“Should I Get A Cat?” The Things A First Time Cat Owner Should Know
Estimated Read Time: 7 minutes
So, you’re thinking about getting a cat! Our four-legged feline friends get the occasional bad rep for being the unsocial sort, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Cats can make wonderful companions, despite their independence, and make a great option if you don’t have the time to commit to a pet more dependent on you (like a dog!). But, how do you know if you’re ready for a cat to enter your life?
If you’re thinking about becoming a first-time cat owner, and are curious about cat care and whether you can meet their needs then you’re in the right place…
If you can meet the following criteria for a new cat owner, and you’ve been thinking about getting a cat for a while, then you may well be!
You’re willing to be their friend too – Cats are actually social creatures, so if you’re prepared to introduce them to other people, and spend some time familiarizing them with a variety of sounds and smells with lots of praise and pets, they can become a very friendly, confident companion in your home. However, this really is only if they’re suitably stimulated and interacted with. And even though cats don’t need walking, they do need exercise to keep their joints, mind, and body healthy. So, make sure you have time each day to actively play with them with their toys, particularly if they’re to be an indoor cat.
You’re prepared for the mucky side of pet parenting – Just like us, kitties need to poop, wee and are occasionally sick/have a hairball. If you’re squirming at the idea of cleaning out a litter tray or you feel nauseous at the idea of cleaning up any accidental muck, then it may be worth holding off committing to pet parenting at present. In addition, cats do shed hair and some breeds shed more than others, so you’ll need to be prepared to hoover more frequently too.
You’re OK with cat proofing your home – You need to make sure your cat is safe, and your home stays safe from their claws too! Consider purchasing a cat tree and a scratching post to keep them entertained and away from the legs of your furniture. And then, familiarize yourself with items and foods that need to be kept out of your cat’s reach; things like medications, chemicals, cleaning products, and certain foods (onions, garlic, chives, grapes, raisins, uncooked eggs/vegetables, bones, and caffeine are all bad news for cats).
You’re financially able – Cats will need some money spent on them; that’s inevitable. They’ll need a litter tray, litter, a bed, some toys, good food, a scratch post and they’ll need vaccinating, microchipping, regular flea and worming treatment, regular dental care and to be neutered if they’re young and you’re not intending to breed them. In addition, you could consider pet insurance or put away money for emergency medical treatment and routine check-ups.
Your lifestyle suits a cat – If you work all day, a cat can be a great alternative to a dog if you’re concerned about how much your pet will need from you. Cat’s 14-hour sleep patterns, being naturally nocturnal and their independent nature serve well for pet parents who work. However, if you’re someone who travels for work and would struggle to be present to feed your cat twice a day, and would find it difficult to give them any attention at all, then a cat may not be for you.
You understand it’s a long term relationship – Cats typically live longer than dogs. Some cats can live for two decades! So, it really is a long-term commitment if you choose to bring a cat into your life and you should be completely comfortable with the idea of being their parent for that long. Alternatively, you could consider adopting an older cat if you’re unsure.
A kitten is great if you’re keen to take on a pet from the very beginning of their life. However, as with all babies, animal or human, they require more time, patience, and attention. Kittens are only kittens for 6-12 months which is a very short time when they can live for up to 20 years!
With rescued adult cats, you can be sure to know if they’re long or short-haired in advance and get an idea of their temperament from the rescue currently caring for them. However, if they’ve experienced abuse or were neglected, it may take slightly longer for them to become comfortable with you and your home. Another perk of adopting an adult cat is that they will usually have been neutered and vaccinated in advance of coming to live with you.
Cats and kids can absolutely work! The UK-based charity Cats Protection found in a 2018 study that 96% of people believe that growing up with a cat can benefit children: it can help teach them compassion for other living things, responsibility, and provide friendship.
However, it’s good to bear in mind what’s going to work for you and your family. Kittens (under 12 months old) require lots of care, attention, and a supervising eye. Adult cats can be a lot calmer and reliable, and if you choose to rescue one, the rescue center is usually able to tell you which cats are already accustomed to children and what age. It’s important to acknowledge that you will have to put some time into teaching your children basic cat care, and how to be gentle and kind to their new feline friend too, regardless of if you opt for a kitten or a cat. Cats don’t like to be disturbed when eating or sleeping and get spooked when people shout and can become defensive if they are grabbed at and your children will need to learn this.
You need to consider both animals here: the temperament of your dog, their age, and any previous experience with other animals in the home. Dogs that have a low prey drive (don’t chase squirrels), have a gentle nature with other, small dogs, and are very obedient are usually a better fit for cats. Always try introducing your dog to an adult cat before committing to welcoming one into the home.
With the cat you’re choosing, if you’re adopting, the rescue center should be able to tell you which cats have had previous experience with dogs.
Cats are typically solitary creatures, and don’t tend to need companionship from other animals, including other cats. Introducing a kitten to a house that already has another cat/dog may be the safest way of ensuring that no territorial issues arise.
Are you concerned you or a member of your household could be allergic to a cat? Cats that are more allergy-friendly breeds, shed less hair and emit less protein via their saliva, meaning they’re less likely to trigger allergic reactions are:
Unfortunately, no cat can be classed as completely hypoallergenic as it’s impossible.
You can, but we’d advise reading our blog on the pros and cons of both indoor and outdoor cats so you can work out which way of looking after your cat will serve both of you the best.
If you’re ready to make the commitment, congratulations! We here at Petlab Co. wish you all the best in your new friendship with your feline fur baby!
If you’re wondering when would be a good time to bring home your new cat, make sure it’s during a quiet period (so, not something like a busy Thanksgiving or before you jet off on holiday!) and perhaps over a day or two where you can give them lots of attention and reassurance to help them acclimatize.