Sometimes I tell myself that I am spoiling my cats. I’ve gotten used to using that particular word without thinking about what it really means. Sometimes I even use the word “spoil” out loud. But I am going to begin to retrain my brain. I am not spoiling my cats. I am treating them well and being a good pet guardian.

There have also been times when people in my life, who maybe don’t have cats or appreciate pet guardianship, have told me that I am spoiling my cats. The word gets used quite a bit. But I think some clarification is in order here.

A spoiled child, for example, is manipulative, and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Picture Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Veruca screamed often and manipulated her devoted father to get what she wanted. Obviously, this is a human behavior. And while I’m guilty of over-anthropomorphizing my cats, I don’t honestly believe that they are manipulating me to the extent that a human child could carry it off. And if it did appear that my cats were capable of this kind of manipulation, I could always choose to ignore it.

Here are some ways that people might think I am spoiling my cats, whereas I simply consider it the actions of good pet guardianship:

1. I feed them the best food I can afford

It’s true that I could spend less, but I hope and believe that a good diet will lead to less health issues down the road. There’s no guarantee of that, to be sure, but I do the best I can. If good canned food can be squeezed into the budget, I’ll do that, too.

2. I provide them a warm home and soft beds

Not only do my cats get to laze around by a fire all day, but they have beds to snuggle in. I put soft blankets on chairs, and they like that, too. It’s tough to think that some might consider the above as spoiling cats, but everyone’s different.

3. I let them in the bedroom — sometimes!

I’d like to be more lenient here — I really would. But I have the worst time sleeping if cats are on the bed, and then I’m no good to them or anyone during the day. We will relent and let one cat in, usually Jamie Bluebell, because she loves it and she begs so prettily at the door.

4. I play with them

They love this, and why not? It’s good for them, good for me, and gives everyone great pleasure. I try to be regular about this, so I don’t forget.

5. I keep them inside

I’ve lived in a lot of places where it’s pretty common for people to let their cats out. I don’t judge people or try to convince them to keep their cats inside, but I also know that I don’t have the stamina (in my heart) to let them outside and risk losing them to predators, automobiles, or other dangers. I have had people look at me like I was crazy when they find out that the cats don’t go outside. I do wish I could provide them with the fun experience of playing in leaves and feeling the fresh air — maybe an outdoor cat enclosure is in my future?

This last one is more toward the spectrum of spoiling, but it still not spoiling, in my opinion:

6. I feed Chester whenever he wants, and I fluff his food

Orange buff male Chester is a picky eater, and he likes to take his time. After trying to get him to eat twice a day with everyone else, I relented and did it his way. Is he manipulating me? I choose to think not. Perhaps, as one vet suggested, senior cats do better with several small meals a day. That’s true in his case. Chester knows how to get me to feed him. He simply comes and sits by me — no whining or screaming. Chester likes fresh food (the smaller the cans, the better) on a small plate, and he likes it fluffed a little with a fork.

Is this spoiling? It might be. But spoiling is a human concept. Chester is not screaming like a spoiled child. And we’re both getting what we want — he’s getting the small meals he likes, and I am getting more food into him than if I tried to get him to eat on all the others’ schedules. Some cats march to their own drummer, I guess.

My cats are a big part of my life, and I am grateful that I can do what I can. Perhaps if I had human kids, I would not have the resources to be as good to my cats. I have a feeling I would still do whatever I could, however.

Do you think you spoil your cats, or simply take good care of them? Can you even spoil a cat, and if so, what’s the difference? Tell us in the comments.

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of The Great Purr, the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.