So you’re on the road to adopting a cat huh? While I applaud you for already being an incredibly good looking, smart and talented individual, I’d also highly recommend you consider the following before you move forward with adopting a furry little friend!
Sorry, this one is long cause it is important. The age of a cat is a key driver in the behavior of most cats. Not surprising since this is true across pretty much any animal you’ve ever encountered. If you’ve never had a cat before you should definitely consider adopting an adult cat for your first experience. An adult means anything over the typical one year mark. Some folks still consider cats up to 18 months old kittens because their behavior and their personality can still change significantly over those last 6 months. Here’s a quick rundown of things to keep in mind:
- The bulk of people that come into the shelter I volunteer at want kittens, but many have never had a cat. Kittens are incredibly time consuming and require a lot of attention. You really shouldn’t leave a kitten home alone for more than a couple hours at a time, definitely not a full 8 hour workday. Given this, if you’re set on a kitten and you don’t work from home or have someone home all day you should consider adopting a pair of kittens or another younger adult cat. Not only will they keep each other busy, but this benefits you as an owner. Cats let each other know when they’ve played too hard or ‘crossed the line’ so to speak. Kittens understand and apply this same learning to humans and are less likely to play as rough with people if they have a companion to learn from.
- Kittens are curious. They are far more likely than adult cats to eat things they shouldn’t, claw at things they shouldn’t, and in general get themselves into all sorts of trouble an adult or senior cat would avoid.
- The way a kitten acts at 8 weeks is no guarantee he or she will act the same way at a year or two years. Cats have a personality that fluctuates quite easily until they reach adulthood. Once they are adults their personality will be a lot more consistent.
- They are incredibly fragile! If you have young children or a large dog that has never been exposed to cats or kittens before then you should be very careful with adopting a kitten. Not that either the children or the dog are intending to hurt the kitten, but either one could easily accidentally injure a kitten unknowingly.
- You should expect kittens to have litter box accidents one in a while. They will pee or poop outside the litter box from time to time. This is just part of growing up for them.
- Adult cats are awesome and there are tons of them that would love to come home with you. Most of them have already gone through all their shots, all their checkups and all that good stuff. You can adopt them knowing full well what you are getting!
- Adult are already pretty set in their ways. If you meet an adult cat while looking for one to adopt and he or she hops right in your lap…You can pretty much expect that behavior on an ongoing basis.
- Adult cats, while still fragile (they are cats after all), are far more resilient than a tiny little kitten. Younger children and dogs tend to be less of a potential threat to an adult cat.
- You get to skip all the hassle of the kitten stage and an adult can can be on its own for longer periods of time with far less impact.
- Senior cats are probably somewhere in the area of 8 years or older. That’s a rather arbitrary age, but given experience this is where I often see cats start to become a bit less energetic than their younger compatriots. Senior cats love to eat, snooze and some of them love to snuggle.
- One key thing to keep in mind with senior cats is that they, just like any other creature, can start encountering medical conditions as they get older. This can require medication, cat care, extra time, etc. Be sure to talk to the rescue you are working with to get a clear understanding of the medical status of any cat you’re considering adopting, but with seniors do be extra diligent!
2. Cat Care & Patience:
While cats are indeed far less dependent on humans than dogs are, you still need to provide a few basics for your cat on a daily basis. They’ll require at minimum food, water and a litter box (and you’ll want to clean it daily). While there are lots of automated options that can assist you in the case that you work long hours or need to go on a short business trip, you need to set aside time to to spend with your cat. Most cats do crave your attention, albeit on their own terms. They want to play, snuggle, cuddle and act like a a little hunter pouncing on toys or laser pointers. Be sure you will able to provide this to them on a constant basis!
Cat lifespans continue to get longer as our understanding of their health continues to get better. These days you can expect a cat to live an average of 15 years if not up to 20+ years. If you’re interested in keeping your cat for such a long time you might consider a different pet option. Rehoming cats, especially as they get older, can be detrimental to their health and happiness.
