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The Ethics and Responsibilities of Cat Ownership for Beginners

The Ethics and Responsibilities of Cat Ownership for Beginners

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It was widely believed that cats are solitary animals, but let’s think about it for a bit. In the wild, cats live in social groups, females raise their young together and males travel alone in the attempt to form a family unit of their own. Cats are born with excellent instincts, but many behaviours are learnt by socialization at first with the mother cat and siblings, and later with other cats. This is why kittens should not be separated from their mothers and littermates before 10 weeks of age and also why a cat should not be kept alone.

Exceptions for Adult Cats Who Cannot Socialize with Others

The exception here are adult cats who already have a behaviour problem which has been going on for years. Certain cats are perfectly adapted to living with humans and are gentle and sweet to humans, but cannot stand other cats (this can be the case of a cat who was not properly socialized, was always kept alone by an owner who cannot keep the cat anymore or the owner has passed away).

Should these cats get euthanized simply because they do not get along with other cats? No, as they are perfectly adjusted to life on their own and can make the perfect companion for someone who only has room for one cat in their life and home. It is not the ideal situation, though. Like humans, cats benefit greatly from interaction with their own kind.

Responsible Ownership of Pets

Adopting an animal means accepting full responsibility for their safety and wellbeing, for their entire lifetime.

There are many people living in the countryside, who do not spay and neuter their cats, who do not feed them and who also do not take them to the vet, claiming they do not wish to get in the way of nature. It is a bit too late to be thinking like that, after we have domesticated the cat and granted her access to our homes and hearts.

The moral issue with pets

The moral issue with pets is that they do not have a voice to complain when they are mistreated, so the less gracious ones among us will also not grant them the right to be free from suffering (and by this I am NOT saying kill all the cats that don’t please us, but take into consideration their dignity and needs as well, not just our own). What stops most people from mistreating children? It’s essentially two things: egotistical love (if the children are theirs) and fear of punishment. Obviously, the same concepts do not apply in the case of animals, who are morally and factually defenseless against human ignorance and cruelty.

Animals are not property

Many people view animals as property, as things that we can dispose of as we please by virtue of us being human and thus, somehow above them. The only way in which we are above animals is that we have moral agency (the ability to act while being aware of the consequences of our actions), and we can choose to act as protectors and promoters of life, not its destroyers.

It is my belief that we as a species should not strive to prove that we are terrible managers and all we are able to do is bleed this earth dry of all life and resources. We have been placed here on an already formed planet, filled with diverse life and abundance. Therefore the only sensible conclusion, whether you are religious or not, is that we are not entitled to destroy something which is not ours.

We can only call this planet “ours” in the same way a family of fleas can say the dog they feed on is “theirs”.

I wrote this book in good faith, hoping that the people reading it love their pets and wish to give them a long and happy life in their homes.

Personal Experience with Cats

I have been sharing my life with cats ever since I can remember. Growing up in communist Romania, in the darkest terror years, my grandmother’s cats distracted me from the bleak times my country was going through. Sometimes food was hard to come by, but the cats were always provided for. What I do remember, sadly though, are the unending litters of kittens who would die from disease or cold simply because back then, spaying and neutering were unheard of in that part of the world. I also recall a lot of adult cats, who got to venerable ages on a diet of mice, insects and the regular meals we gave them.

My grandmother was a small, frail woman, who lived with a spine fracture that had never healed properly and who would spend her last cent on food for the animals, even if it often meant that she had to starve.

Even though my grandparents were raised in the countryside and had a very limited understanding of the world, they still knew to feed their animals, regardless of the number of mice said animals had to catch. When one of the cats or another of the animals in our yard was sick or injured, the veterinarian was called. Again, I will remind you that these were times when we did not have enough to eat ourselves and there were no pet stores that sold kibble and wet food. Still, our animals always had a share from our piece of modest bread or meat.

I currently share a big and well-lit apartment in Germany with a human housemate and two tomcats. They are both neutered and regularly seen by a vet. Their names are Lulu and Rocky. They have very distinct personalities and preferences and the one thing they do have in common is that they are always up to no good. I say that lovingly, because their antics are most often harmless and our furniture is intact.

I have seen many instances of well-meaning people who were making choices which suited them very well, but were in fact detrimental to their cats.

There are a lot of myths regarding cats, that are circulating around our society and by the lack of willingness to verify if fact or fiction lies behind the myths, people choose to perpetuate ignorance. The only ones who have something to lose are the cats many of these people claim to love.