February is Responsible Pet Owners Month. So I thought this would be a good time to talk about how responsible cat owners care for their cats. This is, of course, a matter of opinion. You’re free to agree or disagree with me. However, these are the things that I think make a cat owner a responsible pet owner.

Responsible pet owners do not bring home a cat on impulse without first knowing that they are able to care for the cat. They take the time to do their homework first, finding out what type of care a new pet will require and whether they are able to provide that type of care. Adopting a cat creates an obligation to care for that cat throughout his/her lifetime. Responsible pet owners know that pets are not disposable creatures that can be tossed out simply because the owner no longer has any interest in the pet.

Cats should be housed inside. Outdoor activity can be a useful distraction but should be limited to supervised activities such as walking on a leash and harness/collar or being confined in an outdoor catio. This serves several purposes. Your cat will be protected from predators as well as other dangers such as cars, dogs and malicious people. Your cat is also less likely to be exposed to infectious diseases and/or toxins. In addition, your cat will not be hunting songbirds or other small animals if housed indoors.

All cats require regular home care. Daily feeding is, of course, a necessity but is only a small part of the care a cat requires. Fresh water and clean litter boxes are necessities. Scratching posts, perches, beds or other resting places, and toys are all important for meeting your cat’s basic needs. Cats also need to be groomed regularly. Grooming should include regular brushing of the hair coat, nail trimming as necessary, ear cleaning as necessary, and tooth brushing on a daily basis. Individual cats may require other grooming procedures as well, like keeping the eyes clean or bathing.

Cats require regular veterinary care. They need routine examinations, vaccinations, dental care, and more. Plan on visiting your veterinarian at least once to twice a year. More frequent visits may be necessary for cats with chronic illnesses.

Responsible cat owners spay or neuter their cats. This falls under veterinary care but is worthy of separate mention because it is such an important part of being a responsible pet owner. Only purebred cats that are breeding animals should be left intact and these animals should be bred responsibly and only by a knowledgeable breeder. The vast majority of cat owners should not be breeding their cats and the cats should be spayed or neutered.

Cats are creatures that can hide symptoms of illness quite well. A responsible cat owner becomes intimately familiar with their cat’s normal habits and behaviors. Any deviation from the norm, no matter how subtle, should prompt a consultation with the veterinarian.

Responsible cat owners have an emergency plan in place. That plan can be quickly implemented and it includes the family cat. A good emergency plan includes knowing where you will go in the case of an emergency and making certain that your cat is welcome there also. An emergency kit and first aid kit should be available, pre-packed, and easily accessible. This is a part of being a pet owner that is often overlooked or postponed. Nevertheless, having a plan can be the difference between life and death. In some emergency situations, minutes count, and being prepared ahead of time can save precious time in a crisis situation.

What did I forget? What other things do responsible cat owners do or not do?

Dr. Lorie Huston

Image: JPFotografie / via Shutterstock