If you are thinking of adding a new feline member to the family, you are embarking on a rewarding journey. Cats make great companions who quickly can become one of your best and most loyal friends. Keeping your feline friend healthy and happy is key to years of cherished memories. Here, learn the basic care a cat needs to live a long, healthy life.

Your cat’s nutrition

Feeding your cat a balanced diet appropriate to her age, activity level, and health is essential. Cats can be picky about their food, and many develop their food preferences in their first year. Our veterinary health care team can recommend a diet based on your cat’s needs. Limit the amount of treats—cats can be charming and persuasive, and you may find it easy to give her too many treats. Help her watch her waistline and ensure that treats are no more than 10% of her daily caloric consumption. Keeping your cat hydrated is also important, and she should always have access to fresh water.

Grooming your cat

Cats naturally practice great personal hygiene by self-grooming, but cat owners can pick up where their cats leave off by regularly brushing or combing the cat’s coat to reduce shedding, hairballs, and mats. Also, keep your kitty’s nails trimmed to discourage her from scratching the furniture. If your cat stops grooming, that may indicate illness, so be sure to contact our team.

Your cat’s housing

Cats are safest indoors, where they are out of reach of predators and safely away from cars and other dangers. Your cat can lead a full life if you provide toys, scratching posts, perches, indoor hunting feeders, and other opportunities for enrichment. Cats are curious creatures who love to explore, and they will commonly entertain themselves with boxes, bags, blankets, or scraps of paper. However, keep a close eye on your cat as she explores, because there is always the potential for her to swallow a small object, become trapped in a box or closet, or injure herself.

In stressful times, such as when visitors come to your home, you remodel your home, or you introduce a new family pet, pheromones can help. Check out Feliway, a product that mimics your cat’s natural calming pheromones. It’s available in multiple forms, including sprays, wipes, and diffusers.

If you have multiple cats, each one must have her own bowls, bedding, and litter box.

Your cat’s litter box

Using the litter box is a cat’s personal time, and the litter should be kept in a private, easily accessible location. If you have more than one cat, we recommend a litter box for each cat, plus one extra box, to reduce overcrowding. Cats are territorial and value their personal property, including their litter boxes. Also, another cat’s waste may discourage elimination in that litter box. Place each box away from the other to allow each cat to establish her own space and decrease the risk of fighting over territory.

We recommend scooping the litter box at least once per day. Some cats will not use a dirty litter box because they don’t like stepping in their own waste. Also, clean the litter box with a mild detergent and replace the litter at least once per week. Consistently refusing to use the litter box can be a sign of illness in your cat, and you should contact our veterinary health care team.

Medical care for your cat

Cats are masters at hiding signs of illness until it advances and treatment becomes more difficult. Take the lesson of the late Grumpy Cat, who recently died at age 7 from complications from a urinary tract infection. Taking your cat to the veterinarian regularly—at least once per year until age 7, and then twice per year—is vital.

During your cat’s regular exam, our team will examine her from nose to tail, including her dental health, joint mobility, digestive health, reproductive health, coat quality, and more. We’ll conduct tests and compare the results with your cat’s baseline “normal,” which will help us detect changes early. The earlier a disease is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat and the better your cat’s prognosis.

We recommend keeping your cat current on her core vaccines, including rabies, feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, and feline herpesvirus. Even your indoor cat can be exposed to diseases when outside sources enter your home.

With your veterinarian as your partner, you can help your cat live a healthier, happier, and longer life. Contact us and let’s be partners in your cat’s good health.