Adopting a cat can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, filling your life with companionship, joy, and even a few hilarious antics. However, bringing a feline friend into your home is not a decision to take lightly. Before you dive into pet parenthood, there are several factors you’ll need to consider to ensure a harmonious coexistence for both you and your future pet. Issues such as the financial commitment involved, the cat’s temperament, your living situation, the amount of time you can dedicate to pet care, and even potential allergies can play significant roles. In this article, we’ll delve into 10 important considerations that should be on your radar before you adopt your purrfect companion.
Things to Consider Before Adopting a Cat
1. Financial Commitment
When it comes to adopting a cat, the financial commitment involved is often underestimated. While many people think primarily about the cost of cat food and perhaps a few toys, the financial responsibility runs much deeper.
For starters, there are initial costs like adoption fees, which can vary depending on the organization you’re adopting from (but I strongly advocate that you should adopt from streets or from a shelter).
Then there are essential items such as a litter box, litter, scratching posts, bedding, and food and water bowls, which can add up quickly.
But the costs don’t stop there. Routine veterinary care, including vaccinations, check-ups, and preventive treatments for fleas and ticks, is an ongoing expense. Spaying or neutering your cat is another necessary but often overlooked cost, as are any emergency medical treatments that may be required, such as surgeries or medications. Furthermore, if your cat has any special dietary needs or develops a chronic condition, specialized food and medicine could be an additional long-term expense.
Don’t forget about smaller, but continuous costs like replacing worn-out toys, purchasing grooming supplies, and replenishing litter. And if you travel frequently or have a busy lifestyle, budgeting for a pet sitter or a boarding facility is crucial. All these factors combined can amount to a substantial financial investment over the lifetime of your cat.
Being financially prepared not only ensures that you can provide a comfortable life for your feline friend but also brings you peace of mind knowing you can handle any emergencies that come up. So, before you adopt, it’s crucial to make a detailed financial plan to make sure you’re ready for the long-term commitment.
Related: Advice for a first-time cat owner
2. Time Commitment
The time commitment required for cat ownership is another essential factor to consider, and it extends far beyond feeding your cat and changing its litter. Cats are social animals that crave interaction and mental stimulation, and your role as a pet parent is to provide these in ample measure.
Firstly, playtime is crucial for a cat’s well-being. Whether it’s chasing a laser pointer, batting at a feather toy, or simply engaging in interactive play, daily play sessions are vital for your cat’s physical and mental health. These moments are not only entertaining for your cat but also offer an excellent opportunity for bonding between you and your feline friend.
Additionally, cats need to be groomed, even the short-haired varieties. Regular brushing helps to remove loose hairs and reduce hairballs, and it’s also an opportunity to check for any signs of skin problems or external parasites like fleas and ticks. Depending on your cat’s coat, grooming could be a weekly or even daily requirement.
Social interaction doesn’t always have to be active play; it can also be as simple as petting or having your cat sit on your lap while you watch TV. Some cats enjoy being talked to and will even “chatter” back. The point is, that your cat needs to feel like a part of the family, which means being involved in day-to-day activities, not just being fed and then ignored.
Beyond the day-to-day routines, there’s also the time you’ll need to dedicate to veterinary visits. Routine check-ups, vaccinations, and possible emergencies will require trips to the vet, which includes not only the appointment but also the travel time.
The time commitment becomes even more significant if you’re adopting a kitten, as they require an enormous amount of time for socialization and basic training like litter box use. Older cats might also need extra attention if they require medication or have behavioral issues that need to be addressed.
Overall, while cats may have a reputation for being independent, they are by no means low-maintenance pets when it comes to time investment. Be prepared to invest several hours per week for kittens or cats with special needs to ensure that your cat lives a fulfilling and happy life.
The space you have available in your home is a critical factor to consider when adopting a cat. While cats are often seen as more adaptable to smaller living environments compared to dogs, they still have particular spatial needs that must be met for their overall well-being.
