Four New Year's Resolutions for Your Cat

The new year isn't just a good time for you to break bad habits and take up good ones. It's an excellent time to take stock of your cat's life and figure out what you can do to make her life better, too. Here are four feline new year's resolutions for you to consider:

1. Lose weight. A lot of people think fat cats are cute, but the truth is that obesity puts your cat at a much higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

With the exception of some larger breeds, an average-sized cat should weigh between 7 and 12 lbs. To measure your cat's weight, weigh yourself, then pick up your cat and weigh yourself again. The difference between the two numbers is your cat's weight.

A cat should have a slight layer of fat over her ribs, but you should be able to feel the ribs without too much poking and prodding. When you look at your cat from above, you should notice a distinct waistline.

If your cat is obese, work with your veterinarian to develop a nutrition and exercise program that will allow her to lose weight at a safe pace.

2. Eat better. Cats need to eat meat in order to be healthy. But most of the dry cat foods available at supermarkets have more grain than protein, and even canned foods may contain low-quality proteins that are hard for cats to digest. Many experts say these factors can contribute to obesity, allergies, and other health issues.

Seek out canned cat foods that are at least 95% meat and dry foods that list meat products as at least the first two ingredients. These premium foods do cost more, but since you generally feed less to get the same nutritional value, the cost per serving is pretty much the same.

3. Exercise more. In the wild, cats hunt several times a day. This stimulates their senses and keeps their graceful bodies in shape. But indoor cats rarely get a chance to pounce and prowl and wrestle. Boredom can lead to depression, acting out, and overeating.

Resolve to give your cat at least three 10-minute interactive play sessions a day. When you play with your cat, make sure you move the toy as if it were a real prey object. Move your mouse toy in quick little bursts, stop, then move it again. Let your bird toy "land" and watch your cat sneak up on it. Don't forget to let her catch the toy a few times or she'll get frustrated and walk away.

A regular exercise program will make your little couch panther healthier and more excited about life. After a while she'll probably start asking you to play with her if you forget.

4. Go to the doctor for a checkup. Cats age much faster than people, so it's crucial to get your cat to the vet once a year for an annual physical exam. Some vets say that senior cats (those over 12 years of age) should have checkups twice a year. Regular vet visits help you to keep track of your cat's weight and general health, and your vet will notice changes in your cat that may have happened too gradually for you to detect. A yearly checkup will also help your vet get to know you and your cat, which will help him or her give your kitty the best possible care.

About the Author: Cat expert and animal communicator JaneA Kelley is the webmaster and chief cat slave for Paws and Effect, a weekly cat advice column by cats, for cats and their people. She also keeps Catsters up to date on their fellow felines' antics via The Kitty News Network.