Part one: The outs
If the likes of Garfield or Tom have inspired you to bring home your own feline friend, then there are a few things you should know about these quirky, moody, but loveable pets before you bring your new friend home.
Before even stepping into a shelter to adopt a kitten or cat, be sure that a feline is a right fit for your lifestyle. Adopt a new pet into your life only when you know for sure that you will be around to enrich their lives, you have time to play with it, and you won’t be travelling for extended periods.
“Cats are very social creatures. So, that would be very important, if you have the time devoted to what the cat needs as far as interaction and environmental enrichment,” said Dr Troye McPherson, the 2017-18 Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) President.
If you are wondering if a cat fits well with your lifestyle, here are some things you need to consider before you bring a cat into your home.
First and foremost cat abandonment is a very real issue that affects many communities and not only hurts the cat left behind, but also the community as a whole.
“An indoor cat, in particular, is not equipped to live in the wild. Typically what happens is the cat will end up at someone else’s house who is not fully taking responsibility for them. So, being fed every now and again with no veterinary care is common if they’re left outdoors,” said Bruce Roney, Executive Director of the Ottawa Humane Society.
During his time with the Ottawa Humane Society, Roney has heard a number of unfortunate cases of cat abandonment. Sometimes cats are left behind in apartments on moving day and are not found for a long period of time.
“It’s really irresponsible, really horrible for that animal, and, in fact, illegal,” commented Roney.
Other times, cat owners will take their cats to farms, thinking they will be fine living on a farm. However, this is so common, says Roney, that the cats either end up at a shelter or worse.
“We’ve had farmers who’ve been so frustrated by this that they’ve shot the cats. So, it’s really not responsible to do and, again, it’s illegal,” stated Roney.
If a cat does happen to survive and breed, then communities are rampant with feral cats.
“It’s not only damaging for the cat that’s being left behind but in some cases many generations after,” added Roney.
If for some unforeseeable reason, you must part ways with your cat, there are responsible ways to re-home them. You can advertise through friends, family, and local veterinarians and ensure you find a responsible pet owner by charging a fee and asking all the right questions. If all else fails, you can bring your pet to a shelter.
“There’s no reason to be abandoning a cat,” said Roney.
Indoor Vs. Outdoor
And remember it’s always a good idea to keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats have a significantly shorter life expectancy because chances are they can pick up dangerous diseases, get into fights with other cats or wildlife, or get hit by a car. On some occasions, says Roney, cats have been poisoned by neighbours who are tired of cleaning their feces from their gardens.
Because frequent relocations are common in the military community, to ensure your cat doesn’t end up on the streets, once again, make sure before making the commitment that a cat will fit with your lifestyle. If you do have a cat, know that moving with a cat is a challenge, but it’s not impossible. Talk to your vet for tips on how to make your cat comfortable during a move.
If you’re driving to your new home, frequent breaks can make your cat feel comfortable. Additionally, certain airlines now even allow cats aboard with passengers instead of being kept in cargos.
Military members can use their personalized benefits envelope from BGRS to pay for the shipment or care of pets.
Fixing Your Cat
Have your cat spayed or neutered is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet’s wellbeing. Most shelters and pet stores will already have cats either spayed (if it’s a female) or neutered (if it’s a male). But if you happen to adopt a cat that hasn’t been fixed yet make sure you have done it early, in its prepubertal stage. Places like the Ottawa Humane Society not only offer spay and neutering services, especially for low-income families but can also have a mobile service unit to make it more convenient for pet owners. The bill for fixing a cat can run between $20.00 if you qualify for a subsidy, to over $250.00 if you do not qualify for a subsidy.
Not having your cat fixed not only will make it difficult to domesticate your pet, as males will spray and females will go into a heat cycle, but it contributes to other unhealthy side effects.
“You really need to ensure your animal is spayed or neutered to be able to live with them first of all and also to make sure they aren’t contributing to cat overpopulation,” said Roney.
Overpopulation can mean that since it’s difficult to find new homes for a litter of kittens, they often are either unwanted or abandoned. Some kittens even can be sold for bait for underground dog fighting.
If your pet isn’t fixed, you also run the risk of certain medical complications and illnesses including sexual behaviours that can lead to traumatic injuries, cancers, and prostatic diseases.
Just like their canine counterparts, cats have a multitude of breeds falling into either the long-haired, medium-haired or short-haired categories. Research what kind of breed you are looking to get beforehand as some require more care, some require more grooming, and they all have their own personality traits.
Cats & Commitment
Cats are a long-term commitment and they deserve your love and care from the moment you take them home through the rest of their lives. Here are some things you should know before committing to a cat:
Life Expectancy – Indoor cats have a minimum life expectancy of 16 years, some even live into their early 20s.
Costs – Although food and litter costs are fairly minimal after a certain age, a cat can rack up a fair amount in veterinary bills, especially for their dental needs.
Time Commitment – Although cats are known to be fairly independent, they still require a certain amount of daily attention including playtime, grooming time, and love.
Living Arrangements – Do you rent or live in your own home? Will your landlord allow pets? Is your home big enough? Do you have other pets and will they be compatible? All are good questions to ask.
Property Damage – Are you prepared for minor furniture scratches, sofas covered with hair and occasional accidents?
Cat-sitters – Do you have someone reliable around who can watch your cat if you need to go out of town?
Are Two Better – If your cat is going to be left alone during the day, and if you can afford it consider adopting littermates or two cats who have bonded. Having a buddy keeps them entertained when they are home alone.
And remember abandoning cats is not an option!