Comprehensive  Ways To Delightful Healthy Pets
HOUSECATS ARE WILDER THAN YOU THINK
CATS ARE THE NUMBER-ONE PET IN AMERICA, AND WE SPEND more annually on cat food than we do on baby food. Aloof, cuddly, sensitive, selfish, sweet, tough, complicated, playful, silly, elegant, unpredictable, and incredibly resilient, cats are highly entertaining. An astonishingly powerful design, beautifully packaged into sweet softness. They are unique and specialized, and cat ladies and gentlemen who understand this will raise cats with distinct health benefits.
Multiple-cat households need to be set up to deal with the cat psyche. One of my clients has eleven cats and they function well as a group. She has twelve litter boxes, separate food and water areas, and has even built several tall but accessible caged-in areas for the cats to be outside. Most likely there is still some inter-cat strife, but it doesn’t seem to affect their health.
Medical problems that I routinely see in cats include obesity, inappropriate urination, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, kidney and liver disease, dental disease, hyperesthesia (itchy skin), allergies, thyroid disease, asthma, and behavior issues. All of these conditions can be negatively affected by the body’s response to stress. In addition, nutrition requirements for cats are quite specific. For example, without the amino acid taurine in their diet, they become blind and develop heart disease.
Many commercial cat foods may not provide enough fiber. In the wild, the feathers, beaks, nails, and fur would clean up the intestines and help maintain their health. But for our purposes, other fibers can do the job of intestinal scrubbing. I recommend adding a bit of pumpkin (a teaspoon of unsweetened canned pumpkin per day will do), or psyllium (1/4 tsp mixed in wet food per day), or 1/8 teaspoon of guar gum to the meal. This regulates their stool—making it neither too hard nor too firm—and thus keeps intestines healthy. Cooling aloe juice (about 1/8 tsp) is also a good intestinal supplement for most cats.
As kittens, cats learn what food is edible and what isn’t. There are commercial raw foods that are a great option for a cat. Once cats come to trust a specific type of food, it can be difficult to incorporate other foods into their diet. There is a window of learning about foods that closes once the cat becomes an adult. The cat that has only eaten dry food all of his life may never be able to change to canned food, and vice versa. A cat unaccustomed to eating steak may starve to death rather than eat it. Cats do not like unfamiliar food. They have evolved to be very finicky about what they put in their mouths. This indicates that choosing suitable food, from an evolutionary standpoint, is vital for the survival of the cat species.
If you are considering making your own raw cat food, the website cat info.org has great information. It is written by Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, who is a vet. Anytime you change diets, be sure the cat will eat the new food and that it agrees with her. Slow changes are best—over 10 to 14 days. Offer the new food first thing in the morning or when she’s hungry, just as a meal is due. If the cat doesn’t eat it, feed another food that she will eat. They must eat every day to stay healthy. It’s no use trying to “force” a cat to eat the food. Cats typically won’t eat what they don’t want. Calm and gradual coaxing is often the only effective method.
EXERCISE IN THE FORM of walking a feline can be challenging. “Walking” on a leash for many cats ends up being “dragging” on a leash, providing more exercise for you than the cat. If you are one of the lucky ones who can walk your cat on a leash, it’s a great idea. If your cat is treat-motivated, you can throw a treat down a hallway or staircase and he will run and retrieve it. When he feels like it!
Cats walk in my underwater treadmill at my clinic (yes they can!). These cats are rehabilitating from injury, arthritis, or other musculoskeletal problems. Water therapy ameliorates specific conditions as well as contributing to overall body health.
Felines are not pack animals, but they do enjoy a few BFFs. There is a delicate social balance among cats that may be invisible to the untrained human eye. It can be useful to know whether a cat is top, bottom, or in between in the family hierarchy. High stress levels in cats can wreak havoc on their health and immune system. A cat sitting on a window ledge can be harboring many stressors but showing few signs of it.
A serious territory war may only be seen in that slight tail flick, or a slow change in posture. These subtle stressors can increase adrenal gland activity, blood glucose levels, muscle tension, or gastrointestinal transit time—all very useful physiologic changes for a short war, but not useful for daily life in close quarters. And certainly not helpful for long-term health.
Keep a Cool Cat
Owners with multi-cat households should be aware of each singular cat’s nature and provide safe havens for troubled or troublemaking cats.
Procure the right number of litter boxes. The solution for this is to have a box for each cat and then add one more. Four cats, five litter boxes.
Choose a few quiet places for the boxes that are easy to access.
Clean the litter box daily. Cats have a superior olfactory sense. Use a chemical-free litter.
Don’t use an uncomfortable mat, or sharp plastic grass in front of the box.
If you have multiple cats, maintain multiple food and water stations to decrease stress. Are these bowls easy to access? Cats are desert animals, and by the time they feel thirsty, they may already be dehydrated. If they are feeling intimidated, it may add to a health problem. If your cat is fighting kidney or urinary tract issues or diabetes, plentiful water is a must.
