Natural Cat Care & Holistic Alternatives
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Our pets really do feel like family members—that’s why we make homemade cat treats. Our Bengal cat Hercules loves them. Still, even when I give him the treats, he highly favors our daughter and is truly her cat. They’re best buds!
In addition to feeding our cats healthy food, we’ve tried to be conscious cat parents in other decisions we make. Our biggest health care goal is to prevent our beloved pet’s suffering. I try to keep all our pets out of the veterinary clinic (and I know accessibility is an issue for people in rural areas.)
Over the years, I’ve learned some holistic and natural cat care tips you might want to explore for your feline friend.
Preventative Natural Cat Care
Just as I try to prevent health issues in the first place with my family, we’re trying to practice preventative pet care. A bonus is that it’s cheaper to prevent something than it is to treat it.
Just like regular veterinary care and wellness exams, here are some holistic cat needs to consider:
Cats are carnivores and need animal protein to thrive. Consider what cats eat in the wild when looking for cat food. You want a meat-based product.
Depending on your cat’s individual health, talk to your vet about what might be best for them. If you choose to make your own cat food, be sure to tell your vet so they can ensure your cat is still getting all the necessary nutrients.
I prefer to buy premade cat food for the sake of convenience. In the past, some of our cats have been finicky eaters, so we’ve had to try different flavors and products before we found one they loved.
One of our favorite brands of high-quality cat food is Nom Nom Now. They will help you personalize your cat’s menu according to their needs. They ask good questions about how old your cat is, their weight, etc.
I also trust Thrive Market’s values for both human and pet food. See their options for both wet and dry cat foods here.
As always, go slow with any change to your cat’s diet. Try a couple of bites of new food the first time and then serve half new food, half old food for a few days before fully transitioning to the new product.
While cats require less maintenance than dogs, there are still things we need to do to help our cats stay healthy.
Be sure to brush your cat’s hair regularly to help prevent hairballs and digestive upset. I recommend a wooden set like this. Some cats even enjoy being vacuumed gently.
Consider where you can make non-toxic swaps for the cat products you are already using.
Bathe your cat every 4-6 weeks. You may want to bathe them more frequently if they’ve gotten dirty or been exposed to fleas or chemicals. We love to use unscented castile soap to wash our cats.
Unfortunately, you can’t use your own natural toothpaste on your cat. There are a few ingredients that aren’t safe for them:
- Sweeteners – You don’t want to give your cat xylitol or stevia.
- Essential oils – Most aren’t safe for cats.
- Fluoride – Cats can’t break it down.
Instead, you’ll want to find natural cat toothpaste. Some folks will just use coconut oil to brush their cat’s teeth because they don’t fight it as much. It may be a better alternative for feline dental care. If you have a non-toxic cat toothpaste brand your cat loves, please comment and let me know.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I have worked hard to eliminate plastic from our lives as much as I can.
You’d be surprised at how many cat toys contain synthetic fibers. Because cats bite their toys, they’re ingesting those fibers. I look for 100% cotton (and organic if I can find it) and avoid plastic pieces.
Our cats have stolen our kids’ toys from time to time. It got me thinking that I could just use many of the younger kid toys for our cats since I know they are safe. Learn more about the safest kid toys I recommend that you can also use for your cat.
We don’t want to expose our cats to toxic chemicals every time they need to go to the bathroom or have them track toxins around the house. I try to avoid artificial fragrances because they can be endocrine disruptors.
At the same time, you need a litter that does the job. Here are the natural cat litter brands I recommend because they’re non-toxic and biodegradable:
Made from 100% pine, this one has the strongest odor. The wood is very absorbent. Be sure to get the non-clumping product because the clumping one has mineral oil, which I don’t recommend because it’s made from petroleum.
Made from corn and cassava, this cat litter helps absorb odors. Although I like the natural tree scent above, this is my recommendation if you have allergies to any of those scents, like pine.
Just like with food, you’ll want to transition your cat gently to a new litter. The first time you use it, pour 1-2 inches of the new litter on the bottom and put your old litter on top. Let your cat mix it themselves for a couple of days before completely switching over to your new non-toxic one.
