Cat Wellness by Alex P.
As a vet tech working at my city’s animal control, I’ve learned quite a few things about cat wellness – their behavior, health, nutrition, and overall well-being
One thing that I’m asked about most often by adopters is what food is best for their cats. I think, as well as most vets, that anything that has ingredients other than real meat as the first ingredient is not healthy for your cat. I know, I know, that’s all you hear about on the commercials, but it’s true. In my own opinion (and other people I work with), the two best brands for your cat are Blue Buffalo and Wellness Cat Food. Both are more expensive than your common brands such as Purina, but they’re totally worth it, and cats love them.
As for wet food, I do not feed my cat wet food. Unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian, wet food can be very fattening for your cat. Think of it as the equivalent of eating a Big Mac every day. In some cases, though, we do feed our cats wet food, but that’s usually when we get in newborn kittens who are severely underweight and need to put on a few ounces quickly, and the same for malnourished cats that come to our animal control shelter. The other time that we give our cats wet food is if we have a cat that we feel won’t be around much longer. We pretty much let them have whatever their little heart’s desire. However, I am not completely opposed to giving cats wet food as a treat. If you do give your cat some wet food, about a quarter or an eighth of the can is a good portion.
I’ve had a couple people come into the shelter looking for a cat and wanting to de-claw them so that they can’t scratch. I cannot stress enough how inhumane this is for a cat. Not only is it painful for them (it’s the equivalent of cutting off the tips of your own fingers from the first knuckle down), but it can also cause behavioral problems. Without nails, they may no longer wish to use the litter box because scooping the litter is painful for them. Not only that, but it can also make them grumpy and mean, and a lot of times it can cause them to be in pain for the rest of their lives.
Alternatives to De-Clawing:
Instead of de-clawing, there are many things that you can do to curb their scratching. One solution is to buy scratching posts and cat trees where they have plenty of room to scratch. To make it more appealing, sprinkle cat nip over it to attract them. If they do try to scratch elsewhere, pick them up and immediately put them at the scratching post. Be sure to praise them and give them extra attention when they do use the scratching posts – they learn quickly!
A second solution is to use other training methods such as water bottles, double-sided tape, and different scents, among other things. I’m personally not a fan of water bottles because I feel like my cat is thinking I’m punishing him (which, I am, but still…), but I have heard from many people that those automatic sprayers made by Glade or AirWick work wonders because cats hate the spraying sound. Also, cats hate sticky things under their paws, so a lot of people have luck using double-sided tape to keep their kitties off of unwanted surfaces. Another thing is different fragrances. Cats supposedly hate the smell of citrus. This doesn’t work on my cat (nothing deters my cat), but again, this works for other people.
Microchipping (and Vaccinating!) is VERY Important!
Working at animal control, I have seen so many sad cases where we find stray animals that appear to be well taken care of, but they’re not chipped. Unless their owners go on our website to view our new intakes or come to our shelter, they have no way of finding their pets. The microchip procedure is very simple and quick, and of course doesn’t harm your pet at all. The chip itself is about the size of a grain of rice, and is inserted below the surface of the skin in the scruff of your cat between the shoulder blades. I promise that it’s super quick and painless! The registration process of the chip is very simple. You go online to the provided website, put in all of your contact info, and that’s that. Any animal shelter will have a little scanner that is waved over your cat’s back and will show an ID number unique to your cat. From there, you’ll be contacted to come pick up your pet.
FIV, FeLV, and Distemper:
If you’ve ever been to an animal shelter to adopt a pet, you’ve probably heard of FIV, FeLV, and Distemper. FIV (Feline HIV) is the same as human HIV. A lot of people who come across a cat who has tested positive for FIV are hesitant to give the cat a chance because they think that by having FIV, that that’s pretty much a death sentence. But it’s not! Cats who are FIV+ are perfectly capable of leading long and healthy lives! Please give them a chance!
FeLV, Feline Leukemia, is also about the same as the human form of leukemia, and it weakens the immune system. Again, FeLV+ cats can also live perfectly happy lives, but their lifespan may be shortened. There currently is no treatment for FeLV other than care and support by their caregivers, and it’s mostly spread through saliva, but can also be transmitted via urine and feces, even though this is less common. Kittens can also be born with FeLV from their mothers in utero or from the mother’s milk. Additionally, it is highly unlikely that a healthy cat over three months old that has been vaccinated for FeLV will contract it from a FeLV+ cat. Humans cannot contract FeLV.
Distemper is a highly contagious form of parvovirus that is found in both cats and dogs that can live in an environment for months despite the use of disinfectants. Distemper can be fatal if not treated, especially for kittens since they are so young. Symptoms arise as severe flu-like symptoms, as well as diarrhea, anorexia, and severe lethargy. Distemper is diagnosed by a veterinarian via blood and fecal tests.
Finally… Small Behaviors to Look Out for:
Finally, there are small and simple things to look for in your cat’s behavior to make sure that they’re feeling their best. Their grooming habits are a huge indicator of how they’re feeling. Normal, healthy cats spend quite a bit of time grooming themselves. Licking themselves, nibbling at any possible knots, cleaning their paws and face, etc. Of course, there is also a chance (somewhat uncommon, but it can happen) that your cat may begin to groom themselves excessively in times of anxiety and discomfort. If this is the case, you may notice things like balding spots in your cat’s fur, and should talk to your vet if concerned.
Also, changes in your cat’s individual behaviors. This is a given, naturally, and it’s no secret that cat’s spend the majority of their time sleeping. Every cat is different and unique, though, so if you see a change in their waking and sleeping periods, such as excessive sleeping and lethargy, this could be a cause for concern, and you should keep a look out for any other changes. Also, changes in their stools is also a big indicator, such as diarrhea. A normal healthy stool is somewhat dark and solid. If you notice blood in your cat’s stool, this is something that you should talk to your vet about, of course, but it can also be somewhat common if your cat is very stressed and anxious.
As pet parents, we love our pets and treat them like family. They bring love and character into the home, and undoubtedly bring endless amounts of love and entertainment (and probably frustration as well). However, while cats oftentimes do many things independently in regards to their own care (grooming and the use of a litter box), preventative care is of course very important to make sure that they’re happy and healthy so that they’re always a loving member of your family for many years to come. Making sure these things are taken care will ensure that your cat will have a much greater chance of remaining healthy and active.
Cat Wellness by guest writer – Alex P.