Feed your cat a “Catkins” diet—a low-carb diet. Feeding a cat a high-carb diet is a disaster in many ways. Carb-heavy diets increase the incidence of obesity and are associated with diabetes, inflammatory bowel problems, and allergies. Without the carbs, cats with these conditions improve and lose weight. If your cat is underweight, have your vet rule out all possible underlying issues, such as parasites, hyperthyroidism, and kidney disease, and then feed more of a high-quality food.
Butter your cat’s feet or fur to distract them during inter-cat stress situations or introductions. They prefer to groom it off (and enjoy the butter) rather than fight or stress out.
Use lemon peels or spray lemon juice to keep cats away from the couch—or anywhere they shouldn’t be going—or use tinfoil, plastic wrap, or double-sided tape.
Most pills can be crushed into tuna juice or meat baby food. If the cat won’t eat it, you can syringe-feed from the side of the mouth.
Coat pills with butter and place at the back of the tongue—it will go down easily.
Compounding pharmacies can make most meds into a tasty liquid.
Minimize contact, where possible, with plastic bowls. They exacerbate chin acne and allergies.
Make sure there is low stress associated with the food bowl, litter box, and living situation.
The high moisture content of canned or frozen raw foods is more suited to a cat—an animal that would rarely drink water in the wild.
ACCIDENTS DON’T HAVE TO HAPPEN
WHY ISN’T YOUR CAT using the litter box? There are myriad medical reasons why cats avoid using the litter box: UTI, crystals, stones, painful urination or defecation, growths in the bladder. And logistical issues—unclean litter box, too few litter boxes, doorway mat not comfortable (plastic grasses, etc.), litter box location or box size (for example: too small)—may upset your cat. Litter box avoidance can also be caused by a urinary tract infection. The cat thinks, “The last time I went in there and peed, it hurt, so I’m not going back.” There can be other behavioral causes. The cat may not like the new kind of litter, or, as already mentioned, the social pressure of a more dominant cat forms a blockade to the litter box.
Cats may urinate on any rug with a rubber or nonstick backing, such as a bath mat. They also like to urinate on dog beds that contain granular or beanlike filling, and on bean bag chairs. Perhaps it is the odor of the bath mat or the texture of the dog bed and chair that attracts them.
For cats with urinary issues, a low-carb, canned-food, or raw-food diet should be seriously considered. The increased water content and higher protein will help maintain the urine pH and the cat will stay healthier naturally. Dry food only dehydrates a cat further. If they drink water after eating kibble, it will be used mostly to digest the dry food. Even when healthy, cats are not big water drinkers, so add warm water to a favorite food to increase hydration when needed.
Because some feline urinary issues can be life-threatening, it is always best to consult a veterinarian and have a urine sample checked when faced with a rogue cat urinating out of the box.
CATS ARE UNIQUE CREATURES, exquisitely sensitive yet still little tigers at heart. A cat needs to experience its catlike essence. There are cats that simply aren’t happy as indoor cats and need to be allowed to go outside, if possible. This can relieve a significant amount of tension. I recommend putting a bell or two on the collar to keep the cat from killing unsuspecting birds or wildlife. Or if you’re lucky your cat might tolerate a harness or go on walks with you without one. My neighbors watch incredulously as I parade by with my dogs on leashes and my cat accompanying us, leashless, indicating our direction with a flick of his tail.
I am not a cat man, but a dog man, and all felines can tell this at a glance—a sharp, vindictive glance. —JAMES THURBER
WHAT’S TRUE, PUSSYCAT?
Q:How do I get my cats to stop wildly playing at night? I can’t get any sleep! If my feet move under the covers, they jump on them, and they push things, like my keys and water glass, off the table. If I close the bedroom door they throw themselves at it and bang on it till I open it again. Are they crazy? Do they need drugs? Do I?
A: Cats are, I’ll have to admit, crazy. At least my cats have always been. Your cat problem is not unique. It probably has to do with the age of your cats and the fact that cats are nocturnal. I assume that they are young, and are still getting used to your crazy (according to them) diurnal schedule of sleeping during normal midnight activity time. There are several things you might try, short of taking something strong to help you sleep at night. Try to encourage lots of play in the early evening and before bed. Then they may at least start the night with a good long nap. They also will have a postprandial dormancy, which means they get sleepy after a meal. So feed the largest meal in the late evening. If you keep food unavailable in the afternoon and then offer it at about 8 P.M., they are more likely to eat it.
Make sure they are not eating too much carbohydrate (check their treats as well), which can add to their craziness. If they are used to milk, you could try a warm milk nightcap to calm them down as well.
Cats can be trained to sleep at night. Make them cozy spots away from your room. Try melatonin or valerian supplement to calm them. Ask your vet for the correct dosing.