Check out this checklist for helping your cat live a longer, healthier, happier life - The Mercury News

I’ve had cats as pets my entire life. As an adult, my longest term relationship was with a cat named Bailey. For nearly 21 years, he ran my house and allowed me to be his doting housekeeper, errand boy, and personal ear scratcher.

When he passed away in July of 2018, he left a hole in my heart that hasn’t been refilled since. He was 22 lbs of ornery, dismissive, aloof, and passive aggressive love who was probably the most astute judge of character I’ve ever met.

He knew almost instantly whether or not he liked you, and wasn’t shy about sharing his impressions when he didn’t care for someone in my life. He was better at reading people than I ever was, which came in handy when I was single.

When I dated someone he liked, he would be affectionate, loving and attentive. When he didn’t like someone though, he’d pee in their shoes, knock their drink over, or take a massive dump in their gym bag. He was not gifted in the art of subtlety.

I learned pretty quickly who I could trust with him around.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about him. That might be the reason I’ve been so resistant to get another cat since his passing.

I’ve used the excuse that I don’t want to get another cat yet because my two very elderly dogs Maddie and Ollie require so much of my time and attention. I want them to enjoy their golden years, and worry about bringing another pet into their very structured routine, especially since Ollie is deaf and blind.

If I’m being totally honest though, that isn’t the only reason I haven’t adopted another cat. Bailey was perfect for me in so many ways, I have a hard time imagining that any other cat could come close to giving me what I had with him. I know that’s silly. I guess I just haven’t felt ready. Grief is a funny thing.

But that doesn’t stop me from obsessively watching cute cat videos online, or spending more time than I probably should socializing with cats in our Neely Cat Center. At some point, a cat will come into my life that fits. They won’t fit like Bailey, but that doesn’t mean they won’t fit just as perfectly. I don’t know when it will happen, but it will.

I often say I was lucky to have my cat live for as long as he did, but luck didn’t actually have much to do with it. He lived a long, healthy life because I took his health and wellness very seriously.

And guess what? It’s National Cat Health Month! So if you’re the lucky companion to a fabulous feline, make time to schedule your cat’s annual veterinary checkup, and consider these ways you can help your cat live a longer, healthier, happier life.

Just like humans, cats need an annual health check up

Since cats may never show signs of illness, a yearly checkup is one of the best ways to keep your cat in her best possible health. These annual visits allow your veterinarian to notice any changes in your cat’s condition from year to year, and help you catch potentially serious issues early.

Keep your cat’s vaccinations up to date

At your cat’s annual exam, your vet will review any necessary booster shots and updates to your cat’s vaccination schedule. These regular inoculations will help prevent your cat from contracting serious illnesses if he is exposed to other cats.


One of the best ways to maintain your cat’s good health is to have him or her altered. These procedures prevent many illnesses and conditions related to a cat’s reproductive organs as well as help eliminate many unwanted behaviors. They also prevent unwanted litters and help reduce animal overpopulation.

Pay Attention to Your Cat’s Dental Health

While it is not easy to brush a cat’s teeth (unless you train your cat to accept the process from the time it is a kitten), regular teeth cleaning and exams are an important component of your pet’s overall health. Your vet will check your cat’s teeth at her annual exam.

Monitor your cat’s weight

The life of an indoor cat can lead to lazy afternoons napping in the sun—and less time being active. Help your cat maintain a healthy weight by making playtime a regular part of his day. Interactive feeders, a rotation of interesting toys, even a feline companion can help get your cat moving. Get involved with playtime with wand toys, doing so strengthens the bond with your cat while he gets necessary exercise.

You are what you eat

A high-quality food specially formulated to meet the specific nutritional requirements of your cat’s age and lifestyle also can help your cat maintain a healthy weight. Ask your veterinarian which types of food could work best for your cat and follow the feeding guidelines provided by the manufacturer. Treats can be part of your cat’s life, too, but remember that the calories from treats can add up quickly.

Pay attention to your cat’s litter box habits

I know it sounds gross. But since cats are quite adept at hiding signs of illness, one place where early signs often show up is the litterbox. If your cat’s litter habits change (he starts urinating more frequently or urinates inappropriately) or if you notice a change in the condition of the box contents, take your pet to the vet as soon as possible.

Maintain a regular grooming routine

You can create a strong, loving bond with your cat by brushing or combing her regularly. Such a routine also will help you identify any issues with her fur, skin and claws. Pay attention to any changes in your cat’s coat or skin, such as dry or flaky patches of skin, red or irritated skin, missing fur, dull fur or reddened areas around her claws. If you see any of these signs, schedule a visit to the vet.

Pasadena Humane does provide low cost wellness services for cats such as spay/neuter and affordable vaccines. For more information, visit us online at