Shall we get a cat?
In recent years the cat has overtaken the dog in being the most popular pet in the UK. There is an estimated 11 million cats living in our households……so why the sudden surge in cat ownership?
It is well documented that dogs need that little bit more when it comes to care and attention. They need their daily walks, they need daily companionship and they need to feel part of a social group. The public are taught about what to look out for when purchasing/rescuing a dog and this is emphasized with many of the TV programmes that brace our televisions. So is that why the cat is becoming more popular….I mean there independent, don’t need to be walked and are quite fickle when it comes to attention. However is something being missed when we decide to give a cat a home?
So our domestic cat has evolved from Felis lybica (the African wildcat) and as a species they still hold many of the traits that come with this title. Unlike our canine companion who have been bred to change and modify certain behaviours the majority of the felines repertoire is still there. It is therefore essential when we are considering giving a cat a home that we are respectful of this and provide the environment that they so need.
So what do they need? All cats live within a territory and within this they need to feel safe and secure. They need to be able to eat/drink/toilet and rest without the fear of an enemy attack. Therefore it is very important that there future home will meet these needs especially if you will be be having 2 or more cats living together. We need to remember that free ranging cats would chose who they live with and so when we put cats together it may not necessarily work out.
Sadly if their needs are not met it can lead to stress and behaviour related problems like house soiling, urine marking and aggression. (The most common reason that cats are handed into re-homing shelters). Cats need to be able to express their natural behaviours to ensure they balance their emotional and mental wellbeing. Most cats should be allowed to have outside time but if this is not possible then even more work needs to be in place to enrich their indoor environment.
What does a cat need?
The cats basic needs are:
Space – within this they need to have the opportunity to climb and explore, rest and hide. Allow them up on the shelves (they can see so much more up high and will favor these), leave some cupboards open so they have a ‘bolt hole’ if they are feeling anxious about something.
Resources – they need plenty of places to eat/drink/toilet and sleep. In a multicat household these should all be separate. The general rule is 1 per cat + 1 extra. In the wild a cat would not chose to eat next to another cat as competition over resources is stressful. They will continually move their sleeping places and they will sleep where they feel comfortable. As much as we would like to see them tucked into a cosy bed unlike the dog our cats will not appreciate this luxury.
Opportunities to perform natural behaviour – cats will still want to hunt even if they have a stomach full of food. It is the behaviour repertoire that comes with the hunting of the prey that is so important. So if this is not provided with outdoor time then its time to be vigilant within the house. So consider puzzle/activity feeders, these can be shop brought but you can be creative and make homemade versions. They need to be provided with something/somewhere they can claw. Clawing is used to stretch muscles/mark boundaries and sharpen claws. It is all about finding the best material and best location to allow this without them ruining your best leather sofa!
Playtime – it is a common misconception that once cats reach adulthood they don’t play. All cats with the right stimulation and toys will play. Early morning and evening are good times as their natural bodyclock is aroused at these times. Again many types are available to purchase however many options can be obtained from the home/garden. Dont expect too much, 3 – 5 mins is adequate as they do get bored easily, unlike the dog that you take to the park that will chase that ball for hours.
So the most important message if you are considering providing a home for a cat is to have a look around you and evaluate the life that you can give them. Is it really what the cat would want and chose?