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Cat Ownership Basics


cat_ownership_basics.jpgAccording to the Humane Society of the United States, there are appox. 93.6 million cats owned in the US. Thirty-three percent of owners of own at least one cat and on average people have two. 22% of cats owned were adopted from the animal shelter, and 87% of owned cats are spayed and neutered. So, are you ready to join these millions of happy cat owners and undertake the responsibility of owning a cat?

Owning a cat is not a decision to be taken lightly. They have needs, much like children, that require constant attention and they are expensive. You must be prepared, upfront, to cover all the costs, attention and money-wise, that will arise. Just as a responsible parent doesn’t simply jump-in to having a baby, a responsible pet owner weighs all the costs and makes sure they can handle them.

Cats come with fur that must be brushed, teeth that must be cleaned, claws that must be trimmed, and a voice that demands to be heard. They need to play, run, scratch and knead, jump, climb and simply be with you, their owner. They require patience to train and understanding when they have accidents. You need to be willing to accept them and accommodate your lifestyle to their unique needs. Research is critical from the very beginning as even the breed of the cat you choose will affect their needs; and how their needs are met affects both your cats happiness and temperament, and their bond with you.

Monetary concerns are the first and one of the most important to investigate. If you cannot afford the basic upkeep of a cat, then there isn’t any point in even looking to see which breeds interest you. Basic care for your cat covers food, litter, annual vaccines, spay/neuter if they haven’t been already, and flea protection. You will want to find a good quality cat food, not necessarily the most expensive, that is without corn additives and is high in animal proteins. On average, the first years' vaccines cost between $45 and $85, then $10-$35 each year after. This cost varies based on which vaccines are administered. If you adopt from a rescue or shelter be sure to ask if they have already administered the first round of kitten vaccines.There are a number of low-cost clinics, and you can administer some vaccines (never Rabies) yourself. The average cost of neutering a cat is between $50 - $100. Spaying is $100-$200. If your female cat is over-weight, in heat or pregnant this cost increases. Being a responsible pet owner means being aware of these costs and being prepared for them. There are a number of groups that offer low-cost or free options and your Vet may be willing to work with you so that you can get these important procedures for your cat. Your Vet will also have the best recommendations for flea and heartworm protection. Consider looking at pet insurance as well to help cover unforseen emergencies. The last decision you want to be faced with is having to put your pet down because you cannot cover the cost of emergency treatment.

If you live in a multi-pet household, you should a litterbox for every cat plus on extra. The litter should be emptied every day and changed weekly. Litter boxes should be in a safe and quiet location, and large enough that the cat can turn around easily. If tracking of the litter through your house is going to be an issue, purchase a mat to set outside the box that will catch the little pieces attached to their feet. It is always safer for a cat to be indoors than outdoors. Even setting your cat outside just to go potty can be dangerous for them.

When evaluating which breed of cat you want, decide if you have the time necessary to devote to them. Some cats will not do well if they are left at home all day, and others will thrive just fine. All cats will demand attention when you return from a day of work, but some will simply begin to wilt if you are gone for prolonged periods of time. If your job requires a lot of traveling, or causes you to work long and extended hours you will want to be careful which breeds of cat you pick. Having time for your cat also means the time to groom them. Some cats, like the Persian cat, require a full brushing every single day. If this is something you don’t think you will have time to do, then these breeds are not for you. Others require weekly bathing, a habit you should start from kitten-hood. Again, if you don’t think you’ll have time or think you’ll get bored then these are not the breeds for you to look at.

Declawing your cat should be a last resort option. If the decision comes down to declawing your animal or turning them over to a shelter then the lesser of two evils is declawing your pet as long as you realize that you are making an even greater commitment to their care and upkeep. Declawing is an irreversible surgery that involves the removal of the last bone of the toe from the paw of the cat. It is painful and alters both the formation of the foot and how they walk. It is not a decision that should be made because you don’t want to bother trimming their claws. You will be making the decision to have part of their bone cut out of their foot. Laziness is not a reason to make this decision. Research it thoroughly before deciding on it, and explore all other alternatives. It is possible to train your cat not to scratch.

Owning a cat is a wonderful decision. Cats really love us and they enjoy being with their families and their people. If you feel you, and your family, are ready to make the long-term commitment to a feline companion, be sure you are well informed and ready for a life-time of excitement and love.



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