Responsible Pet Ownership: Cats

photograph of a cat

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Cats are great pets, but they need a lot of care

Although cats do a lot of things for themselves, they still need someone to take care of them. They depend on their owners to keep them happy and healthy. to make sure you're caring for your cat properly, look over the list below. If you are giving your cat all the care it needs, then you are a responsible owner and a good friend. Do you...

  • provide quality cat food?
  • provide fresh water all the time?
  • have your cat checked by a veterinarian at least once a year?
  • make sure your cat wears its current license and ID tag?
  • groom your cat regularly?
  • change its litter pan regularly?
  • play with your cat?
  • give it lots of love?

If you love your cat, give it a good home

Home is where the cat belongs, unless it's on a leash with its owner. And there are some very good reasons, not least of which is the safety of your cat. Each year, Animal Control picks up about 200 injured cats, and almost twice as many fatally injured cats on public streets. Lost cast cause worry and heartache for their families. They can get into fights with other animals. They get onto other people's property and cause a nuisance. They can pick up diseases. Lost cats are an expense to the community that must provide the Animal Control officers to pick them up, and they are an expense to the owner who must pay to get the cat back from the animal shelter. So do yourself, your cat, your neighbors, and your community a favor—follow these tips:

  • Neuter your cat. Unaltered cats often roam because they are more interested in breeding than in being pets. Neutering will relieve your cat of the breeding instinct the compels it to wander and fight. Neutered cats also cost less to license. To find out the other benefits of neutering, contact your veterinarian.
  • Have your cat wear a collar with current rabies and license tags at all times. Licensing and rabies vaccinations give Animal Control your name, address and telephone number, making it easier to notify you if your lost cat has been found. Tags are necessary, even if your cat is an indoor pet. It can slip out of a door or an open window and its chances of getting lost are greater if it is not used to being outside. The cat's collar should have a piece of elastic sewn to it, or some other safety feature, so that if the collar becomes caught on something, the cat can free itself.
  • Your cat and the great indoors. A cat can lead an active, happy and safe life inside if you provide plenty of "cat entertainment." Scratching post, toys, and a window perch will keep your cat stimulated and satisfied. Cats tend to sleep 80% of the day, whether inside or not.
  • If you feel you need to let your cat outside, supervise or confine it. Many owners take their cats on regularly scheduled walks with a harness and lightweight leash. Some owners make a run for their cats out of lightweight cable. Others keep their cats safe in a type of outdoor cage mad of wire fence or some other type of fencing. The cage should be tall enough to allow the cat to climb and long enough so it can run. Include toys and scratching materials and put the cage in a place where the cat will not feel threatened. Do not let your cat run loose outdoors.
  • If you have recently moved, keep your cat inside for a while. Three to four weeks will help your cat become more secure in its environment and realize that the move is not temporary. Make sure it's always wearing proper tags.
  • Do not get rid of your cat just because it tends to wander. All pets need permanency and consistency, and passing a wandering cat on to another owner is simply passing on the problem. Most behavior problems can be changed or worked around. A big part of responsible pet ownership is being patient and working with your cat.
  • Dress your cat for any occasion. A lost cat without a tag probably will never find its owner, but a cat wearing a tag can be returned quickly.
  • Sadly, most lost cats don't have identification, and their owners may search long and hard with no success. Less than eight percent of cats brought to the shelter in Lincoln in the last five years were reclaimed.
  • Don't take a chance on losing your cat forever! Tag it with your name, address and phone number. If a cat is allowed to roam, it must wear a current licensing tag. It's the law! Tags, if lost can be replaced for no charge at Animal Control.
  • Even if your cat never goes outside, it needs a tag. A majority of the lost cats reports in Lincoln are on cats that "never go outside". Someday, your cat could slip through an open door and easily become lost in territory that is unfamiliar to it—even if it's your neighbor's back yard!

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Our feline friends living indoors or outdoors

Indoor or Outdoor

Until the invention of cat litter in the 1950s, owners had little choice other than to let their cats outside. The idea of an indoor cat is becoming more popular and owners have found it safer to confine their cats to the home rather than letting them roam free.

Decisions

There are serious decisions that must be considered. If a cat has lived indoors all of its life, it may be comfortable lounging on the couch or in a windowsill. But a cat that grew up outside may not adapt to the indoors of a house as well. Owners must decide what is best for their pet and weigh this against the cats behavior. Owners must also be aware of the dangers outside the home or the behavior problems that might occur inside the home when making an adjustment.

Dangers of Outdoor Life - The Road

Cats may not experience all nine lives living outdoors because of the dangers—the road, for instance. Cats live longer, healthier lives indoors where they are safe. Thousands of cats are killed every year by automobiles. In 1994, Animal Control Officers picked up over 300 vehicle-killed cats on Lincoln's public streets. If you live in an urban area with an outdoor cats, your cat is at a higher risk of automobile fatality. If you live in the county away from major roads, your cat is at less of a risk. Also unneutered male cats roam more widely than females or neutered males, and are much more likely to cross busy roads and be hit by an automobile. An unsprayed female may not wander as far, but will easily become pregnant and have unwanted kittens, contributing to pet overpopulation.

Territory and Fights

Cats are also territorial. Cats defend their territory from intrusion with ritual displays, postures, claws and teeth. There is always the possibility that your cat may get into a fight with neighborhood cat in which their are many dangers. His ears or eyes may get scratched or receive injuries that can cause infections, such as feline leukemia virus (FeLV) or feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV). Cats also risk acquiring rabies virus if they get into fights with wildlife such as raccoons or skunks.

Changing the Habitat

Once you place your at in a permanent indoor environment from an outdoor one, be prepared for the consequences.

Neutering makes a big difference when bringing a cat indoors -- especially males. If your cat is unneutered and indoors, he may become aggressive toward other cats or humans, claw furniture, or make his territory with urine or feces.

Although some cats have few behavioral problems adjusting, the event of converting an outdoor cat to an indoor one can be helped by providing shelves, perches, and comfortable hiding places so you cat can establish his ne indoor territory. Also, place scratching posts in convenient areas.

If your cat is unable to adapt to life indoors, contact your veterinarian for assistance or request referral to an animal behaviorist. If your cat simply cannot adapt to life indoors, you may have to succumb to letting your cat back outdoors.

It's much easier to raise an indoor animal than to convince an outdoor cat to give up its outdoor life. If you are looking for a new kitten you may want to consider raising it exclusively indoors.

A spayed or neutered cat is usually a much better indoor pet. Your cat will also be healthier and less apt to get certain types of cancer. For further information, check with your veterinarian.

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