Keeping a cat (or two) is a wonderfully rewarding experience. However, to be fair to the cat and to yourself, it’s important to make sure a cat is right for you and your household.
Cats are wonderful companions. Although many cats are less emotionally dependent than dogs are, they still require your attention, time, money, and life-long commitment. Are you ready to bring a cat into your family for the long haul? With proper care, that kitten you’re considering can live to be old enough to vote. It is a serious, long-term decision.
WHY DO YOU WANT A CAT?
People bring cats into their lives for many reasons: some good, and some bad. Let’s take a look at the main ones.
- Companionship – Cats aren’t the pack animals that dogs are, but they are still very social creatures. Cats bring a lot of love into a home, and there are few joys that rival reading a good book while a cat sleeps on your lap.
- Health – Living with a pet is good for you. It lowers blood pressure, encourages activity, and gives you a reason to get up in the morning. If this is your only reason for adopting a pet, however, consider starting a dog-walking business instead. It will be better for everyone involved.
- Impulse – Sometimes a stray decides to move in, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you are able to take the animal in at the time. Otherwise, avoid adopting any animal on the spur of the moment. Too often, those cute faces at the pet store end up abandoned as soon as the kitty enters adolescence.
- Children – If your reason for getting a cat is either the pleading of one or more of your children, or to teach your children to take care of something, please hold off and reconsider. You will be the primary care-giver for any pet, no matter how many promises your six-year-old makes. If you don’t want to be responsible for an animal, yourself, don’t get a cat.
- “Easier than a Dog” – Cat care is less work than dog care, overall, it’s true. However, cats need more attention and work than most people realise. The truth may seem obvious to you, but some people think that cats don’t need to be fed regularly because they are mousers (farm mousers and ship’s cats are more effective in their duties if they are well fed), that veterinary check-ups are unnecessary (“wellness checks” should be scheduled every six months), and that a cat will be fine on its own for a few days if the owner goes away (in most cases, the animal will panic). If you’re thinking of a cat just because cat care is easy, please,please, please buy a plush toy at the toystore instead.
ARE YOU READY TO LIVE WITH A CAT?
You will be taking on a number of commitments if you bring a cat into your home.
- Money – A good rule of thumb when thinking of adding any pet to the household is: If you need to think about how much the animal costs, you can’t afford to take care of it. Cats need regular veterinary care on top of the kittenhood de-worming, de-sexing, and vaccinations. The costs of catfood, toys, litter, cleaning products, scratching posts, pet carrier, bedding, and parasite control will add up quickly.
- Time and attention – The idea that cats are solitary is a myth. Pet cats need your attention and playtime. Unlike many animals, cats can adjust their schedules day or night to fit yours, which makes it easier to give them attention even if you have a busy workday. Can you devote an hour a day to playing and cuddling? Yes? You’re good to go.
- Space – A pet cat doesn’t need much room to be healthy, it’s true. Cat-trees extend the territory upward, allowing an active indoors-only cat to exercise and play in the smallest loft apartments and recreational vehicles. You will need to figure out how to fit the cat-trees and litter pan in your house, but it can be done.
- Care – There are many pet cats who never visit the vet and who are left to their own devices when their owners are away for the weekends. And they suffer for it. These cats tend to die young, often of simple dehydration on a hot weekend or of diseases that are easy to prevent or treat. Be prepared to make arrangements for your pet’s care and health.
- Future plans – Any plans for moving, changing jobs, and so on must take kitty into account.
Incidentally, you might have read some scary things about Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy. You’re far more likely to catch it from undercooked meat than from your cat, in any case. But if you’re pregnant and your cat is your only housemate, don’t panic. Simply wear rubber gloves when you change the litter box and be sure to change or sift the litter at least once a day (twice is better), and you’ll be fine. The kitty droppings need to be sitting around for a day before you can reasonably catch Toxoplasmosis from them. (You wouldn’t leave the kitty poo lying around after sifting it, right?)
ARE YOU READY TO BE A RESPONSIBLE OWNER?
A cat is yours for life and you not only have a responsibility to them but the community in which you live as well. As a responsible cat owner you will need to ensure that:
- Your cat has regular vet check-ups and vaccinations;
- Your cat is protected from fleas, worms and ticks;
- Your cat is de-sexed;
- You obeying licensing laws for your area;
- You ensure your cat remains in secure environment and does not pose a threat to native animal species;
- Your cat has current identification tags at all times; and
- You give your cat lots of love, companionship and a healthy, nutritious diet
Being a responsible cat owner is about making sure your cat is happy and healthy and getting the love and treatment it deserves as a family member.
ARE YOU REALLY READY?
There is a lot to think about before getting a cat to share your life and home with and it’s important you take the time to carefully consider whether a cat is right for you. Too many cats end up at shelters each year because people weren’t really ready to have a cat in their lives.
Think about how your life will change once you get a cat and try to be realistic about your expectations. If you decide that you are truly ready then consider adopting a cat or kitten from the local shelter. Not only will you benefit from lower adoption fees for a healthy, micro-chipped cat; you will also be saving a life.