If your cat starts going outside of the box, they may need more time to get acclimated. Go back to using the new litter on the bottom and slowly reduce the amount of old litter for the top layer.
Alternative Cat Care
Cat owners want the best care for their feline friends. Thankfully, veterinary medicine has made some incredible advances in holistic remedies. Even though most of these don’t have double-blind or long-term studies, I’d feel comfortable using these natural cat care options under the supervision of an experienced veterinary professional.
Just like humans, cats may benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Both veterinarians and human chiropractors can have certifications in animal chiropractic.
If your local veterinary hospital doesn’t offer it, search by location on the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association (AVCA) or the International Veterinary Chiropractic Association (IVCA). You may find you like that specialist for wellness care and do it all in one place.
Traditional Chinese medicine asserts that their methods also work on cats. Anecdotal evidence reports that cats respond well to acupuncture for a variety of issues. As always, only use a licensed veterinarian for this.
Holistic Supplements for Cats
In addition to a healthy diet, supplements can help our furry friend’s health and well-being. Here are some feline medicine and natural cat care options to discuss with your vet.
Even though we don’t have hard science on the efficacy of homeopathic remedies, I still think they are gentle enough to use on pets and kids. I often try them when treating issues at home.
There’s nothing to lose in trying these homeopathic remedies for minor ailments or when other treatments fail. Learn more about the research on homeopathy here.
Most commonly used for stress and anxiety, these plant extracts may help soothe your cat’s nervous system. They are less potent than essential oils.
I’d strongly consider finding a veterinarian who is familiar with flower essences to help with any other issues beyond stress and anxiety.
CBD for Cats
CBD has exploded in popularity for both humans and pets. I recently dug into the research for the best CBD oil for dogs.
CBD may also help cats with joint problems and anxiety. I recommend cbdFX for cat CBD.
Our late cat Penelope went crazy for coconut oil. She’d steal it right off our plates.
Coconut oil may mimic the healthy fats cats get in the wild. Learn more about the health benefits of coconut oil for pets here.
All of our cats have gone crazy for this stuff, and it can be really stimulating. Just beware of any fillers in products you buy.
If you have given your cat a toy with catnip, you may notice they become more affectionate, relaxed, and happy. Other cats will display active behaviors, such as playfulness or sometimes even aggression.
Catnip effects will vary in length, depending on the cat and their age. Usually, the behaviors associated with smelling catnip will last for around 10 minutes and then wear off gradually.
Interestingly, catnip is actually nutritious and safe for kids, so I buy it in bulk here.
This gentle herb is safe for delicate areas. For example, you can dip a cotton swab in freshly brewed but cooled chamomile flower tea to wipe your cat’s eyes gently. It may help soothe irritation due to its health benefits. Still, consult with your vet to review their symptoms and find the root cause.
Are Essential Oils Safe for Cats?
Be extremely careful when using essential oils on your cat because you could unintentionally poison them.
According to Pet Poison Helpline, the following oils are the most dangerous for cats: “wintergreen, oil of sweet birch, citrus oil (d-limonene), pine oils, Ylang Ylang oil, peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, pennyroyal oil, clove oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Symptoms that develop depend on the type of oil involved in the exposure and can include drooling, vomiting, tremors, ataxia (wobbliness), respiratory distress, low heart rate, low body temperature, and liver failure.”
Cats don’t have an essential enzyme to process and expel essential oils from their bodies properly. For this reason, many vets recommend not using essential oils with cats.
As mentioned above, don’t use human toothpaste on your cat since many of the natural ones include essential oils.
One of the few times I’d be comfortable using essential oils on my cat is to combat fleas. Depending on your cat’s health, cedarwood may be one safe option. I hope you never have to deal with fleas, but here are some natural remedies if you do.
More Resources on Natural Cat Care
What natural cat care strategies do you use? What have you done to take good care of your cats?
- Stogdale L. (2010). The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 51(12), 1404.
- Bol, S., Caspers, J., Buckingham, L., Anderson-Shelton, G. D., Ridgway, C., Buffington, C. A., Schulz, S., & Bunnik, E. M. (2017). Responsiveness of cats (Felidae) to silver vine (Actinidia polygama), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and catnip (Nepeta cataria). BMC veterinary research, 13(1), 70.