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NO OTHER CREATURE is as charming, graceful, and irresistible as a cat, which is why a special relationship between people and cats has existed for thousands of years. Whatever the type of cat and for whatever purpose they come into our lives, felines always exert a positive influence on their human owners.
Before you set out to get a cat, however, you should be fully aware of the responsibilities you are about to undertake.
Owning a cat means being willing to spend time with your new pet. You will have to show him kindness and make certain that he is eating right. As a cat owner, you must make sure that the animal is regularly groomed and kept healthy; that includes scheduling routine veterinary checkups and making certain that your cat is properly vaccinated (see Vaccinations, p. 79).
Other responsibilities include providing your new pet with essentials, such as fresh water daily and a litter box in which the litter is changed regularly. If you have problems scooping out fecal waste each day or cleaning a fitter box, a cat may not be the right pet for you.
Owning a cat also means providing other basics for his comfort and care: scratching posts, carrying cases, food bowls, and toys. Bear in mind, as well, that while cats can be left alone for longer periods than dogs, they do get lonely and need human companionship. If you travel often, cat ownership may not be for you.
Cat owners are responsible for the health of their pets. If you have never owned a cat before, you should call some local veterinarians to get ballpark figures for such expenses as vaccinations, spaying, declawing, and routine examinations,to ensure that you are fully informed of the possible medical costs. If you are thinking about owning a cat but find you cannot afford vaccinations, you should strongly consider opting for a less expensive pet. Owning a cat is a financial responsibility: Out of fairness to your pet, research expenses in advance and be certain you will be able to meet them.
While most cats do not require as much room as dogs, they do need enough space to play and exercise. Do you have the room and the time to play with your cat? If you are worried about your expensive household furnishings being scratched, you should think twice about obtaining a cat. Cats can frequently test your patience. They are often up to some mischief, such as digging in flower pots. Are you the type of personality who might flare angrily at such behavior?
Cat ownership also brings a new responsibility to the community you live in. If you do allow your cat to go outside, you must make certain that he doesn't wander freely and disturb other people and their pets. If you live in an apartment building, you must first determine whether you will be permitted to keep a cat.
Another important responsibility concerns the issue of unregulated breeding. It's very important not to add to the feline homeless population by allowing your cat to have unwanted kittens. Many pet owners turn such kittens out on the streets if they cannot find someone to adopt them. If you are not willing to keep the kittens or to find them homes, you need to be prepared to spay or neuter any cat you may acquire.
These are only some of the things to consider before obtaining a cat. If you are willing to manage the responsibilities involved, your new pet will probably be quite happy in your household.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CAT
Once you have decided to own a cat, you must decide what kind to get. Should you purchase a pedigreed cat or adopt an ordinary house pet from the animal shelter? Do you want a kitten or an adult cat? A male or a female?
If you have your heart set on a purebred, the first thing you should do is begin gathering information on the various breeds. You can begin your homework by rereading the section on breeds in Chapter 1. Next, check the bookstore or public library; you will find many excellent books on the subject. (See also the Resources section at the back of this book.)
It's important to use common sense in choosing a purebred cat. If you live in a city apartment with no access to the outdoors, select a breed that is quiet and does not require large exercise areas. If you are a country or suburban dweller with plenty of yard space, a lively breed that enjoys the outdoor life-such as the Somali-is an excellent choice.
Are there children or other pets in your household? Then make sure that the breed you select is good with kids (most are) and other animals. Purebreds often require grooming, but if you do not want to groom your cat each day, a short-haired breed is preferable to a long-haired one.
If your only consideration in choosing a cat is finding one to love and care for, and who in return will provide you with affection and companionship, then you should make a trip to your local animal shelter, which is filled with cats of all ages in desperate need of a good home. These cats are usually devoted and loving creatures who would otherwise be put to death.
PET SHOPS VERSUS BREEDERS
If it is a pedigreed cat that you want, your next step is deciding where to get him. Many purebred kittens are sold through pet shops or breeders. Sometimes you can even find older pedigreed cats waiting for adoption in animal shelters.
Breeders keep the strongest, healthiest cats, however, and are usually your best source for pedigreed kittens. While it is possible to buy a good-quality kitten from a pet store, keep in mind that these shops generally buy pedigreed cats from local breeders or commercial breeders. If these kittens were as desirable as the breeders wanted them to be, they probably would have sold them themselves. Also, pet store owners are not familiar with the temperament, health, or background of the kittens' parents. It is best that you not buy a pedigreed kitten from a pet store until your veterinarian first examines him. You should also avoid any breeder or pet store owner who tries to rush you into making a purchase, and be wary of any "cut rate" or "bargain" kittens.
The object of most reputable breeders is to raise friendly, intelligent, mild temperered pets. Reputable breeders also will not sell sick cats.
How do you locate breeders? Many of the best breeders advertise in newspapers. Cat shows are another excellent source for contacting breeders. There are also magazines-such as Cats magazine-that carry ads from breeders.
Breeders charge more for the cats they sell than pet shops do, but you are getting a better quality cat. If you buy a pedigreed cat from a breeder (or pet store, for that matter), make certain that you will be allowed to return the kitten within a given period if he does not pass a veterinarian's examination.
Also make certain that you get the cat's "papers"-especially the registration certificate that tells you that the cat's records and his pedigree are on file with one of the cat fancier's associations—when you pay for your cat. (See the Resources section for the names of some of the major associations.)
Copyright ) 1994 by The Philip Lief Group, Inc.