Play stimulates a cat’s brain, so give your cat opportunities to engage his brain and you’ll be helping him live longer. MetroCreative Connection. Cat lovers all around the world can relate to the human-animal bond that is usually formed between their furry felines and them.
In fact, cats are among the most popular pets ranked worldwide, with approximately 74-96 million cats in American households as reported by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
As a responsible and loving owner, keeping your cat alive and healthy for as many years as possible should be one of your top priorities. So, here are several tips that will help you improve your feline friend’s quality of life and, in turn, increase his or her life expectancy. Diet
As the old saying goes, “you are what you eat”. The food a person consumes contributes to their overall health. The same goes for cats, which is why it’s very important to place consideration when choosing a diet for your feline.
Cats are classified as obligate carnivores. This means that their nutritional needs are met by eating a significant amount of animal-based protein in their diet. Protein is an extremely important component of a cat’s diet because their unique metabolism requires a much higher level of protein in their body compared to dogs. In contrast, large amounts of carbohydrates have been shown to cause digestive issues for many cats, often resulting in stomach and intestinal discomfort or other abnormal clinical signs (eg. diarrhea).
A complete cat food should also contain essential amino acids, such as taurine. This amino acid is vital in a cat’s body to assist with proper cardiac function and vision, and to support the immune system.
When choosing the right food, you should also take into account your cat’s age, as well as any relevant underlying medical issues. Many senior pet foods are rich in omega 3 and 6, or in glucosamine and chondroitin, in order to help combat arthritis. If your cat has a medical condition such as renal disease, your veterinarian may suggest a lower protein diet to lessen the buildup of harmful toxins in the body and slow the progression of the disease. Food allergies can also prove to be an issue for many cats. In these cases, your veterinarian may suggest a limited ingredient or novel protein diet.
Consult with your veterinarian and do your own research when picking the best cat food for your feline companion. Learning to read the food labels is a wonderful skill to have, which will allow you to understand the type and amount of ingredients each food contains. Weight
A healthy diet and a healthy weight often go hand in hand. Feeding your cat the appropriate volume of food and keeping him or her at the right weight will help prevent weight-related medical problems such as arthritis and diabetes, and will ultimately increase your cat’s life expectancy.
Each cat has different metabolic needs based on genetics, age and lifestyle, so figuring out what volume of food will keep your cat lean and healthy may take some trial and error.
Free choice feeding, which means that a bowl of food is left out all day, often leads to extra pounds on most domesticated cats. It is best to designate specific feeding times and measure the volume you are serving in order to gauge weight gain or loss.
Also, keep in mind that cats can have a healthy diet on either wet or dry food, and do not require both on a daily basis.
The last major point to keep in mind is that most cats exercise very little but sleep for long hours (13 hours on average daily). With this in mind, a small, measured volume of food is sufficient for the majority of these cats.
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, it is always recommended to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any potential underlying conditions. Environmental enrichment
Providing opportunities for your cat to play, explore and interact help to keep the brain stimulated. Most happy felines have plenty of opportunities to use scratching posts or cat trees, search for hidden toys in the house, roll in their irresistible catnip or spend time with their favorite human.
The human-animal bond provides benefits to both parties involved, and coincides with feelings of trust and safety for many cats. Your cat will feel less vulnerable in a stress-free and loving environment, and will be much happier in many respects.
As cats age their neurologic function can begin to diminish, and doing your best to keep their brains stimulated is a way in which you can help to maintain their happiness as long as possible. Spay/neuter
Several studies, including a pet health report published in 2013 by Banfield Pet Hospitals, have showed a link between spaying or neutering pets and their lifespans. The results of the study showed that on average neutered male cats lived approximately 62 percent longer than their unneutered counterparts. As for spayed females, they were shown to live approximately 39 percent longer than unspayed or intact females.
The reasons behind these results include a higher predisposition in unspayed animals to develop certain health conditions. For example, unspayed female cats are at risk of developing mammary cancer and uterine infections, while unneutered males can develop testicular or prostate infections and cancers.
If you are unsure about this topic, speak with your veterinary about the pros and cons of spaying or neutering your pet in order to make the best possible decision for your furry friend. Veterinary care
As a caring pet owner, it is very important to be proactive and have your cat examined regularly by your veterinarian. Identifying certain health conditions early on is the best way to ensure effective treatment options and to improve your feline’s survival.
During kittenhood frequent visits are recommended because various vaccines are needed to establish a strong immune system while maternal antibodies are weaning out of their systems.
During a cat’s adulthood a yearly wellness visit is encouraged, along with additional visits if any abnormal clinical signs are observed.
Finally, during a cat’s senior years (over the age of 7) biannual visits are usually best, and routine tests should be performed, such as a blood screening test, which is helpful in evaluating internal organ function (eg. kidney and liver function) as the body ages.
Cats should have the opportunity to live a long, healthy and happy life. As a cat owner, you can play a vital role in this by feeding a high quality diet, providing lots of enrichment, neutering your felines, and by participating in regular veterinary visits.
Dana Koch is a veterinarian and writer for Petcoach.co.
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