10 ways to holistic cat care

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As a responsible pet parent, it is your duty to ensure that your cat is healthy and fine. Here’s how to ensure holistic cat care.
Regular veterinary check: It is a myth that cats are self-sufficient and don’t need the regular care a dog needs. Cats do need a
Dr Nezhat Belgamvala
wellness check-up by the vet on regular basis, at least twice a year, to keep check on health issues with regard to nutrition and weight, dental check, behavioural changes as they age and regular vaccination and deworming. As your cat ages past eight years, the frequency of visits will need to increase to read the signs and avoid age related problems from setting in.
2 Yearly vaccination: Vaccinating your cat, even though he may be entirely an indoor cat, is not an option but should be mandatory. Vaccination is done to maximise our ability to prevent infectious diseases in our pet. It starts at 6-8 weeks of age and after the initial boosters, it should be repeated on a yearly basis to maintain the required immunity levels in the body. You must discuss the required protocol with your veterinarian.
The core vaccines that need to be given are against rabies, panleukopenia (causing very contagious viral disease), Calcivirus (causing severe flu and oral disease) and Herpes virus (causing infectious rhinotracheitis respiratory infection).
3 Parasite control: External parasites like fleas, ticks and lice are commonly found on cats who are not maintained properly or in unhygienic environments. This leads to irritated skin, hot spots, hair loss and infection. Fleas are hosts for tapeworms so all it takes is a lick from the cat to swallow a flea which leads to a tapeworm infestation. Thus regular grooming and oral deworming once in 3-6 months is very important to maintain your cat’s condition.
4 Spay and neuter: Whether your cat is a completely indoors or roams outdoors as well it is a very important decision and responsible parenting to choose to spay/neuter her. It is the procedure done to sterilise and prevent your cat from further breeding. There are so many health benefits in this procedure. Here are a few:

  • Spaying your female before her first heat cycle best protects her from developing uterine infections and breast cancer which leads to 90 percent fatality in cats.
  • Neutering males before six months of age can prevent testicular cancer which is a common problem in older pets.
  • You can avoid the stress the poor female cat goes through during her heat cycle which is usually for 4-5 days every 3-4 weeks during breeding season. This is accompanied with mood swings, yowling loudly and frequent urinating, usually all over the house.
  • Neutering prevents your male cat from roaming in search of a mate and getting injured either by other males or with road traffic.
  • Prevents overpopulation. Every year so many cats are abandoned or euthanised as they don’t have homes. This could be prevented by just sterilising your cats and the street cats around as well.

5 Grooming: Grooming is an excellent way to bond with your pet and be rewarded with loud rumbling purrs. Avoid baths unless really needed as cats have a natural cleaning mechanism by licking themselves, but you can aid them by regular brushing to prevent too much shedding and hair ball issues. Long-haired cats need to be brushed on a daily basis while short-haired ones can be brushed 2-3 times a week. Start them young so that they get used to the procedure and then start looking forward towards it.
Bathing in cats can be tricky and each cat has his own preferences. Just avoid pouring water directly on the head or trying to submerge the cat. Place the cat in a tub and use a sponge or a small cup and pour the water on the body from a close distance. Avoid water from entering the ears or nose. Make sure the shampoo is washed off thoroughly. Towel dry your cat or use cool air from the dryer as hot air can burn your little one’s delicate skin.
6 Weight control: Overfeeding with lack of exercise will lead to an overweight cat. This is a very common problem in indoor cats. Obesity can lead to health conditions like diabetes, arthritis and cancer. It is very important to stick to a veterinary prescribed diet based on the pet’s age, lifestyle and weight where calorie intake is monitored.
7 Mental stimulation: An empty mind is a devil’s workshop, and this is so apt for cats. They need an enriched environment for their overall development, long term health benefits by regular exercise and to stay away from trouble. Toys, scratch posts and running-chasing games avoid boredom which may lead to unwanted behavioural habits especially in hyper young kittens. Tip: don’t replace your old worn out scratch post cause that’s when your cat likes it the best and in case you replace it, he may switch to the arm of your couch!
8 Litter box maintenance: It is very important to keep the litter box clean for basic hygiene purpose and to encourage your cat to use it. Litter needs to be cleaned on a daily basis to prevent a smelly house and a sick cat and avoid infections like toxoplasmosis which is transmitted through stool which is not cleaned over 24 hours. Wash the box once a week with warm water and detergent and dry well before adding fresh litter. Always use gloves and wash your hands well after handling the litter.
9 Senior cat care: When a cat crosses eight years of age, he is referred to as a senior cat. Older cats need special attention as one must observe for signs of discomfort, inappetence or abnormal behaviour and immediate get them checked by the vet before the condition gets worse. Extra care that needs to be taken in a senior cat include:

  • Regular blood checks and vet examination to monitor kidney function as kidney failure is a common problem in old cats.
  • Due to inactivity it can lead to excessive nail growth so regular trimming needs to be done.
  • Diet needs to be changed to an easily digestible food and prevent overfeeding as lack of exercise can lead to obesity.
  • Regular supplements need to be given to keep the bones and joints strong.
  • Always check with your vet before starting or changing any diet or supplement.

10 Training your cat: Yes, you can train your cat, only that you need to convince him that the trick was worth it! Cats are individuals and each react differently when trained. Thus you need to be patient, repetitive and always use positive reinforcement. While training, motivate your cat with tasty food bits, a favourite toy, catnip or a preferred tickle. Use what the cat demands from you as an incentive while training. You can start with a simple command like sit or up or high-five. Use hand signals and a gesture with the verbal command to indicate to the cat what you are expecting. Make sure you have their complete attention. Example, you can pat a chair and say sit so when the cat comes and sits beside you, reward him with a treat. In this way he will associate the gesture with what you expect from him.
Cats are extremely intelligent animals and have a personality of their own, but they too love being cuddled and played with from time to time. So don’t forget to spoil your little furry bundles, after all a little bit of love goes a long way with them!
(Dr Nezhat Belgamvala is proprietor of PetStepin, a facility providing pet boarding, day-care, socialisation, grooming, etc
in Bengaluru).
 

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