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Am I Ready for a Cat?

Questions to Answer Before Making This Serious Decision

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Thinking of adopting a new cat? 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. It's not the same as buying a used car, which can be returned if it doesn't run right. Rather, you could compare it to adopting a baby. Children have needs you'd expect to fill. Cats have needs too. An adopted cat would be wholly dependent on you to fill those needs. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Can I afford to care for a cat?

Billy has a true "rags to riches" background
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
"Cats are pretty independent and don't cost a lot to care for," you may think. That's a common misconception in folks who have never shared their home with a cat. The truth is that cats are not as independent as you might imagine. When we first domesticated them centuries ago, humans took on the responsibility for their care. Yes, there are feral cats that still exist in alleys, parks, and drainage ditches, but they lead a miserable life.

Your cat, should you choose to adopt one, will live a better life, thanks to the nourishing food, toys, and veterinary care, which will include routine exams and lab tests, vaccinations, teeth cleaning, as well as emergency care for accidents or illness.

2. Are my kids too young for a cat?

Kaitlin and Sophia
© Sandra
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.

This may not be a deal-breaker, though, if you are prepared to take on the majority of the daily chores, and to teach your kids how to help, based on their abilities to understand and to learn. Love for cats can be a great motivator!

3. Can I handle potential damage to my valuable furniture?

A good scratching post saves wear and tear on furniture
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Is your silk Queen Anne chair or your new off-white carpet extremely important to you? What if a cat vomits on that carpet, or scratched the arms of that chair?

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?

4. Couldn't I just declaw the cat?

Close-up Photo of Cat's Claws
Photo Credit: © iStock Photos - Melinda Fawver
In a word: NO. Claws are cats' most valuable tools for defense, and vitally necessary for exercise, balance, and climbing. 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 consider a pet you can cage or admire in an aquarium, and leave that cat for someone who will love ALL its parts.

5. Can I commit to the care a cat needs?

Daily Litter Box Scooping is a Must
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
This is a serious consideration, even if you're planning this adoption for your kids. 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.

If this will be your first cat ever, or if it's been awhile since you had a cat, you might consider reading through this tutorial on cat care. It covers all the bases, including cat-proofing your home, litter-box management, proper feeding, veterinary care, even playing with your cat. Cats are a ton of fun and companionship, but they do carry a price, in the terms of time.

6. Do I have time to be "family" to a cat?

Lance and Bubba Bonding
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Contrary to popular opinion, cats are very social animals and love attention from their humans. If all works well, you and your cat will form a bond which 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 at least minutes a day of play time and petting will make the difference between a happy cat and a grumpy, destructive cat.

7. How much veterinary care is really necessary?

Picture of cat at the vet
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
If you're acquiring a new family member (and this is how you should view your new arrival), she will come with health care needs and their attendant costs. You wouldn't neglect your children's health and neither will you want to neglect kitty's medical needs. Along with regular checkups, she'll need vaccinations and tooth-cleaning. She may need to be spayed, if that hasn't yet been done.

As your cat ages, she may develop one or more chronic diseases, which can be expensive. Fortunately, veterinary insurance is available, which is another option you should consider.

8. Do I really want an indoor-only cat?

Cats Watching Birds on TV
Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
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. Lets start with your cat's potential life span.

On the plus side, cats can live very happily indoors. These cats pictured here are much safer watching birdies on TV than chasing them outdoors.

9. Is my place really big enough for a cat?

Coco Bear, Tortoiseshell Cat
Photo Credit: © Pat Wolesky
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. Coco Bear, pictured here, lives quite contentedly with her pal, Raleigh, in a small condominium.
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