- Proactive daily care can prevent a cat from developing digestive, urinary, and dental problems later in life.
- To support a cat’s health and wellness, they need healthy food and physical and mental enrichment, including play and scratchers, to prevent boredom and obesity.
The health of a cat is closely intertwined with its quality of life. The more enrichment cats have day to day, the more physically and mentally resilient they are likely to be year after year. Enrichment encompasses the opportunities they have to practice natural, instinctive behaviors like hunting, chasing, and scratching.
Combine those things with high-quality nutrition, preventive health measures such as brushing the teeth and coat, and stress-free choices for toileting and resting, and you’ve got the necessary building blocks for a lifetime of good cat health.
With the guidance of two veterinarians from Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, Washington — Drs. Andrea Sanchez and Heidi Cooley — we’ve narrowed down what cat owners can do to ensure a lifetime of good health for their cat. The products in this article target common mental and physical ailments, from digestive and urinary health to stress and boredom.
Here are 20 products to maintain your cat’s health and wellness:
A nutritionally complete, high-quality cat food
Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning their good health is dependent on a animal-based protein. Unfortunately, not every cat food is formulated with these needs in mind. For a cat food to be complete, it shouldn’t just meet the minimum standards laid out by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), its manufacturer should also have conducted feeding trials to determine whether it is nutritionally satisfactory.
Purina Pro Plan True Nature goes above and beyond, using high-quality, grain-free ingredients that pack their dry food with 45% protein and their wet foods with around 50% protein. My cats especially love the ocean whitefish and salmon pate and the natural chicken and liver pate. Because high levels of protein can be hard on the kidneys, Purina Pro Plan True Nature may not be the right choice for cats who are prone to kidney disease. Always consult your veterinarian before starting your cat on a new food.
A tall cat tree that meets a variety of your cat’s needs
To provide your cat with comfort and enrichment, Cooley recommends giving them access to high perches for observation, hidey-holes for quiet time, and scratchers for claw maintenance. A good cat tree offers all this. For a tree that best meets your cat’s needs, choose one that is significantly taller than other furniture where they like to rest, such as couches and beds.
A sturdy scratching post tall enough for a good stretch
Scratching is a natural cat behavior with several functions. Clawing a vertical or horizontal surface doesn’t just manicure a cat’s claw beds and stretch out their leg and toe muscles, it also serves as a form of communication via pheromones in their toes and foot pads. Because it’s such an essential behavior, cats won’t avoid scratching simply because the humans have failed to provide them with “legal” options. Instead, they’ll find the next best thing — your furniture.
For cats who like to scratch walls or couch legs, Sanchez recommends a scratching post. She suggests playing with your cat on or near the post while offering treats, toys, and praise when they use it to scratch. “[This] can help you teach your cat from a young age that scratching the post is a wanted behavior and scratching your furniture is an unwanted behavior,” she said.
A cute cat-shaped cardboard box for everyday stress reduction
If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that cats simply can’t resist a cardboard box. Although science has yet to explain exactly why, we do know that providing cats with small, enclosed spaces like boxes can significantly reduce stress.
“Your cat will appreciate a place he or she can escape to and not be disturbed,” said Sanchez. While just about any old cardboard box will do the trick (according to most cats, “if I fits, I sits”), Neocoichi’s cat-head-shaped cardboard bed lined with corrugated layers for scratching is a much more adorable option.
A scratch ramp with rolling balls to tap into a cat’s hunting instincts
Cats love choices, especially when it comes to scratchers. While some prefer to scratch vertical surfaces, others are more interested in floor-level scratch pads or ramps. Sanchez recommends investing in many different types of scratchers and putting them in high-traffic areas where your cat will feel confident their pheromone messages won’t go unnoticed.
A jumbo-size litter box for comfortable toileting
The size and location of a litter box can mean the difference between a cat that happily toilets where they should and one that prefers to pee in a favorite potted plant or pile of dirty laundry. Make litter boxes more appealing to your cat by placing them in separate areas of the home away from noisy appliances like washers, dryers, and furnaces.
“Jumbo-sized litter boxes or plastic under-the-bed storage containers [are] good options for adult cats and multi-cat households,” said Sanchez. “A general rule of thumb is to have as many boxes as you have cats, plus one additional box,” according to Cooley.
A clumping, unscented, sand-like litter for optimal digging and burying
Dr. Elsey’s Ultra Unscented Clumping Cat Litter, 20 lb. bag, available at Chewy and Petco, from $10.99
Cats are drawn to toilet in substrates where they can easily dig and bury their urine and feces. For most cats, Sanchez said a sand-like clumping litter substrate is preferable to those made from materials like wood or newspaper pellets. Because cats have an extremely powerful sense of smell, stick to litters that are unscented.
A cat water fountain to prevent dehydration
Cats need plenty of hydration to keep their bodies functioning properly. “A cat water fountain can encourage more water consumption,” said Cooley. Water fountains can provide other benefits, too. According to Cooley, not only may the filtered, oxygenated water be more appealing to your cat, but fountains can also entice cats who are anxious about drinking from a flat bowl, have neck pain, or prefer running water to still.
