The benefits of cat ownership
Cats have been associated with humans for at least 4,000 years - in ancient Egypt, their role in controlling rodents in grain stores was so important that cats were even worshipped as gods.
These days, over a quarter of Australian households own a cat, and this probably has more to do with their popularity as companions than their ability to answer prayers! Cat owners receive many benefits from that companionship.
Scientific studies over the last 20 years have shown that pet owners are generally healthier than non pet owners - they suffer fewer minor illnesses and complaints, have better psychological health scores, and generally an improved overall feeling of "wellbeing".
Children who are raised with pets have higher self esteem, and learn nurturing and social skills, as well as a sense of responsibility for others. Pets have been used very successfully as adjuncts to therapy, and the benefits to an elderly person of sitting with a cat curled up on the bed cannot be overestimated. The key to these benefits is to be found in their unique qualities as companions.
Cats are extremely tactile, or "touchy" animals, and love to be patted and stroked, or just lie contentedly in the lap of their owners. Touch is a basic requirement for humans, as it is for all social species, and the companionship of a cat can be especially important for people who live alone.
Cats are also very entertaining, retaining a kitten-like playfulness and curiosity well into adulthood. People gain hours of relaxing pleasure watching their cats play, or just sitting listening to them purr. This relaxation is probably one of the major clues to the beneficial health effects - cats provide an easy antidote to the stresses of modern life.
The relative ease of care of a cat makes it the preferred pet in many circumstances. Cats do not need formal exercise as they will exercise themselves during play, and they can live comfortably in much smaller spaces than most dogs. Add the fact that they are naturally clean and fastidious animals, and it can be seen they are ideal pets for busy lifestyles. Cats also sleep two thirds of the day and will save their active time for when owners get home - an added bonus! The same advantages apply to the elderly or incapacitated, who may not be able to meet the care needs of owning a dog.
Of course, most people don't own cats just because they are practical. Cats have a certain character or personality which is distinctly their own. They are friendly and affectionate, yet retain an individuality and grace. Most people own cats for the sheer joy of their "catness"!
Domestic animals have served for centuries as man's natural companions, through modern man is in danger of abandoning many traditional beliefs and modes of behaviour that have regulated and supported human existence for centuries.
It's essential to human well-being that animals remain a natural part of our everyday life, and examines, in particular, the role of cats as pets. Cherish the personality of the cat, how cats satisfy human needs, and what they can mean for old, lonely or troubled people. Cats emanate a quality that human beings seem to have lost - they create a calm, agreeable ambience and provide reassurance.
Responsible cat ownership includes:
- Desexing your cat if it is not to be used for commercial breeding.
- Keeping your cats at home, either inside the house or shed, or in an outside run or on a lead.
- Identifying your cats by microchip, collar and tag, or tattoo.
Desexed cats are better and more docile pets and desexed males especially are less smelly, less likely to mark their territories with their very potent urine, & less likely to stray.
If kept in at night cats are less likely to be hurt in fights, pick up diseases and abscesses, be hit by cars or annoy neighbours with their wailing & caterwauling.
Evidence indicates that well-fed cats continue to hunt. The best way to stop your cat from killing native animals is to stop it roaming. Keeping cats in at night reduces the number of nocturnal animals such as pygmy possums, penguin chicks or ground nesting birds being killed. However cats still prey on animals that are active during the day, such as most bird species and lizards. So it is necessary to restrict cat movements during the day and night to stop them from hunting native animals.
Scientists who have studied cats have quite clearly demonstrated that wearing a bell does not stop cats from hunting successfully. They can stalk their prey without ringing the bell until the moment that they pounce- and then it is too late for the victim. Kangaroo Island residents are keen to maintain their special environment and the KI Cat Control Committee is keen to help through education and the promotion of the actions listed above to all cat owners.
What's In It for Both of You?
