Responsible Pet Ownership


  1. I have used the word “ownership” out of an acceptance that most people consider this the correct terminology. I prefer ‘responsible companion animal caretaking’ or ‘responsible companion animal guardianship’ because language promotes responsible behavior in relation to our interaction with domestic animals.
  2. I have deliberately kept the principles and methods short and concise. They can be fleshed out with further research and thought. There are some notes at the base of the page.
  3. Additional points in comments are very welcome.

It is useful to try and set out some principles surrounding responsible pet ownership. It is a bit like taking an examination. The advice is to always read the question again while answering it, to make sure you are answering it correctly. If we remind ourselves what good cat caretaking involves it helps to maintain and raise standards.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Responsible Pet Ownership – A foster carer – Photo by The U.S. Army

Guiding Principle

People should respect the companion animal.

The Basics

A person should neither cause a companion animal pain or distress nor abandon a companion animal.

Keeping a Companion Animal

A person should not keep a companion animal unless they are committed to and able to provide facilities and care that meets the animal’s natural requirements and safety for the life of the animal.

Breeding Companion Animals

  1. Breeding of companion animals should not take place until all reasonable efforts have been exhausted to put an end to the overpopulation problem of companion animals.
  2. Breeding of companion animals should prioritize health and character over appearance1.
  3. Breeder facilities should be such that a breeding animal is able to fully express all aspects of natural behavior.
  4. The standard of care by breeders of companion animals is the same as for anyone else and where appropriate it should be higher.


The training of a companion animal should not cause harm of distress to the animal and should not place demands on the animal that are unnatural and harmful in any way.

Commercial Enterprises Concerning Companion Animals

  • Commercial enterprises that concern the handling, keeping and caring of companion animals should only be managed by skilled personnel meeting an agreed standard of care and their operation should be disclosed to and approved by local authorities2.
  • Where a companion animal is involved in film work, advertising or competition the animal’s welfare should be prioritized over the commercial objectives of the people using the animal.


  • All operations that are for non-therapeutic purposes and which are for the convenience of a pet’s owner should be formally outlawed3.
  • Only a person legally recognized as competent should carry out surgery, or under supervision, unless in an absolute emergency.


  • The use of the word “euthanize” or “euthanasia” should be used accurately in accordance with its true dictionary meaning.
  • All killing of companion animals should be carried out by competent people and where possible a veterinarian, using humane methods that cause the animal to lose consciousness before his/her life.
  • Killing by shooting, gas chambers, drowning, poisons are prohibited.


Nationwide education programs should be set up to:

  • Encourage people to respect the companion animal.
  • Discourage the keeping of wild animals as pets.
  • Encourage the sterilization of companion animals before they reproduce.
  • Encourage people to acquire sufficient knowledge of the behavior of companion animals before adopting.
  • Encourage proper and realistic expectations from potential adopters of companion animals.
  • Discourage private zoos. Many of these animals are considered ‘pets’.
  • Encourage a raising in standard of breeders of companion animals.
  • Discourage cat and dog shows in which the health of the animal is not part of the assessment process in the award of prizes.


Nationwide publicly funded research should be implemented to:

  • Accurately ascertain the number of unwanted dogs and cats of all kinds: stray, feral or companion and to report on ways and means to better manage these animals.
  • Examine the efficacy of trap-neuter-return programs and to find ways to make them more effective.
  • Examine the practicalities and efficacy of an obligatory companion animal identification scheme with the goal of returning lost animals to their owners and identifying poor pet ownership.
  • The findings of these studies should carry weight and place an obligation on authorities to act on them.


  • In lieu of a voluntary scheme to eliminate the operations under the heading “Surgery”, legislation should be enacted which bans it.


  1. Examples are Modern Siamese and Ultra Persian
  2. I am writing about boarding catteries, shelters, breeders etc.
  3. Referring to declawing, devocalisation, tail docking, ear cropping and defanging.
Facebook Discussion


Responsible Pet Ownership — 2 Comments

  1. Great! There are alot of dog ‘owners’ – caretakers – who could get alot from this too. I am absolutely and categorically not a dog person at all, probably because I dont like them usually because of how they have been conditioned by their caretakers. Cats get the same lack of respect or worse, but they are totally different animals and I understand them alot better, so I would rather take up their cause in this context.

  2. All you have written is true Michael and hopefully one day all cat ‘owners’ will take responsibility for their cats health, happiness and welfare and realise a cat is a living feeling creature, not a possession to use, abuse, or discard as they please. Only then will the word cat caretakers have its true meaning.

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