So you think you want a cat — but are you ready for the responsibility? Are you deserving of all the awesomeness that a cat can bring? Though we know you probably have plenty of love to give, sharing your life with a feline friend can be an adventure. Sure, it can be rewarding beyond measure, but it is also a serious undertaking. To help you decide if now is the right time to take the plunge, here are five signs to watch out for.
1. You’re obsessed with kittens — but only kittens
We all adore the videos of tiny fluff balls getting into mischief, but don’t get too stuck on those images. Pretty quickly, your tiny tiger will turn into a full-grown feline, and you’ll be dealing with adult-size cat care — and adult-size problems. If you can’t envision sharing your home with anything but a little kitty, you probably need to wait.
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2. You’re barely surviving from paycheck to paycheck
This is a tough one. It’s hard to accept that you could be ready for a cat in every way but a financial one. Cats cost money, and you’ll need to budget for health care costs, like routine veterinary appointments, vaccinations, spaying or neutering and pet health insurance, if you opt for it. Just as you may have your own rainy-day fund, you need to set aside some cash in the event of an unexpected cat health emergency — because as every pet owner will attest, they happen. If you’ve never owned a cat before, talk to other cat owners to see how much they spend on food, toys, collars, shampoo, bowls, litter boxes, litter and other essentials. That way you can assess if you can afford a cat right now.
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3. You want a cat that acts like a dog
One of our favorite things about cats is they generally do whatever they want. Unlike dogs, who race to meet you at the door and are desperate to be your constant companion, cats are a bit more chill. Their independence and occasional indifference are the perfect combination of maddening and endearing, and we don’t even know why! It’s just how it is. So be sure to align your expectations with what we know about cats. Not every feline will want to cuddle with you on the couch or let you pet her for hours on end. Cats do tons of weird stuff to show that they love us, including making eye contact and blinking slowly, kneading our laps with their paws, trilling softly, licking our hair and even head-butting us. (Seriously, it’s a thing! It’s called “bunting.”) But if you keep your expectations about affection in check, we have no doubt that you’ll win your cat’s love in no time.
4. You’re rarely at home
There’s a pretty common misconception that, compared to dogs, cats are the low-maintenance pet. Sadly, that thinking is to the detriment of every cat out there. Having plenty of time to spend with your cat, especially in the adjustment period right when you bring him home, is critical. You’ll want to help him adjust to your home, get comfortable with his surroundings and socialize him to every aspect of his new life. This applies to every cat, of course, but kittens require even more time. One of the best ways to raise a confident cat is to introduce him to new positive experiences while he’s still young. That means meeting a good mix of people and other animals, and getting used to everything in his new home, from furniture and toys to his carrier and household appliances. Even after the initial adjustment period, your cat still needs attention every day — including active playtime and exercise to keep his body healthy, plus training and stimulation to keep his mind healthy, too. Don’t take the plunge if you can’t offer that right now.
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5. You have commitment issues
Once you bring home that cat, he is yours for the rest of his life. Many felines easily live to about 15 years old, and plenty of cats even reach their 20s. Are you ready to make a decades-long commitment? If you’re considering a kitten, picture where you see yourself in 15 or 20 years, and consider whether the cat you’re thinking about getting is part of that picture. Cats are like fine wine — they get better with age — and they deserve to have an owner who appreciates them. Of course, if you are looking for a commitment that’s likely to be a bit shorter term, there are plenty of senior cats in shelters seeking loving homes.