Adopting a kitten or adult cat is a long-term responsibility and commitment. It’s a decision you want to give careful thought to and be prepared for, and not one to take lightly or impulsively. Owning a cat is a large financial and emotional responsibility lasting anywhere from 14 to 22 years, typically. Your cat will depend on you for its health, happiness, safety and well being, so here are some of the most important considerations before adopting a cat.
Renting Your Home? Check with Your Landlord
If you live in an apartment or rental property be sure to confirm with your landlord beforehand that cats are allowed and whether a pet deposit is required. Avoid adopting a cat and bringing it home, only to find the landlord does not accept pets.
Lifetime of Costs
Getting a cat is exciting, but the reality is there is a lifetime of expenses associated with caring for a cat. Be aware of and ready to commit to spending money for healthy food, litter, toys, a carrier, scratching post or tree, but most of all for needed veterinary costs. These can be annual or recurring, but if your cat gets sick they will need to see a veterinarian. As cats age and become more senior health issues can arise, so it’s important to be prepared for when that time comes. Like people, cats get sick and sometimes develop chronic illnesses as they age.
Cat-Proofing Your Home
There are many potential risks and hazards in the home for cats. To cat-proof your home, be sure to put away and store all medicines, household cleaners, and personal care products in cupboards and cabinets safely out of reach. Cover any outlets and electrical cords that cats can bite and chew. Remove live plants, as many are toxic to cats and can make them sick. Make sure to keep small objects that cats can swallow or ingest off the floor, tables and countertops. Keep string, thread, yarn, and ribbon off the floor and out of reach. Table scraps can make cats sick, so be sure to remove plates with leftover food and remove any leftover food from counters that cats can find and nibble on.
Keeping Cats Inside
Unlike dogs, cats don’t need to go outside. Cats are safest, healthiest and live the longest staying indoors. There are many risks to letting your cat outside—exposure to disease and viruses, poisons and toxins, cars, getting lost, and not returning home. You can make your cat happiest living inside by purchasing tall scratching posts, cat trees, balls, catnip toys, and giving them ample play time.
Microchipping your cat is a good safety measure in case of disaster, emergency, or your cat accidentally gets outside. If your cat is microchipped, you have a much better chance of having them returned to you.
Discuss in advance who will be responsible for daily feedings. Cats do best when fed twice a day, morning and night, so you’ll want to maintain this schedule daily at approximately the same time everyday. Cats are happiest and do the best when there is routine, consistency and predictability. Cats like to be fed good, nutritious food to maintain good health and the best foods are food without meat by-products, meal, grains, and dyes, so always check the ingredients on the label.
Daily Litterbox Cleaning
Litterboxes should be cleaned daily as cats are very finicky about being clean and don’t like stepping into a dirty litterbox. With kittens up to 6 months old, you want to use a non-clumping litter like Johnny Cat; after 6-months you can use a clumping litter. Cats don’t like fragrance so non-fragrant litters are best and if you switch to a new type of litter, do it slowly over several days—again cats like consistency.
Have an area identified for your litterbox that is easily accessible and in a private, quiet area for the cat. If you live in a multilevel home, you will want one litterbox on each floor.
Daily Fresh Water
Cats need plenty of clean, fresh water available in an easily accessible place. If you live in a larger home or with multiple floors, consider multiple water bowls. Using stainless steel and glass are preferable to plastic bowls, as plastic can leach chemicals into the water that can cause chronic illness later. Keep bowls scrubbed and clean using soap and water at least every second day to avoid the build up of germs.
Routine Veterinary Care
Like people, cats can get sick too. Recognizing when your cat isn’t feeling well or is behaving differently and taking them to the vet is critical. You are their guardians and need to be willing to get veterinary care as often as needed. It’s important to be aware of the financial responsibility you’re making when you adopt a cat, and be committed to them for the cat’s natural lifetime. Be prepared for your cat’s annual checkup with a veterinarian for a routine exam, dental well checks and cleanings, and basic blood and urine tests when needed. Like with people, cats get cavities and need their teeth cleaned under anesthesia, so getting good dental care is important and can prevent much worse problems down the road. Your cat’s happiness and well-being is dependent upon keeping them healthy over the course of their natural lifetime.
When end-of-life does come for your senior or elderly cat, work with your vet on providing good care and always keeping your cat comfortable. Remember the commitment you first made to your cat is caring for them all the way to the end of their natural life.
Cat Health & Grooming
Cats are big groomers and healthy cats will groom themselves daily. Cats do not like to be bathed, and should not be bathed unless instructed to do so by a veterinarian to treat a specific skin disorder.
Never declaw a cat! Declawing is considered amputation of a joint, is extremely painful, causes great suffering and distress, and can alter your cat’s behavior and personality forever making them fearful, timid, lack confidence and feel and be more vulnerable.
Make sure your cat is spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering will contribute to your cat’s good long-term health, happiness and longevity.
A Loving, Stress-Free Environment
Cats are smart creatures. They are also social animals, but it’s important to understand your own cat and when they want to socialize and when they don’t, and respect any personal limits they may have.
Learn to know your cat and keep any stress factors away from them. Stress affects the quality of a cat’s mental and physical health and many medical problems are often caused by underlying stress, so keep your home environment as stress-free as possible for your cat. For some cats stress can be caused by other cats they don’t get along with, a newborn baby, loud voices, or even new furniture may do it. If you find your cat is trying to communicate with you about these stress factors through their behavior or medical problems result, reach out to your vet or local cat rescue group for answers—they are knowledgeable and can provide good suggestions.
Lastly, be sure to make time every day to give your cat the love and attention they look to you for.