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The best way to spoil your kitties — keep them healthy

Like any proud cat owner, the health and safety of your kitty is extremely important to you. No matter the age of your cat, there are always things you can do to improve the quality and length of its life — and make your own life easier by avoiding unnecessary vet bills and heartache.

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To make sure your four-legged friend lives all nine of its lives, follow these five simple tips.

1. Proper nutrition and hydration

While this seems like common sense, many cat owners don’t understand the basic dietary and hydration needs of their feline friends. Many cat-lovers feed their cat inexpensive, dry food, which can be very unhealthy.

The natural feline diet contains an estimated 72-78 percent moisture content, while dry food can have a moisture content of as low as 6 percent. Cats can become dehydrated very easily and often won’t drink enough water even if they are thirsty. This leads to kidney problems.

Many cat foods also contain mainly soy protein, which is harder for felines to digest, as well as grains that cats would never naturally eat. Consider buying a quality wet food that has real meat listed as its main ingredient, or take the leap and make your own. Also encourage your cat to drink more water by providing a drinking fountain instead of a bowl — cats are instinctually much more likely to drink from a flowing water source.

2. Regular health checkups

It’s important to take your cat to the vet for regular vaccinations and routine dental and physical exams, especially if it spends time outdoors and could potentially come into contact with unhealthy animals.

While it can be expensive to take a trip to the vet, it’s always better to practice prevention. If your cat’s health is a priority for you, it makes sense to look into pet insurance, which covers this type of preventative health care for your animals. Exams, vaccinations and emergency care are usually discounted with this type of medical plan, and you pay an affordable monthly fee.

Besides preventative healthcare, make sure you pay attention to your cat’s behavior and take note of any sudden changes or irregular behavior. Cats are creatures of habit, and even a seemingly small change in appetite, defecation, urination or activity level can indicate a much more serious problem.

3. Watch their weight

In the United States, vets estimate that over 50 percent of cats are obese. Overweight cats suffer from many of the same health risks as overweight humans, including diabetes, heart failure, liver disease and arthritis.

Talk with your vet about the healthiest weight for your cat based on age, sex and breed. If your cat is overweight, gradually decrease your pet’s food intake and increase its exercise levels to reach the target weight suggested by your vet. Many cat owners allow their cat to eat freely from a bowl of food throughout the day and live a sedentary lifestyle where they burn few calories. While pampering cat owners may see this as spoiling their fur-baby, it’s actually terrible for the long-term well-being of your kitty.

Whether your cat is currently overweight or at a normal weight, it’s best to feed it only twice a day and to limit portion size. Increase physical activity by taking your cat on leashed walks, playing with toys regularly or allowing your cat to roam outdoors for a few hours a day.

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4. Cat-proof your home

Even if you keep your cat indoors, there are still plenty of threats to its safety inside your home. Cats are curious, and if there is trouble, they will always find it! To reduce the chances that your cat will be poisoned, electrocuted or injured, it’s important to do your best to cat-proof your home.

Use only non-toxic cleaners in case kitty accidentally ingests a cleaning product. Conceal any electrical wires behind furniture, protect them with chew-proof covers or try bitter sprays that have an unpleasant taste that discourages cats from chewing. Secure any heavy objects that your cat might accidentally knock over onto itself. Also make sure your house plants aren’t toxic for cats by checking the list from the ASPCA.

5. Weekly grooming

Cats can be obsessive self-groomers. While your cat’s digestive system is meant to handle hairballs, if they become too large for your cat to pass, they can result in a life-threatening blockage. To cut down on the amount of hair your cat is ingesting, and to decrease the loose hair in your home, you should try to brush your cat at least once a week.

If your cat stops eating suddenly, has chronic diarrhea, displays an uncharacteristic lack of energy or gags many times without producing a hairball, your cat might be suffering from a blockage. If the problems persist, go to your vet immediately. Surgery to remove a hairball blockage can, unfortunately, cost thousands of dollars, so grooming is definitely worth the effort!

Keeping your cat healthy and happy can be affordable, easy and even fun. Follow these simple tips, and you can increase the quality and length of your beloved fur-baby’s life.

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Image: SheKnows

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