This is a difficult topic but I’d like to briefly discuss the mistakes people make, in general, regarding cat ownership and my personal mistakes. I’ll start with the general mistakes. I would hope we can learn from our mistakes. Sometimes even the best cat guardians make mistakes. It is bound to happen despite the best of intentions. What mistakes have you made and what did you do about it?
There is no doubt in my mind that, for people new to cat ownership, mistakes start before a person even owns a cat. A realistic and knowledgeable appraisal should take place before adopting a cat on matters such as the costs and time that are required to be invested in good cat caretaking. That is not to say that a spontaneous, compulsive cat adaption does not work. It often does but it depends upon the attitude of the person.
I suppose a person has to ask themselves whether they really are the right sort of person to adopt a cat. Nearly all cat related problems from health to death are due to the quality of cat ownership. Therefore the biggest mistake people make is adopting a cat or kitten when they are unsuited either temperamentally or because of personal circumstances or both.
Health and Safety
The first call upon a cat owner is to make sure their cat is safe and healthy. Everyone can make their up own mind on how to do this but being careless about cat safety and being dilatory about cat health are big mistakes. Cat health often seems to come down to the cost of keeping a cat and that goes back to the first mistake; adopting a cat when you really can’t afford it. People shouldn’t be resistant to going to the veterinarian when they think their cat is ill. Self-diagnosis is OK but it is no substitute for the opinion of a good vet. Delaying going to the vet is another general mistake.
Also people shouldn’t be lazy about observing their cat and being in touch with their cat’s routines and behavior. Simple observation will inform the cat owner when their cat requires veterinary treatment. It is a mistake to ignore your cat.
Turning a blind eye to dangers outside the home is another mistake as far as I am concerned. Outside is great for cats and everything might be perfect all the cat’s life. Or he might be killed and then all the benefits seem to be cancelled out. Cat safety is about personal decision making depending on circumstances. Another big mistake is turning a blind eye to cat safety.
Neutering and Spaying
It almost goes without saying that cat owners should neuter and spay their cat as soon as possible under the direction of their vet. A decent number of people still don’t do this. I know it is a bit sad that the domestic cat has to undergo these operations. However, it is a mistake to delay or put it off. You may end up with more cats than you bargained for and for a female cat spaying avoids certain illnesses.
Depending solely upon convenience foods – dry kibble – is a mistake in my opinion. There is a place for this food in a cat’s diet but it is unnatural and should be limited for that reason. High quality cat food should be the goal. This means a food that is close to the mouse in its constituents. A mouse contains 70% water and little carbohydrates.
I won’t go on about this but it is the most awful of mistakes to declaw your cat for non-therapeutic reasons. It is actually worse than a mistake; it is immoral, cruel and a downright selfish act. Enough said.
Cat owners need to be concerned about the basics of good cat caretaking. That includes what goes in (food) and what comes out (feces and urine). People know that they need to keep their cat’s litter clean and renewed very regularly. It is a mistake to put off cat litter duties. Cat owners need to find a litter material that is good and suited to their cat and then make sure it is always in good condition. In multi-cat households more than one litter tray will probably be required.
It is a mistake to not groom your cat especially if she is a long haired cat. It is also a mistake to not check for fleas using a flea comb. A lot of discomfort for your cat can be avoided. And so can a trip to the vet if a cat owner takes preventative action against the very commonplace cat flea.
I can think of two. Firstly when I moved from London, where I lived in a house with a courtyard garden, which was safe for a cat, to a detached house in a town north of London with a large garden, I made the mistake of letting my cat roam free. She was killed on a road. I made the ultimate mistake and failed to ensure that my cat was safe. That is why I am a big advocate of compromise set-ups such as a cat enclosure which incidentally are espoused by the late Sir Patrick Moore, of whom I am a great fan.
Secondly, I moved to a large apartment in a nice block with my remaining cat (I had two lady cats at the time). I was working full-time and quite long hours. The apartment was on the first floor so my cat was a indoor cat. I fed her dry cat food mainly (I am better educated on cat matters these days). This resulted in stress for my cat and combined with the dry food she developed cystitis, a urinary tract infection. That was my fault. It was a mistake concerning my cat’s health. A fundamental aspect of cat caretaking. As it happened I moved out and sold the flat eventually. Ever since I have lived on the ground floor with access to the outside. She was allowed supervised access to the garden. A compromise between safety and fun.
Compromise and Common Sense
Everything is a compromise of some sort. Cat ownership mistakes concerning safety and health are the most profound and to be avoided. Cat safety is often about making decisions that are a compromise. Avoiding cat ownership mistakes is no more than using common sense a lot of the time and applying the mind to the task at hand. In short: taking responsibility and respecting the cat.