Your cat is a member of the family. She lies at your side, sleeps in your bed, sleeps again on your morning newspaper, and generally shares your life and your home. As a responsible cat owner, you’ve made a commitment to meet at least her fundamental needs: food, water, clean litter boxes, shelter and veterinary care. But do you sometimes wonder what more your cat might need and want?
One thing common to almost all of us who live with animals is the willingness to enter into a relationship with them. Each relationship is an individual journey. Science still has no answer for the question of how animals see us–and we therefore don’t know whether our cats recognize us as other cats, as humans (whatever that might mean to them), or as some indefinable “other” member of their social group (yes, cats are social animals). Cats appear to need our attention and affection and, as it turns out, we need their attention and affection, as well.
Life can be over-scheduled and pets are often the first to be sidelined as inconveniences that have to be fed, watered and otherwise tended. The start of a New Year (or any time) is a good time to reflect on how we can be better companions as well as caregivers. My own 12-year-old, blind and epileptic domestic shorthair cat has patiently endured a year of distracted, busy and harried humans, and deserves some uninterrupted stretches of quality time.
Perhaps the difference, then, between providing a better quality of life for our cats is that we give back in the relationship–and not just in maintenance. If we do little more than feed, water, provide clean litter boxes, shelter and medcial care for our cats, we do meet the most basic responsibilities of ownership. But being a human companion to a cat and meeting her emotional needs–with love, attachment, defense and a long-term commitment to those ideals–elevates the quality of life for all family members, human and feline.