Holding Issues

Is there a right and a wrong?

Cats are adaptable and able to come to terms with different situations in life: From farm cats that lay back long distances, are given a bowl of milk and receive little attention otherwise, to special breeds that spend their lives indoors or at cat shows, you find everything. This could lead you to believe that species-appropriate holding of cats is child’s play – but this is not the case.


Assuming responsibility means ensuring care

It is important that cats allowed to roam around outdoors freely be castrated in due time in order to avoid uncontrolled reproduction and suffering. In addition, castration also leads to a reduction of marking with urine and other cleanliness problems in the household.


Every year, innumerous cats are reported missing. Although it is not legally required to chip cats, the implantation of a (micro) chip is recommended for cats allowed to move around outdoors freely. This helps to find lost cats more quickly and to be informed in due time if they have died.


Vaccinations are also important to ensure the good health of cats that are prone to contract viral diseases and spread diseases to other cats.


Combating boredom

Today, many cats receive good health care and nutrition, so that boredom is the largest problem they face. This applies in particular to cats kept indoors – a special chapter has therefore been dedicated to this topic. To prevent boredom in cats allowed to roam around outdoors, they should be given the possibility to exit and enter whenever they wish via a cat’s flap or a cat’s ladder.


It is almost always preferable to keep two cats instead of one, because contrary to popular belief, most cats are not loners. This is not absolutely necessary if cats are allowed to go outdoors, because they have the opportunity to play with neighbors’ cats.


Combating restlessness

Every cat needs withdrawal zones where it will not be disturbed. Therefore, cat owners away at work all day should not lock their cats out of the apartment or house. A cat’s flap is usually a good solution. There is also a very large choice of withdrawal and rest infrastructure for cats to be purchased. But often, simple means also suffice, e.g. a cardboard box. Often, cats will not make use of the infrastructure or bedding foreseen for them. Therefore, they should be offered a generous choice.


Holding a too large number of cats in the same household can lead to considerable stress for the individual animals. We would therefore recommend against holding groups of more than eight cats. The probability of at least one of the animals marking in the house is higher in larger groups and leads to stressful situations for the owner.


Ensuring well being

Cleanliness is very important to cats. A lack of cleanliness and other behavioral disturbances, e.g. aggressiveness, are often to be led back to mistakes made by human beings with regard to cats’ litter boxes. At least one litter box is required for every cat. The box should be placed in a quiet area and it should not be covered with a lid, because by nature, cats do not withdraw into caves to do their business. Cat litter should be odorless to not overtax the cat’s fine sense of smell. And what is very important: A cat’s litter box should never be placed in the proximity of its feeding or drinking bowl.


A good relationship between cat and owner

Most cats feel drawn to people and appreciate social contact with them. They appreciate it all the more, when their current mood and need (e.g. to be left in peace) are respected. A cat’s language – face and body language – as well as the noises it makes and the distance it keeps all indicate clearly its feelings and desires. Observing a cat well and catering to its wishes will help to build a sound relationship with it.



Katze im Körbchen
© Aleksej Kostin

Zurich Animal Protection Association - Offers


Further information

  • Katzen richtig halten, Informationen des Bundesamtes für Veterinärwesen (Holding cats properly, information provided by the Federal Veterinary’s Office)
  • Gefahrenquelle Haushalt, Fachartikel aus dem Katzenmagazin (pdf) (Threats in the household, scientific article from the Cat Magazine)
  • D.C. Turner: Die Hauskatze. Aus: Tiere im Altersheim? Möglichkeiten und Grenzen ihrer Haltung (pdf) (The house cat. From: Old age homes for animals? Holding possibilities and limitations)