From what I’ve seen, people tend to either love cats or, well, hate ‘em. There’s not much of a grey area. People that hate cats (for example, my partner when I met him) don’t tend to own them. Those that love cats (for example, my partner when he came to his senses) love them like family and want to look after them accordingly. Unfortunately though, cats are the teensiest bit set in their ways. As the old adage goes: You can teach a cat to do anything that it wants to do. So it’s easy to just let them do their own thing. They like to go out at night, so we let them. They don’t like wearing collars, so we take them off.
The team at Pet Connect NZ all fall into the “love ‘em” camp. We have 3 kitties between us and admit, almost ashamedly, that they are like our children (yes, even those of us that have actual human children). We do what we can to keep our cats safe, happy, and out of trouble. That said, we’re not perfect, and have suffered our fair share of runaways, middle-of-the-night cat fights, and rodents generously delivered to our bedroom floors.
Lately the Pet Connect crew have been talking a bit about the things we do to try and keep our free-wheeling felines safe, happy and out of trouble. Obviously there are many facets to responsible cat ownership, and to list them all here would mean writing a really long blog post. I don’t have enough coffee left for that, so instead, I’m just going to share a few simple suggestions that we founds useful...
Have a Kitty Curfew
Keeping your cat in the house at night means that they’re less likely to be injured (or worse) by a car, get into fights with the neighbouring furry thug, or go on a hunting spree. Oh and the best reward of all? You won’t be woken up at 2am to any howling gang wars, and neither will your poor neighbours. “But, my cat hates being in at night!” I hear you say. Yep, they probably do. But they’ll get used to it, and at least you know they’ll be safe. The easiest thing is to get them started early. When our cat Instance was a kitten, we brought her inside at 9pm every evening. Not long after, she started coming back inside bang on 9pm all by herself. The New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) recommends keeping your cat indoors at night, including dawn and dusk. This is when your puss’s hunting and prowling instinct is strongest, and also happens to be when birds are sitting on their nests.
Collar them up
There are a couple of benefits to keeping your cat in a collar. Firstly, it’s an easy way for others to identify them if they go on one of their 3-day hikes. When I was heavily pregnant, Instance decided that there wouldn’t be enough room for a baby and a cat in the house, so she packed up her (no) things and went walkabout for a few days to find a child-free home (not the dumbest move really, she probably considers it daily now that there’s a 2 year old trying to “pat” her with a wooden spoon). Luckily, we had her in a collar and ID tag, so I received a call from a man who lived around the corner. He said Instance was trying to move into his house, despite his very large dog. So, if your cat decides they would rather live with a doberman than with you, wouldn’t it be great if someone could very quickly contact you and let you know where they are? Collarless cats can easily be mistaken for strays.
Why else should you get a collar? You need something to attach that big fat bell to! A responsible cat owner wants to minimise their cat’s impact on local wildlife. Birds are lovely. Cats hunt birds. There’s nothing fun about finding a dead (or perhaps worse, nearly dead) native bird on your front doorstep or dragged through the cat door. I remember walking into my parent’s house in Australia once and finding a (sigh) very unhappy Kookaburra. Our petite little kitty, after somehow managing catch it, had successfully dragged the poor thing through a metre-high window. Since that moment, my cats have always worn not one but TWO bells. It’s not foolproof - she can at times manage to hold it still with one paw while performing her stealth kung-fu bird catching moves with the other - but it now happens rarely.
Hot tip - if you find your cat likes to get it’s collar hooked on fences and the like, try out a stretchy collar. There are many elastic collars out there that enable your kitty to manoeuvre their head out if they get stuck on something (Check out the Trouble & Trix collars on our site!)
Get ‘em Chipped
This one doesn’t need a lot of explaining. Microchipping is quick and easy - a chip similar in size to half a grain of rice injected into the back of the neck. Once your cat has been microchipped, they can be painlessly scanned, and your contact details are accessed from an online database. It has the benefits of a labelled collar but they can’t magically weasel their way out of it.
Settle them Slowly
Your cat hates moving house even more than you do. That’s why they hide under the bed for three days and make you deliver their breakfast to the bedroom. They also think they're pretty smart (because they are) and like to assume that they can find their way back to your old house that took 45 minutes in the car. That’s why it’s good to keep them inside for a little while, so your new place can start to feel like home to them. How many days you choose to keep them inside is up to you, there is no magic number. Once you feel that they have become more comfortable (getting out from under the bed is a good start) then you can start to ease them outside in small doses. Just make sure you keep an eye on them, and entice them to come back with food and pats. Easing them outside shouldn’t be too much of an issue, especially because you’ll have them wearing their ID and microchip!
There are many many (many) more things you can do to show your cat that you love them. I could, for example, talk about early desexing, regular vaccinations, and making adequate holiday arrangements when you are away. I won’t mention those this time though (what do you mean, I just did?). Hopefully I don’t need to, because you studied Responsible Cat Ownership: 101 before you brought your furry feline home, and this blog is just a little refresher for you.
If you do want to do some further reading, try these great resources from actual experts:
Or maybe you have your own hot tips and tricks for being an awesome cat-parent. If you do, spill them! Leave some ideas in the comments section below.
Good luck. As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat.