Despite cats having a reputation for being fiercely independent, low-maintenance pets, cat owners are still responsible for looking after their pet's health, safety and well-being. And while cats may not be difficult to care for, there are still a lot of opportunities for mistakes to happen. Here are 10 of the most common ways cat owners fail to provide the best care for their furry friends.
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NEGLECTING LITTER BOXES
Some cat owners may clean their cat's litter box only weekly, or even less frequently. Think about how gross that is. Imagine if you flushed your toilet only once a week, and also, you had to step in the toilet in order to use it. That’s what life is like for a cat whose owner doesn’t clean its litter box out properly at least once a day. Not only is having to use a dirty litter box extremely unpleasant for cats, but it’s also unhealthy for everyone in the cat’s home, as the animal tracks the mess they stepped in everywhere they go. Remember not only to sift the litter box every day, but also change the litter entirely once per week. Be sure to wash the box itself during weekly litter changes. For more tips, read our guide to keeping litter boxes clean.
IGNORING ORAL HYGENE
Ideally, you should brush your cat’s teeth every day, or at least once a week. This task is frequently ignored and many cats go their entire lives without a dental brushing. But pets need their teeth brushed as much as we humans do. Dental neglect can lead to pain or even larger health problems, some that are possibly life-threatening. For more information about how and why to brush your cat’s teeth, read our guide to feline dental care.
MISSING REGULAR VETERINARY CHECKUPS
Too many cat owners don’t take their pet to the vet until something is obviously wrong. In fact, statistics show that pet owners are visiting their vets for routine care less and less frequently, and that’s been particularly true of cat owners. Checkups are how one detects problems early enough to stop them or slow them, and can be found by a vet longer before an owner is aware that something is wrong. If you haven’t already, make an appointment for your cat’s next checkup. You may save it from harm that can be prevented now, but not later.
ADMINISTERING HUMAN MEDICINE
It’s never a good idea to give any kind of medicine to your cat without consulting a vet first, not even the everyday, over-the-counter meds we tend to think of as completely safe. Some common drugs, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are extremely dangerous for pets. Others may be considered safe for dogs but not cats. Only your vet can tell you what kinds of medicine to give your cat, when to give it and how much to give.
NOT KITTEN-PROOFING THEIR HOMES
You already know that cats are curious. If you’ve never had a kitten in your home before, though, you could be surprised by what absolute bundles of energy they are. If you’re ready for the responsibility of caring for a kitten, that’s great. But no matter how vigilant, you’ll still need to make changes around the house for the feline's safety. That’s why kitten-proofing is essential before the animal ever sets foot in your home. Depending on your lifestyle, that could mean changing where you store cleaners and chemicals, corralling electrical cords, throwing away certain plants and more.
Statistics show that one-third of all pets get lost at some point in their lives. Microchipping is simply the best chance you have of ensuring that a lost pet will find its way home. The microchipping process is quick, safe, painless and relatively inexpensive. For more information about how and why to microchip your cat, read our guide to pet microchipping.
Many people still have their cats declawed. We’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they don’t realize just how cruel the practice is. A cat’s claws are a part of its body. It’s not like clipping your fingernails, or even like removing your fingernails. Declawing involves amputating the last bone on every toe. It’s the equivalent of cutting off a person’s fingertips at the knuckle. Moreover, declawing deprives cats of their natural instinct to scratch, not to mention their able to defend themselves from real or perceived threats. While local laws in certain places outlaw declawing as animal cruelty, such places remain few and far between.
We say you shouldn’t yell at your cat because it’s completely ineffective way to train felines. If your cat does something wrong and you yell as a response, your cat won’t understand that its actions caused you to yell. To the cat, you’re yelling for no reason. You’ll frighten the cat, and all it will serve to do is make the cat afraid of you. It won't solve behavioral problems.
By now it’s no secret that the growing obesity epidemic isn’t only affecting the human population in America, but the pet population as well. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, obesity in U.S. cats rose again last year to 55 percent. Obesity causes many of the same problems in cats that it does in people, including serious health issues like diabetes, arthritis, respiratory difficulties and heart disease. If your cat is overweight and obese, and you need help adjusting its diet to help it lose weight, start with our guide to cat weight loss. And always consult your veterinarian for his or her expert, professional advice.
Next: Solutions to Common Cat Problems
NOT SPAYING OR NEUTERING
Almost all pet owners have heard over and over about how important it is to spay or neuter their pets, but too many owners still don't do it. Sterilization is the most important thing anyone can do to control the pet population. Approximately 2-4 million pets are euthanized at U.S. animal shelters every year because there aren’t enough homes to take in the exploding numbers of homeless animals. But spaying and neutering isn’t just about your responsibility to not make more homeless cats; it’s also about your cat’s health. Getting your cat fixed can prevent ovarian cancer in females, testicular cancer and prostate issues in males, and other health problems. For more information read our guide to spaying and neutering.