I was asked by a visitor, “Should I get a cat?”. I decided to answer the question in an article.
A person who is thinking about adopting a cat should ask themselves some questions. They should answer the questions honestly. The decision they make is important.
The first question is, “can I provide a cat with a basic level of care?” This means providing fresh water and a proper diet, exercise and scratching facilities, a clean litter box, companionship and commitment, micro-chipping your cat, grooming your cat, providing a safe place to live, providing appropriate veterinary care when required and ensuring that someone can look after your cat when you’re away. These are basics. If they can’t be met you shouldn’t get a cat.
Then there’s the question of money. The next question is “can I afford a cat?” The cost of keeping a cat obviously varies depending on the quality of cat caretaking and the location. You might say it costs about £10,000 – £15,000 (in UK) over the cat’s lifetime or some people say you should budget for around £50 per month for the average cat. This covers regular costs such as food, insurance, litter and ongoing treatments for fleas and worms etc.
In addition, the person should consider the cost of neutering which is £30-£50 for a male cat and £40-£70 for a female cat. Micro-chipping might cost between £20 and £30. Then there are cat toys at about £20 per year, depending upon your budget. Grooming equipment might cost around £20. Carriers costs between £20 and £50, normally. Bedding is a one-off cost of around £10-£50. Scratching posts can cost between £10 and about £30+. Boarding catteries or pet sitters can be expensive. For a seven-day holiday one cat might cost about £45-£50 to keep your cat at a boarding cattery in the country but about twice that in London or the environs. Pet sitters might charge around £55-£80 but much more in London. You should budget for emergency veterinary treatment which can cost up to £3,000 and more. This is where a insurance policy comes into effect but the terms and conditions should be read extremely carefully. Monthly premiums vary between £10 and £20 for one cat.
The next question is, “how much time can you spend with your cat?” This is an important question because cats need our company. Do you spend most of your time away from home? If so, you’re probably unsuitable. I would say that a person should spend at least 3 hours per day in direct interaction with cat as a very minimum but this is open to alternative suggestions.
The next question is, “where do you live?” Some places are more suitable for cats than others. Some places are dangerous for a cat if you insist upon letting your cat go outside. If you live in a flat with no garden in a busy urban environment that means keeping the cat indoors, probably. Do you object to that? In addition, there are nearly always terms and conditions regarding keeping a pet in a flat or apartment. The should be complied with.
“How important is furniture to you?” You can’t obsess about furniture being in perfect condition at all times. Or be overly concerned about breakages. Cats, especially young cats, can break things and furniture might be scratched. Then there is hair. If you’re overly house-proud it won’t work.
“Do you have other pets?” Multi-pet households can be fantastic. They require more thought and concern from the owner to make them work. Newcomers need to be introduced properly. The owner needs to be observant about cats getting on with each other and the same goes for cats with dogs. Dysfunctional arrangements manifest themselves in behavioural problems leading to health problems. Some dogs like to chase cats. Some cats are more territorial and other cats. These are considerations. If you keep pets other than dogs and cats, such as birds, they must be a serious consideration because they will probably become stressed in the presence of a cat even though they are safely distanced from the cat.
“Is somebody else living in your home?” If there is, does this person or do these people like cats? Will there be issues over keeping a cat in the home? Are there children in the home? If they are, they need to be trained to handle cat properly both for the welfare of the cat and the child. Mishandling of cats by children can create stresses in the cat and in the parents of the child to the point where the cat is relinquished because of so-called bad behaviour. Are you allergic to cats? Is the other person in your home allergic to cats? Many excellent cat caretakers are allergic to cats. They manage admirably. It is, however, a factor to consider. Sometimes allergies fade and therefore the problem of being allergic to cats may dissipate in time. An idea is for you and/or anyone else who is likely to be in contact with the cat to visit a cat adoption centre or a breeder to see whether they are allergic to cats. There are things people can do to minimise an allergic reaction.
“Can you live with a cat’s natural behaviour?” This is an important question. Some people think elements of the cat’s natural behaviour is bad behaviour. It is not. It is simply that a person might not like certain aspects of a cat’s natural behaviour. You should know about cat behavior before adopting. For example, scratching. Cats naturally scratch for a list of reasons. Cat caretakers have to accept that. Are you prepared to accept it? Cats allowed outside will hunt. Some cats catch and bring prey into the house. The prey may be dying or dead. Can you accept that? Cats shed their hair when the environment becomes lighter. You will find hair all over the house. Are you prepared to accept that? There is no such thing as a non-shedding cat breed or non-shedding cat. Cats also throw up hairballs, which are rather unpleasant and which would have to be accepted. Then, importantly, cats are territorial. They like their space. Neutering cats reduces territorial motivation but it is still there. This affects multi-cat households. It will also affect their behaviour when they go outside, if they go outside. The cat might get into fights with other cats. There are all sorts of potential problems for a free roaming cat outside if the cat is in an area where there are other free roaming cats. The potential for problems arising at this situation need to be accepted and dealt with.
“What are your future plans?” Owning a cat is for the lifetime of the cat and therefore, ideally, the future should be stable and mapped out. In an ideal world the caretaker should be staying in the same house doing the same thing over the entire lifetime of the cat. That is, obviously, not always possible and in fact rarely is. But if you are planning to move abroad or your work requires lots of travel or there is the potential of having to move and rent places then you may well be unsuited to look after a cat.
Cat Brings What?
“What do you expect that your cat can bring to you?” Normally people adopt a cat for companionship as the primary reason. There are other secondary reasons and the person adopting a cat should ask the reason why they wish to adopt. For example, an older person may wish to adopt for companionship but prefer a cat which is calmer and older. Another person may prefer a very smart, classy looking cat which is a purebred cat both for companionship and as an adornment for their home. The cat owner should also ask what they can take to the cat in terms of excellent guardianship. Are adopting a cat for present for a child? Think carefully about that. This is a present that carries responsibilities. Are you adopting for altruistic reasons such as a disabled cat or a FeLV positive cat?
If all the boxes are ticked, you then have to decide what type of cat to adopt. It might be a purebred, pedigree cat, a rescue cat, a moggy, a kitten, an adult, a longhaired or shorthaired cat and even a hairless cat. There’s a big range and there is actually an ethical issue at stake here. If you adopt a rescue cat you possibly save a life. If you adopt a purebred cat from a breeder, you might just possibly be contributing to a rescue cat being euthanised. That may be a slight exaggeration but I think you will understand the point. With adult cats you have a settled character and with kittens you might be able to mould their character. If you raise a young kitten from a few weeks of age they will bond to you like glue as you will be imprinted on their brain as their mother and father and caregiver and lover. Your circumstances have to be right for that kind of relationship.
I hope this helps. If you can add something, please comment. I wish to thank Rebecca Watson and Dr DG Hessayon for prompting me to remember things I might otherwise have forgotten to mention, in their book The Cat Expert ISBN 978-0-903-50568-0.
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