Are Cats Man's New Best Friend?

Calling all cats - the world is watching. In 2013, 30 million google searches were based on the word ‘cat’ alone. But what about on a domestic scale? What makes cats as cuddle-able as they are clickable?

The appeal of cats is a kindred one. They are perceived as kind, cute and great company. Said American writer, Jo Kittinger (no relation!) ‘For the person living alone, nine lives added to one make a perfect ten.’

But, as Max Cryer, author of ‘The Cat’s Out Of The Bag’; Truth and Lies about Cats' points out, it is debatable who is the owner and who is the pet in a household scenario. “The phrase ‘domestic cat’ is an oxymoron” he insists. “It is often said that it takes a while for cats to train humans to provide for the cat’s needs - shelter, food, drink, and safety - but not to expect anything in return.”

But to an affectionate person, the cat can provide a willing focus for offerings of human affection, he adds. “Its attentions may well be based on an interest in warm laps, regular food, and having doors opened on demand – but a sensible person can recognise that and is happy to go along with it.”

Village Vet, Dr Anthony Bennett agrees that the benefits of caring for a cat are reciprocal. “Research shows that being able to care for a pet improves our morale, helps validate us and encourages us to take care of ourselves.”

However, adds his colleague Dr James Carroll, beware not to mollycoddle your moggie! “Cats have an independent spirit” he insists. “In fact most cats won’t mind being left at home alone during the day as long as there is somewhere sunny to sunbake. However don’t forget that even though they are more independent than a dog, they still need love and affection!”

There is nothing more comforting than having your cat curled up and purring on your lap when you watch TV, adds Dr Carroll. “There is also some research to suggest that cats purring can have healing qualities – so they may be good for your health too!”

Communicating with Cats:

Most animals can ‘understand’ verbal or physical direction from their owners, and cats are no different, note The Village Vets. “You can certainly teach cats to do tricks – many cats on television are trained just as you train a dog,” says Dr Bennett. As with dogs, some cats will be more willing or able to be trained so if you would like to teach or train your cat it’s best to start young and use a reward-based system, he adds.

American animal trainer Miriam Fields-Babineau shows impressive optimism in her book  ‘ Cat Training in 10 minutes’, highlights Max. “She is confident you can train your pet to respond to your wish that puss will sit, jump, retrieve, stay, and walk on a lead - and adjust to other desired conformities,” he says. “However, I fear we may all grow old waiting to see it happen!” 

Max goes on to note Australian author David Michie’s enchanting book ‘The Dalai Lama’s Cat’ (which is “pawed” by the Dalai Lama’s own pet cat ) sums up the cats dismissal of anything requiring unwanted discipline,  best, writing ‘Whoever heard of a Pavlov cat?’

Caring for Cats:

Buying or adopting a pet is a big commitment, caution The Village Vets. “We feel that none of these considerations can completely preclude you from getting a pet, but might help you get an idea of what kind of pet might be best for you,” says Dr Carroll.

o How much time do you have? If you don’t have time to walk a dog every day, perhaps a cat is a better choice for you. It’s important that you have or can make the time to care for your pets.
o Consider Costs: These may include food, litter, veterinary bills, toys and beds. “Something that we as veterinarians see often is people unable to afford unexpected veterinary bills when an accident or injury happens,” explains Dr Bennett. “If you do get a pet, we would highly recommend pet insurance for these instances.”
o Consider your Surrounds: Can you have a pet where you currently live or where you might live in the future? You may live in a house with a backyard at the moment, but is there a possibility that you may move to an apartment in the next ten to fifteen years. If so, cats are good to go! (And maybe cancel the dreams of a Great Dane!)

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