This is a big question. It is a complicated question. Mistakes with cat caretaking are more likely to occur under certain circumstances. Mistakes are also likely to occur within specific areas of cat caretaking. Obviously, mistakes are also more likely to occur if the cat owner lacks sufficient knowledge in cat caretaking which must include knowledge of cat behaviour, cat nutrition and the hazards which can hurt a cat.
Sometimes mistakes are just simple accidents. For example, your cat likes to hide (this is a very common domestic cat characteristic). If your cat hides under a duvet, you might sit on the duvet and hurt your cat. Nobody is to blame really but beware of the possibility. Sometimes cats hide in drawers. They like to be amongst your clothes because of the smell. If you close the drawer and it remains closed for a long time that could present a problem to your cat.
What about washing machines? We always read about cats being stuck in washing machines. Sometimes they even go through a full cycle and survive. Cats like to crawl into small spaces. My cat likes to go into the kitchen cupboards and if the cupboard is not blocked off at the back it could mean that he becomes trapped. Mistakes can occur under all these situations. They can occur very quickly (cats are surreptitious and quick movers). Cat owners should be aware of the potential of dangers around the house. Poisonous plants, new carpets embedded with a chemical which causes dermatitis, hot kitchen devices which could burn your cat, chemicals in garages which can severely harm your cat; all of these and more are potential hazards which can result in mistakes being made. By mistakes I mean the person is not aware of these hazards and does not take sufficient steps to prevent injury to their cat.
One of the classic circumstances from which a mistake can be made is letting your cat go outside. I let my cat go outside but the decision was made extremely carefully, balancing the benefits and detriments and the potential hazards. There was a risk. No cat should be let outside carelessly. The world’s largest domestic cat was killed when he “escaped” the home.
One of the great mistakes that Americans make with respect to their domestic cat companion is to declaw them. Very often they are unaware of what the declawing operation entails. It is much more severe than the description indicates. Some owners regret their decision to declaw.
Keeping the litter tray clean is important. Mistakes can be made in allowing it to become to dirty. This may result in a urinary tract infection.
Cat obesity is a major problem. Is this due to a lack of controlled feeding by their owners? Is it also due to a lack of exercise? Both are relevant as is the quality of cat food. People make mistakes about dry cat food. They fail to put down enough water to compensate for the fact that the cat is hardly receiving any moisture from the food. Or they just feed dry food. Mistakes are often made in assuming that commercially manufactured cat food is good and adequate when this is not always the case. Another mistake that is made by cat owners is that they feed their cat too much human food. The odd treat is alright but no more. Some human foods are plain poisonous to cats.
If a person wishes to train their cat, negative reinforcement (punishment) is absolutely forbidden. The only way to train a cat is through positive reinforcement.
Another situation under which people make mistakes is with respect to medication. Using human medication without sufficient knowledge and without your veterinarian’s input is very dangerous for your cat. I’m shocked to read that on the Quora.com website one participant says that he meets a lot of people who treat their cat with human medicine. He says that many people give their cat paracetamol because they believe that their cat is having a fever. This is shocking. It is absolutely out of bounds to do this. These sorts of mistakes come about because of a lack of education and a lack of common sense.
Returning to household hazards. Objects lying around the floor can be dangerous to cats such as short lengths of fine string or rubber bands. These sorts of objects can become lodged in the cat’s mouth, teeth or gut causing severe health problems which have to be resolved by veterinarian, sometimes at great expense. This would be a very expensive mistake for a cat caretaker.
It is a mistake to try and save money by not taking your cat to your vet. I think that it’s wise to take your cat in for a regular checkup, to keep vaccinations up to date if required (but don’t over vaccinate) and to be observant about your cat’s health. There are signs of ill-health and it is possible although difficult to detect when your cat is feeling pain.
In America the ASPCA 24 hour emergency poison hotline is a very useful number to keep by your telephone. It would be a mistake not to do so.
It is a mistake to believe that your female cat needs to have a litter before she can be a contented cat. Some people believe this. This mistaken belief leads to a lot of unwanted cats. Unfortunately, all cats should be neutered as soon as reasonably possible to avoid unwanted cats being produced. We all know it but not everybody acts upon this knowledge.
One person commenting on Quora.com says that he made a mistake when he rescued a cat. He raised the cat as a child almost and played with him with his hands. He believes that in doing this he trained his cat to believe that hands are something to play with. This caused problems in the future both with respect to the cat’s owner and guests. The cat had an inclination to attack the hands of guests.
Cats and cars are a source of mistakes. Cats sometimes hide under the hood (bonnet) of the car and in the engine compartment where they can be hurt. In cold climates, in winter, it is probably wise for a cat owner to check the engine compartment of the car or make that area out of bounds completely.
Finally, some people make the mistake in believing that as cats are meant to be independent they can be left alone for long periods of time. This is definitely a mistake. The domestic cat is just that; domesticated. They require our attention, our love and interaction in order to be contented and calm. It’s important to think about ways of ensuring that your cat is not stressed. It’s a mistake to ignore this aspect of a cat caretaking as it can lead to unwanted behaviour patterns and ill-health.
There are many other areas where mistakes can be made that I have not mentioned. Can you remember some that you have made? I’d like to receive some comment on the subject if at all possible. And I’m sorry that this article is so long and rambling.