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Adopting a fur-baby requires attentiveness and accountability. Whether you’ve just adopted a cat for the first time or have lived with these feline companions for years, you’ll inevitably need to grapple with what it means to be a responsible pet owner at some point.
How to be a responsible cat owner? Being a responsible cat owner partially depends on your household and lifestyle. However, there are general guidelines to follow, including providing clean, secure shelter, a fulfilling lifestyle, a healthy diet, and regular care from a veterinarian.
These tips form a general foundation on which you can base a safe, joyful life with your kitty. The guide below will give you a more in-depth look at how to live up to these standards of accountability as you welcome a new cat into your life.
What is a Responsible Cat Owner?
The definition of a “responsible cat owner” may vary slightly, depending on who and where you are. For instance, to responsibly keep a cat in California, where a coyote could be strolling through your neighborhood at any time of day (to be fair, this can happen anywhere across the U.S. now, given their prevalence), is very different from fulfilling the same role in the inner city in Missouri.
For the latter, you’d be more concerned about keeping your cat inside during inclement weather, such as heavy rain or chilling snow. (However, you should still certainly be equally worried about predators possibly roaming through the neighborhood or nearby natural areas.) So, in this sense, the meaning of responsible cat ownership will change based on location. Then, there is also the matter of individual household issues.
For example, there will be more required of you to own cats responsibly in a multi-cat household versus a single-cat household. If you live with only one cat, you have significantly fewer things to worry about in feeding, veterinary care, and behavioral issues. However, those living with many cats may require you to learn all-new levels of cat behavior to ensure their cats’ safety and well-being.
All this is to say that, while there are general guidelines you must adhere to as you aspire to high standards of accountability, some things are bound to be different between households and circumstances. Heck, your own definition of pet responsibility might change throughout your life! Luckily, you can use some general guidelines to form the foundation of what this might mean for you.
General Guidelines for Responsible Cat Ownership
Generally, being responsible in owning a cat is really the same as being attentive to and accountable for any pet. Any concerns related explicitly to cats can be addressed based on specific circumstances, like those mentioned above. However, before you determine what those specifics might be, you’ll need a starting point to get the logistics of pet ownership down.
Here are the basics on responsibility in pet ownership:
Provide shelter for your cat. Many people debate whether it’s cruel to have an indoor vs. outdoor cat. Although there are a handful of perks to letting your cat outside, it’s objectively safer to keep it indoors. On that note, you must provide your cat with a suitable, hazard-free place to live. Offer it a bed, scratching post to exercise its territoriality, toys, and security from the outside elements and predators.
Give your cat a fulfilling lifestyle. Cats are brilliant creatures. They require just as much physical and mental stimulation as you do. So, you’ll need to offer your cat enrichment opportunities as frequently as possible. Regular playtime, walks, and even quality time with other animals are all great ways to keep your cat happy and healthy, lowering the risk of destructive behavior.
Feed your cat healthy meals. This tends to be one area where cat owners disagree or don’t pay enough attention to quality. It’s easy to go to the store and buy some store-brand kibble, but you must pay attention to the ingredients and how they might affect your individual cat. You don’t have to purchase human-grade meats and similar ingredients, but if the kibble’s full of by-products and by-product meal, you might want to get something better.
Note: Your cat’s diet is nothing to gloss over. There are several diet-related health problems you can prevent just by choosing to either make your cat’s meals at home, feeding a raw diet, or choosing a high-quality kibble. Otherwise, your cat faces a higher risk of obesity, arthritis, and diabetes.
Bring your cat to the veterinarian regularly. Admittedly, it can be a chore to schedule regular visits to the vet for your cat – or any pet, for that matter. It’s just as tedious as scheduling check-ups for yourself. Still, the vet can save your cat from numerous health problems and parasitic infestations via vaccinations and flea, tick, and heartworm checks.
Keep the house clean. You must keep the place clean for your cat’s health and well-being. The most important areas to note are the food and water area and the litter box. People tend not to think about washing their pet’s dishes like they wash their own. Still, it’s crucial to do so to prevent colonization from dangerous bacteria. Plus, neglecting to clean the litter box will drive your cat to potty in inappropriate places in the house.
Note: Neglecting to wash your cat’s food bowl could present some severe dangers. All sorts of bacteria can emerge when you leave too much uneaten cat food lying around, including Staphylococcus and Salmonella. It’s best to wash your cat’s bowl every day or two to prevent this. (Make sure to wash your hands with hot water and soap before and after.)
These tips can serve as the foundation for building your personal definition of what it means to be responsible in having a cat. As stated previously, this concept will slightly differ between individual households. However, the above pointers are non-negotiable, no matter who or where you are.
How Much of a Responsibility is a Cat?
Cats are a significant responsibility. Of course, people often underestimate just how much work their cat will be just because they’re typically less needy than dogs and can be left alone at home for extended periods, relatively worry-free. Still, don’t let these familiar tropes warp your view of how much work it can be to live with a feline companion.
Usually, the younger your kitty is, the more work it will be to care for it. That’s because this is the life stage where you’re establishing what behaviors are and are not acceptable. You’ll likely be dealing with your kitty destroying household items like curtains and furniture as it learns where scratching is appropriate. Kittens might even hurt themselves if it tries to leap from crazy heights.
Once your cat reaches adulthood, though, the burden lessens. Most cat owners just have to put out some food and water at this age, and their cat will take care of itself during the day. They’ll still need to make time to play with and walk their cat, but these tasks aren’t too demanding. As your cat ages, the responsibilities will increase again.
Older cats are more susceptible to illnesses that can lower their quality of life and possibly render them unable to care for themselves like they once did. For example, you might need to give your senior cat some assistance in feeding and grooming itself. With this in mind, it’s safe to say that cats are typically a bigger responsibility at the start and end of their lives, with their young adult years being the most carefree.
Cat ownership is a gratifying endeavor. To responsibly fulfill this role, you’ll need to follow some basic guidelines like providing quality food, shelter, quality time, and healthcare. Anything more specific than that depends on you.
About the Author
Jazmin “Sunny” Murphy began writing informal scientific content on nature and animals in 2015. Four years later, she launched her freelance career as a digital content and copywriter. This work merges her academic perspective, rooted in her B.S. Zoology, and professional experience as a veterinary tech, university research assistant, and more with relevant marketing, SEO, and engagement techniques across various industries. Jazmin now covers pet care, pest control, cannabis, outdoor recreation, STEM research and news, and product reviews across several niches.