Avoid These Common Cat Ownership Mistakes
April 1st is the perfect time to talk about the all-too-common mistakes that can make first-time cat owners look foolish. Read on to learn more about avoiding missteps and keeping cats happy and healthy throughout their lives.
Failing to Understand the Commitment
Just because cats spend so much time lazing around doesn’t mean owning one is easy. It may be hard to say ‘no’ when you’ve fallen in love with a potential new pet, but it’s important not to purchase or adopt a cat hastily. Providing everything a cat needs to thrive means making a serious emotional and financial commitment. It can even mean making sacrifices or serious changes to better accommodate the wants and needs of a four-legged family member.
Unfortunately, not every new pet parent truly understands what a responsibility they’ve accepted. More than 850,000 cats are euthanized in shelters each year. Many of them find their way into these facilities after being relinquished by owners who’ve learned that pet parenthood just isn’t for them.
Reflect on Your Ability to Care for a Cat
Are you really prepared to welcome a cat into your home? In reflecting on your readiness for cat ownership, make sure to ask yourself questions like these:
- Can I afford both the upfront and ongoing costs of cat ownership?
- Am I capable of keeping a cat happy and healthy throughout their lifetime?
- Do I have enough free time to socialize a cat while providing the necessary care and affection?
- Are my home and lifestyle conducive to pet ownership?
While dogs have cats beat for genetic diversity, feline fanciers still have their fair share of breeds to choose from. Whether you’re adopting or shopping, do some research into the different breeds to ensure you make a selection that suits your lifestyle.
Forgoing Preventive Care for Indoor Cats
It’s a common misconception that cats can only fall prey to viruses and parasitic infections after exploring the great outdoors. In reality, it’s distressingly easy for pests like fleas, ticks, and heartworm-spreading mosquitoes to find their way into your home and infect indoor cats. Whether they enter through an open window or get carried on your clothes, they’re a potentially dangerous and deadly new housemate for your pet. Don’t forget that preventing an infection or illness is generally cheaper than treating one. In pet parenthood, it pays to be proactive.
Talk to Your Vet About Vaccines and Pest Prevention
Kittens are particularly vulnerable to infection from parasites and other pathogens. Your veterinarian will help you develop an appropriate schedule for core vaccinations, rabies prevention, and anti-pest treatments. The regularity of booster treatments may depend on where you reside, since certain regions harbor larger pest populations than others. A pet insurance policy may help you cover some of the costs associated with these preventive services, in addition to treatments for infection.
Our guide to a cat’s first vet appointment can help give you a sense of what to expect when you first visit the vet’s office.
Declawing Cats to Stop Scratching
From kittens to elderly pets, most cats can’t get enough of scratching. This can leave owners struggling to divert destructive instincts and contending with damage to furniture. Historically, some pet parents have opted to eliminate scratching altogether with onychectomy, the surgical removal of the front claws. The procedure has steadily grown more controversial over the years with many advocacy groups committed to banning it.
Some cat lovers mistakenly believe that onychectomy is just a more involved version of clipping a pet’s nails. The procedure actually involves removing entire bones. Some argue that this is similar to cutting off a person’s fingers. Declawed cats walk differently for the rest of their lives and many will suffer from pain and limping during the recovery process. More severe side effects can include nerve damage to the front paws.
The controversy around declawing has inspired a number of city governments to introduce total and partial bans on the procedure. In 2019, New York became the first state to introduce a state-wide ban on declawing for reasons other than medical necessity.
Discourage Scratching Humanely
When it comes to discouraging repetitive, destructive behaviors, it’s best for cat owners to start early. Punishing cats won’t do any good, but these measures can cut down on scratching without affecting your cat’s standard of living or negatively affecting your relationship with them:
- Use scratching posts and toys to redirect scratching behavior
- Regularly trim your cat’s nails to reduce damage from scratching
- Offer positive reinforcement when your cat scratches appropriately or stops scratching inappropriately
- Discuss claw caps with your veterinarian
Avoiding the Veterinarian
Cats don’t always make it obvious when they’re sick. In fact, they’re often masters of gritting their teeth and hiding telltale symptoms of chronic illness. When cats seem healthy, owners may feel tempted to forgo routine veterinary visits and save conversations with experts for true pet health emergencies.
Excessive vomiting, for example, is sometimes easy to dismiss as nothing more than routine hairballs. What’s more, your cat’s fastidious grooming can make it challenging to spot excessive licking, which could indicate allergies, infestation, or other health concerns.
Don’t Wait to Act
In general, the prognosis for ill cats is far better when symptoms are discovered and addressed early. Pay close attention to your cat for subtle signs of trouble and always remember to treat your veterinarian as a trusted partner in pet care.
Neglecting Your Cat’s Teeth
For humans, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among adults and children alike. Poor dental hygiene is a widespread concern for the feline community as well, with more than half of cats over the age of three suffering from at least one dental disease. Among the most prevalent are gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (an infection of the bone and tissue surrounding the teeth). In addition to shortening pet’s lives and causing bad breath, these conditions can leave cats in a constant state of discomfort.
Protect Your Cat’s Teeth
The American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS) encourages cat and dog owners to take a three-pronged approach to promoting their pets’ oral and dental hygiene:
- Routine dental exams from a veterinarian
- At-home dental care, including regular brushing with specially-formulated toothpastes
- Follow-up care supported by a veterinarian, including the administration of special foods, treats, and supplements if necessary
Toys and treats aren’t just useful for keeping cats away from furniture, curtains, and clothing. Gnawing on certain products can help to reduce tartar buildup while allowing your cat to exercise their chewing instincts and soothe sore gums. Check out some popular choices from the pet care marketplace at Chewy.
Be a Smart and Responsible Cat Owner
Want more tips for success as a first-time cat owner? Take a look at our new cat owner’s guide to learn more about everything from cat-proofing your home to shopping for your kitten to providing for their long-term healthcare needs.