By Dr. Jane Matheys, a veterinarian at The Cat Doctor in Boise, Idaho; and blogger for Pets Best, a pet insurance agency for dogs and cats
Many families choose the holidays as the “purrfect” time to add a feline friend to their home. Cats make wonderful companions for all ages, and bringing a new pet into your home is an exciting event. Often, though, people go out and get a cat without considering the long term commitment they are making or the financial aspect of providing excellent care for the cat. Here are some important things to consider before deciding to get a cat.
1. Get the family involved
Make sure everyone in the house is prepared to have a cat and agrees to adding a new member to the family. Is anyone in the family allergic to cats? One of the most common reasons people give for surrendering cats to shelters is allergies. If you are not sure you have allergies, you should spend some time around cats to see if you have a reaction before you adopt. If allergies develop later on, will you consider treating the allergy before giving up your cat?
Who will take care of the cat? Are you ready for the chores of feeding, grooming and litter box duty? It’s easy to say that the cat is the kids’ responsibility, but it’s unrealistic to hand the care entirely over to a child. Divvy up the chores and encourage children to help, but unless adult family members are willing to take full responsibility for the cat’s care, reconsider adoption.
Think twice about giving a cat as a gift. Though well-meaning, the surprise kitty gift could turn out to be bad news for everyone involved. Make sure the recipient is receptive to the idea and involved in the process.
2. Are you ready to commit?
Cats can live 15-20 years. It is a long term commitment when you add a cat to your family. Often people run out and get a cat only to abandon it a year later on the street or at an animal shelter. Cats are not disposable pets. Will you be a responsible cat owner?
3. Do you have a cat budget?
Have you researched the cost of owning a cat, and can you afford it? A kitten’s first year can be expensive. Will you be able to pay for spaying or neutering, vaccinations, deworming and other routine veterinary care? A cat adopted from a shelter is a bargain. Many facilities will have already provided these basic services along with microchipping the cat for permanent identification. Older cats require more veterinary care, too. Budget short and long-term costs so you don’t get caught off guard. Be prepared for any costly medical emergencies that might occur. Pet health insurance plans are a great way to help you afford the best medical care for your cat.
4. Consider your lifestyle
Cats tend to be more independent than dogs, but they still need companionship and love. They need quality time with people to be happy. Think about the time you have to commit to a new cat. Do you work full time? Do you travel a lot? Think about how owning a cat will change things. Can you deal with the litter boxes, possible damage to objects by scratching, and cat hair on the furniture?
5. Where do you live?
Do you own your own home or do you need permission from a landlord to have a cat? If you rent, can you afford the pet deposit and/or monthly pet fee? Do not sneak a cat into your apartment just to have to give up the cat or face eviction. Is there a chance you will need to move in the near future? Many cats are surrendered by owners because they are moving. Cats need a forever home. Be sure your cat can come with you if you relocate.
6. Consider whether you want an adult cat or a kitten.
Kittens require a lot of time, energy and attention. Due to their playful nature they tend to get into more trouble. Kittens dislike being alone, and it’s often recommended to adopt kittens in pairs, especially if you’re gone for long periods of time like at work. Kittens don’t always mix well with children or seniors. Adult cats are usually less destructive than kittens, and since their personalities have stabilized, you can select one that has the temperament you are looking for. Do you have other cats in the house? Existing cats often accept another cat better if it is similar in age. If you have an older cat in the home, carefully consider how he may react before adding a new cat to the family. Do you have other pets? Think about whether the newcomer will be accepted.
Adding a new cat to the family is rewarding. Just be sure to do your homework first, and don’t rush the adoption process. By being prepared for the commitment, you’ll be helping to ensure a long and loving relationship with your new feline companion.