The Responsibilities of Owning Cats.....

Cats are probably one of the most misunderstood of pets because of their independence and personalities. Unlike dogs, cats do not live to please their owners; they live to be pleased. However, this does not mean that once a relationship is established with its owner, a cat will not share its pleasure. A loved cat is a loving cat. Cats do, indeed, have distinct and different personalities. Some are easy-going and eager to please, while others are independent, persnickety, and aloof. Some are very smart, while others are not as bright. Some are bold, while others are shy. Some cats like to talk, while others wait for someone else to talk first. Sounds like the diverse personalities of people, doesn't it?

Cats are a great joy to have as pets because once a bond is established, there is no more loyal friend. A cat will accept and love its "person" unconditionally. One must, then, keep in mind that like any other relationship, a relationship with a cat is a two-way relationship. Spend time with your cat. Do not expect to bring a cat home and then spend most of the time away from him. Would you have a child and ignore it for 23 hours a day? A pact must be made upon adoption of a cat that you will do whatever you have to do to protect your cat from harm. Again, the commitment to your cat is much like the commitment of a parent to a child. Cats get attached to their people and when they are separated from their home and person, they become depressed and may never recover. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing the devastated eyes of a three or four-year-old cat in a shelter whose once-loving owners got rid of it because they moved to a new house and didn't want cat hair on their new rug or met a new boyfriend/girlfriend who didn't like cats.

Once a cat is brought home, it must be a member of the family-FOR THE REST OF ITS LIFE. One of the most important things regarding any pet is that the pet must have the same level of commitment and security in its home as you would provide a child. To do anything less is unethical, immoral, and unfair to the animal.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER move away and leave the cat behind--it might be able to fend for itself, but there are many terrible things that can happen to a cat that isn't used to living on the streets.  Again, care for your cat as you would a child.

One of the most common myths about cats is that they are not meant to be kept indoors because they are hunters by nature. This could not be more untrue. In fact, to insure the safety of your cat, it is critical to keep it indoors. It will be easier to "cat-proof" your house (that is, remove any potentially tempting and dangerous things such as hanging blind cords, dangling electrical cords, etc. More on this in a moment.....) than it could ever be by turning your cat loose to defend itself against fast-moving vehicles, dogs, other cats, and any number of other potentially lethal things. Cats can be very happy indoors as long as they have a window or two to look out of, a beam of sunlight to sleep in, toys to play with, a place to call their own (a kitty condo or bed), and a loving relationship with its people. Please make a safe and happy home for your cat-INDOORS!!!! Do you want to wake up some morning to find your beloved companion dead in the street or on your porch because it was hit by a car or mauled by a raccoon or poisoned by someone who hates cats????? I can't say this enough, as it is probably the most important thing a cat owner can do-for your cat's safety and happiness, KEEP HIM INDOORS!!!

Cat-proofing your home is not as difficult to do as it sounds.  Either tuck blind cords behind the blinds or even better, braid them so your cat cannot get his head caught in them.  Make sure the screens on the windows are secure so that your cat will not be able to push a screen out or accidentally fall out of the window.  Check a plant book to be sure that any houseplants you have are non-toxic.  Cats will chew plants.  That is a natural fact of having cats, so be prepared to defend your (non-toxic) plants from your cat.  Make sure electrical cords are not dangling or trailing across a floor.  Cats will chase or play with anything that dangles or trails across the floor--to them, the cord is a snake needing to be hunted.  A cat has no idea that biting an electrical cord is dangerous.  Remove the temptation.  Do not leave the washer or dryer door open.  Cats love to sleep in closed-in places.  If you leave the dryer door open and Fluffy jumps in, you might not see him when you throw your clothes in and hit the start button.  Even one turn in a dryer can be very dangerous to your cat--their bones are small and can be rather fragile.  Again, remove the temptation.  Make sure that there are no open containers of insecticide, poison, cleaners, or other potentially dangerous household items where your cat can get to them (cabinets, etc.).  Just as you would not keep these things in the reach of a child, remove them from your cat's access.  Do not use the toilet cleaners that stay permanently in the bowl or tank.  These products contain poisons and many cats will drink out of the toilet.  Rather than trying to remember whether the lid of the toilet is closed, don't use the cleaners and if your cat does drink out of the toilet, he will not get sick.  Use a regular spray-on toilet bowl cleaner and rinse it completely when finished.  Rinse it again to be sure there is no residue.  Cats are curious and don't understand that household items can be dangerous.  Do not leave meat or other food on the counter.  This is a temptation that no self-respecting cat can resist.  If you must defrost meat, let it sit in the microwave or oven (don't turn them on, just place the items there to defrost on their own).  Your cat can't get into either place, so your dinner is safe while you are at work or away from home.  After all of these things have been done, watch your cat carefully.  He will show you what he finds tempting.  If any of the objects of his fascination are dangerous, remove them. Provide a peaceful and safe home for your cat.