4. Indoor vs Outdoor:
Cats are indeed hunters by nature, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve acclimated to the fast paced changes that have taken place in the world in the past 100 years. While it may seem cruel in some ways to keep a cat indoors, it is by far the safest place for the cat. Cats have many predators outside, the worst of which is humans. Beyond this there are all sorts of other concerns in letting your cat go outside from fleas & ticks to getting in fights with another cat or dog. I won’t tell you never let your cat outside , but if you really want to let your cat outside I’d personally recommend harness and leash training your cat so they are outside in a controlled environment that is safe for them.
5. Cats have claws:
Do not declaw your cat. While common 20 years ago research shows that it is horribly painful for the cat and it is the equivalent of cutting off the last digit of each of your fingers as a human. Cats can be trained to use scratching posts, but it may take time and effort to train them to do so. You need to be sure you have the patience to train your cat to make this transition in your home. On top of this do note you’ll have to trim your cats claws every two weeks because they manage to turn them into razor blades quite quickly! If you have really nice furniture and don’t want to even think about them scratching it then look for a cat that is already declawed. Many of them do flow through rescues on a constant basis and they still need homes. Do note that cats that are declawed are more likely to bite/nip because they quickly realize their paws are no longer a useful defense system.
There’s no reason not to do this. There are so many cats in shelters worldwide that the last thing the world needs is your cat getting pregnant or causing another one to get pregnant. Please Spay or Neuter your cat if it hasn’t already been done. The ASPCA provides great guidance on local spay/neuter programs that can do this at a very low cost.
7. Cats are nocturnal:
While cats are normally nocturnal creatures you certainly can get them onto your own schedule so they don’t keep you up all night playing or just wandering about. One of the most important things is to keep a consistent schedule, feed them at the same time every day and go to bed at the same time every day. This can require some patience the first few days/weeks, the last thing you want to do is cave in and get up and give attention to your cat if he or she is acting up late at night. This just enforces their understanding that being a pain late at night gets them attention!
8. Adopted cats are not free:
This page on PetFinder.com provides a great breakdown of the average cost of a cat year over year. You should definitely take this into consideration. While some of these numbers are on the high side in my experience, you should definitely expect to spend money on the normal day to day stuff like food and water, but you must also take your cat to the vet each year for a checkup at the least. Key things that I notice here as odd are buying new bowls and toys every year. Go stainless with the bowls and you’ll be good for life .
This is simple, but be sure nobody in the home is allergic to cats before you adopt one. Note that cat allergies are more often driven by pet dander than they are driven by pet hair. There are certain types of cats that are more hypo allergenic than others, but generally none are fool proof in this regard.
Do not in any circumstances adopt a cat as a surprise for someone that has never had one because if they are allergic and the cat needs to be returned it can be rather traumatic for the cat. Cats don’t like travel/transport in general and take time to adjust to new people/places. Moving them from a shelter to a new home and back quickly is no fun for anyone and it can make it much harder for them to get adopted again.
10. Your apartment/home:
There are a few parts here worth covering:
- Be sure your home is ready for a cat. Just like in Field of Dreams, the ‘If you build it they will come.’ rings true for cats. Cats basically consider any place they can get to as their territory. Be ready for cats to aim to climb all over everything and anything in your home. Most cats don’t purposely knock things over, but if you have anything particularly fragile or important it may pay to pull it off the shelves for the first few weeks to see how your cat explores.
- If you rent your home don’t try to adopt a cat in place that doesn’t allow it. Be sure to get approval before you go out to adopt a cat. If your landlord discovers it and threatens to boot you for doing this you’re likely going to have to return the cat. Just like the above, not fun for anyone involved and can be very tough on the cat emotionally.
There are a boatload of additional factors you can consider when adopting a cat, but these are by far some of the most important. A few others that I won’t mention in any length, but you still may want to keep in mind are:
- Do you have children in the home?
- Do you have a baby in the home?
- Do you have other pets in the home?
- Is your home noisy or quiet?
- Do you have a “safe spot” for my cat?
- What plants are in the house?
- How much disposable income can you spend on a pet?
- Do you want to get pet insurance in case of emergency?
- If the cat doesn’t turn out to be a lap cat will you be disappointed?
- Is everyone in the home/apartment ok with getting a cat?
If you think there are any other key considerations I should include on this page please email me at Craig@StuffCatsWant.com to let me know or leave a comment below to call out something you find important!