Cats are one of the most popular pets worldwide. Most of the time, cat owners claim that they’re relatively easy to care for, as cats need less time and energy than other animals (ahem, dogs). Still, if you’re considering adopting a cat, you should take as much time to think it through as possible.
Are you ready for a cat? Some of the most important things to consider before a cat adoption include their behavioral tendencies (they need mental stimulation and cat-proofing) and the amount of time and money you’ll be investing. Plus, if you have reservations about feeding your cat a meat-based diet, you might need to think through that before adopting.
How Do I Know if I’m Ready for a Cat?
Before you get a cat – you’ll need to consider the details of your life, household, family, and pets to make sure that everything is ready for the new pet. Of course, plan out general things like budgeting and veterinary care beforehand, but these factors are all generally applicable to pets of any kind.
(Don’t worry, these will be included below, too, just to ensure this guide is comprehensive and can walk you through each step of preparation.)
With cats, in particular, it’s essential to consider the following details as you’re mulling over the decision to get a cat. Below you’ll find some of the most important topics to think over or discuss as you progress in your search for the perfect kitty.
One thing that tends to take many cat owners by surprise is their kitten’s destructive behavior. Young cats are crazy little things that will be leaping off the walls from the moment they wake until they finally fall asleep that night. But this is typical of nearly any young, domesticated mammal.
The specific thing that catches new cat owners off guard is their new cat’s inclination to get into things they have no business touching or even being near, for that matter. This is because, as a predator, your cat may have the urge to hunt and “kill” things more often than other types of animals. Their instincts drive them to want to stalk, pounce, and tear things apart, as in the wild, these behaviors would serve them well.
In a house, these tendencies aren’t so helpful. On that note, are you ready to cat-proof your house? This entails:
Removing houseplants that might be toxic to the new cat
Cover up or hide chewing or choking hazards, such as wires, paper clips, and rubber bands
Ensure all furniture is secure so nothing falls on your cat when it inevitably leaps to the tops of cabinets and doors
Cleaning products are all locked away, out of your cat’s reach
Dangerous pests of all kinds – from poisonous insects to coyotes – are excluded from your yard
Once you’re sure your house is ready, you now need to decide if you’re ready for your kitty’s behavior, too. Are you prepared to wake up in the morning to a little critter with razor-sharp claws and teeth pulling at your clothes and leaping up onto your torso? Aside from this, do you think you could handle a household with multiple pets, if you already have some?
Another important detail that many people overlook is whether you have time to dedicate your little buddy between work hours. Before adoption (and sometimes after, unfortunately), many people wonder, “Can cats be left alone for 8 hours?”
Depending on your cat’s age, you might be able to get away with leaving it at home while you work. If it’s any younger than six months old, you’ll need to make time to visit the house throughout the workday to spend some quality time.
This is not to scare you, but to give you realistic expectations so you don’t get too enamored by superficial imaginings of what it might be like to have a cat. Truthfully, once you get past the hard parts, having a cat is relatively easy and rewarding. They can help ease your stress and boost your mood in several ways – you just have to put in the work to build your relationship first.
Time and Money
Cats need quite a bit of time and can cost a lot of money. However, they’re often painted as the “easy” alternative to other pets, like dogs. This is often due to cats’ relative independence when compared to their canine counterparts. But don’t be fooled! Investing in a new cat pet will feel like there’s a lot on your plate at first. It will get easier to manage – after a while, it becomes second nature.
Yet, this doesn’t negate the fact that cat ownership can be a hefty responsibility. Concerning time: Cats live between 10-15 years on average. However, it’s not uncommon to hear of cats who live up to 20 years old (16 years old is the second most common age behind that).
Ask yourself: Are you prepared to care for this animal for the next couple of decades of your life? If you only have a fleeting desire for a cat, you might want to give yourself more time to mull it over before jumping into the adoption process.
Then, there’s the money issue. This is often another factor that could take a new cat owner by surprise, sadly resulting in them taking their pet back to the animal shelter. To prevent this from happening to you and your fur-baby, take a look at the ASPCA’s (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimated annual costs for cat care:
Food (premium dry kibble): $224
Medical (including exams, heartworm preventative, flea and tick preventatives): $160
Health insurance: $175
Spay or neuter: $145
Scoopable litter (wood shavings, recycled paper products): $165
Litter box: $25
There are more elements to the summed total; however, these are the most important to note. Are you ready to include these costs in your budget? If so, you’re well on your way to welcoming a cat into your life!
This might not seem like that big of a deal at first. After all, you can just head to the store and pick up some cat food when you finally bring your little furball home, right? Not quite. You might have some severe issues with feeding your little carnivorous beast, especially if you’re a vegan or vegetarian.
The number of pet owners who are converting their carnivorous pets to vegan, vegetarian, and similar restrictive diets is alarming. This trend is inspired by humans’ consumption patterns (veganism exploded by 600% between 2014-2017) and growing concerns about pet food’s environmental impact.
Still, according to British Veterinary Association’s (BVA) president, Daniella Dos Santos, switching to a vegan diet is a harmful choice that can result in some severe health issues. “If your personal belief system means you don’t want to eat any animal protein, that’s fine, but that diet is not designed to meet the welfare standards of your pet,” Dos Santos told the BBC.
“Cats are obligate carnivores, and they require certain amounts of amino acids to be healthy, and the lack of these can lead to health problems… For that reason, you wouldn’t advise a vegetarian diet, let alone a vegan one.”
