There should be a worldwide, universally obtainable pamphlet called “The Book of Cat Caretaking Standards” or “Standards of Excellence in Cat Ownership”. There are many books and websites on the various aspects of cat caretaking/guardianship or ownership but there isn’t a 25 page pamphlet or “little red book”, written in plain language, on excellence in cat ownership and there should be.
This morning when the Tesco grocery delivery arrived and I was putting it away I said to myself “it can be hard looking after a cat”. I was putting away cat food and Gabriel, my cat, was messing around. All the usual things were taking place but why did I say it can be hard looking after a cat? That seems to be a statement of failure. It seems to imply that I was struggling looking after my cat but that is not what I meant.
What I meant was “it can be hard looking after a cat when you want to look after a cat in an excellent manner.” Without realizing it, I was referring to the standards of care and if the standard a person sets himself is high then it can be hard looking after a cat because in order to meet high standards of domestic cat care the owner has to think and act and be around and be concerned and spend money. The owner has to unflinchingly spend money on veterinary care when it is required. The owner has to be intensely concerned about the welfare of his cat. The owner has to play with his cat and create an environment which is suitable for a domestic cat especially when the domestic cat is living inside all the time.
There are, in reality, a gazillion considerations if a person wishes to care for his cat to a very high standard so my statement was really about standards of domestic cat care. It is extremely easy to look after a cat badly because all you have to do is put food down and it can be bad food, put a cat flap in the back door and pretty well do nothing else. In fact, you hardly need to put down any food because a neglected cat will probably hunt for himself or if the food is unsuitable he will find a suitable source somewhere else, probably in another person’s home.
So, if a person says to himself “it can be hard to look after a cat” it means that person is setting a high standard for himself which sometimes he feels he is struggling to meet for various reasons. In my case one of the reasons is that I would like to travel a bit more and because I have adopted Gabriel is now more difficult to travel but that is a trade-off for the great pleasure he gives me in looking after him. Being retired I am able to spend a lot of time with him and show him my love but if I had to work I would not be able to meet my high standards. That would worry me. That would stress me and it has happened in the past.
I am fairly positive that very few people say to themselves, “it can be hard looking after a cat”. People who don’t remind themselves of this are either doing an excellent job and meeting high standards with ease in which case they are fantastic cat caretakers or they are setting very low standards but are unaware of it.
I wonder if there should be some sort of book on standards of domestic cat care. We should be able to grade ourselves on the quality of domestic cat care that we provide as set against some sort of standard. There is no standard except in the UK through the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which is too general to be very useful for cat ownership. No one in authority has given a thought to what constitutes excellence in cat ownership. There should be a standard. There should be standards somewhat like the rules that govern driving on the road in most countries. Those standards are set in order to protect ourselves because driving on the road can be dangerous.
But then again, poor cat welfare is obviously extremely dangerous for the cat and we don’t know how many hundreds of thousands or millions of cats die through neglect. The Book of Cat Caretaking Standards would have to cover the quality of food with which the cat is provided, the quality of stimulation through play or access to safe areas outside with which the cat is provided, the quality of medical care administered to the cat, the amount of time that the cat owner is able to be with his cat, the knowledge of the cat owner in respect of cat behaviour, basic medical and nutritional requirements and whether the cat is micro-chipped and neutered. These seem to be the most important aspects of a book on cat caretaking standards.
Might it not be a good idea to have a slim book, a pamphlet if you like, which is available at all veterinary clinics and hospitals and rescue centres which sets out the rules of the road in respect of excellence in cat ownership? It should be exactly the same nationwide.