Cats are one of the most commonly owned pets in the world. The small creatures make great companions and often require less work to care for than other popular pets, such as dogs. However, one should not take a cat’s relative independence for granted. Cats do require a certain level of care to remain happy and healthy. New cat owners may not know where to start when they first bring their new feline companion home, but with the following tips, even the most confused caretakers should be able to adequately provide for their pet’s needs.

Keep Your Cat Healthy and Happy

The most important, and often overlooked, step for keeping cats healthy is making sure they receive adequate veterinary care. Most kittens should receive their first round of vaccinations around 6-8 weeks of age, followed by a set of booster vaccinations several weeks later. Veterinarians usually recommend the following vaccinations for cats: rabies, FeLV (feline leukemia virus), and a combination vaccine that protects against calicivirus, rhinotracheitis, and feline distemper. After this first round of shots, cats should continue to see a veterinarian every year for a check-up and other needed vaccinations.

In addition, most veterinarians recommend spaying female cats and neutering male cats. Spaying prevents unnecessary litters and provides numerous health benefits. A spayed cat has a lower or eliminated risk of developing ovarian or uterine cancer, especially when spayed before they go into heat for the first time (usually around 6 months of age). Neutering a male cat can prevent common issues such as spraying and displaying unprovoked aggression.

Another important factor in maintaining your cat’s health is feeding them a high-quality diet. Most popular supermarket cat food brands are not as healthy for your furry companion as they claim to be. These foods often contain substantial amounts of grain and other ingredients that can be hard for a cat to digest. While many cats can eat these foods and not have any major problems, some cats will have bad reactions. Low-quality cat food can cause digestive issues, obesity, loose bowl movements, excessive shedding, low energy, and hairballs. Feeding cats a high-quality, grain-free food can often fix these common ailments. A good rule of thumb is to search for a food that has real meat listed as the first ingredient.

The next thing to consider when trying to keep your cat healthy is their water consumption. Most cats don’t drink enough water to keep themselves adequately hydrated, which can lead to serious health problems such as bladder stones and kidney infections. Many of these conditions can be fatal if not treated in time. With their independent nature, it’s hard to believe cats don’t instinctively know to drink more. As a responsible pet owner, you should always ensure your cat has access to clean, fresh water. Even if there’s still water left in the bowl from a previous day, it’s important to provide new water each day. Make sure the bowl you provide your cat’s water in stays extremely clean to encourage even finicky cats to drink enough. If you’re still concerned your cat isn’t drinking enough, consider purchasing a small pet water fountain. These units often cost less than $50 and constantly filter water to make sure it’s clean enough for picky cats. The moving water also entices most cats to drink more.

Cats are important family members in millions of households. Concerned pet owners want to do everything in their power to make sure their companions live long and healthy lives. By following the above guidelines and any other advice given by your family veterinarian, you can keep your cat purring for years to come.

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