When did having a cat become so complicated? I grew up in a time, many moons ago, when having a cat seemed simpler and there weren’t so many rules, opinions, options, and guidelines to follow.
For example, when you decided to adopt a cat, it was usually as a result of something completely innocent, like coming out of the grocery store with your mom to be confronted by some cute kid holding a cardboard box full of adorable kittens with a sign that read "Free to a Good Home."
Chances were high you weren’t even looking for a new pet, and other than the theatrical effort of crying and whining incessantly to your mother that you absolutely must have a kitten or you would die, along with the promise that you would take care of it, that was the extent of it.
Nobody made you fill out a lengthy application form to see if you were going to be a good cat guardian, you didn’t have to pay for the animal, and you had no idea if the kitten you took home was healthy because of course you were not given a medical history. The kitten would not already be spayed or neutered, she was probably taken away from her mother far too young, and you would not be given any guidance as to what to feed your new kitten or how to take care of her.
None of that mattered, though — you just took the kitten home and somehow you figured it all out. You gave her milk to drink and tuna to eat, and when you bought cat food, you got whatever was on sale that week. As it was, there were very limited choices available and reading the ingredients on the label was not something you even considered.
As far as litter, you either let your cat outside to do her business or you used the only brand of litter that was available at your local store. Fancy toys, scratching posts, cat beds, and designer cat condos didn’t even exist — maybe you gave your cat a ball of yarn and an empty box to play with and that was that.
Veterinarians were people you visited your kitty was sick; vaccinations, wellness checkups, and spay/neuter surgery were things we knew very little if anything about.
Now we live in a world with a seemingly endless parade of information on the topics of cats (a species the mainstream is currently obsessed with) and we are inundated on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, websites, and other platforms with advice, opinions, facts, fiction, and every in-between about how to take care of our feline friends.
Debates on subjects such as raw diet vs. grain. Canned food or dry. Vaccinations. Inside or outside. To spay or not to spay. Purebred cats vs. shelter cats. Cats in strollers, cats wearing clothes, cats on the counter, cats in our beds. Declawing cats. Flea collars. Cats on leashes. Exotic cats. Litter — clumping, non-clumping, clay, or grain pellets.
That’s just the start when it comes to cat talk, and some of these subjects can intensify to such heated levels as to how people feel about them that they can rival the best of any political mud-smearing campaign, causing many of us to be afraid of even admitting certain things about our pets for fear of ridicule or being shunned.
Just what is right or wrong, and how do you even begin to wade through it all to make the right decisions and be that perfect cat parent?
Was I a bad pet guardian back when my life was simpler? I never thought so, but when I put it all in perspective with what I know today, it’s a wonder any of my cats survived, but they did. They thrived, actually, living long and happy lives. It truly was a simple premise back then — I just did the best I could to make sure my cats were loved and well taken care of, and they always were.
I think there is probably a happy medium between not knowing enough and knowing too much. Clearly significant strides in cat care have been made in the past several decades, and the more we learn the better off our cats will be. For example, years ago, I did not know that playing with yarn actually can be dangerous to a cat because if they ingest the yarn it can possibly wrap around their intestines and kill them. I didn’t know a hairball might be an indication of a more serious problem in a cat or that declawing them was such a brutal and inhumane procedure.
I also had no clue of the importance of spay/neuter as not only a safe and humane means of reducing cat overpopulation, but also as a procedure that helps to ensure your cat live a longer, happier, and healthy life. I also never knew that certain plants, such as Easter lilies were toxic to cats and that feeding them excessive amounts of milk or tuna is actually not a good idea because it is detrimental to their health.
Years ago I also did not know that cats needed exercise ÔÇô- mental and physical — to keep their bodies and minds in good shape, and that they needed certain high and low areas in a household to feel safe and comfortable, as well as lots of scratching posts. I imagine, had I known some of this information when I was younger, many a couch would have been saved in my house from territorial issues that caused my cats to pee and scratch all over them!
So much of this crucial information was unknown years ago, and it’s just a matter of what we do with it, because not every circumstance will fit your cat or your life like a perfect glove. The best we can do is take what we learn and use it as it applies to our own lives. And when it all gets too complicated or overwhelming, do what I do -ÔÇô go grab a cat and give them a big ol’ hug and kiss, because sometimes the simplest act is the one with the most impact!
What do you think? How do you deal with keeping up on all the new information on how to care for your kitties? Let us know in the comments.
Read more to get you started on quality cat care:
Deborah Barnes lives in Florida and is the author of the book, The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey ÔÇô- A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary. She is the creator of the award-winning blog Zee & Zoey’s Chronicle Connection, which covers the everyday journey she shares with her cats as well as cat-related topics humorous and serious.