Kings & Queens of the pet world

Cats make wonderful pets. They can be left at home all day, relatively peacefully. They fit into your couch potato lifestyle, most of the time. They like a snuggle. They aren’t noisy. It’s no wonder they are now the no.1 pet in many countries around the world.

Just not Australia.

Down under cats

Of all the diverse fauna that inhabit this wonderful continent, cats are probably the one that people (some people) despise most. Well, perhaps foxes and rabbits are up high in the detestability charts too. Here’s why…

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Cats are hunters. That is their nature and that is their behaviour when it is nurtured i.e. allowed to happen. Whether they are the real decimators of wildlife is debatable.  More likely they just finish off the job that humans have started – chopping down bushland, effectively sealing our native wildlife into small pockets of bush where cats are attracted to hunt. It is possible not to let cats hunt by keeping them indoors or by only allowing them in enclosed outdoors areas.

Unowned cats. Australia, like most other countries, has a problem with unowned cats. They may be feral, they may be stray or they may be cats that someone is feeding but not taking ownership responsibility. This is common and another reason that cats are commonly frowned upon as pets. Australian welfare agencies and animal shelters such as the Animal Welfare League are attempting to diminish the numbers of unowned cats.

Every man, his ute and his best mate. No disrespect to the Aussie bloke and his dog. Things have moved on these days, however. The working dog no longer rules the Aussie bush and backyard. Now the most common dog is more likely to be a designer mixed breed, fluffy/scruffy (but not shedding hair) and under 10kgs. An animal that – dare I say it – is beginning to resemble a cat!

Multi-cat households can work

Cats are different
Arguments such as “but a cat does not give you the affection that a dog does” tend to come from people who have never owned or lived with a cat. Yes, you do have to try harder with your precious pussycat. Dogs follow you, hanging off your every move and word. Cats tend to keep a watchful eye until you sit down, then they home in on your lap and don’t let you ignore them. Unless the cat is yours, you are unlikely to have the full affectionate and bonding behavioural repertoire (unlike your dog who will more than likely lick and slobber over any visitor who gives him attention – or food!).
Pussycat Promotion

Time, I believe, for a change. Time that our feline friends are not only recognised for their ability to fulfil our human needs for companionship and adulation, but promoted as being a more-than-suitable pet for our busy, increasingly urbanised lifestyles.

If I can be a catalyst to encouraging prospective cat owners to give a cat a go, then I shall be a happy animal behaviourist. Or perhaps I can convince an already established cat household to add a second feline family member. We have a long cat journey to go on if we expect cats to join the US and the UK in cats occupying the ‘favourite pet’ niche but it is one that  am willing to begin – small pawprints at the start.

Let me know if you’d like to join me (please leave a message of support for cats below). If we get lots of interest, we can start making life better for cats 🙂

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  1. Well done, Dr Jo! We are absolute supporters of your push to have cats returned to their proper place as PETS TO BE PROUD OF!

    In many countries cats are the No 1 pet. In Dubai, a cat breeder friend of ours watched familes take their pet cats on leashes to the picnic area to join the family for lunch. We are also involved in improving standards for cat GROOMING, so long haired cats can be the best looking Princes & Princesses around. Let’s go passionate cat people!

  2. Good for you Jo! Of course cats are the best pets – but then I’m prejudiced, being an avowed cat-lover since I was a child, and that’s a lonnnnng time ago! I have heard that cats are not so popular in Australia, though lots of people do have them. Great to encourage more!

    In Pakistan a lot of people have cats as pets, but pet dogs are not allowed for religious reasons, except guard dogs. Different countries, different customs.

  3. Hello! Just reading this and thought I would ask a cat question! Cats are amazing but I find it’s tricky sometimes to make them happy. I have a 13 year old cat who is desperate for affection – perfect as cats can be stand-offish – but she is so desperate she meows constantly and essentially it gets to the point where she can not be sated. She will want affection at any time and all the time, even while we sleep! Is there some way we can fulfil all her tummy-rubbing needs and calm her down, but not feel like we’re being pestered? It’s also coincided with her refusal to toilet outside any longer or even go outside. Is this a socialisation issue, or is she just getting old? Any help appreciated so we can make our poor cat happy!

    1. Reged, since your cat is getting older, I advise a vet check. Waking, wandering and attention-seeking overnight is often a sign of dementia (cognitive dysfunction). You can help by leaving a night light on and reducing the available space for your cat so she feels more secure.
      Give your cat affection and attention when it suits you to do so. Some cats crave it more than others. Keep her occupied during daytime so she is more keen to sleep at night.
      Lots of reasons for toileting inappropriately but a vet check is the first reason. Now your cat is older, it is likely that she wants to toilet closer to home. You may find that she spends more time at home in general as she ages. Enjoy this time with your cat.

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