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Being a Responsible Cat Owner
What does it mean to be responsible? The dictionary defines it as “the duty of taking care of something”, which summarises what it means to be a cat guardian. This duty of care is enshrined in law, which states it is an offence not to provide adequate food, shelter, exercise, and freedom from pain. However, the law is aimed at preventing cruelty, rather than promoting responsible cat ownership.
To me, being a responsible pet owner means taking care of both the emotional and physical needs of my cats –this is what separates merely owning a cat from being a great cat owner.
Someone who owns a cat puts food down and has a cat flap, whilst a great cat owner plays with their cat, grows cat grass inside, and provides high perches for their cat to watch the street and activity outside. Can you see the difference?
Getting Into the Mind of a Cat
Simply letting a cat be a cat is deceptively hard work. You need to understand how the feline mind works and adjust your life to fit.
Cats are Solitary Creatures
Cat behaviourists tell us that cats are “Solitary creatures with social tendencies” – but what does this mean? Cats like to keep themselves to themselves, and they come to us on their terms. So what has this to do with being a responsible owner?
It means that you should not force attention on your pet. Overwhelming them with cuddles is not good, instead avoid crowding them and wait for them to come to you. You should also provide a calm, quiet environment where they can be at peace.
The second point is that collecting cats is not always a good idea. Again, behavioural research shows in a multi-cat household of five felines or more, at least one of them will territory mark, which is a sign of stress. Responsible cat owners think carefully about their circumstances, and their available space before adding more cats to an already crowded home.
Cats tolerate other cats, but the more competition there is, the more stressed they feel. A responsible owner helps alleviate stress, and in a multi-cat household this means food and water bowls for each cat, and a litter tray each plus one spare. Not doing this can result in placing cats under pressure, which is the last thing you want.
Express Natural Behaviours
Responsible cat ownership means encouraging your cat to express natural behaviours such as hunting and stalking, This doesn’t mean you should provide live mice, but we encourage regular play sessions. Our cats enjoy a game of Da-Bird or Neko flies, but any wand toys will usually satisfy their natural instincts. Want to make the game a little tastier and more tempting – why not try a game of chicken wing-on-a-string?
It also means providing high ledges and perches where your cat can watch what’s happening in the neighbourhood, and places to hide when it’s time for a serious snooze. Of course providing a warm dry bed is a given, although it’s usually our bed they choose, or the sofa, or the most comfortable armchair in the hosue.
Caring for the Feline Body
The basics of caring for a cat including things like neutering your pet, deworming, vaccinations and regular health checks. There are also other things you can do everyday at home that make a big difference, for example:
A Healthy Diet
Mention a healthy diet and the first thing that springs to mind is providing a good quality food. But just as important is the quantity you feed. Overweight cats are especially prone to diabetes, urinary problems, and arthritis, so it is every owner’s duty, not to overfeed.
A large percentage of cats have dental disease, be that tartar, inflamed gums, or damaged teeth. If you’ve ever had tooth ache you’ll know how painful a sore mouth is, so why would we think it’s acceptable for our cats? The responsible owner tries to keep their cat’s teeth healthy and if necessary, seeks veterinary help before their cat stops eating.
Every cat should have a clean, knot free coat. If your cat’s coat is long and prone to tangles, then teach your cat to accept being combed and brush small areas daily. If you can’t do this, then take your cat to a groomer every 4–6 weeks for a pampering session. Dog owners are OK with the concept of regular trips to the beauty parlour, so why not our cats?
Know Your Cat
And finally, a responsible cat owner knows their cat’s habits – how much they eat, sleep and interact, and the litter box output (pee and poop). If those habits change, this means something’s not right. Respect your own instincts and get your cat checked by a vet.
What does responsible cat ownership mean to you? Please share in the comments.
Deb Barnes - Zee and Zoey says
Wonderful post – so very thoughtful and such great points! In my multi-cat home, I make extra sure to provide my gang with not only individual love and shared time together, but lots of interactive time they share collectively that is associated with positive rewards – such as a play session each night followed by treats!
Love and purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey kitties!
I love this post! learnt a lot,cat owners should read this.
My cat is perfect,,, except she would never tolerate another cat in the house. Getting the dog was adjustment enough.
Great post! We loved all your points, and that chicken wing on a string idea got Gracie and Zoe’s attention. MOL!
Jean Dion says
I love your words about overcrowding. It’s a struggle, for many of us who love cats, as we always want to save as many as we can. But you’re right. Some just do NOT adjust to the multi-cat lifestyle. Taking their needs into account is one way to be a responsible and truly loving guardian.
The Swiss Cats says
Excellent post ! People who think that having a cat is easy and no work must read your post. Purrs
Guess I’m doing well then, Seven cats (used to be eight) and a room full of fosters and I don’t have urine markings 🙂
Rosa @ Cat Lady Confidential says
This is a great informative post. I always watch out for my cat’s health and take him to regular vet visits. Taking care of him also means quality play time with him every day. That’s something he really enjoys – if he doesn’t have his play time he’s get stressed out.
It’s not easy being a cat owner. Everyone says, get a cat, they are easy, but Mom says they are a million times more difficult than us dogs. We love them and care for them, but they are not easy creatures to live with at times. Mom has had cats since she was seven, and things have really changed for the better as far as care and options.
The Daily Pip says
I love the idea of letting them come to you on their own terms rather than forcing cuddles. We have three cats and they each are very different in terms of temperament. One is very friendly and wants to be with us, in our laps, at all times. The other is semi-shy and seeks us out for affection when the house is quiet and calm usually at night and in the very early morning. The third is very shy, originally a feral cat, and also deaf. She doesn’t like to be touched, but does occasionally like to sit in the room with us or at the far end of the couch. We do let them all be themselves and it all works out quite nicely.
Really great post! I will share.
Ellen Pilch says
Excellent post. I am trying to bot adopt any cats until all of my 13 have dentals, some had them not that long ago, but 10 need them.
You have a lot of great points here. There is a lot more that goes into being a responsible cat owner than just keeping the cat alive. They can do that on their own away from humans. Being responsible requires having the cat’s best interests in mind and cultivating a healthy relationship with them.
Any human who believes cats are low-maintence pets is in for a rude awakening!
Lola The Rescued Cat says
You covered a lot of good points in this post. Mommy knows our habits very well and pays close attention to us. We would like her to play more,though. And maybe stay home with us all day instead of going to work.
I adopted a brother and sister pair as kittens 9 years ago and had to have one of them put to sleep in Oct. While I would love to get another kitty, Sophie had only barely tolerated her brother so I will not put her through the stress of another cat in the house. She is blossoming being the only kitty! She has become a whole new cat, it’s really unbelievable.
caren gittleman says
you made some incredible points! Thank you! I only have one cat, but I never knew that cats feel stress when living with a number of cats. That’s interesting!
I need to be MUCH better about playing!
Sweet Purrfections says
I had a lot to learn when I got two cats at the same time.