What cat ownership mistakes have you made?

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?

Cat owner and cat
Cat owner and cat. Photo by pocketwiley.
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

General Mistakes

Before Ownership

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.

Litter Boxes

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.

Personal Mistakes

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.

5 thoughts on “What cat ownership mistakes have you made?”

  1. I have made the same exact mistake as Ruth amongst others. I din’t play very much with my first cat, nor did I buy toys or anything. I didn’t even know about cat trees. But she went outdoors and was a very happy cat and I loved her very much. I used to ride into the yard on my bike and before I had stopped she would chase me and jump up onto my shoulder and bury her head into my neck to say hello, where have you been, you were gone too long! She would keep me company – I was working alot at home restoring bicycles and making art when I was still at university and she loved the activities and would hang out and play with things I wasnt using, nearby. She was the best. She is still alive and living with her sister and mum (my ex gf – we got the 2 kittens together so she is home with family) – but I never knoew anything about cats back then. So as much as I did many things for her like build her a tunnel and make her shelves and walkways and so on, I never played with a wand toy with her, nor did I buy her a cat tree. I think she was fine. She was just unhappy if I was gone too long but I was home so much that when I did go away overnight or something she was clearly annoyed but it wasn’t serious, she had me around most of the time. She was just spoiled that way perhaps. I didn’t know about nutrition and good cat food either. I gave her wet and dry. We would share cans of Albacore white tuna together. When I finally had to leave Canada I was completely heartbroken to say goodbye to her. For months before I left I was in denial – I didn’t even want to start packing up my things because I didn’t want her to see I was leaving in such a permanent basis and leaving nothing. I was an emotional wreck. It was probably the second most tragic and hard thing I ever had to deal with in my life, the first being the loss of Red. I had to leave Canada for visa reasons. I didn’t know where I was going to live etc so I couldn’t take her and I felt it would have been selfish of me to take her and put her through that when she could just go live with her littermate sister and human mum in a nice house with a garden etc. Leaving her is what made me realise that I wanted cats in my life in the future and what made me a cat person, officially.

    I loved her very much indeed but I guess back then I wasn’t sensitive or knowledgeable towards a cats needs and perhaps there were times when she was meowing at me sounding unsatisfied and I just wasn’t able to understand why or what she needed in that moment. But she lived for the outdoors, she would sit in the snow until she was covered in it, not caring, just loving to be outside. She’d come in all white and covered with snow and get the place wet shaking it off her super long fluffy fur. She was pure blue/grey with loooong thick fur and yellow eyes. She was tiny even with her enormous fluffiness. And in winter she got more fluffy, so much so that she was almost round looking from behind, when she was sitting. She was a terrible bird catcher. By that I mean she caught so many birds. I remember days when she came home with 2 pigeons. Once she caught a pidgeon and 2 other small birds in the same day. I made it clear I didn’t like it and didn’t want it in my house. She’d drag them up her tunnel into the bathroom. I’d wake up in the morning to a bathroom full of feathers like a war zone. She was very boyish. Apparently now, whenever a boy comes to the house she immediatly goes and investigates and get friendly. Probably because she lived 8 years with me. She chose me and her sister chose my ex when we split up.

    There was alot I didn’t know about cats. I have told her human mum to take her for full checkups regularly now that she is 13 or 14. I told her to take her for a full blood panel and it turns out she had the beginnings of a kidney thing but its just the start so she is on special food now. I am still looking after her from a distance – now that I know so much more. My ex was suprised how I was right about the kidneys and she was thankful I told her to have them checked for good measure, before a problem could arise. I also send money every now and then so she gets the best food and care she can get. I miss her alot when I think of her. Her name is Ziggy, she was the one grey out 6 kittens who were all black apart from her. I eneded up calling her Gigi though. Hence my cat now called Gigi. I say it a bit differently to differentiate the two though 🙂

      • I really do go on a bit long with my comments sometimes and drift away from the point. Thanks for reading – even if you don’t make it all the way! I’d totally understand 🙂

  2. Another brilliant article Michael.
    I’d only add one more basic mistake, which is thinking cats can take care of themselves, that they sleep a lot so they don’t need company, they can amuse themselves and you can go away for days and leave them alone and they will be OK.
    People need to make time for their cats, even someone going out to work full time can surely spare some of their leisure time giving their pet some love and attention and fun and games.
    Indoor cats especially need some stimulation so that life isn’t just one long boring eat and sleep routine for them.


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