Apr 22, 2018 News
By Dr. Steve Surujbally
You may recall that I had mentioned (in the very first column) that cats are totally different animals from dogs, especially when companionship is the issue.
Cats can’t act like dogs. They have very unique behavioural traits. “Independent” is the first word that springs from the tongue when any person knowledgeable about feline attitudes, is asked to describe a cat. Of course, other more deprecatory words are sometimes used – like “ungrateful”, “aloof”, and so on.
One’s choice of vocabulary to define one’s pet often reflects the situation that exists between pets and owners. In this context, the worst thing that can happen is for an owner to “fall out of love” with his/her pet. When this happens it is usually because, the expectations the owner had originally were not met. This problem develops often with cats’ owners/caregivers. For this reason, certain factors should be considered before adopting a cat as a pet.
The first thing that must be clear in a potential cat-owner’s mind is where the cat will live. Pet cats tend not to live outdoors. You cannot build a “Kennel” for a cat. And garages and sheds just won’t do as living quarters. Cats will want to live in the home with the rest of the family – but on its own terms, of course.
For example, cats are “shed and shred” creatures. As adults they will shed hair and, worse, they will want to sharpen their claws on the table leg or on the upholstery of the sofa. My theory is that a cat’s preference for a piece of furniture on which to sharpen its claws is in direct proportion to the value of that piece of furniture. (I will be dealing later with these particular issues – hair shedding and claw sharpening – and advising what can be done).
This point here is clear. If you can’t stand to have even a minimal amount of cat hair on the sofa/carpet or, worse, if you are allergic to cat hair, please do not choose a cat as a pet. Your life will be a misery and, in all likelihood, you’ll vent your vexation on the animal.
The next consideration has to do with diet; not yours, the cat’s. Before choosing a cat as a pet, be quite clear about the eating mannerisms of cats. It is not an insult to your culinary expertise when a cat takes two sniffs of your lovingly prepared food and stalks off. I know that this can be a blow to one’s pride. However, it is quite normal for cats to behave this way.
Of course, if the cat refuses food for two consecutive days, then there may be a greater underlying problem. Cats also cry plaintively when they are hungry. Can your nerves withstand the cater-wauling? Also, a full grown cat needs to be fed twice daily; some cats don’t know this rule and demand lunch as well.
Scraps will not suffice as a meal. Do you have the time to maintain such a schedule? Please note that cold food will not be tolerated. Further, a monotonous diet will also not be appreciated. In addition, a cat should be fed always at the same time and at the same place. Can you accept such routine?
Cats tend to be sloven eaters. They take food out of the bowl and splatter the rice around. Will you be able to tolerate these poor table manners? (We will be discussing “pet feeding” and the “need for grooming” in great detail in future columns).
Now let’s talk about costs. Are you prepared to expend money for innoculations and for altering (spaying/neutering), or for remedial interventions when the cat is ill or injured?
The issue of castration of the male cat may be debated. However, as a veterinarian who sees the result of altercations between male cats during the mating season, I urge cat owners to surgically neuter their tom-cats.
In no species have I witnessed such brutal lacerations meted out to each other as when cats fight. Female cats too are very prolific (as the many up-for-adoption kittens at the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter can attest), and a potential cat owner must know that during the mating season it is extremely difficult to keep a female cat indoors. Can your nerves stand the 3:00am love calls and cacophonous serenades from male suitors, night in, night out?
The bottom line question in choosing a cat as a pet is simply: Do you really like cats? It’s easy to fall in love with a kitten. However, before you get carried away, and carry away that furry ball of fun, please be doubly sure that you can withstand the added pressures, and that you can maintain the responsibility associated with a lifetime of care.
As a post scriptum, perhaps I should mention, that if you have made the decision (notwithstanding all of the issues raised above) to acquire a kitten as a pet, then perhaps you may wish to consider taking home two kittens instead of one. They are twice the fun without much extra care.
If you have children in the home, they (and you) will delight in seeing the kittens romp and wrestle and snooze together.
Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-Heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.
Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead. If you do not wish your pet to have puppies or kittens, you may exploit the GSPCA’s free spay and neutering programme. If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.
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