One of the first things to consider is where your cat will eat, sleep, and do its business. Cats prefer to have these areas separated, as it aligns with their natural instincts. For instance, the litter box should be placed in a quiet, accessible corner away from their food and water bowls. This requires planning and space allocation within your home.
Cats are also territorial creatures. They like to have spots that they consider their own, whether it’s a window sill where they can observe the outside world, a cozy corner for napping, or a high shelf where they can perch and feel secure. Offering multiple levels in your home, such as cat trees or wall-mounted shelves, can expand the effective space for your cat and provide them with the vertical territory they desire.
Additionally, cats are curious animals who love to explore. Having enough room for them to roam and investigate is essential for their mental stimulation. Lack of space and enrichment can lead to boredom, which in turn can result in behavioral issues like scratching furniture or excessive meowing.
Indoor-outdoor access is another consideration. If you’re planning to allow your cat outside, you’ll need to think about the safety of the outdoor environment. Is it a quiet area away from busy roads? Is it secure from predators? If you don’t have a suitable outdoor area, are you prepared to enrich the indoor space to keep your cat entertained?
Space considerations also come into play if you already have other pets. Cats are generally territorial, so introducing a new cat into a home with existing pets requires careful planning to minimize stress and conflict. You’ll need to have enough room to gradually introduce the animals to each other’s space, possibly keeping them separated for a period.
And don’t forget about human occupants! If you have children or plan to have guests over frequently, you’ll need to consider how this will impact the cat’s space. Will there be a quiet retreat where your cat can escape from the hustle and bustle?
While cats may not need a backyard to run around in, they do have specific space requirements for eating, sleeping, exploring, and just being a cat. Understanding these needs and planning your space accordingly will go a long way in ensuring a happy and stress-free life for your feline friend.
4. Cat’s security
Ensuring the security and safety of your cat within your living environment is a critical consideration when deciding to adopt. Cats are innately curious creatures, and while this curiosity is one of the traits that make them so endearing, it can also lead them into potentially hazardous situations. Your responsibility as a pet owner extends to creating a secure environment that minimizes risks.
Firstly, let’s consider potentially hazardous items that are commonly found in households. These include, but are not limited to, cleaning supplies, certain human foods, and small objects that could be swallowed. It’s crucial to store cleaning chemicals in a cabinet that’s either high up or secured with childproof latches. The same goes for foods like chocolate, onions, and garlic, which are toxic to cats. Small objects like rubber bands, hair ties, and even small children’s toys should be kept out of reach to prevent choking hazards.
If you’re living on higher floors, it’s crucial to think about the risks associated with windows and balconies. Cats love to perch on windowsills to watch the world go by, but the “High-Rise Syndrome” in cats is a real concern. Cats often sustain severe injuries from falls, falsely assuming they can land on their feet from any height. Installing a sturdy net or cage on windows and balconies can offer an extra layer of protection. These installations not only prevent cats from falling but also deter birds and other animals that might be a distraction or temptation for your cat.
While cats usually have a strong sense of self-preservation, they can sometimes misjudge distances or be startled into making a dangerous leap. Safety nets or cages are not just recommended; they are essential for high-rise dwellers who want to keep their feline friends safe.
In addition to these specific considerations, regular ‘cat-proofing’ inspections can help maintain a secure environment. Check for any loose wires, sharp objects, or other potential hazards routinely, and make adjustments as necessary.
In summary, ensuring the security of your cat involves a comprehensive approach that accounts for their living space, the items within that space, and any additional factors that could compromise their safety. Adopting a cat is a long-term commitment that involves creating a sanctuary where they can live, play, and explore without putting themselves in harm’s way.
5. Your Family
Before bringing a feline friend into your home, it’s crucial to consider the well-being of all human members in your family.
It’s essential to know if anyone in the household is allergic to cats. Allergies can range from mild symptoms like sneezing and itchy eyes to more severe issues like asthma attacks. While hypoallergenic cat breeds exist, no cat is truly 100% hypoallergenic. Therefore, spending time around cats and even undergoing allergy testing is advisable before making the commitment to adopt. If someone in the household is allergic but still wants to proceed, consider steps to minimize allergens, such as investing in high-efficiency air purifiers and frequently grooming the cat to reduce dander.
