Cats are known for their independent nature. When it comes to keeping them healthy, their tendency to hide their symptoms can make it hard for pet parents to find out exactly what's wrong.
Almost 90% of illnesses are caused by improper diet. Cats are obligate carnivores and should be fed a meat-based, protein-rich diet with plenty of moisture present in the food itself.
Some of the most common issues we see with cats have simple fixes while others require veterinary attention. Take note of how long an issue has been occurring, the symptoms spotted, and the behavior of your animals to help give your vet comprehensive information.
You Can Lead a Cat to Water...
Cats are known for drinking water out of strange locations, dripping sinks, toilet bowls, and trickling hoses have been long-time favorite watering holes for felines.
The truth is, most cats barely think about drinking water at all. Cats evolved in the desert, and their dehydration does not trigger within their body until they are near death. When we see our cats drinking water, they are already chronically dehydrated.
"In the wild" the majority of their water comes from their food source; the average mouse is about 90% moisture.
Modern kibble-based diets for cats do not provide them with nearly enough water for them. Feeding a wet-food diet is a step in the right direction as they no longer have to think to drink. A pet water fountain can also be encouraging for them to drink out of, as the water is constantly moving.
Watering down your cat's food or adding extra moisture in the form of Goat Milk or Fermented Fish Stock helps get them towards an optimum amount of moisture in their diet. Proper amounts of moisture help regulate their body, aid digestion, help with skin and coat, prevent urinary issues, and is beneficial to their overall health.
Cats are clean animals and groom themselves often. When there is a lack of moisture or omega 3's in the diet, the undercoat is much more likely to shed, causing a higher rate of hairballs.
Once a hairball is formed, it must exit the body one way or another. Most hairball remedies are some sort of lubricant to help your cat expel the hairball, but some will help prevent the hairball from forming.
Increasing moisture intake is one way to help, and there are treats and supplements designed to keep their coat strong and healthy. Using a de-shedding tool, such as the Furminator, helps pull out the hair that is getting ready to shed.
An estimated 59% of cats in the United States are considered obese. The cause is often simple: overfeeding and under-exercising. If you are trying to get your cat to shed a few pounds, talk to your vet to determine their ideal weight.
Feed your cat to the weight desired and start cutting calories. If your cat whines between meals, it could be because they are thirsty. Try adding water to help their meal fill them up, or extend meal time by using a kibble ball to get them exercising! Playing with them more often will also get their heart rate up while strengthening your bond.
Litter Box Issues
Cat's bodies are naturally acidic by nature. They are designed to eat raw meat and have the ability to break down pathogens in their mouth due to its natural acidity. While they may develop urinary crystals in the wild, their body is able to break through those crystals due to the acidity of the urine.
The modern diet of kibble can cause their body to become more alkaline and lose its natural ability to flush the crystals out. Kibble is bound together with carbohydrates and contains little moisture, which can also be a contributing factor when it comes to urinary issues.
Warning signs to look for:
- If there is blood in the urine, see a vet immediately
- Frequent trips to the box without any urinating can point to a UTI, crystals, or inflammation of their GI
- the cat feels the need to pee, but nothing is happening when they try
- Peeing frequently (usually in short bursts) could be a sign of diabetes, renal, or kidney failure
- Crystals in their urethra can be painful and may cause a cat to urinate elsewhere since they associate the pain with their litter box.
- check corners, behind furniture for wet spots if you suspect your cat isn't using their box as they have a natural instinct to hide sickness
- Tucking their pelvis underneath themselves is a sign of discomfort
Depending on the diagnosis, your cat may need a different diet than the one they are currently on.
There are specific diets formulated to help alleviate symptoms, but often they are much more expensive and their efficacy varies.
Urinary Tract Infections
By getting your cat on a low ash/phosphorus diet you can help prevent UTI's. Not all food lists their ash content, but wet food will always have a lower ash content than kibble due to the amount of dry matter.
Ash is what remains after incinerating the food at a high temperature, and it is what builds up in your cat's system as it is indigestible. A buildup of ash from their diet can cause stress on their kidneys, urinary tract, and liver. Low-ash foods that typically use deboned whole meat are low in carbs and do not have to add too many synthetic vitamins back into their food.
Bladder stones are caused by a build up of minerals or calcium in the body. Smaller stones will pass on their own. Stones can grow large enough to cause blockages, and when they occur in the urethra, your cat will need immediate veterinary attention in order to prevent a buildup of toxic waste inside the body. Male cats are more prone to stones.
You can help your cat prevent stones by providing them water in their diet, exercise, and a regularly cleaned litter box to encourage them to frequently use it.
Inflammation occurs after irritation. Many of the ingredients presented in pet food can irritate different animals at different rates. Some cannot digest grains, while others have issues with chicken. Depending on your pet, helping to re-balance their gut is key in helping them reduce inflammation and irritation.
Introducing probiotics to their system can help the gut re-balance itself. Live cultures found in Goat Milk are completely bio-available to the body and can be absorbed in under 20 minutes.
The GI tract can also lose its elasticity over time due to stress. Live probiotics and enzymes can help re-tighten the gut to prevent leaky gut syndrome.
Chronic Kidney Disease cannot be reversed but can be slowed by switching to low phosphorus foods that are easy to digest. Moisture is often key when it comes to the ease of digestion, so feeding wet food or adding water is helpful.
The majority of issues can be prevented by feeding your cat a proper diet. While kibble is a popular choice, feeding your cat at least 50% wet food will make a huge different in their health. We learn more about our cat's nutritional profiles every day and gain a deeper understanding of what they truly need.
If changing your cat's diet is not an option, try adding a supplement to switch things up and add some extra nutrition to their bowl with little-to-no extra work for you!