There is a misconception that cats are low maintenance which can encourage some cat owners to not take their cat to the vet when needed and sometimes to neglect their cat in terms of play and general interaction.
Julie Sprankles of sheknows.com is spot on when she writes: Cats aren’t the low-maintenance pets we think they are. I believe that a major factor, perhaps the deciding factor, when thinking about adopting a cat or dog is the perceived cost of maintenance over the animal’s life. Cats are seen to win on this criteria. Perhaps this explains the greater number of cats than dogs in the US by a small margin and their popularity among people living busy lives in an ever faster moving world.
Asking Dr Google PhD for info on ‘low maintenance pets’ results in the following list from yellow.com (in no particular order I believe):
- Hamster, gerbil or mice
- Small birds
- Guinea pigs
- Sea Monkeys
So domestic cats are in a similar bracket to goldfish and rabbits in terms of maintenance costs. Are we convinced that this is correct?
“As long as they have somewhere warm to sleep, food, water and somewhere to scratch they are generally happy” (yellow.com) — Is this really accurate?
Play and Interaction
Obviously cats don’t need to go for a walk daily but interacting with domestic cats is vital for their wellbeing. A lack of interaction including play or simply the owner’s presence can even lead to ill health. A classic stress induced cat health problem is feline idiopathic cystitis. One cause can be separation anxiety. Owners who are away all day at work adopt a cat because they believe that they are low maintenance and fit their lifestyle. They put down dry cat food for convenience and before you can say ‘idiopathic’ (unknown cause) he or she has bladder problems.
There is also this misconception that domestic cats are ‘solitary creatures‘ and can therefore thrive when ignored by their owner. I disagree with it. Domestic cats have been domesticated for 10,000 years. This is plenty of time for them to become social creatures integrated into the human lifestyle. They need human interaction to properly thrive. Domestic cats are even social creatures vis-a-vis other cats.
It is probably true to say that cats are less expensive when it comes to veterinary bills. This is possibly because there are far more purebred dogs than cats and purebreds are generally considered to enjoy less robust health than random bred cats.
However, one reason why cats are less expensive in terms of vet bills is because owners think they are low maintenance. They become unaware of their cat’s health issues such as poor oral health and also try and avoid taking their cat the vet. The vast number of sites on the internet providing cat health information is testament to this demand. Dr Google has substituted the local veterinarian for many cat owners.
I would not assume that cats are low maintenance. In terms of money they cost around $15k (£15k) over a lifetime which is similar to dogs only dogs, on average, live shorter lives (once again because they are often purebred animals). Note: large dogs can cost up to $30k pa. In terms of human interaction I would argue that there should little difference if both dog and cat owners are doing a good job.
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