Plus, the addition of a cat is a family affair, affecting each member in different ways. Children in the household may need to learn about the responsibilities of pet care and how to interact with animals safely and respectfully. On the flip side, some cats might find a bustling family environment stressful, especially if they come from a quieter shelter setting or have had negative experiences in the past. Balancing the needs and expectations of family members with those of your new pet can be a delicate operation, often requiring open discussion and compromise.
Combining these considerations, you may encounter scenarios where addressing one issue helps resolve the other. For example, involving allergic family members in the choice of a cat can not only mitigate health concerns but also foster a sense of inclusion and responsibility. Similarly, including everyone in discussions about pet care tasks can head off misunderstandings and make it easier to integrate the cat into the family.
In summary, when contemplating cat adoption, assessing for allergies and understanding family dynamics aren’t just isolated boxes to check off; they’re interrelated factors that contribute to the overall well-being and stability of your home environment. Both demand thoughtful consideration and planning to ensure that adopting a cat enhances your family life rather than complicating it.
6. The cat’s age
The age of the cat you’re considering adopting is a critical factor that can have long-term implications on both your lifestyle and the well-being of the pet. Cats of different ages come with their own unique sets of needs, benefits, and challenges, so your choice should be well-aligned with your personal circumstances and what you can offer as a caregiver.
Kittens, while irresistibly cute, require a considerable amount of time, effort, and patience for socialization and training. From basic litter box training to introducing them to different sights, sounds, and experiences, kittens are almost like blank slates that you’ll need to guide. Moreover, kittens are high-energy and highly curious, which means you’ll need to kitten-proof your home to prevent accidents and ensure their safety. They’ll also need to be spayed or neutered, and they will require a series of vaccinations during their first year. Adopting a kitten is a long-term commitment, as their lifespan can be upwards of 15 years or more, so you’ll need to consider if you’re prepared for that duration of responsibility.
Adult cats, generally aged 1 to 7 years, usually have established personalities, making it easier to find a cat that fits your lifestyle and preferences. They’re also likely to be litter-trained and may even be comfortable with basic commands or tricks. Adult cats require less intense socialization and training than kittens, which might be beneficial for people with busy lifestyles or those who are first-time pet owners. However, adult cats can sometimes come with ‘baggage,’ such as behavioral issues or traumas that require time and sometimes professional assistance to address.
Senior cats, those 8 years and older, often have the hardest time finding new homes but can make incredibly loving and grateful companions. They’re generally the most laid-back and require the least amount of training and socialization. However, senior cats are more likely to have health issues that require regular veterinary care, including medications or special diets. Adopting a senior cat can be a shorter commitment, but it’s essential to consider if you’re prepared for the emotional and financial aspects of caring for an older pet.
The age of the cat you choose to adopt impacts everything from the amount of time and effort you’ll need for training, the level of activity you can expect, the long-term financial commitment, and even how long you’ll likely have your feline companion. It’s crucial to weigh these factors carefully to ensure a happy and harmonious relationship with your new pet for years to come.
7. Cat’s health
Taking into account a cat’s health status is an indispensable element in the adoption process. A cat’s current and potential future health can significantly impact not only the well-being of the cat itself but also your emotional and financial readiness as a pet owner. There are several health-related aspects to consider, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, chronic conditions, and the potential for future health problems based on breed or genetics.
Starting with vaccinations, it’s crucial to ensure that the cat you’re considering adopting is up-to-date on its shots. Vaccinations protect against various diseases like feline distemper, rabies, and upper respiratory infections. If you’re adopting from a reputable shelter or rescue, this is typically a given, but it’s always good to double-check and get any medical records available.
