Tune up for kitty! Steps to ensure the health, safety, and comfort of your friend.
By Sally E. Bahner
With the arrival of warm weather comes the compulsion to make a fresh start. Windows are open, we’re wearing T-shirts, take long walks, and eat more salads and fruit.
Our cats, too, have a place in this summer scheme of things. After all, they’ve been attired in the same furry coat, sleeping on the same bedding, playing with the same old toys. It’s a tough life.
Since diet is a priority for us humans, take a look at Daisy’s diet in light of her condition. Is she overweight? Is her coat dull? Look at the labels of the food you are feeding her. If a named meat or poultry is not the first ingredient, find a brand that has chicken or turkey or lamb as first in the list.
Cut back on grain-laden kibble—it’s the equivalent of potato chips.
Now that shedding season is in full swing, make a date with Dave for a thorough brushing to get rid of his dead winter coat. You’re sure to brush out kitten-sized balls of fur whether your cat is longhair or shorthair.
Nail clipping may be an ordeal for some kitties, so if you can’t wield the clippers as part of Groucho’s grooming regime, have your veterinarian perform the dirty deed when you bring him in for a wellness check-up.
Just because the current protocols call for fewer vaccinations, it doesn’t mean that you avoid check-ups. Blood work and urinalysis can reveal a lot about Callie’s condition, especially if she’s getting on in years. A complete blood count (CBC) and blood chemistry profile can detect potentially life-threatening diseases such as hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, diabetes or cancer.
In light of Louie’s lifestyle, discuss what vaccinations he really needs. While vaccination for rabies is often a state mandate, many cats are well immunized after they receive their initial kitten shots. Unless they regularly go outside, you might want to forego further vaccinations.
This might also be a good time to schedule a dental if Tigger has tartar build-up. Like humans, some cats are more prone to tartar buildup than others.
If Coco has any kind of chronic condition (such as feline lower urinary tract disease [FLUTD], allergies, arthritis, irritable bowel disease) look into employing some alternative treatments. Often dietary changes can make a difference.
Many allopathic veterinarians are incorporating some alternative modalities into their practices. A good veterinarian-cat owner relationship hinges on what is best for the cat, so your regular veterinarian should be willing help with a referral to a holistic veterinarian. The operative word today is integrative—so take advantage of the best of both worlds.
Back at home wash all Blackie’s bedding including your own bed’s comforter. It’s amazing how much fur can collect during long feline naps.
Rotate Tuxie’s toy collection to maintain interest and store stuffed ones in catnip for extra appeal. Invest in a fishing pole or some other interactive toy. The activity will be good for chubbettes and help cement the bond between you and your cat. You might even get Freddie to play fetch.
A window perch will help Percy enjoy the warm breezes and outside activities. A bird feeder near a favorite window perch provides hours of entertainment. If he really has a yen for the great outdoors, consider building or buying an outdoor enclosure. Cat Fence-In is used in conjunction with existing fencing and KittyWalk is a stand-alone mesh enclosure that is staked into the ground. The Humane Society of the United States web site has additional ideas for enclosures.
Evaluate whether you need to use flea and tick prevention especially if Spencer spends time outside. The debate rages over the safety of flea and tick products, so examine the potential for infestation in your living space before applying them. While indoor cats have a lesser chance of acquiring fleas and ticks, the pesky parasites can be tracked in by humans or brought in on the resident dog.
If you must use Frontline or Advantage, use the smallest amount needed and watch for any adverse symptoms. And don’t wait until you have a full-blown infestation before starting treatment. Regular combing with a flea comb and some soapy water may be all you need to keep fleas under control. A healthy immune system also goes a long way toward the battle of the flea.
Now is the time to address any behavioral issues, especially since spring fever may be causing some feistiness. Channel Chelsea’s scratching behavior into a new scratching post, liberally laced with catnip. Inexpensive cardboard scratchers are great since they can be placed all around the house, and cats really seem to like them. A nice tall scratcher can assuage some aggression problems since cats need vertical space as well as horizontal space to establish their hierarchies.
Aggression problems respond nicely to flower remedies. Bach flower remedies are probably the best known, many others are also available that originate in different parts of the world. Dr. Jean Hofve has a line of flower remedies available through her web site that are great for multiple cat households and other behavior issues.
If Barney is a biter, don’t resign yourself to scars on wrists and ankles. Fishing pole toys are a great way to channel playful energy and have fun. Avoid situations where your hand becomes a biting object. Watch for signs of overstimulation such as tail lashing, dilation of the pupils and airplane ears, and don’t give him the chance to attack.
Inappropriate urination, litter box avoidance … however it’s addressed … is the most frustrating problem a cat owner can encounter. If you catch Peaches peeing on a pillow, first visit your veterinarian to rule out urinary problems. Analyze your cat’s environment for stressors. What may be completely normal for you—visiting grandchildren, remodeling, a dinner party—may traumatize Tabby. A new addition to the family—human, feline or canine—may also cause out-of-litter-box experiences. Flower remedies can also be helpful here.
Clean up any accidents immediately to discourage further ones and prevent your house from smelling like a litter box. And if remodeling is on your summer to-do list, consider replacing old carpeting with wood or vinyl flooring. Allergens can be better controlled and cleanups are a lot easier.
Update your first-aid kit, or create one with items such as hydrogen peroxide, gauze pads, cotton balls, thermometer, Rescue Remedy, antibiotic ointment, activated charcoal, mineral oil, as well as a washcloth, towel and blanket.
Keep ASPCA’s poison control hotline—1-888-426-4435—posted on your fridge. Know how to reach your vet after hours and the location of the nearest emergency clinic. Even though we’ve been spared the wrath of hurricanes here in Connecticut, have a disaster preparedness plan in place—collect needed supplies (such as food, bottled water, litter and pan, medical records and photos, and collars and ID tags) for easy access in case you must quickly evacuate. Know where you as well as your cats can safely stay. Leaving them behind should not even be an option! The ASPCA web site is an excellent source of emergency information.
Now that your feline friend is tuned up, head out to your garden to plant home catnip and wheatgrass for summer enjoyment.
Sally Bahner is a member of Cat Writers’ Association and the International Association of Feline. An editor, freelance writer and feline consultant, she can be reached at [email protected]