A cat, just by being a cat, can make a house a home. There is something special about a cat napping by the window or one purring on your lap while you chill out after a stressful day. Cats can be antidotes for rough times, but adopting one (or two) should never be a spur of the moment decision.
Before making the decision to share your home with a cat (or cats), do your homework and ask yourself the tough questions. Make sure that you can support the cat and provide her a loving, safe environment for her whole life.
Here are six questions that will help you decide if you are ready for a cat buddy:
1. Can you afford a cat?
Cats need more than cuddles and warm places to nap. In addition to the costs of high-quality cat food, furniture, and toys, veterinary care can be pricey. Although unexpected health issues, teeth cleanings, and yearly vet visits can tax the wallet, options are available that help make veterinary expenses manageable.
There are many pet health insurance plans on the market that will help pay the bills. Monthly premiums and deductibles vary between plans and are based on the cat’s age, medical history, and coverage. When checking the plans, read the fine print. Many have strict limits on what they cover.
Another option is the CareCredit healthcare card. Be aware that CareCredit is another flavor of credit card. Interest rates are steep, and the issuer has penalties for late and missed payments.
2. Do you live in a cat-friendly housing situation?
Before deciding to adopt, make sure that you can have feline roommates where you live. If you are renting, have a signed agreement from the manager, stating you can have cats and the number you are allowed to have on the premises. Stuff happens; buildings change hands and the new building owners may not be cat-friendly. The signed agreement will protect you and your cat from eviction.
Always consider others! If you have housemates, make sure that they will welcome a kitty. Not all human roommates enjoy the company of cats.
Look down the road and think about the future. Is this your permanent home or are you planning to move? Sadly, many people abandon their cats because they relocate into an animal-unfriendly situation. If you plan on moving, make sure that your new home is cat-friendly. One good source for cat- and dog-friendly housing is Rent.com. The site’s filters will help you identify cat-friendly housing that is within your budget.
3. Have you checked for allergies?
Unfortunately, some people are allergic to cat saliva, skin oils, and dander. Reactions range from mild to serious — sniffling to asthma and hives. Although medications, allergy shots, and HEPA filters can help eliminate and reduce the allergies, in severe cases they do not. Before bringing a new little buddy home, check that everyone in your household can comfortably live with a cat.
Although some cat breeds are rumored to be more hypoallergenic than others, there is no such thing as a cat who is “non-allergenic.” Some breeds, including the Balinese, Bengal, and Russian Blue, are known to have less of the protein Fel D1, which causes the allergic response. Although many people do not react to these breeds, there are no guarantees. If possible, spend a few hours hanging out with the cat you want to adopt before taking her home. Repeat visits will also help you determine if this is a cat you can live with allergy-free.
4. Is your home cat ready?
Living with cats means making your home cat-friendly. Are you willing to have cat furniture, scratchers, and cat toys decorate your house? Litter boxes, trees, cat scratchers, and toys will become permanent d├®cor throughout your home. Litter boxes need to be located in living areas — not tucked away in cabinets and closets. Can you live with cat hair? Cat hair is a necessary accoutrement. Get used to it. Living with cats also means the occasional accident — cats sometimes vomit and might eliminate outside the litter box.
Another fact of cat life is that a treasure occasionally will be broken and carpets and furniture scratched. Are you willing to put breakables in cabinets and provide a lot of scratchers for the cats? Declawing is not an option.
5. Do you have the time to spend with a cat?
Many people adopt cats because they buy into the myth that cats are low maintenance — all they need is a little food and a relatively clean litter box. Often they leave their little ones alone for hours every day, with no one to interact with and nothing to do. Some cats are left to “fend for themselves” while their people travel for a couple of days. Litter boxes are often neglected, scooped only every couple of days or less. These people are usually surprised when their cats start eliminating outside the litter box or develop other problems.
Cats are not low-maintenance companions. In addition to needing a couple of meals or more a day, grooming, and immaculately clean litter boxes, they need mental and physical stimulation and someone to interact with. Leaving cats alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to often leads to lethargy, depression, and behavior challenges.
Before adopting, make sure that you have time to spend with your cat and to do daily cat chores. Your new little kitty will need attention every day — including quality cuddle time and play. Although adopting a bonded pair of cats can help by keeping each other company, they still need the quality time with their favorite person.
6. Are there other animals in the household?
Often people who want to adopt a cat live in households where there are other resident dogs and kitties. Not all dogs and cats are willing to share their homes and people with another cat. Make the safety and well-being of the newcomer and other animal occupants the priority. Know the temperaments and histories of all of them. It is mandatory that dogs have a history of living peacefully with cats, and that they have never chased or harmed any. Do not bring cats into situations where there are dogs who chase or are aggressive to cats.
If cats already live in the household, check that they and the potential adoptee have peacefully coexisted with other cats. Some cats do great with other felines, while others would rather be kings or queens of the household and do not welcome other cats.
Although cats can be a wonderful addition, they are a serious responsibility and a commitment. Before adopting, ask the questions — make sure that you are ready and that your home is the right home. Doing so can save you and the cat heartbreak and stress.
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Got a cat behavior question for Marilyn? Ask our behaviorist in the comments below and you might be featured in an upcoming column. If you suspect a behavioral problem, always rule out any possible medical issues that may be causing the behavior by first having your cat examined by a veterinarian. Marilyn can also help you resolve cat behavior challenges through a consultation.
Marilyn, a certified cat behavior consultant, owner of The Cat Coach, LLC, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on site, Skype and phone consultations. She uses force free methods that include environmental changes, management, clicker training and other behavior modification techniques.
She is also an award winning author. Her book Naughty No More! focuses on solving cat behavior problems through clicker training and other force-free methods. Marilyn is big on educationÔÇöshe feels it is important for cat parents to know the reasons behind their cat’s behaviors. She is a frequent guest on television and radio, answering cat behavior questions and helping people understand their cats.
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