Owning a cat can bring you and your family joy and companionship, but also many years of responsibility. Cats are active, intelligent, and longlived, and they require continued care and attention.
Before making the decision to buy or adopt a cat, think carefully about how he will fit into your lifestyle. Bear in mind, too, that your responsibilities may be long term— a cat can live for more than 20 years.
Could you give a cat daily attention? Most cats are relatively independent but some dislike being left alone all day. Never leave a cat unattended for more than 24 hours; in an emergency, make sure that someone is able to look in on him. If you regularly stay away from home, a cat may not be right for you.
Is a cat suitable for the whole family? A cat that was not raised with young children will likely find living with them stressful; and if family members suffer from allergies or have restricted vision or mobility, a cat around the house is a potential hazard.
Do you want a kitten or an adult cat? Kittens need extra care and supervision, so be realistic about how much time you can allow for such things as litter-tray training and feeding up to four times a day.
If you take on an adult cat, his previous experiences will influence how well he fits into your home. For example, a cat that is not used to children could find living with them stressful. (Rescue centers that rehome adult cats do their best to avoid such mismatches, see p.13.) Will your cat live indoors or outdoors? Keeping a cat inside is generally safer but few homes can provide all the stimulation that most cats require; adult cats that have always had access to the outside may not adapt well to an indoor lifestyle. Cats are hunters, so if your cat goes outside you must accept that he might bring home prey. In the house, a cat inevitably sheds hairs everywhere and may scratch the furniture.
Would you prefer a quiet cat or a lively one? If you choose a pedigree (see pp.14–15), breed can indicate a cat’s likely temperament, but a random-bred cat is more of an unknown quantity. In both cases, individual personality can be influenced by early life experiences and the parent cats’ temperaments. Do you want a male or female cat? Generally, neutered cats show no differences in behavior and temperament. Unneutered toms may roam and spray urine, while in-heat females may be restless.
Essentials of cat care
Cats require a surprisingly large number of resources, and they can be expensive, so be sure that you can afford life-long care. Basic costs include buying food, bowls, beds, litter trays and/or a cat flap, a cat carrier, grooming equipment, veterinary care, microchipping, and insurance.
As well as your cat’s physical requirements, also consider his need for mental stimulation. Cats can quickly become bored, especially if they don’t go outside regularly, and this can lead to destructive behaviors.
As well as your cat’s physical requirements, also consider his need for mental stimulation. Cats can quickly become bored, especially if they don’t go outside regularly, and this can lead to destructive behaviors. There is a wide variety of cat toys and scratching posts available, but taking time to interact with your cat is just as important as providing him with playthings. He will need plenty of stimulation in the form of cuddles and games.
Cats need regular grooming and may need the occasional bath. For a longhaired cat, daily grooming (see pp.32–3), taking up to half an hour, is essential. Shorthaired cats are far less time-consuming but they need brushing or combing at least once a week.
From time to time you may have to arrange for cat care. This can incur considerable expense either for boarding fees if your pet stays in a cattery or for paying a professional cat-sitter.
You are morally, and in many countries also legally, responsible for your cat’s welfare. Essential care includes giving your cat a safe home that enables him to perform normal cat behavior, suitable food and clean water, preventive health care and veterinary treatment when necessary, and protection from unnecessary suffering.