Five Questions and Answers Concerning Cats and the Family

Five Questions and Answers Concerning Cats and the Family

Having a cat is lovely. But you do have to consider how the new arrival will interact with other members of the family, whether human or animal. Then there may be issues with neighbours' cats. And if you want a multi-cat household, how many cats is too many? Finally, what happens to your cat if you die? Here are the answers to some of these important and frequently asked questions.

Are cats and dogs really mortal enemies, or can they ever get on?

This depends very much on the individual cat and dog. Some dogs will chase anything that moves, and that includes cats. There are also some breeds of dog which consider cats to be prey, and they will definitely attack a cat. Similarly, some cats are terrified of dogs, often due to bad experiences with them in the past, and some cats have even been known to attack dogs. But this is not always the case. Cats who are raised around dogs are usually fine with them, and dogs who have been brought up around cats often perceive them as playmates. In many homes cats and dogs become friends, and even snuggle up together. Nevertheless, if you are introducing a dog to a home with cats, or vice versa, you will need to do it very slowly and carefully. There is no guarantee that they will get on, but with care they may well become friends.

Do you need to get rid of your cat when you're expecting a baby?

NO! This is one of those old wives' tales which is probably responsible for more cats ending up in rescue centres than practically anything else. Cats are not a danger either to pregnant women or new babies.

However, there is one area of concern which you should know about. Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by a microscopic organism, which usually goes away by itself. But if a foetus is exposed during the first trimester of pregnancy, severe birth defects can be the result. Exposure to toxoplasmosis can result from gardening in infected soil, improper handling of meat, and improper handling of cat faeces. However, cats are rarely infected with it, and only cat faeces older than 24 hours is actively infectious. Nevertheless, there is a real though slight danger, so pregnant women should wear rubber gloves when cleaning out the litter tray, wash their hands immediately afterwards, or simply ask someone else to take over litter duties during the first three months of pregnancy. That is all that needs to be done. You don't need to get rid of the cat!

Other old wives' tales concerning cats and babies... Cats do not cause sudden infant death syndrome, and they don't set out to smother a baby. But of course, all interactions between pets and young children should be supervised, and if your cat does try to sit on your baby, perhaps you should exclude the cat from the child's room when you are not around or cover the baby's bed with a net. Simply use common sense, but you don't need to get rid of your cat!

How can I keep my cat out of my neighbour's garden?

Not everyone may love cats as much as we do, and you may find your neighbour objects to your cat going in their garden. Perhaps your cat walks on their newly polished car, uses their newly dug garden as a litter tray, or bullies their cats. Some neighbours are tolerant of this, but others are less so. So what can you do to keep your cat out of other gardens?

There are various things you can suggest to your neighbour that may help – putting down sharp-edged gravel as ground cover, or putting plants under mesh that cat's can't dig under. Motion-detector sprinklers are probably one of the best solutions; when the cat trips the detector he gets sprayed with water, and he won't like it, so he won't go in that garden again. It might be worth giving your neighbour one of these in order to keep the peace.

However, if the problem is serious, you might want to consider keeping your cat indoors, or – best of all – putting up an escape-proof fence around your garden. This will protect your neighbour's garden, and also keep your cat safe. In my opinion it's the best way to keep all cats anyway.

How many cats is too many? I've heard stories of people being found with dozens of cats in their home. I don't want to become a 'cat hoarder'.

'Cat hoarding' is now a recognised mental disorder, just like hoarding of other things. Some people take in too many cats, often with good intentions, but then cannot cope. The cats end up living in horrible, overcrowded conditions, and by the time the condition is discovered, some may be dead or dying.

However, this is very different from the 'crazy cat lady' (or man) who simply has a number of cats. If you can manage to feed and care for the cats you have, and they are healthy and happy, then everything is fine. But do beware of taking in 'just one more' cat. Unless you have an infinite amount of space, the social structure of your cat household can easily break down, with the cats becoming stressed and unhappy. So keep an eye on how things are going. And if any cats hide away, start spraying, are reluctant to eat, or show other signs of stress, perhaps you shouldn't get any more cats -at least until things have settled down.

Can I put my cat in my will?

You definitely should make provision for your cat in your will. But leaving all your worldly possessions to your cat is not such a good idea, as this is unlikely to stand up if challenged in court. Instead, leave your cat – and money to take care of it if possible – to a friend, relative, or organisation which will look after it for the rest of its life. Some charities have schemes that will allow you to do this, but it is always a good idea to talk to a solicitor too. And make sure those close to you know what you have done, so that your cat can be taken care of as soon as you die.


Hopefully the above will help you to have a happy, harmonious household, both for you, your cats, and any other family members. Good luck!



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