People tend to think cats are easier pets than dogs. After all, they don’t need to be walked, right? But are cats really that low-maintenance? Do felines make a good pet for busy people? Let’s find out how much time it actually takes to care for a cat.
If you’re new to cats and considering adopting a new feline friend, read this article to see just how much time you need to properly care for a cat. We’re going to cover the basic aspects of cat care and see how much time it would take you to feed Kitty, clean the litterbox and keep your furry friend healthy and happy.
How much time does it take to deal with the litterbox?One of your very first concerns as a cat owner would probably be to set up a litterbox. Not always a simple task as cats - and cat owners - can have different preferences. We have detailed guides for you on how to choose the right litterbox and how to choose the right litter but it may take some experimentation to get it just right.
Once you have the right setup down, how much time can you expect to spend on litterbox maintenance?
Cleaning the litterbox doesn’t take a lot of time but should be done frequently. Some cats want a clean box each time they need to use it or they’ll find an alternative that you won’t like. If you leave the house for the day, plan on scooping before you leave, when you arrive home and before bed. It will only take a couple of minutes but will prevent bad odors and out-of-the-box thinking on Kitty’s part.
Once you get the hang of scooping, total daily cleaning time can be as little as five to ten minutes. You can keep it down by creating an effective litterbox maintenance routine.
Looking to save time? An automatic litterbox may be a good option for you. There are several types available on the market so make sure to read our guide on how to choose the right automatic litterbox for you and your cat.
How much time does it take to feed a cat?
First, your cat will need constant access to fresh water. The water dish should be kept clean and full at all times. Some cats prefer to drink by putting a paw into the bowl and then licking the water off which can be a little messy and require topping off water levels more frequently. Read more about what makes cats paw at their water dish. Many cats prefer running water and you may want to invest in a pet water fountain to make them happy.
The time you put into feeding your cat will vary according to the method you choose. You can find yourself spending anything between a minute or two to over an hour a day.
Feeding dry kibble
Many owners free-feed dry cat food. They leave Kitty’s kibble in the food dish once a day, topping it up as may be necessary. If you opt for a quality ceramic or stainless steel dish, cleaning shouldn’t take long and may be as simple as putting the dish in the dishwasher once every few days.
Even when feeding kibble, you may choose to feed fixed portions at specific times, especially if the cat is on a special diet recommended by the vet. This will be a bit more time-consuming, as you’ll have to measure portions and place them in the food dish at least twice a day. Consider an automatic pet feeder if you’re feeding dry and wish to save precious minutes every day.
Feeding wet cat food
If you choose to feed wet/canned or possibly commercial raw, you may find yourself putting more time into Kitty’s feeding routine. Wet food will spoil more quickly than dry. Commercial raw food poses even more of a risk as it's more likely to be contaminated by pathogens. With any type of wet food, you’ll have to serve the food at least twice a day, then remove it and thoroughly clean the dishes after each use. Even then, feeding shouldn't take you more than a total of 10-15 minutes.
Read more: How long you can safely leave food out for
Feeding homemade cat food
Some owners choose to make their own cat food. Whether they opt for raw or cooked homemade food, preparing the meals is more time- consuming than just opening a can or pouring dry kibble. This is just one of the reasons why most cat owners choose commercial solutions. According to our survey, only 1-2% of owners prepare their cat’s food at home.
The time you’re going to invest in preparing homemade food will depend on the recipes you choose, the number of cats and your level of expertise. TheCatSite members who feed homemade cat food invest in quality tools and many have food preparation down to an efficient process that can take as little as 1-2 hours a week.
How much time does vet care for a cat take?
Kitty should see the veterinarian on a regular basis. Just like with people, the doctor can notice a change from the last visit - weight loss or gain, a lump or bump, an ear infection or tooth decay. For a healthy adult cat, plan on seeing the vet at least once a year for a general check-up and possibly vaccination boosters.
Senior cats are likely to require more frequent veterinary care. Many veterinarians recommend checkups twice a year to catch age-related diseases early on. Consult with your veterinarian about the best schedule for your cat.
Kittens also require more frequent vet visits - we'll cover the time needed to care for a kitten later in this article.
How long does it take to groom a cat?
