Part 1 – Should I get a cat and why choose a cat over another pet

Why do people choose cats over other pets?
Cats are the most prevalent domesticated animal, 63 million of them are kept as pets around the world! Cats are wonderful pets if you get to know them, spend time with them, and treat them right. In actuality there is a multitude of reasons for choosing a cat as your primary pet including (but not limited to):

  • Cats are fairly quiet pets in comparison to dogs
  • Cats are smaller animals
  • Cats bury their own waste and thus don’t ‘need’ to be walked or let outside
  • Cats require less grooming than dogs
  • Cats are fairly independent animals, although they welcome and thrive on your attention and will grow and blossom in a home where they are cuddled and talked to often
  • Cats are fairly non-aggressive
  • Cats are less costly than dogs
  • Cats can live in smaller, inside places like apartments or condos
  • Cats require little exercise when compared to dogs
  • Cats require minimal training

Why should I get a cat/kitten?
Now that we know why cats are good pets let’s talk about if you should get a cat. There are a few questions that you need to ask yourself before adopting a cat or kitten. If you answer no to any of them please think long and hard about adopting. Don’t adopt if you can not properly take care of your pet, as it is very cruel to that animal!

  • Is there enough room in my home? – Although cats require less room than dogs they still need ample room to roam, run, jump and play. Any home smaller than about 700 sq. feet is too small for one cat to live in (and 900 sq feet is about the minimum for two).
  • Can I deal with a litterbox and potential accidents? – Although cats are very clean animals and instinctually bury their waste, you still need to clean out their litterbox. And as your cat is adjusting to his/her box, if your cat is stressed, if something changes about his/her box (placement or litter type) or if your cat gets ill; he/she may have an accident or two. You must ask yourself, are you willing to clean out the litterbox at least once a day (more often for larger and multiple cats) and deal with potential accidents that are bound to occur at some point in your pet’s life?
  • Can you afford a cat? – Cats are cheaper pets than dogs but you will still need to afford the following: food, treats, bowls, litter, litterbox, scooper, scratching post, cat bed, toys, cat carriers, brushes and grooming tools, collar, identification tag, and medical care. Your cat needs, at minimum, all of the above. Many people get cats and at the first sign of medical expense dump the cat off at the shelter. Be prepared for medical expenses (you can even purchase pet health insurance), you never know when a cat will get ill. And if you can’t afford or aren’t willing to pay for medical expenses, if and when it happens, don’t get a cat. Too many people wait until the last possible second before taking a cat to the vet. This denial of proper medical attention to save a few bucks is cruel to the animal and usually end up costing more as by the time the cat is at the vet the cat is very, very ill.
  • Do you have time to spend at least 2 hours a day with your pet? – Cats need quality time with you and need to play, be nurtured and be exercised. Plan on spending at minimum 2 hours/day with your cat. If you are the type that will never be home or will be gone every weekend, don’t get a cat (get a hamster instead).
  • Can you deal with training your cat and possibly a few bad behaviors? – Don’t get us wrong, cats are very low maintenance. Cats are fairly easily trained and many cats come to us already knowledgeable about how to act, use a litterbox, use a scratching post etc.; however, you may need to spend some time training your pet and/or dealing with the consequences of bad behaviors if you don’t train your pet. If your personality can’t deal with this and will get angry at the cat rather than disliking the behavior and fixing that then you need to think long and hard about getting any pet.
  • Can you deal with pet hair? – Cats are hairy and they shed. Are you ready to deal with cat hair on the couch and such? As with any pet the idea of keeping your house immaculate, although possible, will take a little more work.
  • Can you keep your cat indoors? – Of course you can take your cat out on walks, or create a fenced in area in your backyard for your cat to play in, but for the safety and longevity of your pet it is best to keep him/her as in indoor animal. For the most part indoor cats live much longer lives than outdoor-only cats, this is due to the high risk of disease (many of which there are no vaccines for), poor eating habits, assault from other animals and humans, and other unknowns that outdoor cats face. Some studies report that indoor-only cats live on average 12 years while outdoor-only cats only live on average 3 years.
  • Can you deal with your furniture potentially getting clawed or damaged? – You can and should train your cat to not claw furniture (rather than getting your cat declawed which is considered cruel by many veterinarians and cat lovers), however, if you don’t train your cat properly this can happen.
  • Can you deal with illness or death? – At some time point your pet may get ill and unfortunately will eventually die. Are you willing to deal with such an illness or death emotionally and financially?

Cats can bring so much in to your life. They are wonderful, intelligent, expressive creatures who can bring you vast amounts of joy and happiness. It is shown that people (especially seniors) with pets have lower blood pressure, are happier, and live longer. However, if you answered no to any of the above questions we recommend NOT getting a cat. As with any new roommate in your home there are compromises that will need to be made. If you are not willing to deal with some of the compromises with a cat then you should not get one.

Next in this series:
Part 2 –How to choose a particular cat when at the pet store or shelter
Part 3 –What to do when bringing a new cat/kitten home and the responsibilities of owning a cat
Part 4 –How to choose a vet