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February Is Cat Health Month: Try These Tips For A Happy, Chipper Kitty Year-round

There’s a reason cat videos are among the most viewed and celebrated of all the clips on YouTube and other social media: our feline friends are a source of constant joy. With February being Cat Health Month and 27 February ‘World Spay Day’, it’s a good time to review your kitty’s health with a few tips and tricks for their comfort and wellbeing.

“We do love our cats in New Zealand, as we should, and as their dedicated slaves rather than owners, taking that extra bit of care tends to come naturally,” laughs Michelle le Long, PD Pet Insurance Chief Operations Officer.

“As for spaying, that’s a more personal choice, but as every responsible pet parent knows, restricting the number of cats to those who are wanted and loved is best for everyone.”

Cat facts: One of New Zealand’s favourite pets

Just how popular kitties really are is clear in figures from Companion Animals NZ, which notes that we have over 1.2 million domestic felines. This translates to two out of five households with at least one cat running the place!

Though quite often, having ‘a cat’ isn’t quite enough - pet parents who have them usually add another. The average across cat friendly households is 1.7.

On to the health tips

With PD Insurance supporting pet health and welfare charity Healthy Pets New Zealand, the organisation’s chair Dr. Cath Watson offers several tips helpful to every kitty parent.

“The key basic preventative health care actions include vaccinations against herpesvirus, panleukopenia virus and calicivirus when they’re kittens then boosters as recommended by your veterinarian,” she states.

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Dr. Cath also recommends that regular parasite control targeting fleas and worms, and a strong focus on nutrition, will help ensure quality of life and good general health, saying, “Quality cat-specific diets should be followed; cats are carnivores and have specific nutrient needs.”

She also points to the importance of a regular grooming routine, which provides opportunities for picking up health problems early and encourages bonding time.

Inside cat? Outside cat?

Dr. Cath says thinking about where your cats spend most of their time is instructive, too.

“There are different lifestyle risks and it’s not just about wildlife safety, but also the safety of your cat,” she explains. “Some of the most common cat injuries and accidents are entirely preventable by keeping your cat indoors or within cat fencing, such as bite wounds from cat fights, road traffic accidents, and dog attack wounds.”

Le Long says this is borne out by PD Insurance cat customer data: “The most commonly occurring injuries and issues our customers claim for include bite wounds, abscesses from injury, and damage to limbs. While we’re always happy to pay the claims, it’s far better for kitty and cat parent to avoid the pain, suffering and inconvenience accompanying injuries.”

Watch your cat’s habits

Additionally, Dr. Cath says medical conditions are picked up easier when pet parents have a clear picture of their cat’s normal toileting and drinking patterns, as well as their general habits. She says common issues can include obesity, sun damage, and behavioural problems; ailments that can be prevented with a little foresight.

“Yes, cats get sunburned!” she confirms. Dr. Cath says white noses, ears and eyelids are especially susceptible; be SunSmart and use pet-safe sunscreen or limit access to direct sunlight.

Behavioural problems

Cats can be notoriously, ahem, catty. Consider creating safe environments by providing climbing places, toys and play areas (a ‘catio’ is a great idea). Cats roaming the neighbourhood can encounter various dangers – traffic, toxic substances, dogs, other cats – so consider cat enclosures or keeping your fur kid indoors at least overnight.

If you have more than one cat, separating food, water, and litter trays can contribute to better relationships.

The weighty issue (and teething troubles)

Don’t let your cat overeat and become obese, as this isn’t good for their longevity or quality of life. If they’re packing on the pounds, pack on a diet and restrict calories or improve their nutrition intake.

Then there’s the teeth. While feeding an appropriate diet does much of the trick for healthy teeth, many domestic cats are genetically prone to getting painful holes in their teeth, which can lead to broken stumps and retained roots.

“Get regular checks - at least annually - as teeth and gum problems are common and can be a major source of pain for cats,” advises Dr. Cath.

You can also clean your cat’s teeth periodically using appropriate cat-specific toothpaste. Of course, given the nature of the average moggy, this might present some challenges, so “Good luck,” adds Le Long with a smile.

Cats, quakes and floods

Natural disasters are part of the Kiwi experience. Be prepared by making your kitty part of the family ‘grab bag’. Make sure there’s food, water and any medications in your emergency kit and keep a way of transporting/housing your cats readily available. Training your cat that the cage isn’t scary is a good idea too, rather than dragging it out when something unpleasant like a car trip is about to happen.

Finally, good cat health also means not having to worry about the cost of vet visits or putting them off because of money. Pet insurance means your cat can be covered to receive treatment and care when necessary, up to your plan’s limit, with no nasty surprises.

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