Choosing and knowing your cat

Choosing and knowing your cat

Cats have been established as household pets and friends of man for many thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians revered them and their ceremonially mummified remains have been found with those of their owners in the pyramids. However, if the "Just So" stories of Kipling are to be believed, the cat was the last of the animals to accept domestication in exchange for the warmth of the camp fire and to this day most cats retain a certain aloofness in their affection for their owners, rather than the unquestioning devotion of dogs.

The popular pet

It was probably the Romans who first introduced the cat to Britain, although there was, and still is, a native wild cat in Scotland that has never been domesticated. In the middle ages, the enthusiasm for cats rather declined and probably few were kept as pets, but they were valued for their ability to catch rats and mice and a manuscript of that time quotes the current price for a mousing cat somewhere between a farthing and a halfpenny.


However, today cats seem to be at a peak of popularity in the civilised world. It seems that no calendar, poster, or advertisement is complete unless a cat is included somewhere. They can be used to promote almost anything. It may be an elegant Siamese, a fluffy Persian kitten, or just an ordinary everyday cross-bred cat, but there is somehow charm in the totally characteristic attitudes and behaviour, a cattiness in the nicest sense of the word, that makes cat lovers everywhere stop and smile and look again.

Cat plusses

While it is probably true to say that cat shows are more fun for owners than for cats, competitive shows (run under the auspices of the National Cat Club and the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy) have done much to popularise cats as pets and to encourage a proper sense of concern for their welfare. These shows were first started towards the end of the 19th century and both Queen Victoria and Edward VII were known to attend. At that time, prizes were awarded for the fattest and heaviest cats, but today we have a more rational appreciation of show points and most owners realise that cats should be sleek and healthy but not overweight.

Today's changing circumstances, when in many households people are out at work all day, make the cat especially suitable as a family pet. They do not need exercising when you come home tired at night. They are ideal for busy people (or lazy people) or for the elderly who love to keep a pet, but can no longer manage the long walks that a dog needs. They can be left alone in the house throughout the day; after all they sometimes sleep quite happily for twelve hours at a time if it suits them, whether their owners are in or not. They do not bark or create a disturbance to annoy neighbours, and these days, when pets in towns are getting so much adverse publicity, it is worth remembering that cats do not foul footpaths (although it is true that they do sometimes dig up flowerbeds).have


Feeding costs are low, or at least they should be. It is true that some owners spend large sums on costly delicacies for their cats but this is more for their own pleasure and satisfaction than from any real need to do so. A healthy cat that has been sensibly reared will keep fit and contented on the good quality tinned or dried foods that are available today. Faddy cats are, as a rule, those that have been overfed.

One or two?

Having made a point that one cat in the home is a good thing, why not consider having two? There is no doubt that in most cases a cat's life is more enjoyable if there is another cat in the house and their games and scraps and the interplay of relationships between the two provide endless amusement and entertainment for their owners.


While feeding costs should not be high, it is important to remember before embarking on too large a family that veterinary costs today may be a considerable item and accidents and illnesses occur when they are least expected; health-wise, two cats definitely cost more than one. It is advisable that you consider taking out an insurance policy that will provide financial help should your pet suffer a serious illness or require a major operation. Your own Veterinary Surgeon will be able to recommend a reliable company, and a policy that is suited to your needs. However, it should be noted that these policies do not cover routine treatment such as neutering or vaccination.
The various animal welfare organisations (RSPCA, PDSA, Blue Cross, and so on) have branches in nearly all areas today and do great work in caring for the pets of people who are unable to afford a visit to a private Veterinary Surgeon. A cat should never be allowed to suffer because of financial problems. The Yellow Pages or the telephone directory will almost certainly give the address of some organisation that is willing to help in genuine cases of need.

Proper care

Although cats are remarkably trouble-free pets, the care of any living thing involves some responsibility. Proper care for pets is now a legal requirement under the Animal Welfare Bill, which affords every animal in human care the right to proper housing, exercise, feeding, grooming and health care. Therefore, every cat owner is now legally obliged to take good care of their pet. So, before becoming an owner, consider your responsibilities carefully and decide whether you Gan really commit the time and enthusiasm necessary.


There is a population explosion in the cat (as well as the human) world at present, which means that neutering really is important if we are to ensure that the numbers of cats are to be limited to those for which caring homes can be found. It is sad that even in the Western World, where we consider that we care for the welfare of animals, each town has its colony of homeless and unwanted strays.
It has been estimated that a bitch could produce 4,400 offspring in a period of seven years. Female cats breed even more frequently so the possible number of descendants of an unneutered queen in her own lifetime is staggering (and, of course, the males must take some of the credit or blame for the number as well).

Which Breed?

There is, today, an absolute abundance of different breeds of cat to choose from, although probably the Siamese and Persian remain top pure breed favourites. Each has its own particular attraction, and breeding or showing pedigree cats can provide an interesting hobby. However, praising purebred cats should not make us overlook the ordinary English crossbreeds. They come in a huge variety of coat colour and length, and each one has its own particular charm.


Cats today, just like people, are living longer as a result of better feeding and better care and through the introduction of antibiotics and other modem drugs that help to combat the diseases that used to shorten their lives. The record for longevity is held by a cat called Puss, from Cullompton in Devon, who died in 1939 a day after his 36th birthday. However, many household pets reach the age of sixteen or seventeen. In other words the small financial outlay in buying and caring for a cat should be well repaid. If you look after your cat well he could be with you for a long time to come.

Varieties of Cats

Cats are divided into two main classes - long-haired and short-haired.

Within these groups are many varieties, too numerous to list with new varieties being added all the time.

If you are interested in obtaining detailed descriptions of the types then a guide may be purchased from the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (the address can be found under "Useful Contacts"in the "Animal Advice" menu option at the top of this page).

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