Another common misconception about pets is that they do not need to be neutered if they are kept indoors. An intact pet can easily dash outdoors and either become pregnant or cause a pregnancy. In addition, an intact female cat will go into heat and could forget her bathroom habits. A male will spray to mark its territory. For the happiness of both you and your pet, HAVE YOUR CAT SPAYED OR NEUTERED BEFORE IT REACHES SEXUAL MATURITY (before 4 months is ideal).   Cats can become pregnant at about 5 months of age.  When the male cat mounts and enters the female, the barb on his penis scratches the inside of the female's vagina, which prompts the ovary to release eggs, which are fertilized by the sperm that is already present.  Pregnancy is a guaranteed result of every sexual encounter an unpregnant female cat has.  Do not be responsible for another litter of kittens being dropped of at a shelter and being euthanized when they don't get adopted in time. Would you allow the children of your child to be euthanized?

Please, please, please do NOT get your cat declawed!!!!!!  Even though some people say that the operation is humane, declawing a cat "decats" the cat.  What does this mean?  Declawing removes one of a cat's only defenses and has a drastic effect on its personality in many cases.  A declawed cat can become neurotic because it knows it has no way to defend itself from any potential danger.  Declawed cats often become biters, too.  Rather than spend money on an operation that is inhumane and permanently maims the cat, buy a good quality scratching post or kitty condo.  Be sure to get one with carpet, real logs, and some sisal rope so kitty has a choice of what to scratch.

Another myth about cats is that they love to be alone. Sometimes this is true. Just like people, cats do sometimes enjoy being left alone to rest. However, a cat that is always alone will become withdrawn, aloof, and possibly hostile toward its family. When kitty comes into a room looking for attention, spend a few minutes talking to him. Rub his back, scratch the top of his head, and show him that you are glad to see him. Cats register their displeasure in a number of ways. Their tails act as "mood barometers." Cats will sometimes "talk" about their feelings. Learn to read your cat's tail signals and chirps. Cats can't speak using words, but they are good communicators if you understand their language.

Sometimes an upset cat will violate the rules you've set for it. It might jump onto the counter, forget its bathroom habits, claw on your furniture, or become aggressive with you. Instead of becoming angry with your cat, try to figure out why the rules he followed so well until recently have suddenly become meaningless to him. Have you been gone from home a lot more than usual? Did you change his food? Has there been anything unusual happening at home? Has his litter box been cleaned? Does he get the same amount of attention he always gets? Has he been suddenly banned from his favorite spot? Did you bring a new pet/child/person into your home? All of these things require a great deal of patience and understanding when dealing with your cat. Cats are very sensitive creatures and do not like their routines upset. They want consistency and do not like change of any kind. If any of the things listed above are happening in your household, spend extra time with your cat. Reassure him. Love him. He will return to his old habits quickly if he is given the reassurance he needs.

A relationship with a cat can be as satisfying as a human relationship. To be loved unconditionally and accepted even when you are having a terrible day is a wonderful feeling. If you have a cat or plan to get a cat, remember that you must make a personal commitment to keep the cat as safe and happy as you would a human child. The reward for your commitment is worth the effort!