12 dangerous mistakes cat owners should never make
1. Essential cat care
Think kitties are low-maintenance? There are a few things to know about caring for a cat.
Because of dangers such as other animals and cars, outdoor cats often live less than five years, compared to indoor cats, who live closer to 18 or 20 years, according to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the US. Help your outdoor cat protect itself by keeping its claws intact, says Ashley Rossman, DVM. “They need their weapons,” she says. If your pet ends up getting into a fight with another animal, it could get critically injured if it doesn’t have a way to scratch.
2. Leaving food out
Pet obesity is a serious problem. There’s one main drive, says Katy Nelson, DVM: leaving a bowl of food out all day. Especially if your kibble brand is high in carbs, your cat will be tempted to overeat. “I put it to my clients like this: if you put an entire cheese pizza out on the counter and left me to my own devices, I can almost guarantee that that entire pizza would be gone by the end of the day,” she says. “Whether my body needed it or not, carbs are just not all that filling.” Tack on months or years of eating like that, and it’s no surprise your cat might carry some extra weight.
3. Sticking with dry food
Especially if your cat can’t handle having its food out all day without over-eating, you might want to consider dishing out wet food for mealtime. “It has better water content, which is better for the kidneys,” says Dr. Rossman. Talk to your vet about how much and how often you should feed your pet.
4. Avoiding the vet
Even seemingly healthy cats should get a check-up at the vet at least once a year, so don’t let your cat’s fear of crates keep you from keeping up with its health. Your vet might notice kidney disease, thyroid disease, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, or other conditions that you might miss. “All of these diseases may show zero or very subtle clinical signs until the disease has progressed significantly,” says Dr. Nelson. “Trust me, it’s worth the trouble to take them in to find a small problem while it’s still small.”
5. Serving high-carb food
Sorry, vegetarians, but you might need to put your personal beliefs on hold for your cat’s sake. Cats are true carnivores, and their systems aren’t designed to digest plant-based food, says Dr. Rossman. She recommends a grain-free, meat-based diet for cats so they can get the protein they need. If you’re concerned about animal rights, consider a brand like Open Farm, which uses ethically sourced proteins.
6. Making your cat an unbalanced meal
If you want to know exactly what’s going into your cat’s body, think twice before prepping its food yourself. Home-cooked meals often don’t offer your cat all the nutrients it needs, so use a site like balanceit.com for recipes you can feel good feeding your pet, says Dr. Rossman.
7. Skipping vaccinations for indoor cats
Just because your cat never ventures outdoors doesn’t mean it’s safe from diseases like feline parvovirus or leukemia, says Dr. Nelson. Your cat might make a dash outside, and even supervised kitties could catch feline leukemia just by going nose to nose with another cat, she says. For your sake and your pet’s, follow your vet’s vaccination advice.
8. Not protecting against fleas, ticks and heartworm
Just like with vaccines, you can’t assume your indoor cat is safe from pests. If you bring in ticks or even mosquitoes, your pet could be exposed to (depending on where you live) Lyme disease, heartworms, or even the plague,” says Dr. Nelson. “Doors open and window screens aren’t foolproof,” she says. “Simple monthly preventive medications can be lifesaving for your indoor kitties.”
9. Not providing shelter
If your kitty will be roaming free at night, it will need a weather-appropriate shelter to keep it safe from the elements, especially on cold winter nights. It’s also important to know how to keep your pet safe during natural disasters. “Build some kind of shelter for them that has some warm insulation,” says Dr. Rossman.
10. Brushing off health issues
Chronic vomiting is one of the most-ignored cat health symptoms, says Dr. Nelson. “I’ve heard so many times from my clients that ‘oh, she’s just a puker…always has been,’” she says. “As if a human that vomited on a regular basis wouldn’t find that appalling!” A throw-up problem could be a sign of anything from treatable hairballs or food intolerance to heart disease or kidney failure, she says. If the vomiting is consistent, bring your kitty to the vet for a diagnosis.
11. Ignoring behavioural changes
Even vomiting might seem obvious compared to some of the other subtle health symptoms your cat could display. Pay attention if your pet seems to be hiding or whining more, or if its appetite has changed. “Cats tend to be pretty stoic,” says Dr. Rossman. “If your cat is behaving in any way that’s out of the ordinary for him or her, that’s a sign you should let your veterinarian know.” The vet can do blood work to make sure its organs are all functioning properly so that you can catch the problem before it spirals out of control.
12. Decorating with plants
Those lilies might look beautiful on your coffee table, but they won’t be so pretty if your cat eats them. There are hundreds of plants that are toxic to cats, and bringing them into the house could be a danger to nibbling kitties. “If you’re going to buy a plant, check to make sure it isn’t toxic,” suggests Dr. Rossman.
Written by Marissa Laliberte. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer. here’s our best subscription offer.