Toe beans! Purrs in the night! The chaotic and frantic 2 am house pawty that inevitably hits right as you doze off! Having cats is amazing. They are the absolute best roommates and offer the purrrfect amount of cuddle and alone time.
Keeping them healthy and happy, though, can be problematic for the simple fact that cats are a lot like people. Cool, hairy people that can jump 3 times their height. You see, while a dog will come and basically show you what's wrong, or in what way they may not feel well, a cat will likely hide it when they're not feeling their best. Sometimes showing no outward symptoms until illness has taken a foothold. Showing any weakness, even one you can help fix, is simply not their style.
So, how do you keep them healthy and around for as long as humanly possible? We've put together a list of ways to make sure your cats are getting the best out of their time with you and help you make the best decisions for their health and longevity.
Call of the Wild
Cats are natural-born predators. Even the chonkiest house cat will transform into Rambo if a mouse happens to invade the home. So keeping their mind occupied and on-task is great for not only their physical health but also their mental health. Electronic mice, flapping fish, catnip infused kickers... there's any number of ways to keep your favorite feline(s) feeling frisky and energetic. Enrichment gets talked about a LOT for our canine companions but not as much for our feline counterparts and it's just as important. Especially when cats are true indoor-only cats. Adding a bit of the "wild" to their indoor lives helps keep them more active mentally and physically.
>> Feelin' crafty? This list from the ASPCA is a great way to add enrichment to every aspect of your cat's 9 lives using things you have just sitting around the house.
Nutrition. Nutrition. Nutrition.
Just like us humans, cats are what they eat. So if you're cat's primary diet is copious amounts of Temptations treats and Fancy Feast food, don't be surprised when they're looking less cat-like and more bear-ish. That's not to say treats can't be given but they need to be treated as treats. (Yeah.) But what makes good nutrition for cats, you ask?
Protein. Foods that offer primary, whole-food ingredients like salmon, fish, chicken and liver are what you need to look for. When reading the back of a bag or can, make sure you're seeing words like "salmon, chicken, beef, turkey..." and AVOID terms like "by- product, meal, or flavor/ing." Those are big red flags for poor or zero nutritional value and actually usually made up of the leavings and scraps from nutrient-dense food. Those by-products and meal or flavors are just a nice way of saying "yeah, nothing worth noting here."
And always look to the first line of the ingredients as ingredients are listed with the first ingredient being the primary ingredient. Again, aim for foods that list whole foods there, not meals and by-products or flavorings.
Luckily a lot of foods are stepping up their game and offering great, nutrient-dense options for our kitty friends, even adding in supplements like turmeric, chondroitin and glucosamine. This updated 2021 list from The Spruce Pets helps lay out the best options for cat food today.
Water is essential to all living things and that includes your furry feline. Since cats get up to 80% of their water intake via their prey in the wild, bolstering any wet food you give them is a great way for them to stay hydrated as close to nature as possible. Water bowls or fountains (cats ADORE drinking fountains!) should always be left fully accessible and full of fresh, clean water. Washing the bowl is just as important as mouths can be pretty dirty, so make sure you're washing the bowls every week with Dawn dish soap and hot water. Pop it in dishwasher and boom, even better.
Arthritis & Injury
Nothing is worse than watching a cat get older or worse, succumb to an injury or illness. As cats age, their bodies, just like ours, take longer to heal and joints can become arthritic. There are many supplements out there that can help ease aches and pains, like Licks, which offer pill-free relief from everything health-related for your cats and dogs. Another great option for overcoming and relieving pain from illness, surgery or injury is red light therapy. Red light therapy helps heals wounds/after-surgery areas fast. It can ease the pain that comes with arthritis and the aches of old age. By stimulating the bodies own ability of healing and regeneration, red light can help old pets feel young again.
And last but certainly not least, PLAY. Remember when we talked about the call of the wild at the beginning? Play is right there with it, but it also boosts serotonin, for both your cat and you! The more interaction you have with your pet, the healthier and happier they'll be. Period. So take a break from the phone and back away from the laptop. Interact with your cat(s) and have fun! You'll both lead happier lives with the regular downtime.