Cats are popular household pets. In the US, about 30% of homes have at least one cat. Even so, a surprising number of people aren’t fully aware of how to care for one properly.
There are a number of mistakes many cat owners make, especially those new to the job. A common one is believing cats are independent creatures that require the minimum of care. This just isn’t true. In this article, we highlight and hope to eradicate 19 common mistakes cat owners make.
The Most Common Mistakes Made by Cat Owners
1. Buying a Cat on Impulse
You might buy a new pair of shoes or a coat on impulse and that’s fine. If they don’t suit you or fit, you can return them.
However, if you buy a cat on the spur of the moment you often don’t have the option to take it back if it doesn’t function quite as you thought it would!
So do your homework. Find out as much about the kitty as you can: it’s temperament, health, habits and so on.
Check the characteristics of the breed (if it’s a purebred). Think about how it will fit into your lifestyle and if you have a home environment that is right for a cat.
2. Failing to Consider the Long-term Commitment
A cat could feasibly be part of your life for a very long time and the costs of providing for one can soon mount up.
So make a list of the expenses to expect and be sure there’s enough room for maneuver in your monthly budget.
It really isn’t fair if after a month you realize there isn’t enough in the bank for both of you to eat, which means one of you has to go.
Sometimes it’s hard to know what you’ll be up to 20 years after you bring a cat into your life but you should consider there’s a chance it will still be with you then.
3. Not Buying Pet Insurance
People often think pet insurance is too expensive and decide against buying it. They are then mortified when their cat has an illness or an operation that lands them with a vet bill that’s thousands of dollars.
It really is worth weighing this up the cost of a huge bill against the monthly cost of insurance.
Not investing could be a false economy! We recommend Petplan, having used them without any problems for over 15 years. Get an instant quote now.
4. Thinking Declawing is OK
It really is not OK to declaw a cat unless there’s a valid medical reason.
Many people have no concept of what declawing a cat entails so let’s think about something that is comparable to.
Look at your hands. Now imagine having the whole first joint of each finger removed. That is what happens when a cat is declawed…
Declawing does not just involve the removal of the claw itself but the whole of the bone that the claw is attached to. This procedure is gradually being banned throughout the world. Good!
5. Not Neutering or Spaying
A responsible cat owner knows that having their cat spayed or neutered is the responsible course of action.
There are enough cats languishing in rescue centers, desperate for loving homes to make it seem sad and irresponsible to possibly aggravate this problem by breeding more.
Look at it this way: every kitten deliberately bred deprives a shelter cat of the possibility of being adopted.
If you don’t have your cat spayed or neutered you can look forward to possible aggression in a male cat and seasonal yowling from a female which will attract every neighborhood tomcat for miles around to your door.
Often females in heat will attempt escape. If they are successful, you may end up with kittens whose health you can’t guarantee because you won’t know who the father.
You will then have the worry of finding them good homes. And if an unneutered male escapes into the wide world, this could result in any number of unspayed female cats finding themselves in the family way!
Having your cat fixed can also guard against a variety of health issues such as tumors and infections.
6. Feeding the Wrong Type of Food
A cat needs a well-balanced diet in order to remain fit and healthy. The best way to achieve this is by feeding your cat a decent brand of food prepared specifically for cats. Not dog food! Not tinned tuna.
Definitely not a vegetarian diet. Cats need plenty of protein from meat and as little filler (such as grains) as possible.
If you want to go down the homemade route make sure you know what minerals and vitamins to add.
I’d be vary wary of giving any cat a raw food diet (no matter how much you think it is closer to what would have been their natural diet) because of the risks from parasites and bacteria to you as well as your cat.
7. Giving a Dry Food only diet
Cats are not renowned for guzzling water and so it is essential that they get as much moisture as possible from their diet. Therefore most of their food should be the wet variety.
It’s fine to provide a small bowl of dry food but be aware of how calorie-dense this is. Many people still give cats just dry food because it is convenient, especially to use with food dispensers.
You can get some great automatic feeders for wet or dry food. The PetSafe, 5 Meal Pet Feeder is one I can thoroughly recommend because my mother-in-law uses it regularly and it works perfectly. It’s conveniently available on Amazon – here’s the link to see more details.
8. Placing Water Too Close to Food
It seems logical to put a cat’s food and water together but as a cat spends a lot of time at its food dish, the water bowl tends to end up with a lot of fur and dust floating on the surface.
Ideally, there should be enough of a distance between food and water dishes to prevent this from happening. A good solution is to have a pet fountain that filters the water.
I love this ceramic fountain (link to read reviews on Amazon). Unlike some designs, if there is a power cut the bowl stays full of water so your cat can still have a drink.
9. Giving a Cat Milk
There’s a common misconception about cats and milk. Some people think cats love milk and that giving it to them won’t do any harm. Some cats might like milk but it definitely isn’t good for them at all.
As soon as a cat is weaned from its mother its digestive system stops producing the enzyme lactase which breaks down the lactose content of milk. This means cats become lactose intolerant as they can’t digest milk properly.
When a cat drinks milk, it ferments in its stomach, causing stomach cramps, diarrhea, and vomiting. So be kind and don’t give your cat milk no matter how much it pleads you for some.
