Pet Care by Dr Steve Surujbally – More considerations before acquiring a cat as a pet

Well, since we were reprimanded for not sharing some thoughts about choosing a cat as a family member, we have done some more searching for things that the prospective caregiver must be able to cope with, if the decision is to acquire a cat as a pet.  So, here goes.

Cats (like dogs) do make mistakes in the house and even outside the house.  You remember me saying last week that cats are essentially “house” animals but they are often enough outside to do themselves harm.  Consequently, you have to know if you are capable, on a daily basis of creating an environment that is not in any way inimical to the interests of your feline ward.


Bleaches, rat baits, roach poison, kitchen-garden insecticides, (DDT sprayed on the walls), herbicides stored uncaringly in an easily-accessible cupboard, in the washroom or the garage are all potential problems for the cat.  He/she will make it his/her business to find out what the liquid or the attractive, multicolored crystals are all about.  Some of these chemicals do damage just by touching them.  Others, when ingested cause agonizing death.  Also, some ordinary household chemicals are toxic to cats.

Within the house, toilet bowls should be always covered.  Put up some preventative screens on widows that overlook high drops.  Bathtubs should not be filled with water and left unattended; young kittens can fall in.  Don’t feed fish/meats in tin cans unless you have flattened and rounded the cutting edges.  If you have an automatic clothes washer/clothes dryer, please ensure that the doors are always closed.  Wardrobes and drawers must be kept shut.  A colleague from my student days inadvertently locked up his cat in a cupboard and went on a summer holiday.


Well, there is little you can really do to protect the cat when it is outside the house.  However, zinc sheets and any sharp edges, barbed wire on top of the fences, hidden nails etc, are all potential hazards.  Certain frogs have toxic substances on their bodies, an in any such encounter, the cat (or dog) will come out second-best.

The moral of the story is simply that you as protector/provider, must ensure that these potential cat killers are not easily available to engage kitty’s curiosity.


Kittens (and some adult cats too) provide us much fun by hopping, rolling and engaging in mock battles with imaginary opponents.  They love to box dangling objects – like the cord of an electric iron/toaster/microwave, radio, television, etc.  If such objects are precariously perched then the cat playing with the cord can bring the entire appliance, to which the cord is attached, down.  Can you ensure that playfulness does not include the chewing of electric cords just to see what’s inside.

Do I have to mention kitty’s playfulness at Christmas time?  For the playful feline those ornaments on the Christmas tree are obviously only there for the cat’s own enjoyment.  Well, they aren’t.  Artificial snow and cotton wool can choke your cat.  Glass ornaments not only cut when broken, but – if ingested – would severely lacerate the gastro-intestinal tract.  Keep kitty away from the Christmas tree, if you don’t want its first Noel to be the last Noel.

Items from the sewing basket are particularly loved by lively kittens/cats.  Please, those things are not toys.  On the whole, I have lost count of how many needles with thread, rubber bands, earplugs and marbles I have removed from cats’ mouths, throats, stomachs and intestines.  It is not fun for the veterinary surgeon, and it is surely not a happy state of affairs for the cat.

There is one ‘good news’ side to these stories.  Once the cat has experienced the negative consequence of its playfulness, curiosity and/or adventurousness, it will – in all likelihood – not commit the same mistake again.

So, I hope I have given the cat lovers enough data to digest for a while.  Next week, we will go to the dogs and deal with some other considerations, prior to their adoption.