A cat, like any other pet is a huge responsibility and one that should be thought out thoroughly before you go out and sign those adoption or purchase papers. Sure, the house cat over the years has developed the stereotype of being aloof lazy loungers. However, having been around cats my entire life I can safely state that every cat is different and every cat is simply neurotic. But I digress; neurotic cats are a topic for another article. Before getting a cat, here are some important things to consider:
1. Can you afford it? The cost of caring for an animal is often underestimated. On average, a cat can cost up to $10.00 a week just to feed and care for. The disappointment comes when those suddenly realize that they cannot afford to take care of their pet. For example, my first rescue was found abandoned in a house after the family moved away. The hard truth is that a cat, while rumored to be low maintenance does in fact require a decent amount of upkeep and care.
To start, consider veterinarian bills. At the very minimum a cat or kitten requires a yearly checkup and round of shots. Kittens typically run higher than cats as they require several rounds of shots and tests to protect them as they grow. A typical kitten core vaccine schedule includes three rounds of the feline calicivirus (FVC), rabies (Required by law), Feline panleukopenia (FPV or “Distemper”), and Feline rhinotracheitis (FHV-1). Other, not required vaccinations include the test and vaccine for feline leukemia (FeLV), and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Throw in the basic physical, fecal smear (testing for worms and giardia), and a spay/neuter.
An adult cat’s initial vet cost run a little less. There is still the state required rabies shot and initial exam as well optional test for giardia, FIP and FeLV, but there is only that yearly visit instead.
Veterinarian costs aside, there is also the cost of food, litter, toys, and other necessities to be considered. All of it can add up quickly and often unexpectedly.
2. A well cared for cat without any unforeseen health issues can live up to 20 years (My childhood cat recently passed at a ripe age of 24). Are you willing to devote this much time to an animal? Can you provide care to you cat for an extended amount of time as you both age?
3. Do you move a lot? Do you travel a lot? How will your cat react to the stress of constantly being shuffled from one home to another is only one of many things to consider. Not all apartments allow pets. Who will look after your cat while you are away?
The plain and simple truth is. As “lone” as a cat appears to be, they’re a lot like more like a dog than some would care to admit. A cat can display emotions of attachment which means that they can also display signs of withdrawal if they have become attached to a person or place. Cats tend to manifest their issues in different ways, including but not limited to;
Refusal to eat
Pulling out their hair
Chewing on household items
Soiling outside of their box
4. Do you have any other pets? If you do, the consideration of both animals and yourself is extremely important. Can you afford two animals both mentally and physically? And most importantly; know your limits. (I’ve been told that four cats is flirting with insanity).
In spite of the perceived aloof nature of cats, they really can be social animals and often do well in pairs or with another animal as a companion. However, there is always that rare chance that you might have a loner. Or they might clash in personalities, much like people can. Introducing an older dog/cat to your new kitten/cat will take a lot of patience. Be prepared for nights of hissing, and keep a wary eye for stressful or aggressive behavior. These will usually fade after the first two or three weeks.
5. If you live with someone, consult with them first. A lot of times, a cat, or any pet is brought home without first consulting the other occupants of the house. This is almost always disastrous as these cats or kittens don’t fit in with the family life style and wind up returned, or worse, abandoned. (Two of my rescues were brought home as a gift. One was returned to the shelter twice as a “poor fit” and the other was dumped in a box in the parking lot of my old workplace).
In conclusion, owing a cat can be a wonderful experience, just make sure that you are aware of the responsibility you’re getting into before bringing it into your life.