Spaying or neutering is another important factor. Aside from preventing unwanted litter, spaying or neutering often has health benefits, such as reducing the risk of certain cancers. If you’re adopting a kitten, inquire about when it will be old enough for this procedure if it hasn’t already been done. For adult cats, ensure that they’ve already been spayed or neutered, or plan to get it done shortly after adoption.
Chronic conditions are another concern. Cats can suffer from various chronic health issues like diabetes, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism, which can require long-term treatment and frequent veterinary visits. While managing such conditions is entirely possible, it does demand a commitment of time, effort, and financial resources. Make sure to consult with veterinarians for a complete medical evaluation of the cat before adopting, particularly if adopting an older animal that may be more prone to chronic conditions.
Lastly, consider the breed or mix of the cat you’re interested in. Some breeds are more prone to specific health issues. For example, Persian cats often face respiratory problems due to their flat faces, while Maine Coons are genetically predisposed to heart disease. While mixed-breed cats are generally healthier and less prone to congenital diseases, knowing any breed-specific risks can help you anticipate potential health issues.
It’s also crucial to factor in the costs of routine veterinary care, including annual check-ups, dental cleanings, and potential emergency visits, into your budget. Cats, like humans, can experience unexpected health crises that require immediate medical attention, and the cost can add up quickly.
In a nutshell, when considering a cat’s health in the adoption decision, you’ll need to think about both the immediate and long-term medical responsibilities you’ll be taking on. The aim is to be as prepared as possible to provide a stable, loving home that can accommodate the healthcare needs of your new feline friend, thus ensuring a mutually beneficial relationship for years to come.
8. Cat’s Temperament
The temperament of a cat is another significant factor to consider, especially in terms of how well it will fit into your home and lifestyle. Cats have a wide range of personalities, from shy and reserved to outgoing and playful. Understanding a cat’s temperament is not just about matching it with your own personality, but also taking into account the dynamics of your household, your lifestyle, and even your future plans.
For instance, if you’re someone who enjoys a quiet environment, a shy or reserved cat might be a good match, as they’re less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors like knocking items off shelves or meowing loudly for attention. These cats might prefer a secluded spot in the house where they can retreat and feel safe. However, shy cats may require more time to adjust to new environments and people and may have special needs in terms of socialization.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a cat to be a lively addition to your household, you might prefer an outgoing or playful cat. These cats often enjoy interactive play, will likely follow you from room to room, and may even enjoy games that challenge them mentally and physically. They might be more amenable to learning tricks, and using interactive toys, and could be more social with guests. However, playful and outgoing cats often require more of your time and attention to keep them stimulated.
Additionally, some cats are more independent and are content with or without constant human interaction, while others are “velcro cats” that prefer to be near their human companions as much as possible. An independent cat might be a better option if you have a busy lifestyle and won’t be home often, whereas a more social, clingy cat could be a great choice if you work from home or spend a lot of time indoors.
Temperament also plays a role in how well a new cat will get along with other pets or children in the home. An easy-going, sociable cat may have an easier time adapting to a household with existing pets and might be more forgiving of a child’s potentially erratic behavior. Conversely, a shy or anxious cat might find multiple pets or young children overwhelming and stressful.
It’s also worth noting that many rescue organizations and shelters perform temperament tests on cats to give prospective adopters an idea of what to expect. However, it’s important to remember that a cat’s behavior in a shelter environment might not be fully indicative of how they’ll act in a more stable home environment.
Considering a cat’s temperament involves a multi-faceted approach that takes into account not just your preferences, but the entire living situation the cat will be entering. It’s a crucial element to think through carefully to ensure that the relationship between you and your new feline companion is a fulfilling one for both parties involved.
9. Pet Policy
The pet policy in your living situation is an absolutely vital component to scrutinize before adopting a cat. Ignoring or overlooking this aspect can lead to a host of complications, both legal and emotional, that could end up affecting you and your future feline friend negatively.
