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The decision to acquire a dog or cat is often taken spontaneously. The sight of a fluffy kitten or appealing puppy at a market or fete is very hard to resist.

Usually, such acquisitions bring a great deal of happiness to the family and can be the beginning of a long and very rewarding association between man and animal. Unfortunately, sometimes this spur-of-the-moment decision can lead to an incompatible situation which brings unhappiness to both owners and the pet.

One of the major sources of friction between families in the neighborhood is the dog which is allowed to wander, such a dog may belong to a family whose members are out all day at work and school. 

The dog naturally becomes bored with its own surroundings and seeks companionship elsewhere. Usually, there are more than one of these animals in the neighborhood and so the suburban canine street gang is formed.

Antisocial activities such as chasing cars, schoolchildren on bicycles, and knocking over garbage tins are quickly learned. Even if the group does not indulge in these pastimes, they have no respect for boundaries and keen gardeners in the street soon get very sick of scratched up lawns and trampled flower gardens.

This freewheeling group is also very accident-prone. Car accidents not only can result in expensive veterinary treatments but may be the cause of considerable property damage, or even human injury. Dog bites and infectious diseases are also much more common in this group.

Before deciding to acquire a dog give some thought as to how you can restrain it. Fencing a corner block or erecting a fence capable of restraining a large dog can be expensive.

The activities of unrestrained males when a female dog is in season is another regular cause of neighborhood ill-feeling. The spaying and neutering of both male and female dogs not only produces better family pets but helps to avoid many of the problems of territorial aggression, excessive barking and hole digging.

Cats can be a source of neighborhood tensions. Unneutered male cats regularly trespassing and attacking inoffensive pets are a source of ill-feeling. Unspayed females attracting large numbers of nocturnal vociferous suitors also do nothing for friendly communal living.

One of the sad tasks of a veterinary surgeon is to have to euthanize healthy animals because of some change in the family circumstances. Of course, many of them are unavoidable but some could have been foreseen. It is unwise to acquire a pet if a move interstate or overseas is in the offing.

Children should be discouraged from pet ownership if they are about to leave home and may have to live in student or rented accommodation. If you are frequently away at weekends, make sure that it is possible to restrain the animal adequately and have someone reliable to look after it. Ensure that it has an adequate shelter for both extremes of our summer and winter climate.

Try to pick a pet that is compatible with your lifestyle. If you do not like exercise choose a small dog such as a black teacup Maltipoo or a cat, not a Labrador or German shepherd which must be given regular long walks and should preferably be obedience trained. 

Remember also that long-haired cats and dogs must be groomed regularly otherwise their coat becomes matted and unmanageable. Poodles, Airedales and wire-haired terriers require regular professional clipping. If you may grudge this expense choose a short-haired breed.

The purpose of this article has not been to discourage pet ownership but to suggest some of the ways in which both pets and their owners can exist happily within the general community.

Cat owners take responsibilities seriously

Everyone knows that the cat has been associated with mankind for a very long time. It appeared in Egyptian art and has been an accepted part of man’s society ever since.

Part of this acceptance is no doubt due to the fact that cats have always had the useful function of controlling rats and mice. They are very independent animals and do not demand to be taken for walks. They do not cost much to feed and do not harbor any disease which is a threat to man.

Some people do not have much affection for cats, as they regard them as being rather unresponsive and indifferent to human companionship. Usually, people with this attitude have never been in a household that has owned a cat and therefore have not had the opportunity of experiencing at close quarters this most interesting and well-adapted animal.

The survey found that the overall population of cats is a little over 2 million. This figure has not changed since a preliminary survey was done five years earlier. The cat population, therefore, is not increasing in line with the growth in the human population.

About one-third of all households in the US own more than one cat. The surprising finding was that more than 80 percent of all cats had been spayed and neutered so that it was likely that the often-expressed fear that cat numbers would very easily get out of control is unfounded.

 

There has been a dramatic change in the method of feeding cats over recent years. It is obvious that the advertising by the pet-food companies has been successful, as the survey found that the majority of cats were fed a mixed diet of canned and dry feeds with some fresh meat.

 

One section of the survey will be of little comfort to veterinarians. Only 14 percent of all owners surveyed carried out any preventive veterinary care, such as vaccinations. This would seem to indicate that there is a large reservoir of animals unprotected against such serious diseases as feline enteritis, which has in the past decimated large numbers of cats in widespread epidemics. It is probably at least 15 years since a major epidemic occurred and it seems possible that another epidemic would prove equally destructive.

 

Most owners did indicate that they would seek veterinary attention if their animal was sick, but about 40 percent indicated that they would try some form of home remedy first, probably purchased from a supermarket or chemist.

 

When asked the reasons for owning a cat, by far the majority cited companionship. This emphasizes the importance of pets in society as companions for the aged, invalids and people living alone.