By Marilyn Krieger
Like any pet, cats enhance lives and make a house a home. They excel at helping their people unwind after a stressful day. There is nothing quite as comforting as having a cat serenely napping nearby.
Although cats bring joy and are great companions, they are a lifetime commitment. Think seriously before adopting—it should not be a spur of the moment decision. Make sure that you can support and provide the cat a loving, safe environment for his or her whole life. Before making the decision to share your home with a cat (or cats), do the homework and ask yourself the tough questions.
Can you afford to take care of a cat? Cats need more than love and a warm place to sleep. In addition to the expenses of high quality cat food and cat furniture, the yearly vet checks, teeth cleanings and unexpected visits to the vet quickly tax the wallet. Although mandatory health visits can be costly, several options are available that can help pay the bills. Pet health insurance plans can help decrease the bills. Monthly premiums and deductibles vary between plans and are based on the cat’s age, medical history and coverage. Always read the fine print when shopping for a health plan. They all have restrictions about what they will cover—some have more limits than others. Another option is the CareCredit healthcare card. CareCredit is similar to a credit card, with steep interest rates and penalties for late and missed payments.
Do you have the time to spend with a cat? Cats cannot be left alone to fend for themselves. In addition to being fed at least twice a day and provided fresh water, litter boxes have to be scooped daily. Cats are also social animals and need quality time interacting with their people every day. The together time can be filled with play, grooming and cuddle sessions. Cats left alone for hours day in and day out without the benefit of a companion can become depressed and lethargic.
Can you handle the daily details? Cats require daily maintenance and friendly environments. Aside from the feeding, watering and litter box scooping, litter box duties also entail emptying, washing and refilling the boxes with fresh litter on a regular basis. Cats also need to be groomed. Long-haired cats require daily grooming, but short-haired ones can get by with being groomed every few days. Felines instinctively have to scratch objects. Although they can be easily trained to scratch appropriate furniture, they might occasionally scratch the carpet or sofa. Declawing is not an option. Living with cats means making the environment cat-friendly. They need to be equipped with scratching posts, cat trees, beds and toys.
Are cats allowed where you live? Some housing situations are not great for cats. If you are renting, make sure that you have a signed agreement that states you can have a cat as a roommate. These agreements are mandatory. Stuff happens, buildings change hands and the new owners may not like cats. Having a signed agreement protects you, assuring that you or your cat will not be evicted. If you live with other people, make sure that they all approve of their new roomie.
Are there other resident animals? Other household animals should always be considered first before adopting another animal. Bringing home a cat can be problematic and potentially dangerous if the other household animals have a history of not getting along with cats. Do not adopt cats if there are dogs who chase or are aggressive to cats. Dogs in the home should never chase or attempt to harm cats. Often birds are overlooked. If you live with birds, ensure their safety by keeping them in areas that are inaccessible to cats. Cages may not be enough because some birds become stressed when cats are in the same vicinity as they are.
Are you or anyone you live with allergic to cats? Cats sometimes end up in shelters because someone in the household is allergic to them. Before adopting, make sure that you and everyone you live with do not have allergic reactions when around cats.
Bringing home a new cat should not be a spur of the moment, emotional event. Along with the cuteness and companionship, comes responsibility. Ask the hard questions and examine all possible scenarios before adopting. You are not adopting just a cat, you are bringing home a new family member.
This article was first published in BARKS from the Guild, July 2014, p. 44-45.
About the Author
Marilyn Krieger, certified cat behavior consultant and owner of The Cat Coach LLC®, solves cat behavior problems nationally and internationally through on-site, phone and Skype consultations. She also writes behavior columns for Catster and Cat Fancy Magazine, and is a frequent guest on television and radio.