An enzymatic toothpaste and cat-friendly toothbrush to prevent gum disease
Introducing toothbrushing early on is the best way to stave off the buildup of plaque, the formation of tartar and, ultimately, painful gum disease in cats. For our guide to the best dental products for cats, Insider Reviews spoke to Dr. Andrea Moore, medical director at Pinnacle Animal Hospital in San Jose, California. Moore said the best toothpastes contain enzymes that break down biofilm in the mouth. Acclimate your cat to toothbrushing slowly over several weeks and use a cat-friendly toothbrush like this one from Virbac C.E.T.
An enzymatic dental water additive for cats who don’t tolerate toothbrushing
Zymox Oratene Brushless Oral Care Water Additive, available at Chewy, Amazon, and Petco, from $16.99
An enzymatic water additive can help keep plaque and tartar at bay, especially for cats that won’t accept toothbrushing. My two cats tested three dental water additives over a period of several weeks and Zymox Oratene came out on top. It has no taste or color and contains a patented enzyme that prevents plaque from binding to teeth. Cats should be closely monitored when introducing water additives to make sure their water intake doesn’t plummet — some cats aren’t willing to drink water that contains them.
A deshedding brush for decreasing hairballs and improving circulation
“Cats can spend up to half of their waking hours grooming themselves and in the process, they can inadvertently swallow a lot of their own fur,” said Cooley. And the more they swallow, the more likely it is to reappear later as a slimy, caterpillar-like hairball. Brushing your cat daily can not only help to reduce shedding and prevent the formation of hairballs, it can improve circulation and help you stay on top of parasites like ticks and fleas.”
A veterinarian-approved flea treatment for parasite-free living
Even strictly indoor cats are susceptible to fleas year round. Not only can the parasites hitch a ride indoors on our clothing, they can live comfortably in our carpets and elsewhere in the home without us ever being the wiser. Fleas don’t just make cats itchy — frequent exposure can also lead to the development of allergies, anemia, or even tapeworms (for which the flea acts as a host). Consult with your veterinarian to select the monthly topical flea treatment that’s right for your cat.
An interactive food-dispensing toy to maintain good cognitive function
Mental stimulation is an important aspect of overall cat health, and one which we humans often fail to provide enough of. One way to turn up the volume on your cat’s everyday routine is to use puzzle toys that turn feeding time into play time. “Treat puzzles are an excellent way to get cats to use their body and mind for a tasty reward,” said Cooley. The more opportunities they have to think and problem solve, the more their cognitive functions will benefit.
A rolling food-puzzle toy to encourage physical and mental activity
A food-dispensing toy that rolls taps into not only a cat’s mental abilities, but their physical ones, too. The more active the cat, the less likely they are to succumb to obesity-related health complications. “Puzzle toys filled with food are a great way to keep your pet thinking and moving,” said Cooley. We like this version by Petsafe, which comes apart for easy filling and cleaning and has adjustable dispensing holes.
A harness and leash for safe outdoor adventures
If you have an indoor cat who is entranced by the outdoors, giving them the opportunity to safely explore the natural world on a harness and leash can be a boredom-busting game changer. “Leash-training your cat is the most important step to beginning your outdoor adventure and a harness is a must,” said Sanchez. Slowly introduce your cat to the harness and leash, using extra-special treats to help them develop a positive association with the equipment. Test out the gear indoors before heading outside to make sure your cat can’t slip out of the harness.
A cat wand for encouraging hunting behaviors
A minimum of 30 minutes of daily play helps prevent a cat from engaging in destructive behaviors. “Cats typically enjoy chasing and pouncing activities,” said Cooley. A cat wand with a lightweight toy attached at the end — which can be slid across the floor or dangled enticingly in the air — encourages both.
Tiny catnip-filled mice for endless hours of play
Cats are instinctually wired to hunt small prey, and in the home, everything from dropped hair ties to pen caps are fair game. Pint-sized toys are often just as enticing, especially if they’re filled with catnip, a scent which Cooley said triggers a cat’s excitement. These tiny mice are heavy enough to throw or slide long distances across the floor but lightweight enough for kitty to toss around with ease. For more options, see our guide to the best catnip toys.
An easy-to-install window perch for undisturbed snoozing
Cats are drawn to elevated places. These spots don’t just give them the best view of the home, they also help them feel secure, especially in a household where snoozing closer to the ground means constant interruptions by kids or other pets. For maximum comfort and stimulation, Sanchez recommends installing a window perch where your cat can sunbathe and watch the action outside. Up the coziness factor by draping the perch with a soft blanket or towel.
A play tunnel for a private, stress-reducing escape
Even the most snuggly cats need daily alone time in a quiet, out-of-the-way place to recharge. A play tunnel like this version by Catit offers your cat the privacy they crave in the kind of small, enclosed space that helps them feel safe and cozy.
This content was originally published here.