Before deciding to adopt, please be aware of some common misconceptions about cats and cat care.
Cats are low-maintenance pets
While a cat does not need to be taken out for daily walks as a dog does, they are by no means low-maintenance–either in the amount of interaction they require or in the financial responsibility they represent.
Taking on a pet of any kind is a large commitment in terms of both time and money. Cats are social animals who want and need interaction with their owners. As with any animal, cats cannot communicate verbally with their owners, so it is the owner’s responsibility to be constantly watchful of the animals behavior and alert to any abnormalities. Those who believe that cats can take care of themselves will be unaware of subtle behavioral changes that can be signs of the onset of serious illness or injury.
In terms of financial commitment, cat owners should plan to spend between $800 to $1,000 per year per cat on the basics: food, litter and regular vet care. These costs, of course, increase dramatically should an illness or injury occur which would require additional vet care and/or hospitalization.
Cats can be left alone for a few days at a time and will take care of themselves.
Not true at all! If an owner is going to be gone for more than 12-14 hours, someone else should be assigned or hired to look in on and take care of the cat. Cats who are left alone for long periods of time can get into all sorts of trouble, become depressed, and even get sick.
For example, a cat who develops a urinary track infection can become critically ill in less than 24 hours. Therefore, if you are even planning just a short weekend getaway, a pet sitter or a friend should be looking in on the cat at least twice per day. This person should plan to stay for a minimum of one hour so they can observe the cat and make note of any behavioral abnormalities (ideally, it should be someone who knows the cat fairly well so the better to notice if something seems different). Of course, the caregiver should be provided with contact information for the owner as well as the phone number to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic and copies of all the animal’s medical record.
Cats need to go outdoors and hunt in order to be happy, this is natural for them.
In today’s world, letting your cat outdoors for any reason or any length of time is akin to playing Russian Roulette. Outdoor cats are at risk for injury or death as a result of disease, other animals, poison, sadistic people, animal “bunchers” who collect strays and outdoor pets to sell to laboratories, cars, foul weather, and a host of other dangers.
Outdoor cats have an average life span of five to seven years, as opposed to their indoor counterparts, who frequently live to be 15 or older. We have domesticated our pets, and as such a responsibility to take care of them and look out for their well being. Your cat may look longingly out the window as though he wants to go out, but the bottom line is that it is not safe. Creating a stimulating environment for them inside your home with cat trees, toys, etc., and giving your pets lots of attention and exercise will ensure that they have a full and enriched life while remaining safely indoors.
Pregnant women cannot live safely with a cat.
Many physicians mistakenly inform their patients that they must get rid of their cat or cats in order to ensure the safety of their unborn child. This misconception is based on fear of a parasitic disease called Toxoplasmosis, which can be transmitted from a variety of sources to a pregnant woman and can be dangerous to her fetus.
Cats are exposed to this parasite through the ingestion of live prey (for example, mice) and it can be passed by the cats to humans through handling the cat’s feces, which most commonly occurs during litter box cleaning. However, assuming the cats are indoor animals (not catching live prey), there is no danger that a pregnant women or her unborn baby will contract the parasite from the cat. In fact, pregnant women run more risk of exposing their baby to Toxoplasmosis by handling raw or undercooked meat in their kitchen than by handling their indoor cat.
That said, as a precaution, it is best for another family member to be responsible for litter box cleaning during the pregnancy (and good practice, since after the baby is born, Mom is certain to have her hands full and this task may need to be permanently reassigned) or alternatively, for the mother-to-be to wear gloves and wash her hands thoroughly after cleaning the box if she must do it herself. Pregnant women should also use caution when gardening in outdoor areas, which may have been used by strays as open-air litter box.
A declawed cat is safer for a home with small children than one which has claws.
In fact, exactly the opposite is true. A declawed cat, feeling as though its first line of defense is missing, is much more likely to be a biter. Children often do things that may irritate a cat, such as pulling its ears or tail, and the animal’s natural reaction is to defend itself. A declawed cat does not have the option scratching the child as a deterrent so it is likely to bite first and ask questions later.
Unfortunately, while a scratch tends to be superficial and will heal easily, bits are puncture wounds and are serious injuries to anyone, especially a young child.
Expectant or new parents who declaw their cats in hopes that it will protect their children are actually exposing them to much more serious injuries. Children should be taught as early as possible how to appropriately interact with the family cat, minimizing the occasions on which the cat may need to defend itself.
It goes without saying that for the safety of both the child and the animal, young children should never be left unsupervised for any length of time with any kind of pet.
My Older cat needs a kitten to liven him up!
In general, adopting a kitten (1½ years or younger) as a companion for an older cat ( 5 years and older) is not a good idea. A youngster has boundless energy, wants to play and run constantly, and requires very high amounts interaction–all of which are likely to overwhelm and irritate an older cat in short order. Likewise, a kitten is apt to be frustrated that its companion does not have the same energy level as itself. At the very least, this can lead to two very unhappy cats. Worse case scenario, behavior problems such as litter ox avoidance or destructive scratching can occur as one or both cats act out their frustrations on their surrounds.
Long-term, it is almost certain that the two will never have a close, bonded relationship, even after the kitten matures, since their experience with one another from the beginning of the relationship are likely to be negative. An older cat is better matched with someone of their own age who has similar temperament. Likewise, kittens as a rule need other young cats to play with in order to be happy.
If you insist on adding a kitten to a household that already has an older cat, at least get two–this way they will entertain one another and the older cat can participate or not depending on its mood.
If you have any questions about how to care for your cat, please call 773.935.PAWS.