It is generally agreed that having a pet cat is a great deal less demanding than owning a dog. A cat does not need to be plied and can be trained to use a cat flap or other suitable access point, so that it can come and go as it pleases. Alternatively, it can be taught to use a litter tray so that it can be kept permanently indoors if necessary. As long as it is not spoiled by its owner, a cat is usually easy, undemanding and inexpensive to feed. There are a wide variety of high quality, nutritious and well-balanced commercial foods available, and most cats will eat these quite readily.
Many people who have a dog want a particular breed, and this can be expensive to buy. With cats, however, the vast majority are ‘mongrels’ and one can usually be acquired for nothing or at very little cost. (About 5 per cent of pet cats are purebred pedigree animals, which are quite costly to buy.) The majority of cats are clean and fastidious, although torn cats can have the unpleasant habit of spraying urine in the house to mark their territory. It has to be said that in urban areas, cats can cause considerable annoyance because of their habit of digging in gardens in order to relieve themselves.
This is especially infuriating to people who are keen gardeners and who do not themselves own a cat. it is usual for cats to use a child’s garden sandpit as a toilet, if this is left uncovered, and this is obviously unpleasant and poses a health risk. It is therefore part of responsible ownership to train a kitten to use a corner of its own garden or a litter tray in order to prevent it from being a nuisance to others.
Neutered cats are normally fairly quiet (although Siamese cats are an exception to this rule) and hence do not cause the same degree of nuisance as a barking dog. The same is not true, however, of unneutered cats, and the female, in particular, develops a loud, persistent, high-pitched Miao (known as ‘calling’) when she is in season or oestrus. An unneutered torn cat may also call when he is patrolling his territory to check up on the likelihood of one of the females in the area being ready to mate. The noisy racket that is produced during the mating process usually occurs at night and is highly effective in disrupting human sleep. For this reason, as well as the verity that there are vast numbers of unwanted cats, many of them living in a semi-wild state, pets should be neutered unless they are pedigree animals that are of value for breeding.
It can be reasonably said that the costs of acquiring and keeping a pet cat are modest provided that the animal remains fit and well. If a cat becomes ill or involved in an accident, however, veterinary costs can be very significant, and this must be taken in account before acquiring any pet. In addition, there are the routine costs of worming and vaccination, which should be regularly attended to throughout the cat’s lifetime.
A visit to the waiting room of any veterinary clinic shows that cats are among the most frequent clients. It is wise to take account of this before having a cat as a pet. Insurance policies are available to take away the worry of being faced with a large veterinary bill but, of course, the cost of these can also be quite high, especially over the whole life span of the cat, which is often fifteen or more years.
In common with most breeds of dog, cats have abundant hair that is shed at certain times of the year. The hair adheres to carpets and furnishings, and this may mean that more effort is needed in cleaning and vacuuming than would otherwise be the case. In addition, people who suffer from asthma and eczema are often allergic to cat hair. If any member of the family suffers from either of these conditions, this should be taken into account before acquiring a cat as a pet.
A final problem of pet-owning is what to do with animals when the owner has to go away from home. It may be likely to find a willing friend or neighbor to feed and look after a cat while you are away, so that the animal can remain in its own home. In general, this is easier to achieve with a cat than with a dog, although many cats do not like being left in, an empty house. An alternative is to place the cat in a boarding cattery b ere it will be well looked after while you are away. This is on additional expense that should be taken into account before acquiring a cat as it can be costly if a cattery is to be used on a regular basis.