Adopting a Cat
Some Tips on Adding a Feline Family Member
June 20, 2016 by Mark Dye
Cats (or at least pictures of them) pretty much rule the Internet. As cat owners can tell you, they can also tend to rule your home. And it’s that independent spirit, mixed with often quirky personalities, that endears felines to so many. They are also a lot easier to leave alone for hours or even a few days at a time compared to dogs, and don’t require things like walks outside, making them great for people with busy schedules or who live in apartments.
With it being National Cat Adoption Month, now is a great time to add a new member to your family—and here are some tips for selecting one.
- Cat or kitten—Getting a kitten can be quite fun, as their rambunctious and inquisitive natures mean there is rarely a dull moment. A downside, however, is not knowing what personality the cat will have—cats can have wild differences in temperament even within a breed or litter, and there is no real way to tell if you’ll get a loving snuggler or an aloof ignorer.
Getting an older cat means you have a better idea of its behavior and quirks, as well as any medical issues. You also get the comfort of knowing you saved an animal that someone else might not want (kittens are adopted at much, much higher rates than older cats). The downside is that any bad habits taught or allowed by the previous owner are likely to accompany the cat, and you miss out on all of the silliness that a kitten can provide. In the end, it’s up to you and what you’re willing to tolerate: training a new kitten or handling an older feline.
- Costs—The initial extra cost of a kitten (with vaccinations, spaying and neutering, microchipping, and all the stuff you need for home) can run anywhere from $300-$600. Add in things like food, litter, regular worming treatments (once every three months or so), flea and tick control, etc., and you can add another $100 or so a month on average.
- Family—If you have younger children, keep in mind that they tend not to mix well with many cats. Kids can be grabby and rough, and most cats don’t appreciate having their fur or tail pulled. So make sure that you supervise every interaction very young children have with a new cat until the kids (and the cat) learn how to handle each other.
Also keep in mind any relatives or friends you know that have severe cat allergies. These can be quite serious for some people, even requiring a trip to the hospital if the allergies and reaction to them are severe. If you have people who are allergic to cats, but they visit your home often, you’ll need to clean well and keep the cat quarantined in another room during their visit. In some cases, that still might not be enough, and their visits to your home will have to end.
And don’t forget any other four-legged family members you already have. Some dogs get along with great with cats, and some cats won’t tolerate another feline near them. If you’re not sure about how your current pet will handle a new addition, arrange a meeting for them somewhere before you adopt and see how they react to each other.
- Breeds—There aren’t nearly as many cat breeds as dog breeds, and some of the differences between breeds is mostly cosmetic rather than functional. (Unlike dogs breeds, which were developed to help the dog do a certain job, cat breeds were developed for companionship.) But there are still enough differences to make each breed somewhat unique.
For example, Manx and Siberian breeds tend to be affectionate, playful, and don’t like to be left alone. Some even describe them as “dog like” for their willingness to play fetch. Russian Blue and Shorthairs, on the other hand, are more independent and will be okay left alone for extended periods. And Siamese are talkers, so don’t get one unless you’re okay with them being quite vocal.
You also want to be aware of any health issue a breed might tend to have. Some are prone to kidney issues or feline leukemia, others might be prone to heart problems, and still others could have various health issues. Basically, make sure to do your research before buying a pure bred cat. (Something to consider is that mixed breeds tend to have fewer health issues due to larger genetic diversity. Keep that in mind when looking.)
- Declawing—While once quite common, removing your cats claws is no longer a recommended option for many reasons. Instead, make sure to give your cat plenty of appropriate things to scratch so they can keep their claws in shape.
In the end, if you do your research and have everything prepared for your new family member, you’ll have an amazing companion for years to come.