by Rolan Tripp, DVM, CABC
Nobody’s perfect and all of us could do better. I have put together below my opinion on the most common mistakes made by cat owners. Take just a few minutes now to avoid a lot of time and grief later.
Mistake 1: Impulse adoption instead of careful selection
Because of their big hearts, many people take in strays, or other cats that no one wants. Sometimes these turn out to be the best cat imaginable. In other cases, there is a reason other humans choose to not share a space with this cat.
Every person is allowed to carefully CHOOSE a cat at some point in their life. I am now consulting on the new pet selection service, www.HannahSociety.com, so use this or another resource to help you find your feline soul mate.
Mistake 2: Not completely following the veterinarian’s advice
Every veterinarian recommends a physical exam for every pet, then a check up at least once a year after that. Pets can’t complain about physical discomfort like a child can, so it is MORE important to get these exams done because cats don’t have verbal skills. There is an increasing realization that a physical exam alone may not be enough. Many veterinarians now routinely collect blood, urine and a stool sample at the routine exam. This “window inside the body” can find problems early, catching them before the damage is done, and making them easier to resolve. If all is normal, you now have baseline values that can be very helpful down the road.
Mistake 3: Trying to shortcut diagnostic procedures and treat only symptoms “to save money”
Between exams, many people notice symptoms, but delay going in, hoping the problem will correct itself. If in doubt, here are two simple rules: Take the pet in if: A) a new symptom continues longer than 24 hours, or B) you can recognize a progressive worsening of signs in less than 24 hours.
Skipping a diagnosis obviously makes it less likely to get a complete cure. In addition, what is saved in initial testing is lost by an increased number of visits trying different medications. It is usually necessary to come back and do the testing later anyway, but now the previous symptomatic treatments have clouded the diagnosis, making everything more difficult.
The bottom line is if you don’t trust the person, change vets, but once you have someone you trust, follow their recommendations.
Mistake 4: Overfeeding “In the name of love”
Overfeeding creates obesity, dental disease, spoiled appetite, and begging. Overfeeding, then offering even tastier foods to encourage eating results in finicky cats.
Mistake 5: Unclean litter box
Not cleaning the litter box frequently is bad enough. Additionally, if you house multiple cats, then also consider offering multiple types of litter, box sizes and locations to prevent feline house soiling.
Mistake 6: Physical punishment
Physically punishing any feline act (spanking or scruffing) not only confuses your cat but can damage your relationship.
Mistake 7: Creating an aggressive cat
Playing slap/boxing games frequently results in cat aggression towards people. Because of their genetics, some cats participate in or tolerate these adolescent human games, and still don’t become aggressive, but why take the risk? Instead play “Object Games” with objects like dragging a string, or a fake bird.
Mistake 8: Insufficient grooming
A basic part of the social system for felines is grooming themselves and others. Some cats have been bred for unnaturally long full coats, and these require either daily grooming, or periodic total body clips. An important tip when grooming is to not “pull” out mats. Instead put your fingers between the mat and skin, and cut it out, then gently tease out the remaining.
Mistake 9: Declawing
Declawing without first providing a scratching post and training correct scratching is an ignorant mistake. We have to realize that all animals have instincts, and we need to provide a suitable outlet. If all else fails, declawing is preferable to euthanasia.
Mistake 10: Lack of sufficient exercise
Not giving sufficient exercise for indoor cats (string chasing, toy chasing, etc) goes along with most Americans who don’t get enough exercise themselves. A simple rule of thumb is try to engage each cat in enough interactive exercise (drag a string, flail a flutter toy, use a laser pointer) to cause the cat to pant or quit.
Dr. Tripp received his doctorate from UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and also holds a bachelor’s degree in music and a minor in philosophy. A regular guest on the Animal Planet Network, Dr. Tripp appears on both “Petsburgh, USA” and “Good Dog U.” He is a Veterinary Behavior Consultant for Antech Laboratory’s “Dr. Consult Line” and an Affiliate Professor of Applied Animal Behavior at both Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Tripp is the founder of the national behavior consulting practice, The Animal Behavioral Network. He is now the Chief Veterinary Pet Behaviorist of The Hannah Society which helps match people and pets, then keeps them together. Contact Rolan Tripp