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.