Published: August 2021 | Updated: August 2023
When considering your own health, you're probably focusing on your diet, making sure you drink enough water, and exercising at least 30 minutes per week. By taking care of your health, you're ensuring your immune system has a fighting chance when it comes into contact with bacteria and other pathogens.
Our cats don't have as much conscious focus when it comes to their health and they depend on us to help them stay well. Luckily, boosting your cat's immune system is relatively simple. Like us, when our cats have a healthy immune system, they're less likely to encounter illness and disease and live happier, longer lives. Plus, ensuring your cat's immune system is up and running properly can significantly reduce veterinary costs.
If your cat has a compromised immune system, boosting their immunity is equally important. A cat with a compromised immune system benefits by recovering faster and reducing the risk of attaining any other conditions that could be harmful with an already risky immune response.
The Cat Immune System
White blood cells, antibodies, and other components make up the immune system, which fights infections and rejects foreign bodies.
The immune system is associated with many organs in the body including:
- Thymus gland and blood marrow, which produce white blood cells.
- Spleen, lymph nodes, and liver, which trap microorganisms and foreign bodies and provide an area for the immune system to generate a response.
What Affects a Cat's Immune System?
A compromised immune system is rarely caused by illness. In most cases, disease is caused by a weakened immune system. Of course, some illnesses, such as Feline Leukemia Virus, can strike whether your cat is healthy or not, but stress, obesity, boredom, and poor nutrition are all major contributors to disease.
Skin infections, repeated parasite infections, and initially minor infections or diseases that progress into significant health difficulties due to the body's inability to defend itself are all signs of a weakened immune system. Frequent eye or upper respiratory infections in cats are also signs of a weakened immune system.
How Can I Boost My Cat's Immune System?
There are a number of cat immune system boosters. Follow these recommendations below and your cat can live a healthier, happier, and longer life.
1) Feed a species-appropriate, minimally processed diet
Nutrition is the number one best immune booster for cats. Many commercial pet foods contain fillers, by-products, and synthetic preservatives. Not every diet is created equally. Ensuring you are feeding a species-appropriate, well-balanced diet is critical.
If you choose a random food off the store shelf, you could be depriving your cat of critical nutrients that are necessary for optimal health, making her more susceptible to disease. Look for cat food that's high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. You should also ensure protein is the number one ingredient in the food. Cats are carnivores and need adequate protein to thrive.
2) Avoid chemical flea treatments
Many of today's flea and tick treatments involve toxic chemicals that are harmful to both cats and people. These chemicals are not safe for our cats (or to us), even when used according to the manufacturer's instructions. Search for ways to eliminate fleas naturally. Several methods include:
- Diatomaceous Earth: The minuscule remains of fossilized algae, diatoms, make up diatomaceous earth. It's a fine powder that's non-toxic to humans and works well as a natural flea treatment because it causes dehydration in fleas.
- Cedar: Fleas despise the smell of cedar chips, but there's a chance your cat does, too. Since cedar oil is a harmless, non-toxic essential oil, you can spritz it on your cat's fur or place a few drops on his collar to keep the pests away.
- Citric acid: As one of the most efficient natural flea killers, lemon juice is a well-known home cure for flea treatment. You can spritz your cat's coat with a solution produced by boiling a chopped lemon or two, steeping it for two hours, then draining and transferring the liquid into a spray bottle. Work the solution into your cat's fur, being careful not to get it in her eyes. Repeat as-needed until the fleas are gone.
Environmental pollutants, such as contaminated indoor air, chemical cleaning products, particulates from paint, pesticides, and fertilizers, can induce allergic reactions ranging from itchy skin, runny eyes, and even asthma to vomiting, diarrhea, and other digestive disorders. Cancer has also been known to be caused by environmental factors, so reducing your cat's risk to toxins in her day-to-day life is essential.
4) Avoid overuse of steroids and antibiotics
While antibiotics and steroids are sometimes required, they are notorious for being abused. Repeated antibiotic or steroid treatments can lead to resistance, as well as causing more harm than good to your cat's immune system. Consult a holistic veterinarian to see if the problem can be resolved naturally with modalities that will benefit your cat's health.
5) Provide a stimulating environment
You know the saying, "a tired dog is a happy dog?" The same goes for cats. A cat who is bored without exercise or play is more likely to become stressed and anxious. Stress and anxiety can significantly lower immunity and cause health problems.
To ensure your cat is getting what he needs, grab a cat tree or two, scratching posts, and window perches. You should also ensure you spend adequate time with your cat or find him a 'cat friend' to keep him company and add mental and physical stimulation to his everyday life.
6) Keep your cat at a healthy weight
Obesity is on the rise in cats and dogs, and it can lead to major health issues. Obesity-related health issues include arthritis from joint pressure, diabetes, heart and lung problems, gastrointestinal issues, and a weakened immune system. Portion management and eating a species-appropriate diet reduce your cat's risk of disease dramatically.
7) Minimize stress
For humans and pets alike, stress, whether physiological or emotional, is the core cause of sickness. As much as possible, try to reduce stress in your cat's environment, including your own. Cats and people frequently mimic each other's bodily and emotional states, and your stress can also make your cats ill. Maintaining a positive outlook yourself can dramatically reduce your cat's risk of illness.
8) Consider adding supplements
Did you know that 70% of the immune system resides in the gut? This means your cat's digestive system (and your own and other pets) must be balanced by proper bacteria to be healthy. You will often hear this referred to as a healthy gut microbiome. Unfortunately, the gut microbiome is easily affected by stress, anxiety, and poor diet. It's more difficult to notice this quickly as far as immunity goes, but you may notice excessive gas and diarrhea if it's extremely disturbed.
Feeding a high-quality probiotic supplement for cats, like Daily Cat, can prove extremely beneficial. Probiotics introduce good bacteria back into the gut ensuring balance, proper digestion, improved immunity, and better overall health.
Providing an essential fatty acid supplement is also a good idea even if your cat appears to be completely healthy. DHA and EPA (essential fatty acids) are rendered inactive during the preparation of commercial pet food, so supplementation may be necessary to ensure your cat gets enough. Supplementing with omega-3 DHA essential fatty acids can assist to reduce inflammation and slow down the aging process.
When Might Supplements Be Necessary?
If your cat is young and healthy and you provide her with a variety of high-quality canned grain-free or raw food, she may not require supplements (although a probiotic can still be helpful).
If you have an elderly cat or one that has health issues, supplements or other immune boosters for cats may help to improve his health and well-being. Before offering supplements to your cat, it's a good idea to consult with your family or holistic veterinarian.
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