This Is the Best Way to Keep Your Cat Healthy

Your cat looks after you. Here's how to return the favor.

As anyone who has one can attest, having a cat in the house is a truly blissful experience. It's also enormously beneficial to your health: Owning a cat can slash your stress, reduce your risk of heart disease, and even help foster new friendships. (Human friends, to be clear.) On the health front, your furry friend throws quite a few bones your way, so you should absolutely return the favor—and we're talking more than just regular veterinary checkups.

For starters, you should be grooming them regularly, to prevent knotted fur, which can cause undue pain. You should also make sure they're fully vaccinated and, even if they're an indoors-only feline, dosed up with Frontline (or any other anti-flea measure). But still, even if you're diligent about all of the above, you may be overlooking an essential—we'd argue: the most essential—step to keeping your cat as healthy as possible: Regular tooth-brushing.

Yes, this all-too-human task is a cornerstone of your pet's wellbeing. By neglecting to clean your feline's canines, you're exposing them to a bevy of health risks. For starters, periodontal disease. In your pet's younger years, the illness is barely perceptible; the only significant side effect is bad breath. (You're likely going to be more a victim of your kitty's bad breath than they are.) But, according to the American Veterinary Dental College, as cats age, the disease can cause deterioration in their heart, liver, and kidneys.

As if that weren't worrisome enough, skipping your pet's oral cleanings can also impede your pet's appetite: Gingivitis can lead to sensitive teeth and gums, which makes eating painful for your pet. Obviously, cats can't verbally communicate this pain to us, so they'll simply stop eating. (Another key indicator is frequent pawing at the mouth area.)

And then, of course, in addition to all that, neglecting to brush your cat's teeth leads to to the same issues that plague humans who skip out on the task: Plaque buildup; swollen, sensitive, or bloody gums; and, in extreme cases, cavities.

The good news is that it's easy to combat these ailments. You can pick up a pet toothbrush and toothpaste at your vet. An extra-soft human toothbrush will do the trick too. Just be extremely careful to only use pet toothpaste; human toothpaste contains chemicals that will make felines sick. For our money, Virbac's CET toothpaste ($7) is your best bet: It's safe for cats and dogs (if you happen to have a pup around, as well), and comes in five tasty (well, supposedly; we wouldn't know…) flavors.

Finally, according to the American Animal Hospital Association, you only have to do this once a day. In other words, it's even easier to brush your cat's teeth than it is to brush your own, so you really have no excuse to skip out.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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