February is National Responsible Pet Owner Month. This is an important topic because, sadly, not everyone understands what it means to be a responsible pet owner. Here are a few things that pet parents often overlook when caring for their cats.
Clean Food and Water
Have you ever heard the old saying, “Garbage in, garbage out?” You’d be surprised to learn just how many people don’t know what their cat requires nutritionally, or that a high-quality diet is so very important to the health of a cat. Talk to your veterinarian and discuss the topic of diet with other devoted cat owners.
Making sure your cat is fed a species-appropriate diet is the first step to a happy and healthy cat. Feed your cat a high-quality dry, raw, or canned food diet that is complete & balanced, and intended to be fed to your little four-legged carnivore.
On that same note, be sure to provide your cat several sources of water. Because they have a long history of being desert animals, most cats never drink enough water. Bringing a pet fountain into your home will help encourage your kitty to drink more water and avoid problems with her kidneys and liver.
One of the most important things you can do for your cat is get him microchipped and update the information every single year! 7.6 million companion animals enter animal shelters every year and of those, 1.7 million cats are euthanized.
Only a tiny percentage of animals that enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Of those, fewer than 100,000 are cats. The euthanization rate for cats is much higher because they have such a difficult time adjusting to a loud kennel where they are often surrounded by large dogs who bark or other frightened cats who are hissing and fearful.
Some shelters estimate that over 70% of the cats that are brought into their facility are euthanized within three days. These are sobering numbers and nearly all of these lives could have been saved by the simple, one-time procedure of microchipping.
Keeping Your Cat Safely Indoors
If you have a cat that’s allowed outdoors to roam, please begin keeping him or her inside. Outdoor cats are hit by cars; killed by dogs, cars, and predators; and often meet even worse fates when they encounter awful humans. Indoor cats live, on average, twice as long as cats allowed outdoors! Give your furriest friend the long, healthy, happy life she deserves by keeping her indoors.
If your cat really doesn’t like being stuck indoors, there are plenty of ways to let her out safely. Consider building an enclosure attached to your house by a cat door or cat flap. You can choose a premade enclosure (like a dog kennel) or you can enclose an outdoor patio. You can also train your cat to walk on a leash!
Taking Your Cat to the Veterinarian
Cats are notorious for hiding their illnesses. This is one of the characteristics of being a predator. To show weakness when you’re at the top of the food chain is to invite an attack – that’s why it’s so critical to get your cat in for annual visits.
Fortunately, most veterinarians have made it very affordable to have a yearly checkup. In most cases, it’s the cost of a regular appointment for around $55 and if they do blood work, it is generally around $110. It’s worth having your veterinarian do bloodwork as this is often the only way to identify if something is going on with your cat.
Maintaining Your Cat’s Litter Box
It seems like such a simple thing, but a litter box – if not kept up to your cat’s high standards – can cause serious issues between cats and cat parents! The rule of thumb for cat owners is that they need one litter box per cat, plus one box. That means if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes. If you have three cats, you should have four litter boxes.
Choose litter boxes in a variety of sizes and shapes and arrange them around your home at strategic locations so your cat is never blocked from the box by another pet. If you don’t have a large space, you can even buy a piece of furniture that hides litter boxes in plain sight.
Most importantly, you need to clean those litter boxes every day. While cleaning the box is no one’s idea of a good time, it can help you avoid a variety of behavioral problems and help your cat know she’s loved!
A Life-Long Commitment…
While having a feline friend can benefit you in more ways than one, you have to be prepared to care for your cat, too. Cats can live up to 20 years – sometimes longer – and being responsible for your furriest friend can make a world of difference in the life and health of your cat.
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