Responsible Pet Ownership

Having a cat as a pet is rewarding—each cat has a unique personality. Contrary to the popular perceptions, cats are not aloof but very affectionate.  There is nothing quite like coming home to find your cat—or cats—waiting to greet you.  Owning a cat (or any pet) is a privilege which carries responsibilities.  Before you or your family adopts a cat, consider the following:

·       Ensuring that your cat is healthy involves a financial investment, including regular trips to the veterinarian and high quality food appropriate to the age and health-status of the cat.  Do your finances allow you to provide this care?

·       Are you willing to neuter your cat?

·       Will your cat be an indoor cat?  Or will you let your cat outdoors?

·       Do you travel a lot? Is a move in your future?  If so, what will happen to your cat? 

·       Are you ready to undertake the responsibility of having a cat as a companion? 

Think about these questions and read on for more information.

Take care of your cat.  Love your cat.  Your commitment to responsible ownership will be rewarded by love, and the quirky, wonderful personality of your feline friend.


Veterinary Care

Taking your cat for regular visits to the veterinarian is key to ensuring that your friend enjoys optimal health.  Choose the clinic carefully, by visiting the clinic.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  For your cat to receive optimal care, you will want to partner with the team of professionals at the veterinary clinic.  If you ask questions, and don’t feel comfortable with any aspect of the responses, whether the information or the tone, then perhaps you should consider taking your cat to another clinic where you feel more comfortable.  Meet many of the staff including the client care team, and the animal health technicians who will be part of the care team.  Ask questions about cost and what terms of payment your clinic accepts.  Insurance is a very affordable tool to assist you in planning for unexpected illness or injury.  Ask the team what insurance products they recommend.  


Veterinary Care Over Your Cat's Entire Life

If you bring a kitten into your home, you should anticipate several routine visits to see the vet.  On each of these visits, the kitten will be seen by members of the staff, often beginning with the registered veterinary technician who will weigh the kitten, give the kitten a preliminary examination and ask you questions as part of establishing the kitten’s medical history. This is a good time to chat. Often the technician will ask if you have concerns, and if you do, don’t be shy: raise your concerns. 

Then, the veterinarian will examine the kitten, and give vaccinations.  For the vaccinations to be effective, they need to be done in phases, so anticipate a minimum of two and usually three visits to the vet before your kitten is six months of age.  These vaccinations are important to ensure that your kitten is protected against such diseases such as feline leukemia for which, unfortunately, there is no cure.  Vaccination recommendations are changing so ask your medial team about their recommendations carefully.  Your veterinarian may also recommend implanting a microchip as a method of identifying your cat should it ever wander from home, get out accidentally and become lost.  Microchipping is a very safe and simple procedure and is recommended for ALL cats regardless of whether they live indoors or spend time outdoors.  Hundreds of indoor cats become lost each year and never find their way home because shelters have no way of identifying them or trying to locate their owner.  

The initial visits to the veterinary clinic are key to your cat’s health and well-being in three ways:

·       You will get the newest member of your family off to a healthy start, an initial financial investment which will pay for years: healthy kittens tend to grow up as healthy adult cats;

·       You will establish a rapport with the staff at the veterinary clinic who will be your partners in ensuring that your kitten grows into a healthy cat who has a long life;

·       At some point during these initial visits, a member of the staff of clinic will ask you if you are planning to neuter kitten.  Say yes.

From then, until your cat is seven or eight years of age, a yearly examination along with periodic booster vaccinations by the vet is all that required, unless issues relating to the cat’s health arise. 

Once the cat is seven or eight years of age, the recommendation is normally that your friend gets a health-check twice a year, including blood work which is key to detecting early diseases such as kidney disease, diabetes and thyroid disease.  Caught early, cats with chronic disease can live happy, active lives, often for years.

Often with cats, illness initially manifests in fairly subtle or minor changes to behaviour.  If you suspect that your cat is feeling under-the-weather, it is best to seek veterinary attention.  This is particularly true if your cat goes off his food which can escalate into a serious medical condition in under a week.  When in doubt, seek veterinary care.  It is better to be proactive than to wait to seek care and find that the health issue is serious.


Neutering Your Cat

Cats, in terms of their reproductive capacity, are remarkable for their physiological efficiency.  They have evolved to procreate.  Female cats—queens—come into heat roughly every two weeks from spring to autumn, with the heat lasting from half a week to a week.  Queens are highly fertile for roughly half the year.  If you spay your female kitten, toms will not be attracted to her; she will have less inclination to roam.  Additionally, spaying your female kittens offers direct benefits to her health in terms of protection against tumours associated with mammary glands and developing serious infections of the uterus (pyometra) later in life.

Neutering male kittens, likewise, has positive effects on their behaviour.  Neutered males are less territorial and as a result, are less aggressive and tend to roam less.  Most neutered male cats do not spray their urine.

Neutering cats is, long-term, one of the best ways to control the cat population.  Excellent information is provided by the City of Calgary here.


Indoor Versus Outdoor Cats

Indoor cats tend to live longer, healthier lives than do outdoor cats.  The cats which are allowed outdoors are vulnerable to a range of harms including: fighting with other cats or wild animals or dogs, poisoning, being hit by cars.  Cats which roam freely outdoors hunt, killing a range of prey, including birds.  They use gardens as litter boxes, which can be considered a nuisance or worse by your neighbours. 

If you keep a cat indoors from the time she or he is a kitten, most adjust happily, particularly if they are stimulated by regular playtimes with you, the cat’s owner and friend.   Research indicates that there are tremendous benefits to your health in taking time to play with your cat.  Playtime with your cat alleviates your stress. 

Want more information? Check out British Columbia’s SPCA recommendations here.

 The Taskforce STRONGLY recommends that you plan to keep you cat indoors for it's entire life.  If you want your cat to enjoy some outdoor time, ensure that you are supervising this activity (keep the cat on a harness or leash), or that you build a secure outdoor enclosure to keep the cat safe.  

Feeding Your Cat

Like people, cats have different nutritional needs at different stages of life, and in relation to various conditions of health.  Kittens and cats should be fed both canned food and kibble.  Canned food has a higher moisture content, than does kibble. The moisture content is important to ensure that your cat—at any stage of life—is hydrated.  The professional staff at your veterinary clinic is the most reliable source of information.  And, make sure that your cat has access to water.  Refresh the water daily, with clean, cold water.