Cats are not just small dogs. They require a different type of interaction and care, both at home and at the veterinarian’s office. Recently our entire staff obtained their Cat Friendly Veterinary Professional (CFVP) certification from the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) and Dr. Miller obtained his certification as a Cat Friendly Veterinarian (CFV)! We went through this program because we want your cat to have the best experience possible while they are with us; however, cat friendly care doesn’t start or stop at our door. There are things you should be doing at home as well to ensure your cat is happy wherever they are.
Are you a multi-cat household? The biggest mistakes that we see in homes with multiple cats are the placement of the food/water bowls and litter boxes. Most people do not realize how territorial cats are and they will often resource guard and “bully” each other because a resource is in “their territory.” Cats should have their own food/water stations that are out of sight from one another. This isn’t to say they can’t or shouldn’t share, but they should all have access without having to fight for a spot. This is similarly true for litter boxes. Cats should feel safe and secure and able to escape the area easily (no closets, no laundry rooms due to noise). You should also have one litter box for each cat plus one extra spaced around the home.
He is always watching.
Though cats can and will live in groups they are actually solitary creatures and prefer to hunt alone vs. feeding and living in packs. The same as above, they should have their own spaces to rest, play, eat, drink, and sleep without having to share unless they want to. Cats should not be forced to spend time together or to interact with one another (this goes for other pets and people, too).
Ugh. Why did mom adopt YOU?!
Acclimate your cat to the carrier long before you ever need to use it. There is nothing more stressful for a cat that is not acclimated to a carrier than being chased through the house and then shoved in a tiny box and then driven somewhere scary and unfamiliar. From that point on the presence of the carrier will be associated with that stressful event. However, if you train your cat ahead of time and use an appropriate carrier you will eliminate a great majority of the stress a cat feels associated with a veterinary visit or other reason for travel. Keep the carrier out in the open, place a cozy bed in it, and leave the door open at all times. Give your cat treats and meals in the carrier (with the door open) that way it is not seen as an automatic signal that something scary is about to happen.
The look of a cat that actually LIKES her carrier...
Choosing an appropriate carrier is also a BIG DEAL. Crates should be clean and rust free. They should have multiple doors (ideally one at the front and the top) and they should also be able to come apart easily (so we can do their exams and other treatments without removing them from the carrier which should be a safe space for them). If you have successfully acclimated your cat to the carrier at home then when they come in to us it will be a source of safety and comfort and make their visit much more pleasant.
We LOVE the carriers with the side clips and not the screw closures that always seem to rust right away.
Environment enrichment is another huge thing for cats. In the modern era cats should be indoor only for their own health and safety. But, with this change it has shown shifts in the issues we see cats for: namely, obesity from not getting enough exercise and eating too much, and aggression and/or destructive behavior from not getting enough or appropriate stimulation. Many people see cats as aloof and lazy compared to dogs, but the truth is they are wonderfully active and inquisitive creatures that love to play and interact with their humans. You should provide your cat with several scratching sources and different places to rest or hide. There are vertical and horizontal scratching posts (yep, they each have a preference!) available. And, not only can you purchase cat trees these days, but also catios, cat specific shelving for your walls, hammocks for your windows, and more. There is a world of awesome products out there for your kitties to keep them feeling safe, happy, and engaged.
You can buy cat specific shelves or build your own! There are a lot of designs online.
Obviously, these are just a few of the things that you can do to keep your cat happy. Our staff is ready to discuss additional things you can do at home and even give recommendations for our favorite toys, treats, and other things you can purchase to provide enrichment (or you know, just plain spoil them for the heck of it!).
Spoiled? Who? ME?!
Sarah M. has been with Lifetime Pet Center since 2005. She is our Practice Manager and loves client education and pet behavior. She is a certified Cat Friendly Veterinary Professional and certified Veterinary Cannabis Counselor.