relative ease of taking care of its basic needs has made the cat a popular pet in the United States.
In fact, recent studies have shown that there are millions of more pet cats than dogs.
The ease of care for basic nutrition and toileting needs, as well as their independent nature, has led owners to believe that basic pet care for the cat appears to require less effort than other pets, such as dogs.
While they may be surviving, their health concerns are often unrecognized and their needs are not being met.
Here are the top 5 things that your cat would want you to know if it could speak with you.
1. I Need to Visit a Veterinarian. Cats are masters at hiding illness and may show only very subtle signs of sickness. Unless owners are aware of these subtle signs, they may often miss small behavior changes that can signal disease until the disease is in a more pronounced stage.
Proactive preventative health care actions like visiting your veterinarian for annual wellness visits can help with detecting disease before it becomes advanced. Cats also need to stay up-to-date with vaccinations as per AAFP Vaccine guideline recommendations. Senior cats may often need to visit the veterinarian more frequently. Visit www.catvets.com to find a feline practitioner in your area.
2. I Need Active Play. Cats are natural hunters and need an opportunity for play that enables them to express hunting behaviors.
Environmental enrichment for indoor cats is very important because it allows them to play, express their instinctual hunting behaviors and can provide regular exercise.
Cats are greatly influenced by early experiences so socialization during this time is critical. Cats are usually most content when they can dictate the timing of interaction with their owners and other humans.
Like humans, feline obesity is a rising healthcare concern in the U.S. and creating an environment that allows the cat to play and exercise can improve their overall health.
3. I’m Naturally Clean and Highly Sensitive to Scent. Cats often respond negatively to new scent profiles in the home including cleaners, new furniture, visiting people, dogs or other cats. Scent marking indoors can mean the cat feels threatened or it can be a response to changes in their emotional state because of changes in their environment.
Cats need a comfortable quiet place for toileting and in a location where they can avoid contact with other cats and human traffic. They prefer at least 1.5 inches of litter in order to bury their waste. It is also recommended that there be one litter box per cat, plus one extra and in different locations distributed throughout the home environment.
4. I Need Small Frequent Meals. Cats are carnivores, unable to survive or thrive without nutritional nutrients such as taurine that is found only in meat.
Vegetarian diets are not recommended for cats because of the cat’s unique nutritional needs. Your veterinarian should always be consulted first before feeding a homemade diet.
Cats often eat only a few mouthfuls of food at any one time and not a large meal (prey is usually small).
The feeding process for cats is not a social event and thus they prefer to eat alone. Eating meals with other cats in close proximity or placing a bowl in a corner can create stress during the feeding process.
5. I Need a Veterinary Practice That is Cat Friendly. Cats have unique needs that practices must learn in order to provide the best possible health/medical care for the cat.
The entire veterinary team must learn and incorporate feline friendly handling techniques into their practice. Cat Friendly Practices understand that the trip to the veterinarian can be stressful for you and your cat, and they can help provide strategies to decrease the stress associated with the visit.
Practices that understand the distinct needs of cats will be able to provide improved wellness care, valuable education for you the client, and be proactive about diagnosing disease early to ensure a longer, better quality of life for your cat.
Donna Stephens Manley, DVM is the President of the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP). A graduate of Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Stephens Manley has worked in emergency medicine, small animal general practice, feline-exclusive practices and is currently in shelter medicine. Check out the AAFP website at www.catvets.com. Visit www.catvets.com to find out more information on Cat Friendly Practices.