10. Allowing Their Cat To Become Overweight
An overweight cat is more prone to health problems. It’s as simple as that. Cat’s don’t need nearly as much food as some people imagine, especially if they are indoor-only cats.
Dry food makes it very easy to overfeed a cat because it is so high calorie. An average 10-pound cat only needs 250 calories a day to maintain weight.
The following picture shows a bowl with diameter 4.5 inches, depth 1 inch holding 3.5 ounces of dry food which contains 380 calories!
So. 50% more than a 10-pound cat actually needs but the perfect amount per day for a 15-pound cat. This shows how easy it is to overfeed your kitty.
11. Using The Wrong Shaped Bowls!
Yes, this is a thing! Did you know cats can get whisker fatigue? It’s true. If you put their food in a bowl with a diameter that’s smaller than the span of their whiskers they can feel uncomfortable eating as their whiskers keep touching the sides.
A cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive to touch and knocking them constantly can cause stress which the cat then associates with eating. It can spoil their eating experience and cause them to stop eating properly.
If the bowl is also too deep they just won’t eat the food at the bottom. The end result is a depressed, hungry cat and a lot of wasted food.
Try dishes like these (link to read reviews on Amazon) ensure happy mealtimes. They are worth the expense as you will waste less food and avoid trips to the vets.
12. Shutting Interior Doors
If you contain your cat in a small area of your house you will be curtailing its natural instincts to explore. Cats need space to roam, especially if they are not allowed outside.
You’ll notice that a cat always seems to want to get to the other side of a closed door, and some will even learn to open one.
So be kind to your cat and give it free rein in your home – particularly your bathroom! Cats love bathrooms – especially when you are in there!
13. Thinking Cats Always Land on Their Feet
This is a common misconception that often leads to injured cats. Make sure a cat can’t fall from a balcony or window above ground level.
Even if it does manage to land up the right way it is at serious risk of breaking bones and possibly being paralyzed.
Don’t let this happen to your cat. Never ever hold a cat upside down and then drop it to see if it manages to flip over. This is so cruel and again could result in a serious injury.
14. Neglecting Health Care
All cats really should be vaccinated against common cat diseases and microchipped even if they are to be indoor-only cats.
Many owners only take their cat to the vets when it is really obviously ill. In reality, all cats should go to the vets at least once every 12 months for booster injections and a general health check.
15. Neglecting to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth
Cat teeth come into contact with a lot of bacteria every day. This builds up to form plaque on their teeth which leads to periodontal disease. Many cats are in constant pain because of this.
They develop inflamed gums and loose teeth, which move as they eat. This can lead to expensive tooth extractions.
You can avoid the pain for your cat and the cost to you by brushing your cat’s teeth daily with a specially developed cat toothpaste.
This is much easier to introduce when it is a kitten, not so easy with adult cats.
If you can’t get near your cat with a toothbrush, ask your vet for advice on alternative methods of cleaning its teeth. This really is worth doing.
16. Not Keeping The Litter Box Clean Enough
Cat litter trays can very quickly become rather disgusting areas. If you see your cat using its toilet, remove what it has eliminated there and then.
Cats hate using a dirty tray and you could end up with a mess where they tread what’s in all over your home.
At the very least clean the tray morning and evening and if possible completely empty it, wash it before adding new litter. This is better for your health as well as your cats.
If you have more than one cat, provide a tray for each of them to prevent territorial issues. Just like you prefer to use a toilet that has been flushed, cats hate sharing a tray.
Once another cat has eliminated in the tray, the other cat may choose to go elsewhere (much to your dismay).
17. Shaving a Cat
Many owners contemplating shaving their long-haired cat either to remove matted fur or because they think it’s kind to do this in hot weather.
Clipping painful mats out is sometimes necessary but you should only remove matted areas and not give an all-over shave!
A cat’s fur helps to keep it cooler in hot weather so there is no need to cut or shave any off when temperatures rise.
If you’re trying to reduce shedding, groom your cat regularly. Start a grooming regime as soon as you get it, be gentle and your cat should let you do this. There are always exceptions of course!
18. Punishing a cat
You should never punish a cat physically or by shouting at it. It will not associate a telling off with something it has done. It will, however, learn to feel scared of you and learn not to trust you.
Use positive distraction techniques to stop your cat from doing something you don’t want it doing, such as clawing your furniture or jumping on your counters.
The easiest way to do this with a favorite toy. Lead your cat to a scratching post to claw instead or away from the kitchen to play. Always remain calm and never raise your voice.
19. Expecting a Cat to Not Harm a Smaller Pet
I don’t mean a smaller cat or dog. I mean pets such as birds, guinea pigs, hamsters, and lizards. Just because you’ve seen a video of a cat cuddling a chick or a mouse this doesn’t mean you can train yours to do this.
A cat is very likely to kill a smaller pet because of its natural prey drive. And they move so swiftly, you will be unlikely to be able to stop it from happening.
If your cat kills a smaller family pet it is upsetting for everyone but you can only blame yourself if it happens.
Don’t be unfair to a cat and expect it to learn not to do what comes naturally. And more importantly, don’t ever tell it off if something like this happens. Keep small pets safely out of reach of a cat.
If you’ve ever felt owned by your cat, you’re not alone. Many people think they own a cat when, in fact, it’s the other way round.