Generally speaking, not a whole lot. Most cats are capable of taking good care of their coat. They self-groom and keep themselves clean. More often than not, that’s enough. There is no real need to give Kitty a bath unless he or she got into something that should not be licked off and ingested.
Some longhaired cats may be the exception. Persians, for example, benefit from regular combing which keeps their fur from matting. A longhaired cat is also more likely to need help with cleaning her or his behind. Read more about Dirty Cat Butts Prevention And Treatment.
While grooming your cat’s coat may not be mandatory it does have some significant benefits. Regular brushing will help Kitty get rid of dead hair, reducing the amount of cat hair in your home and helping prevent hairballs. For most cats, being groomed by their owner is a positive experience that strengthens the feline-human bond. Combing or brushing your cat for 10 minutes a day is a good idea.
Read more: 7 Reasons Why You Really Should Groom Your Cat Regularly
Grooming isn’t just brushing and combing. You may need to help your cat with regular claw trimming as well. Read more: How To Best Take Care Of Cat Claws. However, regular claw care shouldn’t take more than a few minutes once a month. Many owners also spend another 15 minutes or so each week on brushing Kitty's teeth.
Time spent on making your cat happy
Your cat needs physical and mental stimulation to stay relaxed and happy. These can be achieved through playtime and overall physical activity.
Setting the stage for playtime and exercise
There will be an initial investment of both time and resources in creating a stimulating environment for your cat, including the right kind of cat furniture and toys. Playtime is crucial for kittens and young cats. It is good for older cats too as it helps keep muscles limber and maintain balance. Even arthritic cats benefit from daily exercise.
Here are some articles to provide you with advice and inspiration -
7 Proven Ways To Get Your Cat To Be More Active
How To Make Your Home Bigger (at Least For Your Cats)
Beating Boredom - What Indoor Cat Owners Need To Know
Interactive playtime is an important part of keeping your cat happy. It encourages your cat to get some exercise as well as strengthens the bond between you. Interactive playtime can be used as a therapeutic tool too, to reduce stress in cats.
Interactive playtime is more than waving a toy around while you watch television. Make sure you read our guide about Playing With Your Cat: 10 Things You Need To Know.
How much time should you spend playing with your cat? The more the better! 10-15 minutes of interactive playtime a day is a good number to shoot for with most cats.
Spending time with your cat
Don’t be fooled by stereotypes about cats being aloof. Pet cats like to be around people and need human company. Some are lap cats while others just like being in the same room as their favorite people. Don’t force interaction on your cat but just make sure a friendly human is there for him or her for several hours a day.
How much time would you have to spend with a cat every day? That depends on the cat’s temperament and the environment. Generally speaking, avoid leaving your cat alone for too long on a regular basis. Even with enough food, water and toys, your cat will need human company too.
How much time does it take to care for a kitten?
Everybody loves a kitten. Who could resist such a cute face? If you’re wondering whether to adopt an adult cat or a kitten, consider this: Kittens are not only cute, they’re also more time-consuming.
In terms of feeding, kittens need multiple meals a day. That also means more visits to the litterbox and more time spent on scooping. Young kittens are also more prone to litterbox accidents, so be ready to deal with those.
Kittens have to see the vet more often to get their first and second rounds of vaccinations and check for parasites. You will also need to put time aside to deal with spaying/neutering and post surgery care.
Kittens are more likely to suffer from certain ailments, especially if you adopted your kitten from a shelter. Watch for runny noses, goopy eyes or itchy ears and be prepared to treat for fleas and worms.
Kittens need more playtime
Kittens seem to have endless energy. They play hard and fast and then topple over for a nap. Before you can put a pillow under your own head, they’re awake and ready to go again. These bouts of energy aren’t limited to weeks-old kittens. Some cats take many months and up to a couple of years to fully mature and calm down.
If you need a break, consider adopting two kittens together. They’ll have each other to play with and will generally keep each other busy. There are other considerations, of course, so don’t rush into the decision.
Kittens need a lot of handling for proper socialization. They need to learn the limits on biting, scratching and climbing or jumping on your person, especially without warning. Spending time together will develop the bond between the two of you, something you both can treasure for life.
