These are guidelines and thoughts. There is much more detail on this site – please use the search box above. Figures in UK pounds can be read as in USD but prices vary and usually rise over time. If I have missed something please tell me.
The most important question that you should ask yourself before considering adopting a cat is the one in the title. Basic care includes the following:
- A balanced meat-based diet and freshwater
- scratching facilities and a means and a place to exercise
- a clean litter tray
- commitment and companionship
- identification of your cat such as a microchip
- grooming your cat
- a safe place to live
- routine veterinary attention including in emergencies
- arrangements for someone else to look after your cat when you are away
Can You Afford a Cat?
It is said that the total financial commitment to caring for a cat for the cat’s lifetime varies between about £10,000 and £15,000. Other figures suggest that you should average around £50 per month which would cover regular costs such as food, insurance, flea and worm treatments and litter.
- The first is a necessity: neutering and spaying your cat which, of course, is a one-off cost in the UK of around £50 for a male cat and about £70 for a female cat. Some veterinarians do the operation at a discounted rate.
- vaccinations: price varies but around £50 as part of a checkup
- micro-chipping at a one-off costs of around £30
- cat toys which you might budget at around £20 annually
- grooming equipment – one-off cost of about £20
- a cat carrier – one-off cost at around £20-£50
- scratching post – costing around £10-£50 (and more) depending on the quality but a top-quality large scratching post is a necessity and it may need to be replaced in due course but that is unlikely
- boarding categories or pet sitters – this depends where you live. If you live in London it will be quite expensive to employ a cat sitter perhaps in the several hundreds and a boarding cattery may cost over a hundred pounds but elsewhere may cost around hundred a pounds for a stay away of several days to a week. Your cat will need to have the routine vaccinations for a boarding cattery.
- emergency veterinary treatment which may cost anything from £60-£3,000 and more. A good insurance policy will protect you from the more expensive treatments but watch out for the small print. Monthly premiums may be around £10-£20.
How Much Time Can You Spend with Your Cat?
The question in this subheading really depends upon your age and whether you’re working or not and indeed also your sex. If you spend little time at home because of work commitments then you should reconsider whether it is wise to adopt a cat. There really has to be a minimum standard regarding the amount of time you spend at home with your cat and it should be daily at about several hours in my opinion. Adopting two cats can help with this potential problem provided the cats get along – they don’t always get along which can make things even worse.
Where Do You Live?
Do you live in an apartment with no access to safe outside space? This would mean your cat will be an indoor cat and do you want that? Do live in the suburbs next to traffic? To some people that would make having an outdoor cat untenable for safety reasons. Or do you live in a detached house in the country with a walled garden? That, arguably, is the best sort of arrangement for a domestic cat because he can have outside space in safety. If you live in an apartment you will need to check your lease to confirm that you are allowed to have a pet. Usually leases allow this particularly in relation to a cat and possibly a small dog. If you are a tenant under an assured short hold tenancy you will need to check your tenancy arrangements. Most often they disallow having a cat or any pet for that matter.
Where you live really goes to the heart of the indoor/outdoor debate with respect to domestic cats. If you are a firm believer that cats should be allowed to go outside then you have to consider where you live very carefully because not only should it be attractive or acceptable to you, it also must be safe for your cat which ultimately means away from traffic as a primary consideration. Full-time indoor living is not necessarily a bad thing but to many people it is less good than being allowed outside on occasions. Safety is the primary factor in cat caretaking and therefore full-time indoor living may be a necessity but under the circumstances there is a greater burden upon the cat caretaker to provide a stimulating environment for their cat.
You Have Other Pets?
When they work well, multi-pet households are very rewarding but it can go wrong. There can be competition between cats which can cause stresses resulting in health problems such as over-grooming. There can be other behavioural problems. Multi-pet households require greater management by the owner such as providing places to hide for cats who are timid (see questionnaire). Then there are introductory issues. Introducing a new cat into a household where there are already cats requires some sensitivity and common sense. It needs to be carefully managed to make sure that that no problems arise. Do you have the patience and time to do this properly? Some pets are more territorial than others and they won’t accept intruders or a sensitive pet may find the addition of another animal stressful. Carefully choosing the age, sex and character of your new cat is important. Pets other than cats and which are potential prey to cats should not be forgotten because they may become stressed by the presence of a predator even if they are protected.
Who Else Lives in Your Family Home?
You are quite possibly living with somebody else. Does the person like cats? It is obviously essential that they do to avoid disputes between yourself and your partner and if there are children they need to be educated on how to handle cats. Is your home busy with lots of activity with people coming and going? If so this would not be an ideal environment for a cat unless the cat is particularly laid-back. Then there’s the question of being allergic to cats. You might not be allergic to cats but another member of your family might be. This should be checked out before adopting a cat. Although it is quite possible to thoroughly enjoy successfully caring for a cat even if one is allergic to them. There are things one can do.
Can You Live with Your Cat’s Natural Behaviour?
Some people want to adopt a cat but they don’t want to adopt some of the cat’s behavioural traits such as scratching. In America some people remove the claws of the cat to deal with this which is obviously inhumane and wrong. Either you accept all the behavioural traits of the cat or none at all in which case you don’t adopt a cat.
Cats are highly efficient predators. Can you accept your cat preying on its natural prey such as mice if he/she goes outside and then brings them into the house either dead or alive?
You will always find that one of the bugbears of some cat owners is the amount of hair that cats deposit on beds, furniture and carpets et cetera. You have to accept this. Can you? Cats naturally moult. They shed their fur when there’s more light meaning during spring and summer. Cat caretakers need to accept and deal with it including the possibility of hairballs being vomited.
Although the vast majority of people neuter or spay their cat, those that don’t will have to accept their cat’s behaviour being driven by their cat’s hormones which means greater territorial desires and sexual behaviour. He may fight and defend his territory. There may be spraying of urine to mark out territory and caterwauling together with the distinct possibility of the creation of kittens which is something that you should not want because there are already enough domestic cats in the world.
What Are Your Future Plans?
Looking after a cat is for the life of the cat which is around 15 to 20 years normally. This is a long-term relationship. If you’re thinking of moving abroad or have plans to have children you need to consider these changes and how they will impact upon having a cat before deciding to adopt. This is about commitment; a commitment to look after a cat for his entire life. The ideal long-term future is one that is stable and consistent because cats desire this. Great uncertainties in the future should make you consider carefully about adopting a cat.
What Will Your Cat Give You?
Most people adopt a cat for companionship. But others may adopt a cat for breeding and showing at cat shows (this is relatively rare) and others may want what is called a “working cat” meaning a cat which keeps the rodents down perhaps in an industrial area or in a barn on a farm. If you are an elderly person you may like an elderly cat which is probably more sensible anyway in terms of mutual lifespan remaining. You may prefer a calm, adult moggy compared to an energetic pedigree kitten. You may in fact prefer a disabled cat because I believe they provide a lot of pleasure in raising and caring for. There are disabled cats such as blind cats which require a particularly good home with a well-informed and committed individual but the rewards are, as mentioned, enormous.
You may prefer to foster a cat from a rescue centre before the cat is being rehomed. This is a nice way to help unwanted cats find homes without ‘owning’ the cat and it provides a break in between caring for another cat if you like to take holidays et cetera. However it can be difficult for some fosterers to give up their cat. It depends upon the person and whether they are suited to the task.
Hope these general guidelines assist.
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