For decades, cats have been considered low-maintenance pets. You would put food in a bowl and your cat lounged around your house, getting steadily fatter, until eventually it passed away. You could just let it outside for a while, if you needed to. Cats were easy – easier than dogs, for sure. Cats required little from pet owners and from veterinarians.
This mentality still persists among a large segment of the population, and it needs to change. If I hear one more person say, “it’s just a cat”, or “she’s sure needing a lot for a cat”, I may scream – or get my cat to claw some eyes out. The truth is, cats don’t bring in as much money for vet clinics as dogs do. Less than 50% of all owned cats will visit the vet each year. People are reluctant to spend as much money on their cats as they are on their dogs, and their expectations are far lower for what a cat will require. Did you know that cats should be on heartworm and flea preventive too? That you can – and should – learn to trim their nails, instead of getting annoyed when they scratch you? That cats deserve annual veterinary exams, since they age much faster than humans, and appropriate vaccination even if they live indoors?
Face it, world – the days of treating your cat as though they require nothing but food are over. You don’t have to walk your cat, but you do need to clean their litter box daily to keep it a pleasant, odor-free bathroom spot. You don’t need to play fetch with them, but you DO need to play with them – be it with a laser pointer, squeaky toy, catnip, or other way of providing a stimulating environment. You do need to provide a balanced, healthy diet for them – defy the common myth that cats just “get fat” as they age. Don’t just fill a bowl with food and leave them alone for days at a time – cats crave affection, touch, and attention as much as dogs, and they’ll wonder where you’ve gone and when you’ll get back.
When your cat is acting strange, don’t call them an “a**hole cat” or dismiss it with “cats are weird” or another platitude. Instead of being upset that your cat only eats food from the center of her bowl, research whisker fatigue and understand why it may be uncomfortable for her to eat from a bowl vs a plate. If your cat stops jumping or playing, using their litter box, or eating – take them to a veterinarian. Run tests. Spend money. Learn how to give them medication, and work proactively with your vet if it’s difficult. There’s been great advances in cat medication, from flavored liquids, to obscuring bad tastes with sweet ones, to transdermal formulations that can simply be rubbed into the ear.
Cats are no longer being treated as small dogs in veterinary medicine, and they deserve their owners to step up just as much. If your cat is stressed, figure out why and learn how you can make their environment more comfortable for them. Cats are so sensitive that even rearranging furniture can send them into a tailspin. Afford them the same amount of time, attention – and, yes, money – as you would a new puppy. Cats can even be trained – everything from sitting and shaking, to the ‘place’ command, to where is an appropriate place to scratch – if you have the patience and good rewards. Research why your cat reacts the way that they do, and why they have the needs that they have, instead of accepting half-truths, myths, and the pervasive stereotype that cats are just jerks. Your vet team is a great resource for fact-based cat knowledge.
The days of a cat being “just a cat” are ending, and it’s time to once and for all show that mentality the door. Don’t bring a cat into your home and expect it to be a ‘low-maintenance’ animal that will never be inconvenient, sick, or needy. Don’t bring a cat into your home if you’re not up to the challenge of giving these amazing animals a fulfilling, comfortable, healthy, and rewarding life.
The views and opinions featured on There, I Said It are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the DrAndyRoark.com editorial team.