The American Veterinary Medical Association recently issued a set of Guidelines for Responsible Pet Ownership, stating that “owning a pet is a privilege and should result in a mutually beneficial relationship. However, the benefits of pet ownership come with obligations.” I think the AVMA is a bit behind the times with still using the term “owner” when it comes to pets. Most of us consider our cats part of the family, which is why I prefer the term “guardian” or even “pet parent.” But they do raise some interesting points in their guidelines. I won’t list all of them – you can read them for yourself if you’re interested – but I thought I’d highlight the ones I consider most important, especially for cats.
Commit to the relationship for the life of the cat
This one should be obvious, but sadly, it’s not. Cats are creatures of routine, and any change is traumatic for them. If circumstances don’t allow you to commit for the life of the pet, you may want to consider fostering instead.
Recognize that caring for a cat requires an investment of time and money
Cats need a healthy diet and regular veterinary care. Both cost money. But more than that, cats need your time and companionship. Cats have a reputation for being aloof and are often mentioned as the perfect pet for busy professionals, because they can be left alone all day. This may be okay if you have more than one cat, but to leave a single cat without human companionship for long hours does not make for a happy cat and home.
Establish and maintain a relationship with a veterinarian
Cats are notoriously underserved when it comes to receiving veterinary care. At a minimum, healthy cats need an annual exam; cats seven or older should be seen by a veterinarian twice a year. If at all possible, find a vet who specializes in cats., or look for a cat-friendly practice.
Socialization and appropriate training
This facilitates their well-being and the well-being of other animals and people. People often think that only dogs need this, but cats do, too. Providing a stimulating and enriched environment, regular playtime and interaction with the humans in the household goes a long way toward keeping your cats happy and avoiding behavioral issues.
Make alternative arrangements if caring for your cat is no longer possible
Who will care for your cat when you no longer can? Nobody wants to think about the unthinkable, but it’s important to be prepared.
What does responsible cat care mean to you?