Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: February 10, 2023 by Crystal Uys


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?

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13 Comments on Guidelines for Responsible Cat Care

  1. Being a pet servant means, I watch for their change of behavior, their needing “momma time”, and the very much needed vet to trust and depend on.

    I give them love, patience, playtime and toys and lots of space. But most of all I make sure they are happy, healthy and know they are precious and loved by me.

  2. Excellent post and responses! I think we even have to take it one step farther with educating society about who cats really are! In my day to day business of being a dog trainer I would get so dissappointed when I would see the family cat treated as unimportant or irrelevant. “It’s just the cat” is what I heard a few too many times. So muchI so I felt the need to advocate for them. Hence I have spent the past couple years reading, attending semars and working with cats at a local shelter. I have since been adopted by two wonderful cats and am now in a position to be able to advocate for them and their proper care.

  3. We have to recognize all cats as worthy of responsible care, not only the ones who live with loving humans but cats on the streets and cats in shelters as well. We have to erase that line between “owned” cats (outdated, yes) and “homeless” cats–they are all cats, they are all anticipating loving homes if not already in one, and this may help to raise the level of care and respect all cats receive.

  4. I totally agree with everything you have said. My cats are my family. I have already told my children what cats they will be responsible for should anything happen to me. All of my babies have their own little quirks and diets, etc. and I treat them as individuals. It is funny sometimes when I think about if someone came into my house because it would not be uncommon to see me on the couch with my 3 furbabies. Cisco on my lap, Meeko laying next to me and Princess on the other end of the couch or on my lap, depending on the room. I love having them around me. They make me so happy. And I hope I make them happy too.

    • How could your babies not be happy, Viki, being cared for the way they are by you! What a lovely comment.

  5. I’m beginning to see that it’s a community thing too. We need to help those who are having difficulty and be responsible as a community. If we agree they are not disposable, then no body should be able to treat them that way, including vets or cities who SHOULD be providing good examples.

    It’s worth considering things using the human analogy; if a parent can’t care for their child then it’s worth offering them help or even finding a temporary or permanent home placement elsewhere. That seems to be the responsible thing to do for everyone’s benefit.

    I agree the term owner is outdated, but it’s still currently recognized as a legal term. It’s worth changing laws so pets have more rights and are not simply property; since property can’t inherit property, that has to change if we want to set up ‘pet trusts’ to provide for them.

  6. Spay and neuter!!!! Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with some people. I work in a pet supplies store, and we foster shelter cats for adoption. Some people came in and were looking at the cats, but when they heard the adoption fee just said oh I’ll just wait til my mother’s cat has more. I mentioned the low cost ($5 for residents of the town the store is in) to prevent it from happening and she just laughed. They don’t spay and neuter and now she’s going to get a kitten and not spay and neuter and just continue the cycle. Not fair to the cats – but I can’t do too much, if I offend customers I won’t have my job long.

  7. Some people think all there is to having a pet is acquiring it – when really it’s accepting the wonderful responsibility of caring for a dependent little spirit who needs everything we can give them. I wouldn’t trade having that responsibility for anything because the payback is SOOOO worth it but it certainly is wise to realize that following some guidelines helps. I agree with you about the use of the word “owner”……anyway, those of us who are pet parents know the truth about WHO owns WHO in the relationship…… 😀 😀 😀 !


    • Well said! Pets are indeed dependent little souls needing the care and love we can provide them. Being a pet parent is such a rewarding experience. 🙂

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