Please note that this information is not intended to replace a diagnosis of your pet’s health through consultation or exam, nor treatment by a licensed veterinarian. We encourage you to use this information as a reference and guide to better understand your cat’s needs. Related information may also be found on our Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) page and on Important Links.
Your cat’s health is more than just annual check-ups and buying the “right” food. Cats are social animals whose mental and emotional health depends much on their relationship with you and any other pets or people in your home. Like people, cats over-all health can be related to their emotional well-being and sense that they are nurtured and loved. Many behavioral issues such as aggression, spraying, or elimination in the house may be symptoms of illness or pain, but more often are symptoms of emotional distress. Some simple tips for maintaining the emotional well-being of your cat can be broken into three categories: Relaxation, Grooming, and Play and Exercise.
Relaxation: Cats generally prefer quite places to sleep in low-traffic areas. Special furniture for cats can provide private cubbies or perches that many cats enjoy, or your cat may prefer a special corner of your bed or a special chair. If you live in a particularly active house, you may want to make a place in a quiet room or closet where your cat can decompress. If your cat seems particularly sensitive, you may consider using pheromone treatments in your home which may improve relaxation and feelings of safety for your cat.
Grooming: Brushing, massaging, and cleaning your cat is a natural way for you and your cat to bond. This is also an opportunity for you to check for fleas, bites, hair matting, or any other superficial problems. You may also want to clip your cat’s nails if it is an indoor cat, check ears, or clean teeth. Grooming is as much a social activity as much as a health check-up, so make-sure grooming includes lots of cuddling and possibly a treat if the grooming session becomes more business than pleasure due to nail clipping or teeth cleaning.
Play and Exercise: Playtime is another wonderful opportunity for you and your cat to bond, as well as burn some calories. New research on cat behavior suggests saving a special toy for interaction between you and your pet, separate from toys left around the house. This enhances the feeling that playtime is a special activity. Feathers or mice on a string are easy toys to simulate prey behavior by jerking the prey by the string. Rewarding your cat with a small treat after she has “caught” the prey or the play session is over is important by showing her that she has successfully killed her prey and done her job. After playtime, the special toy can be put away for next time.
A close relationship with your cat will not only maintain the emotional and mental of your cat, but also attunes you to changes in your cat’s behavior. Symptoms that your cat may be in pain can be subtle, as cats are experts at masking discomfort. A combination of the following changes in behavior should be monitored closely and may be an indication that your cat is in serious discomfort or ill: