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Owning a companion cat carries responsibilities and veterinarians have knowledge and expertise on the principles of responsible animal ownership and the welfare needs of cats.
This knowledge can assist cat owners to meet their responsibilities, ensure their cat has "a good life", and retain the benefits that society enjoys from living with cats.
The New Zealand Veterinary Association strongly supports those principles of responsible cat ownership that contribute to creating a harmonious relationship between people, animals and the environment.
Principles of Responsible Companion Cat Ownership & things to consider before you make the decision to become a cat owner.
The average lifespan of a desexed companion cat is 14-16 years. When undertaking responsibility for a cat, it is important to consider the commitment required for the cat’s entire life.
Pet food is the largest expense over the cat’s life (New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc., 2016). Owners must also consider costs associated with veterinary care (both planned and unplanned), pet health insurance, equipment (cat beds, bowls etc.), housing alterations that may be needed (e.g. fencing, cat aviary), and cattery boarding fees.
Cats have complex social structures and do not always like to live with other cats - however, they can form strong bonds with another cat. Owners must be aware that keeping more than one cat together in a home may create stress and tension, and be prepared to limit the number of cats they own to reduce this stress.
Owners must also consider the potential for issues to arise when mixing cats and dogs in the same household. Ensuring cats have an escape area, inaccessible to the family dog, can help alleviate some of this stress.
Cats prey on wildlife such as lizards and birds, so a responsible owner must also consider the impact that their cat may have on the natural environment. Measures such as using deterrent collars, keeping the cat indoors, utilising cat enclosures, and avoiding breeds that are well-known hunters (e.g. Bengals), may mitigate some of the negative effects of cats’ non-specific hunting behaviour. This is particularly important if cats are living close to or in an ecologically sensitive area.
Although cats are often considered independent, they do have social needs and their lives are enhanced by interactions with their owners. Before committing to cat ownership, potential owners should consider the time they have available to care for their cat.
There are many more cats in New Zealand than there are homes available. Adopting from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) or cat shelter improves overall cat welfare, by providing a home and reducing euthanasia rates at shelters. If a pedigree or purebred cat is desired, the NZVA strongly recommends seeking veterinary advice before a cat is bought to ensure cats are sourced from a responsible breeder.