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So you have your heart set on adopting a cat?
Cats can make wonderful pets. They can be sweet and gentle, follow you around, yet be happy to stay on their own during the day. They use a litterbox so you don’t have to take them on daily walks. They’re quiet and affectionate and will be happy to spend the evening on your lap, providing just the kind of peaceful companionship you’ve been yearning for.
The thing is, while some cats may be some of these things, some of the time – not all of them will be all of the time, or at all. It’s better to set your expectations accordingly before you adopt a cat, and we’re here to help with that!
Here are fifteen things that could actually happen. In fact, some of them are likely to happen. You must be prepared to deal with them because once you adopt, your new cat relies on you – and only you – to provide him or her with a loving home – forever.
1. Your cat may not be a lap cat or even particularly affectionate.
Not all cats like to be handled, picked up or even petted. Sometimes it’s a question of trust, and as your new cat learns to trust you, she or he will eventually enjoy lap time and extended physical interactions. Just keep in mind that with some cats, this may never happen. They will be more content to enjoy your adoration from a distance. That doesn’t mean the bond between you will necessarily be weaker – it will just be shown in different ways. And cats have many ways to show that they love you.
2. Expect some bites and scratches.
While some cats are more aggressive than others, almost every cat will bite and/or scratch under certain circumstances. Don’t panic if and when that happens. Learn how to deal with feline aggression and above all: Never punish your cat or reprimand her for scratching or biting, or for anything else for that matter. You can read here about the dos and don’ts of teaching a cat how to behave.
3. Your furniture may be at risk.
In fact, unless you provide the right kind of scratching post in the right location, your cat is very likely to scratch your furniture. Also, cats – especially young ones – can also tear up your curtains and window screens or chew on cords and other items. Most cats won’t and fortunately, if your cat does, there are ways to deal with that. Just be aware that a certain amount of damage to your home is a very real possibility.
The right scratching post in the right location can help protect your furniture
4. There will be cat hair all over the place.
Unless you regularly clean it up of course. Cat owners often invest in a good vacuum cleaner, and some just learn to accept the presence of some amount of cat hair in their home all the time. Regular brushing of your cat’s coat can also help reduce the amount of shedding. Oh, and while we’re at it, you may want to avoid wearing dark clothes if you own a cat. Or at least be prepared to “de-hair” them before going out.
5. Going anywhere? Your cat comes first.
If you love traveling, know in advance that you’ll have to find a boarding solution for your cat or arrange for a responsible cat sitter. Moving to another country may be very difficult with a pet – not necessarily impossible, but definitely more complicated. Even if you’re moving within the same country, any apartment you’ll be moving into will have to accept you and your cat. Consider these things prior to making the commitment to adopt.
6. Litterbox accidents could be an issue.
The good news is that in most cases you can retrain your cat to use the litterbox again, once you figure out what the problem is and fix it. We’re here to help with the Litterbox Problems Guide and a variety of articles about proper litterbox setup. Still, that’s something you should take into consideration before adopting a cat. Also, even without any avoidance issues, be prepared to keep two litterboxes. That includes a strict daily regime of sifting through the litter at least once a day to keep the box clean! If you get lazy, you’ll end up with a litterbox avoidance problem, so be warned!
7. Your cat may be very vocal and needy.
Everyone knows that dogs can bark very loudly to the point of upsetting the neighbors. Cats can do the same. Not bark, of course, but howl, yowl and generally be very vocal. Spaying/neutering usually takes care of that problem. Just keep in mind that some cats are naturally “talkative” and may meow often, day or night. It may not bother the neighbors but it can certainly bother you.
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8. The new cat will not be like the last cat you had.
If you owned a cat before and you think you know exactly what you’re getting into, you may be in for a surprise. Your new cat will likely be different. He or she may be nothing like the cat of your childhood, or your best feline friend in recent years. Each cat has his/her own unique character and quirks and you’ll have to acquaint yourself with a new feline friend – for better and worse.
9. Adjusting to a new home takes time.
Don’t expect your new cat to show his or her true colors right away. The new cat is likely to be somewhat fearful and shy at first, and eventually turn out to be an outgoing friendly kitty. During the first few days, weeks and even months, there is a gradual process where your cat will get to know your home and you. Read this to see how to help your new cat adjust to your home.
10. Find a good vet – Kitty will need one
Your new cat may be perfectly healthy now, but sooner or later, something will come up. Just like us, cats can come down with all kinds of diseases and injuries, and when that happens, you’re going to have to spend some time and money caring for your four-pawed friend. Routine checkups, vaccinations, quality nutrition and of course spaying/neutering all help prevent disease, so be prepared to invest even when your cat is still healthy. Keep an emergency fund for unexpected medical issues – they will happen.
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11. Your cat may develop unique dietary needs.
Feeding cats doesn’t have to be complicated. For most cats. Some cats suffer from food allergies or other medical conditions which require special food. This could get costly, but this is part of what adopting a cat is all about.
12. Care for chronic health conditions may be needed.
Some cats become diabetic and need owners to regularly inject them with insulin. Others develop kidney disease requiring frequent subcutaneous fluid treatments. There are many scenarios which may require you to give your cat special care for medical problems he or she may have, and you need to be committed to doing just that.
13. Your cat will grow old.
Most cats age gracefully. However, as the years pass you’ll have to pay extra attention to your cat’s well-being and her/his changing needs. For example, arthritis could mean Kitty will no longer be able to jump, and you may have to create pet stairs for her/him. Deterioration in eyesight, hearing or cognitive abilities may all require your attention. Read more on special health concerns in senior cats.
14. You’ll have to say goodbye
Cats usually live for 15-20 years. People live longer. That’s just a fact of life that means owners usually outlive their pets. How we deal with loss is individual, but just know that it will come and will be painful.
15. There’s more…
There’s always more. Responsible cat owners are committed to their pets, come rain or shine. Not every scenario can be foreseen, but you will always be the “responsible adult” in this relationship, so solving the problems is up to you. Fortunately, we’re here to help with advice but you are the one who will ultimately be obligated to find a solution that works for your cat and you.
“So, are you saying I shouldn’t adopt a cat?”
We don’t mean to discourage you from adopting a cat. Here at TheCatSite.com we believe cats do make wonderful pets and companions! It’s just important to have realistic expectations and understand the kind of commitment you’re making. Once you adopt, you should be fully committed to your cat’s well-being and won’t be able to say “I didn’t sign up for this”.
Take the time to read as much as you can about cats and how to care for them. You can start with the articles on this very website. Our Cat Behavior Articles offer a wealth of information about everything you need to know before adopting a cat. Still have questions? Check out the forums and leave a question so that more experienced cat owners will be able to help you.