If you can’t dedicate at least a couple of hours a day to playing and interacting with your kitten, you probably should not adopt one.
Read more: A Kitten Or An Older Cat - Which Should You Adopt?
The special case of newborns
Just like newborn babies, newborn kittens require a lot of care. Normally, the mother cat will be providing them with constant care during all hours of the day and night. If you are caring for orphaned newborn kittens, you will find yourself doing the same.
Hand rearing kittens is not for the faint of heart or the busy! Feedings are required every couple of hours around the clock. Knowing how much each one eats is important so you will have to spend time keeping records too. Each kitten will have to be weighed every day and their weight gain carefully monitored.
If newborns get ill, they can go from "just a minor symptom" to critical in a matter of hours. Be prepared to talk to your vet and take the kittens to the clinic, possibly more than once.
Raising orphaned newborns is extremely time-consuming and requires skill and knowledge. If you’ve never done this before, you may want to contact a local organization to see if an experienced rescuer can take the kittens.
Hand Rearing Kittens: What You Need To Know To Save A Newborn's Life
I Found Abandoned Kittens - What Should I Do?
When cat care becomes more time-consuming
So, you adopted a healthy adult cat and think you know how much time you need to care for him or her? Keep in mind that things can change down the road. You may be required to put in a whole lot more time in order to care for your cat.
Dealing with Illness
Your cat may be healthy now but can become sick later in life. Some diseases and injuries will require you to focus your efforts during a limited period of time. You will need to spend a lot of time - and possibly money - caring for your sick cat but that will be limited to a few weeks or months.
Chronic diseases on the other hand may mean long-term changes.
With some illnesses, like feline arthritis, it’s a matter of making adjustments: lowering the entrance to the litterbox, putting a stool by the couch so he doesn’t have to jump, or slowing exercise to allow his joints to limber up. After making the initial changes, you may still need to medicate Kitty on a daily basis but that shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
Other medical conditions may take up more of your time. An illness like feline diabetes may require daily insulin shots, special foods, smaller but more frequent meals and a change in the litterbox maintenance routine.
Dealing with behavior problems
When a cat behaves in a way that disrupts your life, it can be a problem. Sometimes it’s just a natural behavior that needs to be directed into more appropriate channels. Other times the cat may be sick or stressed out. Whatever the issue is, you will need to put some time into finding out the cause of the problem and treating it correctly.
For example, if your cat stops using the litterbox, you will have to investigate the cause. A visit to your vet, treating any medical issues, changing the litterbox or litter, all take time. What’s more, cleaning up after your cat until you find a solution can also be a time-consuming - not to mention smelly - chore.
Night time Issues
It used to be said that cats are nocturnal animals. Scientists now believe that our felines are actually crepuscular animals. In other words, their internal clock makes them most active during dusk and dawn. For a cat that lives indoors, that could mean as early as 4AM and as late as past midnight.
Studies show that cats can adjust to their owner's schedule. For some cats however, this can be more of a challenge and they may wake up owners for night time feeding and general attention.
Be prepared to deal with night time behaviors and help Kitty adjust to your own schedule. This guide about stopping a cat from waking you up at night can help.
So, how much time does it actually take to care for a cat?
Caring for a cat will require time. Routine feeding with commercial food along with litterbox maintenance should take 10 minutes to 20 minutes a day. Interactive playtime can take another 15 minutes a day. Investing another 10 minutes a day in brushing your cat’s coat is also a good idea and may be necessary with a longhaired cat. Veterinary care for a healthy cat will add several hours a year, while sickness or injury can bring the time toll to dozens of additional hours.
On top of that, you - or other friendly family members - should simply be there for your cat for at least several hours each day.
You could get by with a minimum amount of time spent taking care of Kitty but why? You adopted him in order to have a companion. Isn’t that worth the time involved? A cat is a lifelong companion, often with you for up to twenty years or more. It’s a commitment but a kitty head bump, a warm body on your lap, and a hello meow make it worthwhile.
Are you an experienced cat owner? Let us know more about how much time it takes you to care for your cat by leaving a comment below.
New to cats and have more questions? We can try and help out in the cat forums, so please start a discussion in one of the cat care forums.
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