If you’re renting your home, the first thing to do is to review your lease agreement carefully to understand what it says about owning pets. Some rental contracts prohibit pets outright, while others may require a pet deposit, additional monthly fees, or specific restrictions like size or breed limitations. Violating your lease agreement’s pet policy can result in financial penalties, eviction, or the agonizing need to rehome your newly adopted cat. Even if your lease agreement permits pets, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your landlord to confirm that cats are allowed and under what conditions.
Homeowners aren’t entirely off the hook either. Those living in condos or housing developments with homeowners associations (HOAs) may also have guidelines or restrictions regarding pets. Such policies can range from the number of pets allowed to specific rules about outdoor enclosures or leashes-even for cats. Failure to adhere to these rules could result in fines or, in extreme cases, legal action.
The pet policy issue extends beyond just your immediate living environment. Consider, too, the restrictions that could be in place in areas you might move to in the future. If your job or lifestyle involves frequent moves, especially between states or countries, you’ll need to think about how each location’s pet policies might affect your ability to keep your cat. International moves can be particularly complicated, sometimes involving quarantine periods or specific health certifications for your pet.
Insurance is another angle to consider. Some insurance companies may have stipulations about pet ownership in their home or renter’s policies, and failing to abide by these can compromise your coverage. While this is less common for cats compared to certain dog breeds considered “high-risk,” it’s still worth checking your policy or consulting with your insurance provider.
So, understanding and complying with the pet policy where you live is non-negotiable when it comes to responsible pet ownership. Ensuring that your living situation accommodates your new feline family member not only keeps you in good legal standing but also contributes to a more stable and stress-free environment for your cat. Make sure to read all guidelines carefully, ask questions if anything is unclear, and plan for potential changes in your living situation down the line.
10. Travel Lifestyle
If you lead a lifestyle that involves frequent travel, it’s crucial to think through how this will impact your ability to care for a cat. Cats are generally territorial creatures and find comfort in familiar surroundings, which means that constant travel can be disruptive and stressful for them.
One of the first considerations is the nature of your travel. If you’re often away on short trips, you might be able to enlist a pet sitter or neighbor to check in on your cat, feed them, and provide some social interaction. However, this might not be a viable long-term solution for extended periods away from home. In such cases, you might need to look into more formalized pet care services, like cat boarding facilities or professional pet sitters who can provide more comprehensive care. These options can be costly, and the quality of care can vary, so extensive research and possibly even a trial run are recommended.
On the other hand, if your travel lifestyle involves longer stays at each location and the option to bring your pet along, you’ll need to prepare for the complexities of traveling with a cat. This involves considering the mode of travel: cats generally don’t enjoy car rides, and air travel can be particularly stressful for them. You’ll need to get a well-ventilated and secure carrier, possibly sedatives prescribed by a veterinarian, and ensure that your destination is pet-friendly. International travel may require additional health certifications, vaccines, or even quarantine, depending on the country’s regulations.
Even when you reach your destination, there are further considerations. How will your cat adjust to the new environment? Will there be safe spaces for them? If it’s a temporary residence, like a hotel or Airbnb, you’ll also need to confirm in advance that they have a pet-friendly policy, and you might need to pay an extra deposit or cleaning fee.
If frequent travel is an unavoidable aspect of your lifestyle, you may want to consider whether adopting a cat is the right choice at this time. Cats thrive on routine and stability, and constant upheaval can lead to behavioral issues or stress-related health problems like urinary issues or over-grooming.
Always keep in mind that a travel-heavy lifestyle requires careful planning and additional considerations to ensure your cat’s well-being. Whether it’s arranging for reliable care during your absences or taking extra steps to make travel as stress-free as possible for your feline friend, the goal is to provide a stable and loving environment, no matter where you are.
11. Grooming Needs
Understanding a cat’s grooming needs is a key factor to consider before bringing a new feline friend into your home. The amount of grooming a cat requires can vary significantly depending on the breed, age, health status, and even individual personality. And while cats are often seen as low-maintenance when it comes to grooming compared to dogs, they do still have needs that should be addressed regularly to ensure their well-being.
