Sticking to a Routine is Critical for a Cat’s Health

Guidelines for planning your cat’s calendar: daily, weekly, semi-monthly, yearly.


People often think of dogs as the pets who require a schedule, probably because they need to be walked several times a day. Their other activities then revolve around those outings. But sticking to a schedule is just as critical for a cat’s wellbeing. Our felines are very much creatures of habit, appreciating when each day unfolds predictably and dependably. In fact, routine helps keep a cat from becoming gravely ill.   

A haphazard schedule makes a cat feel stressed, and stress can cause not just urinary tract diseases like feline idiopathic cystitis — inflammation of the bladder that can make urination quite painful (see page 2). As researchers have written in the journal Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, stress can also contribute to the development in cats of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and respiratory, gastrointestinal, lower urinary tract, dental, and mood disorders.

“All can result,” the researchers say, “from a mismatch between the predicted and actual environment the individual inhabits.” This is especially true for cats who experience persistent stress early in their lives. Ongoing stress can even pave the way for cognitive dysfunction, the researchers point out.

So how can you give your cat what the researchers call a stable and responsive environment that provides consistent, nurturing, and protective interactions in order to keep your pet on an even keel and keep stress from wearing down his body?

Here are the guidelines.


Every day at the same times (to the degree that your own schedule will allow), be sure to engage in the following activities with your cat.

Feed. If you feed your cat twice a day, be sure that breakfast and dinner always happen when they are supposed to. If you can’t always be home for one of the feedings, invest in an automatic feeder set to dispense the food at the right time.

Brush. Some cats don’t want to be brushed, but the majority enjoy it. Brushing sessions don’t have to last long, but they should occur consistently. If the grooming occurs after dinner, for instance, always stick to the plan.

Brush the teeth. Brushing your cat’s teeth at the same time each day won’t only improve his dental hygiene. It will also increase his trust in you by helping him to know what to expect from you, and when.

Train. As we often say, you can teach your cat to cooperate with you with clicker training and treat rewards. “Sit,” “High five,” “Fetch,” and “Come” are all things you can use to improve your communication with your pet. Just a few minutes once or twice daily (again, at the same time each day) will go a long way.

Play. Make sure to build into your cat’s daily schedule some time for horsing around together, whether it’s flashing a beam on a wall, dragging a feather attached to the end of a stick, tossing a little ball with jingle bells inside, finding interesting videos of mice scampering, or some other enticing movement.

All of these things together will not add up to tons of time. But they will make you and your cat closer as they provide the daily structure cats crave for their sense of security.


Clean the litter boxes. A once-a-week cleaning of the litter boxes with hot, soapy water is paramount to your cat’s sense of wellbeing. It is phenomenally stressful for an indoor cat to have to relieve himself in a dirty “toilet.”  If you cannot fit more than one litter box in your home (the rule of thumb for how many litter boxes to have is the number of cats plus one), then make sure to wash the one litter box available twice a week. Use unscented soap. What smells good to you may smell awful to your pet.


Trim the nails. The ASPCA recommends trimming a cat’s nails every 10 to 12 days; the Humane Society of the United States, “every few weeks.” Averaging those two pieces of advice comes to every two weeks, give or take. Whatever schedule you decide on here, your cat will know to expect periodic nail clippings, which will make them easier for you to do. And do them you should. Regular nail clippings will reduce the chance of pain from a broken claw or from getting caught in something like carpet or even a piece of soft wood.


Veterinary wellness visit. Through age 10, healthy cats should have a veterinary exam once a year; cats 11 through 15, twice a year; and cats 16 and older, three times a year, or every four months, says the American Association of Feline Practitioners.


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