Are you considering becoming a first-time cat owner? Have you owned cats in the past and are now looking to own one again? Do you already own a cat and are contemplating adding a new member to the family? Lately, are you spending an inordinate amount of time gazing fondly at the cat section of pet catalogues or reading the labels on cans of cat food? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to ask yourself the following questions before you actually purchase your new fur baby.
What's In It for Me?
This isn't a selfish question. It's a very important topic to consider. Too many pets are purchased when impulsive decisions are made. While the end-results might be good, you'll increase your chances of having an enriching experience as a cat owner by asking yourself, "What it is that I hope to gain from my new addition and why do I specifically want a cat instead of another type of animal?"
Whether you're looking for a source of company for yourself or a companion for your other pets, cats contribute a unique quality to any relationship. So much so, that research has shown that pet owners are generally healthier, less stressed or depressed, and more likely to recover from serious illnesses or accidents. Many pet owners can also attest to the notion that having more than one pet provides not only a source of companionship, but also a valuable source of entertainment, for one another.
If you're thinking about introducing a cat into your family to teach your children valuable life lessons pertaining to such things as responsibility and love and loss, be forewarned. While such benefits might be possible by purchasing a cat, enter into this new relationship fully prepared to take care of the kitty yourself if necessary.
But just how much time does it take to care properly for a cat and are there any benefits to that amount of effort? What a non-cat person might consider aloof, a content cat owner might think of as low maintenance. Think about it. If you've done any research on cat ownership, you're hopefully planning to keep your cat inside. You know why - less risk of being injured, becoming lost, contracting diseases, etc. If so, such cats don't need to be walked outside multiple times a day as a dog would. This in turn means that they can be left by themselves for longer periods. Cats are also generally less prone to exhibiting destructive behaviors when left alone.
If you're going to allow your cat to wander the great outdoors, their mice-catching capabilities might present you with a strange but added bonus. Remember though, if a cat can catch mice, they can probably catch a few other things - like those beautiful birds that you admire watching at the feeders everyday.
Additional benefits of purchasing a cat versus a dog, no insult to dogs intended, would include the ability to more easily "potty-train" a cat, the less demanding needs of a cat to be entertained, and the cat's need for less grooming because they often spend a great deal of their waking hours - all four of them - doing just that. Cats are also generally cuddlier than a pet fish, snake, or mouse, but it depends on whom you ask.
What's In It for the Cat?
Maybe this sounds like a sillier question than the first one, but it's just as important. Ask yourself, "What do I hope to provide to my new cat and can I provide for it in a beneficial manner? Can I provide proper medical care, quality food, healthy living conditions, companionship, safety, and various forms of stimulating "entertainment?" While a cat can survive on food, water, and shelter from harm, a cat, like anything else living under such conditions, will merely survive and not thrive.
The method in which you obtain your new bundle of furry joy might also provide benefits to the cat. Adopting a cat from an animal shelter that doesn't have a "no-kill policy" will prevent it from being euthanized. Adopting a cat from someone who is giving them away will perhaps allow the cat to live in better conditions than it currently has. Maybe the cat you obtain is uncomfortable around certain other animals or is in need of an animal companion and you can give them an environment that provides a "comfort level" they desire and deserve.
What's the Bottom Line?
Whatever your motives are pertaining to becoming a cat owner, please realize that, if you can't identify enough good reasons to initially bring a cat into your household, you're probably doing a disservice to both yourself and the cat. Telling yourself that you'll eventually find additional reasons to own a cat might be a set-up for having a disappointing experience as a pet owner. Remember...you're not a bad person if you don't own a cat, but you can be an unhappy cat owner if you become one for all of the wrong reasons. No one will benefit in that situation.
If you decide that welcoming a cat into your home is an adventure that you're going to pursue, take your time and identify just what type of a cat will best fit into your world. Consider all of your options, enjoy the selection process, and rest assured that the right cat is waiting for you to come and claim it as the newest member of your family.