What do you think is the most important part of pet ownership? Could it be good preventative care? Yes, that is important. Make sure your pets are vaccinated regularly. Brush their teeth, clean their ears and check their skin for lumps, bumps or scratches. But that’s not it.
Could it be keeping the pet under control? Use a good leash, identify your pets with tags and/or microchips and have your pets neutered. All of that is important but not the most important thing. No, the most important thing about being a pet owner is to know your pet.
1. Know what is normal behavior for your pet: does he normally eat heartily or is he a finicky eater? Does she normally like to play at certain times of the day or she play at the drop of a toy? Does she warm up to strangers or are strangers her worst enemy? Is your cat normally a happy cat or is he a persnickety, grumpy curmudgeon? If you know how your cat behaves when he is healthy, you will be better able to notice changes in his behavior when he is ill.
2. Keep track of your cat’s normal diet, how much he eats and drinks. Does your cat usually eat an entire can of a certain diet in one sitting or does he pick at it a little at a time? Does he prefer dry over canned food? Does he like to drink water out of the faucet or a fountain or will he drink from a bowl? Can you tell if your cat gains or loses weight?
3. Watch for normal litterbox habits. Is she a shy cat preferring her privacy when she’s in the box? If so, you’ll have to learn to be a spy. Never sneak up on a cat while it is using the litterbox though, you may frighten it and give it a complex about the box or the room. Does she have well-formed bowel movements, not too hard but not too soft or does she have looser, smellier “stools?” Normal stool consistency is determined by the diet but you should be familiar with the norm so that you can tell when your cat is sick. Does he urinate regularly so you can keep an eye on the amount he produces? You can do this by watching him or better yet by judging the size of the clump (if you use clumping litter). For male cats, especially, get an idea how often he urinates so that you’ll know if he is having trouble producing urine. Males can develop plugged urethras very quickly and a plugged male cat is an emergency.
These are just a few things to watch for in your normal healthy cat so that you’ll know when she/he is sick or stressed. Take any change in normal behavior seriously and take action when necessary.