“Cats have nine lives.” Cats’ agility, quickness, and ability to land on their feet have kept this proverb around for a long time. Have you ever wondered about the origin of this statement? It is thought that this came from ancient times when nine was considered a lucky number because it is the “trinity of trinities”. Because cats seem to be lucky in their death escapes, this number was well-suited for the cat. Another theory is that the cat-headed goddess of Egypt was blessed with nine lives, and all other cats followed in her fortune.
While cats are amazing creatures that seem to be able to get themselves into trouble and emerge unharmed, they do not have nine lives. They are resilient, and their athleticism is often in their favor when running from a dog, dodging a car, or jumping from a high level. Their muscles, bones, and even their inner ears are constructed to help them right themselves during a fall and increase their odds of landing on their feet and absorbing the shock. Despite their anatomy and their survival skills, cats DO get injured and it IS very important to put safety first to allow your cat the longest life possible.
To help your cat live a long life and be able to enjoy her for many years, you must be a responsible pet owner. When you decide to adopt your kitty and give her a place to live, remember that this is a lifelong commitment. A cat is not a toy or a decoration, she is a living creature that deserves your love and care as long as she lives. If well cared for, a cat can live up to 20 years.
Spay and Neuter
Spaying and neutering is not only performed to prevent reproduction, it is also beneficial to your cat’s health. Spaying and neutering reduces a cat’s desire to escape the house and search for a mate, thus reducing the risks listed below of being outdoors. Sexually altering your cat before sexual maturity also reduces the risk of some cancer. A neutered cat has a decreased chance of prostate cancer, and a spayed cat has a reduced risk of mammary cancer. Chances of dangerous inflammations, infections, and cancers of the organs removed during the spay or neuter are eliminated.
Visiting the Veterinarian
It may not be your cat’s favorite activity, but going to the veterinarian for regular check-ups is crucial. Regular veterinary appointments will provide your cat with a current vaccine status, clean teeth, and a physical exam – all which are very important for a long kitty life. As your cat gets older, your veterinarian may recommend regular blood work to monitor her health.
Cats tend to hide their illness until they are extremely ill. This concealment of weakness is a survival instinct to protect them from predators. For this reason, careful monitoring of your cat’s habits and daily activities is a useful supplement to regular veterinary visits. If your cat unexpectedly loses weight, has a change in appetite, develops vomiting or diarrhea, is hiding more than usual, has unusual vocalizations, begins urinating or defecating outside the litter box, etc., you should contact your veterinarian. Cats often show illness or injury with minor changes in behavior such as these, so be mindful of your kitty’s daily life.
A cat who lives indoors only will have a greatly decreased chance of injury or untimely death. A cat who goes outside risks dog attacks, fights with other cats or wildlife, being hit by a car, infectious diseases (feline leukemia, feline immunodeficiency virus, feline infectious peritonitits, respiratory infections etc.), toxin ingestion (such as anti-freeze or rat poison), heat stroke, frost bite, etc. There is also the risk of the cat wandering away from your home and getting lost or picked up by a new owner. An outside cat also has an increased chance of acquiring internal (intestinal worms, heartworm) and external (fleas, ticks, maggots) parasites.
A cat that is raised from kittenhood as an indoor cat will probably have little to no desire to explore the great outdoors. These kitties are usually satisfied indoors by a window to observe the birds, a cat tree to climb, and some toys to stalk. Mental and physical stimulation is extremely important to the indoor cat’s health. Be sure to provide her with adequate playtime.
If your indoor cat pesters you, begging and pleading to go outside, then supervised time outdoors may satiate her desire. A cat can be safely taken outdoors on a leash or in a pet stroller. You can also purchase a mesh pet tent to place in your yard for kitty’s outdoor time.
Of course, there are also hazards associated with living indoors. These hazards, however, are more easily controlled than those of the outdoors. To cat-proof your home, follow these steps. You know what curiosity does to a cat…
Pick up and put away anything your cat may eat that is not edible. Cats tend to chew on things around the home and those items may pose a choking or intestinal obstruction hazard. String, yarn, dental floss, ribbon, rubber bands etc. are very common intestinal obstructions. Even a small, thin piece of innocent-looking string can make a cat very ill. Also, be careful with the electrical cords, as some cats like to chew these and may be electrocuted.
If your cat wears a collar, make sure it fits appropriately. In her climbing about, a cat wearing an over-sized collar may get caught on something and hang herself. Be sure you can comfortably fit only one finger between your cat’s neck and her collar. If you can fit more, it is probably too loose. There are also break-away collars available that will disengage at the latch if your cat is stuck on something. Also be mindful of anything else your cat may become entangled in, such as a bra hanging on a doorknob.
Do not have toxins accessible to your cat. Many cats enjoy chewing on plants. Not only can this be annoying, but it can also be fatal to your cat. See PetPlace’s list of toxic plants. Also keep ALL medications in a location completely unaccessible to your cat. Rat poison, potpourri, cleaners, and antifreeze are other potential hazards.
Stabilize your furniture. Cats love to jump and climb. Be careful to not have unstable furniture, decorations, or appliances that may fall over if they jump on or in them. Though cats are quick, it is very likely that a tumbling household item could cause injury or death.
Separate your cat from dogs when they are unsupervised. Even if your dog and cat appear to get along famously, they should not be left together when you are away from home. One moment of frustration, rough play, food aggression, etc. could leave your cat injured or dead. When not at home, it is best to either crate the dogs, or separate them in a different room than the cats.
Feed Quality Food
Ask your veterinarian what cat food he or she recommends. You should never feed your pet a generic or store brand food, as this nutrition is not ideal. Also, never allow your cat to eat a diet of only dog food. If your kitty enjoys sneaking a piece of dog kibble here and there, be sure she is eating from her cat food bowl as well. There are vitamins and amino and fatty acids that a cat must have in her diet that are not necessarily supplied in a dog’s food. Cats also require more protein than a dog. Proper nutrition will keep your cat healthy and give her the best chance at a long life.
Playtime, Love, and Attention
Playtime is beneficial to a cat in multiple ways. It provides exercise, bonding time with the kitty’s owner, and it allows the cat to use her hunting skills. Stalking furry mice, running after a laser pointer, and batting at a fishing pole toy are all excellent ways to help your cat stay psychologically and physically healthy. Sedentary cats become obese and are then at increased risk for health problems such as diabetes, joint disease, and others. Inactive cats also become bored and unfulfilled, which can lead to depression and behavior problems.
A healthy lifestyle should keep your cat acting young for a long time. Her zest for life and fearless curiosity may make her seem like she has the fortune of multiple lives, but she only has one, so cherish every day you spend with her.