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My family has always had cats ever since I was a child. I’m a great cat lover and I’d classify them as my favourite animal! Therefore I dedicate this post to all the cats I have owned over the years. If you haven’t guessed by the title, I’m going to be sharing how to keep your cat healthy. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to cat health, but I will be sharing some tips that I have picked up over my 20+ years as a cat owner.
Before I get into the post, I must start with a disclaimer. I am not a vet or a cat expert! This goes without saying, but please don’t rely on my advice to guarantee your cat’s health. If you have any concerns about your cat’s health, please get them checked by a vet.
How To Keep Your Cat Healthy – 12 Important Tips
1. Look after their teeth
Unfortunately, dental problems are very common in cats. That’s why it’s important to get their teeth checked regularly at the vet and follow any advice they give you. Ideally, we should brush our cat’s teeth but this is notoriously difficult! If your cat allows you to brush their teeth then I recommend it because it can help keep their teeth healthy. Otherwise, try giving them Dentalife cat treats which can help to clean their teeth in an enjoyable way. Also, dry cat food is generally better for their teeth than wet food but wet food is better for hydration – so you’ll have to strike a balance according to your cat’s needs.
2. Provide good quality food
Some of the cheaper cat foods contain a lot of additives such as colourings, as well as cereals to bulk up the food without providing much nutritional value to the cat. Try to opt for the more premium or unprocessed foods if your budget allows. Make sure whatever food you choose contains taurine which is an essential nutrient for cats. Supplemental Taurine is added to all commercial cat foods nowadays.
3. Provide water at all times
There should always be water present, even if you never see your cat drinking it. I very rarely see my cat drink from her water bowl! I assume she is finding water outdoors (and getting fluids from her wet food too) but I will always leave the water bowl out so that she has water available if her preferred source dries up.
Another tip is to have multiple water bowls in different locations. I once put an extra water bowl in my bedroom where my cat frequently visited. She immediately started drinking regularly from that bowl, even though I still never saw her drink from her bowl in the kitchen. It shows how much of a difference the bowl’s location can make for cats. After a few months, she stopped drinking from the bowl in my bedroom so I assume she went back to finding water outdoors again.
4. Ban lilies from your home
Lilies are highly toxic to cats and can be fatal if they ingest any part of the plant. This includes the pollen! Lilies produce a lot of pollen that can easily scatter around. Even if your cat isn’t in the habit of chewing plants, they could easily step in some pollen and then lick it off their paws. This could result in potentially fatal illness. Therefore if you are a cat owner, it’s important to ban lilies from your home. If you ever receive any lilies in a bunch of flowers, I recommend removing them from the bunch and perhaps giving them to someone else who isn’t a cat owner, before bringing the rest of the bunch into your home.
5. Avoid toxic houseplants
As well as lilies, there are many other plants and flowers that are toxic to cats. Thankfully most of them don’t drop pollen everywhere so they are only dangerous if your cat actually chews the plant. If your cat has any history of chewing plants, I’d recommend avoiding toxic plants altogether in your home. If your cat never chews plants, you can use your discernment and perhaps have some toxic plants but it’s best to keep them on high shelves out of reach of your cat, just in case. Here is a list of plants that are toxic for cats.
6. Avoid using chemicals in your garden
Chemicals such as weedkillers and lawn treatments can be harmful to your cat’s health. This includes if they walk on recently treated areas and then lick their paws. Garden chemicals are bad for wildlife and the environment as well as for our pets, so I would recommend never using them at all. If you really have to, make sure to keep your cat indoors for around 48 hours afterwards.
7. Avoid antifreeze
Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which is a highly toxic chemical to cats. If they ingest less than a teaspoonful, it is enough to kill them. Your car needs Antifreeze in its radiator, but always make sure to thoroughly clean up any spillages straight away, and keep your car radiator well maintained so there are no leaks that your cat could walk in or lick. Even if your cat never goes near your car, consider your neighbours’ cats too. Also, store any bottles of antifreeze well out of your cat’s reach.
Ethylene glycol is sometimes also added to de-icing sprays so I recommend finding a cat-safe one or avoiding those altogether. It is also sometimes added to water features to stop them from freezing up. If you have a water feature, please don’t do this! Your cat (or neighbouring cats) could drink from it and get seriously ill.
If your cat ever goes near your neighbours’ cars or water features, you might want to politely mention the dangers of antifreeze to them too, in case they don’t know.
8. Use cat-safe cleaning products
Many cleaning products including Dettol contain chemicals that are harmful to cats. If these harmful cleaning products are used on surfaces, the cat can then walk on them and lick them off their paws. A bit of research can help you easily find non-toxic cleaning products that are safe for your cats.
9. Provide grass for your cat to eat
It’s healthy for cats to eat a bit of grass to provide extra nutrients and help keep their digestion running smoothly. Most cats will be able to access grass outdoors. If you don’t have grass in your garden, it’s a good idea to buy or plant a pot of grass so your cat doesn’t have to go too far to find it. Likewise, if you have an indoor cat, make sure to provide a pot of grass indoors.
10. Play with your cat regularly
Many cats are naturally playful, whereas others need a bit of encouragement. Either way, play is good exercise and mental stimulation for your cat. You don’t need elaborate toys – a stick, a piece of grass or some string are firm favourites with my cat.
11. Brush your cat
Brushing your cat provides many health benefits including removing dead skin and fur and stimulating blood flow. It’s especially important to brush long-haired cats so their fur doesn’t get matted. Short-haired cats can get away without being brushed, but it’s still a good way to get off any loose fur and keep your cat’s coat feeling silky. If your cat enjoys being brushed, this can also be a good bonding activity between you and your cat.
12. Avoid introducing new cats
If you are a cat lover, it can be very tempting to adopt another cat when you already have one. However, this is a big risk to take. In general, cats are solitary creatures, and there’s a high chance they won’t take kindly to a newcomer. Around 10 years ago my family made this mistake by adopting a new, 8-month-old cat when we had a 12-year-old cat. We hoped they would get along because the new cat was so young, but unfortunately, the older cat got into a constant state of stress due to the new cat’s presence, and they did not bond. Eventually, we had to find a new home for our new cat. (Side note – this cat has been happily settled with a friend of ours ever since and we still get to see him!)
Related post: 7 Amazing Mental Health Benefits of Owning a Pet
Bonus tip: Avoid harmful essential oils
I’m adding this tip in at a later date as I only recently found out about it. Many essential oils have health benefits for humans, but unfortunately, many of them are harmful or poisonous for cats. You can learn more here about which essential oils are safe and unsafe for cats.
If you choose to use any unsafe essential oils, take care to make sure your cat doesn’t come into contact with them. Avoid spillages, and keep the bottles sealed securely out of reach of your cat. You should also avoid using harmful essential oils in oil diffusers and reed diffusers, and avoid candles and room sprays that contain them. This is because essential oil droplets can cause harm when breathed in by your cat.
Are you a cat owner?
I’d love to hear all about your cat, and any things you do to keep your cat healthy. I’m sure I have missed some things off this list, so do share your cat health tips in the comments below.
As a cat lover, it felt good to write this post knowing that it might help some cats out there to be that little bit more healthy or even save their life. Please do spread the word about the dangers of lilies and antifreeze in particular, as it does scare me that some cat owners and neighbours might not know.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Wishing you and your cat the best of health.