If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of feeding your cat meat or meat-based products, perhaps you’re not ready to adopt one. However, if your primary concern is the carbon production related to your cat’s diet, there are easier ways to resolve it. Buying from local producers or feeding your cat a natural, raw diet is much healthier and safer than eliminating meat altogether.
A Word of Warning: Common Reasons Why Cats are Surrendered
Getting a cat is a big commitment, so it’s natural to feel a bit of hesitation before going through with an adoption. Once you decide to bring a cat into your life, you take on the responsibility of providing food, shelter, and maintaining vet care for a living being. Even people who have prepared themselves for such a job can begin to feel overwhelmed after a short while.
On the other hand, if you fail to prepare yourself entirely, your cat is at risk of becoming yet another statistic. This pattern is much easier to fall into than you might think. For instance, the most common reasons why adopted cats get surrendered include:
Caring for a cat is more expensive than the owner expected. People tend to underestimate how much it costs to care for a cat (or any pet, for that matter). Some of the primary expenses include food, veterinary care, and daily necessities like toys and leashes. These costs will be spread over your cat’s lifespan, averaging between $1,370-1,940 per year.
The owner can’t seem to manage their cat’s behavior. This problem is more prevalent among people who adopt kittens or stray cats. One important thing to remember when adopting this animal is that they are predators. This means they’re inclined to play games that involving chasing, scratching, biting, and other behaviors that some might consider unacceptable.
Note: This is not a great reason to get rid of a cat. Why? Behavioral problems are temporary! By being patient and giving you and your cat a chance to familiarize yourselves with one another’s personalities, you can establish a foundation for training. After that, you can confidently work on improving undesirable behavioral patterns.
The cat was unexpected or from an “oopsie” litter. Circumstances like this are unfortunate, but it’s no one’s fault. If a friend’s cat happens to get pregnant or a local stray gives birth to a litter, some people might take the cat in out of sympathy without realizing how much of a commitment they just took on.
Additional Reasons Why a Cat Would Be Returned to the Shelter
These only represent major reasons why cats are surrendered to the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Shelters across the United States accept unwanted cats, too, for a wide variety of reasons – so much that the total annual surrenders for cats alone is around 3.2 million. There are countless other reasons why you might end up returning your cat to the shelter, including:
Moving addresses (around 7% of cat owners reported this as their primary reason for surrendering their cat)
Your landlord does not allow a pet (6%)
Personal events arise that complicate the responsibility of owning and caring for a cat (4%)
Home is not prepared for the cat (2%) or multiple cats/littermates (6%)
Someone in the family has an allergy (8%)
The cat does not get along with other pets in the household (2%)
Do any of the above reasons seem like possibilities for you or your family? If so, there may be a chance that you are not ready for your cat. Still, this isn’t a done deal. For example, if you are unsure of whether a family member is allergic to cats, there is a chance you could circumvent any adverse consequences with a visit to the doctor’s office. Request an allergy panel to verify whether there’s an allergy or not before moving forward.
As mentioned above, behavior-based problems are fixable. It will take time, but potty training a cat is a relatively straightforward task. On the other hand, getting your new and old pets to get along may be more difficult. Before you commit to adopting the new cat, consider your pets’ personalities in depth.
Are your current pets high-energy and outgoing or calm and shy? Are there many cats or another animal, like a dog? Of course, many animals have the potential to get along with one another. However, you need to be realistic about how you match up your choice in fur-babies.
For instance, you may have seen a cute photo of a cat and bird on the internet, but this does not mean the new cat won’t try to eat your parakeet. On the other hand, dogs and cats still have a strong chance of getting along with one another, though it’s normally seen as an unconventional pair. Many pet owners in cat-dog households report that their pets coexist well enough.
In short: Be smart about your pet adoption choices. Develop a functional understanding of your household, family, current pets, and prospective cat before welcoming it home. Careful assessment in advance can save both you and your cat from heartbreak.
What are Good Reasons to Get a Cat?
If you’ve worked through this entire guide and determined that you’re still on board with getting a cat: Congratulations! This is wonderful news. Now, just take one last moment to make sure your heart is in the right place. Why do you want to bring a cat into your life? Even if you were able to confirm that you are indeed ready for this commitment, you could still be going into this with the wrong mindset entirely.
To give you an idea of where your heart and mind should be when adopting a cat, here are some reasonable motivations for wanting to get a new cat:
You are looking for enduring companionship that you can’t quite find in another human being
You want a pet’s company but don’t want an animal that requires as much attention or isn’t as needy as a dog
You and your partner want to welcome a new family member into the home that’s not too much for kids to handle
You are an experienced cat owner and your current cats need a friend
You lead a relatively calm lifestyle and spend lots of time indoors but want a pet to get you outside once in a while
Of course, these are not the only reasons why you should get a cat. Countless more motivations might be swirling around in your head, and they’re all just as valid. These are just some examples to get you started and guide you in the right direction when finalizing your choice to adopt.
Welcoming a new cat into your life is a huge choice. It takes a lot of time and consideration to ensure you’re adopting a kitten for the right reasons, so make sure to take your time and do your research.
About the Author
My name is Jazmin "Sunny" Murphy, and I am a science communicator and web content writer. Since 2015, I've been producing scientific content that is written in plain English. My love for life science has influenced my professional and academic aspirations since I was a kid. I hold a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and 21 units of a Master's education in Environmental Policy & Management (concentration: Fish and Wildlife Management). You can learn more about me and my science writing and reporting work at my website, Black Flower Writing Services.