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As you’re writing down your new year’s resolutions, take a minute to jot down some resolutions for your cat. If you’d like to resolve to make life a little better for your cat this year, there are plenty of good ideas to put in place.
Resolution No. 1: I will schedule regular playtime with my cat.
According to Dr. E’Lise Christensen, a veterinary behaviorist in New York, most cats don’t get enough play sessions with their family members. “Lack of appropriate interaction with human family members can increase aggression, destruction and other objectionable behaviors,” says Christensen. But just 10 minutes each day of focused play can help avoid that. Christensen recommends splitting that time into two sessions of five minutes each. Integrate them so that they become part of your daily routine.
Resolution No. 2: I will focus on my cat’s dental health.
“Almost all cats have significant dental disease by the time they are a few years old,” says Dr. Patricia Joyce, an emergency veterinarian for New York City Veterinary Specialists. “Since they are long-lived, their oral health can be really terrible by the time they are seniors.” If your cat will tolerate it, try brushing its teeth once a week. If not, schedule yearly cleanings with your veterinarian.
Resolution No. 3: I will get my cat to an appropriate weight.
It’s estimated that 25 percent of cats are overweight due to their sedentary lifestyle. Dr. Katy Nelson of the Alexandria Animal Hospital in Alexandria, Va., suggests imposing a feeding schedule that starts slowly. “First, leave the food out for about an hour, then pick it up. Do this multiple times a day,” she says. “This will help get your kitty accustomed to being fed a certain amount at a certain time, as opposed to grazing all day. Over a period of two months, you can get your cat fully enrolled in a twice- to three-times-daily feeding schedule so that you can control the amount he or she eats.”
Resolution No. 4: I will start and contribute to a savings account for my cat.
Veterinary care is expensive, and emergencies can happen at any moment. Joyce notes that creating a nest egg for these occurrences can ease the pain. If you go several years without an emergency, consider using the fund for preventive treatments, like teeth cleanings.
Resolution No. 5: I will help my cat tap into his or her animal instincts.
Christensen says that cats in the wild normally eat only after successfully catching prey, or scavenging. You can meet your cat's need for puzzle-solving and predatory hunting by making it work for its food. “Have your cats work for at least 50 percent of their daily food ration by using food-dispensing toys or puzzles,” she says. This could also have the side benefit of helping shed unnecessary pounds.
Resolution No. 6: I will carrier-train my cat.
Christensen says that carrier-trained cats are easier to work with in an emergency, which results in better medical care. Your cat may not enjoy this resolution very much, but resolutions by definition require some sacrifice or work.
Resolution No. 7: I will enrich my cat’s environment.
“Investing in some simple interactive cat toys, scratching posts or cat trees can do wonders to enrich the life of your cat and keep it young in mind and body,” says Nelson. This is especially important for indoor-only cats, which experience very little novelty in their small world.
Rather than make hard-to-keep promises to amend your own bad habits, spend this year’s resolutions on your cat. “Not only will this be good for your kitty,” says Nelson, “but it will do your soul some good too.”
Elijah Merrill is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to The Daily Cat. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and Discover.