So you've decided it's about time you had a cat in your life. Maybe you have a friend with a cat and you've learned first-hand how relaxing it can be to sit with a warm vibrating body in your lap. Or you find yourself alone in your brand new apartment and you can finally have the cat you've always wanted but couldn't have because a parent was allergic . Perhaps you and your spouse have agreed that the kids need a pet, and you think dogs might be too rough on the toddlers.
Whatever the reason, there are a number of factors to consider before rushing into a decision that you may regret later.The fact is, too often pets acquired by impulse quite often don't work out, and this is especially true with cats, who often have their own agendas.
Questions to Consider
- Are You Financially Prepared for a Cat?
If you have children, I know you want to care for them the best way you can, and a new cat will be much like having a new child in the family. This means you need to be prepared for the costs of responsibility for a cat.
- Are there children younger than five years old in the home?
Tots usually love kitties, but if you bring a very young kitten into your home you may find them loving it to death--literally. Alternately, the kitten could inflict some painful scratches. You'd be better off either getting an older cat that's been around children, or waiting a couple of years.
- Is your silk Queen Anne chair or your new off-white carpet extremely important to you?
Face it, cats need scratching exercise, and guess where they'll head first, lacking an approved scratching surface? A good scratching post and regular nail clipping is a must. So is a clean litter box and the necessary training for kitty to use it.
It is critical that you are willing to make the commitment to provide your cat with the necessities, and to put your cat ahead of furniture and other inanimate objects. Stuff happens. Are you willing to live with it? Or will you consider " getting rid of the cat" at the first sign of trouble?
- "I was planning on declawing it so I wouldn't have to worry about ruined furniture."
Stop right there! Declawing is actually the surgical removal of the first knuckle of each toe. Whether done with a guillotine tool or by laser, it is extremely painful, dangerous to the cat and patently inhumane. You may find declawed cats at the shelter, and they are usually there because they turned to biting or spraying after being declawed. If declawing is your only solution to having a cat, and you're not willing to take your chances with a previously declawed cat, you should get a nice aquarium instead, and leave that cat for someone who will love ALL its parts.
- Will an adult be responsible for feeding the cat, keeping the litter box clean, and grooming the cat regularly?
This is a serious consideration. Pets are fine for teaching children responsibility, but there should always be an adult around to supervise and make sure the necessary jobs are done every day.
- Will you have time to be "family" to the cat?
Contrary to popular opinion, cats are very social animals and love attention from their humans. Your bond with your cat will last for a lifetime. A lonely, neglected cat will soon find all kinds of mischief with which to amuse herself. Also contrary to popular opinion (among cats), you don't have to be a slave to her, but 15 minutes a day of play time and petting will make the difference between a happy cat and a nuisance.
- Are you willing to spend the money necessary for spay/neutering, vaccinations, and veterinary care when necessary?
If you're acquiring a new family member (and this is how you should view your new arrival), she will come with responsibilities and their attendant costs. You wouldn't neglect your children's health and neither will you want to neglect kitty's medical needs.
- Are you prepared to keep your cat indoors only?
There are too many hazards to the outdoor life for cats to list here, however they far exceed any benefits you may perceive of outdoor life for cats.
- Is your place big enough for a cat?
This is a frequently asked question by readers. The easy answer is that a cat can live very comfortably in a studio apartment, given the right conditions.
Hopefully, you passed the above questions with flying colors.
This is the first of three lessons on "Before you Get Your First Cat." Lesson 2 will cover What Kind of Cat Should I Get?