One of my greatest fears is that unexpected health issues will creep up for my cats. I’ve certainly been through a lot of this over the years with several different cats and dogs. I like to think I’ve developed an approach to at least make the odds work in my and my cats’ favor. While there are no guarantees in life — and while some cats have luckier genetics than others, just like humans — here are a few of the things I’ve tried to incorporate in the daily lives of my cats. I suspect that some of these things have helped my cats have the healthiest lives possible.
Diet elicits many opinions. I don’t judge what people feed their animals, and I’m always happy to see a cat in a good home, no matter what. Good pet food can get really expensive, and I’ve been in a place where I had to buy food I wasn’t crazy about to stay within budget. But when I have the means, I’ll buy good food, figuring that I can hopefully stave off health issues in the future. (Again, I realize that all cats’ genetics are different. I had a beautiful black cat who passed at age 10 of intestinal cancer, even though I fed him a good diet. And Rama, my current black cat, has recurring low-grade tumors, even though he eats very well.)
When the budget allows, I feed grain free dry and canned food. If I had the means, I would probably stick to canned food exclusively. Grain free food is especially important for Rama, who seems predisposed to developing cancerous tumors. (Apparently, the sugars in grains create an environment in the body that is more likely to support cancer.) A raw food diet might be an even better way to go, but it’s beyond my budget, and I’ve never been able to get my cats interested in it. (They DO love the crunch of a fresh mouse, however, when a mouse gets into the house.)
Do what you can. If a high-quality diet is beyond our budget, there are other things we can do to support health in our cats.
This is good for us and our cats. If your cats are indoor-only, as mine are, they really benefit from play, exercise, and honing their inherent prey instinct. This is easily done with a number of toys, including something like a Feline Fisher. When we moved, we forgot the Feline Fisher, so we crafted a cheap lookalike. It doesn’t handle as delicately as the Fisher (which is mounted on something like a light fishing rod) but it can get some of my cats really riled up in a good way. Wrap up any toys with strings and put them away in a safe place when done playing so that your cat doesn’t hurt himself.
We all know that some cats play differently and are stimulated by different things. All of my cats love the toy on a string, but only a few of them love the red laser dot (I’m always careful not to shine it in their eyes). Kieran loves this contraption with holes in it and a way for cats to drag toys out of it. He will lie with it, sticking his paws in, but I need to shake it and scratch him and get him worked up for him to really enjoy it. Brushing is also a really happy treat for some cats. And “chase the kibble” is a great game for indoor cats. Just make sure your cat is a bit hungry and throw a piece of kibble across a floor (hard floors work well here for ultimate stimulation). What your cat loves to play with may vary, and may take a little experimenting and effort on your part.
There are some very good immune support products out there that can be added to your cat’s food and aren’t super expensive. I use one that was originally recommended by a holistic vet when Rama’s low-grade sarcomas first surfaced. Ask for your vet’s opinion. I eventually began giving immune support to all my cats, though Rama gets the maximum dosage. I believe it does make a difference in their health. Of course, there are things we can do in our home environment that may support a healthy immune system in our cats as well. I use no chemical cleaners in the house, and I try to keep the cats’ routine consistent so that they can enjoy their typical “normal.”
What do you do to enhance your cat’s health? Tell me in the comments!
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About Catherine Holm: Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.