Short-haired breeds like the American Shorthair or the British Shorthair generally require less grooming. A weekly brushing is often sufficient to remove loose fur and reduce hairballs. However, even short-haired cats can benefit from regular checks of their ears, teeth, and nails, and these should be cleaned, brushed, or trimmed as needed.
In contrast, long-haired breeds such as Persians, Maine Coons, or Ragdolls require more intensive grooming routines. Their coats can become easily tangled or matted if not brushed regularly, sometimes even requiring daily attention. Neglected mats can be painful and can lead to skin infections. Therefore, if you’re considering a long-haired breed, you should be prepared to spend more time on grooming or be willing to pay for professional grooming services.
Grooming isn’t just about keeping a cat’s coat in good condition; it also serves as an opportunity to check for signs of health issues. While brushing or combing your cat, you might discover ticks, fleas, or skin infections that require medical attention. Regular grooming also allows you to check their ears for signs of infection or mites, and their teeth for plaque build-up or gum disease.
Cats also engage in self-grooming, which is a natural behavior but can sometimes become excessive, leading to hairballs or skin conditions. Some cats, particularly those who are older or have mobility issues, may struggle to groom themselves effectively. In such cases, additional grooming support from you becomes even more crucial.
It’s also worth mentioning that some cats enjoy the grooming process more than others. While some might find brushing to be a pleasurable form of attention, others might be averse to it. It’s important to approach grooming in a way that is as stress-free as possible for your cat, which may involve short sessions initially, combined with positive reinforcement like treats or affection.
Grooming is an important but sometimes overlooked aspect of cat care that can have significant implications for a cat’s health and comfort. Before adopting, assess your ability and willingness to meet the grooming needs specific to the cat you’re considering, and ensure you’re equipped to handle this aspect of pet care responsibly.
12. Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is a particularly crucial consideration when adopting a cat. Cats can live quite a long time, often reaching 15 to 20 years or even longer. This is a substantial commitment, and it’s essential to think about whether you’re ready to provide a stable, loving home for a pet for the duration of its life. A cat isn’t a short-term commitment or a novelty; it’s a living being that will depend on you for its well-being for many years.
The notion of committing to a pet for its lifetime brings us to a point that cannot be emphasized strongly enough: once you adopt a cat, abandoning it is utterly unacceptable. Sadly, shelters see a high number of cats that have been given up due to changes in their owners’ lives, whether that’s moving, having a baby, or simply deciding that pet care is too much work. Abandoning a pet is not only cruel and stressful for the animal, but it’s also irresponsible. When you adopt, you’re making a vow to take care of that animal for its entire life, through good times and bad.
If circumstances in your life do change and providing care becomes difficult, there are humane options for rehoming your pet. These could include passing the cat on to a trusted friend or family member or working with a reputable shelter or rescue organization to find a new home. Some organizations even offer surrender prevention programs, providing resources to help you keep your pet.
Life stage is another element to consider when thinking about a cat’s life expectancy. Kittens are a long-term commitment but come with the demands of high energy levels and the need for socialization and training. Middle-aged cats might be a better fit for those looking for a pet with a calmer demeanor. Older cats, often overlooked in shelters, still have a lot of love to give and may be ideal for someone looking for a less demanding pet, but they might also come with more health considerations, which can affect their life expectancy.
Adopting a cat with known health issues or disabilities is another scenario where life expectancy might be affected. While these cats can live fulfilling lives and bring immense joy, they may require specialized care and might have a shorter lifespan.
Planning for the long term also involves financial considerations. The costs of feeding, grooming, vet care, and other necessities can add up over a cat’s lifetime. As cats age, they are also more prone to health issues, which can result in increased veterinary costs.
In summary, when considering adopting a cat, it’s vital to think long-term. A cat is a lifetime commitment, and abandoning a pet is an inexcusable act that causes unnecessary suffering. The time, emotional investment, and financial responsibilities that come with a cat should not be taken lightly and must be considered as part of your decision-making process.
Never, ever abandon your cat!!!
- “Things to consider before getting a feline companion” on The Conversation website