Are you ready to adopt a cat? Bringing a new cat home is like many other big life decisions: it's something that you may never feel 100 percent ready for, but it's something that you feel ready to dive into. There are a few things to think about when it comes to becoming a new cat owner, such as getting the right supplies, finding quality veterinary care, and if you have enough time to spend in playtime with your new family members.
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Can you handle the time commitment?
The time commitment will be a little different depending on whether your new pet is a kitten or an adult cat. An adult cat that you brought home from an animal shelter will likely already be litter box trained and ready to settle in, but a kitten will need to figure out a lot of new "house rules" from you. If you found your new pet from an animal shelter, it may have already received some basic veterinary care, but if not, you'll need to arrange for a health checkup, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering. The first vaccinations should be given to kittens around eight to nine weeks of age.
Especially when your new cat first comes home, you'll want to be available for the cat to safely explore its new home. It's recommended to set up a room where the new cat can be alone for a while. Spend as much time as possible in the room at first, letting your new pet approach you when they're ready. The other family members in the home should also be on board with getting to know their new pet in the same way.
Not all cats are "low maintenance"
Not all cats are "low maintenance" despite their perception as being "easier" than dogs. Cats are more independent and can be left alone for longer periods than a dog, but that doesn't mean your cat can just lay around the house and do nothing all day. Cats need mental stimulation and playtime every day. Some cats need more attention than others. Beyond that, cats with long hair need regular brushing and grooming, which might be hard to do if you're not developing a close bond with your cat on a daily basis.
Just as dogs have a natural instinct to chew, cats have a natural instinct to hunt and prowl. An indoor lifestyle is safest for a cat, but they also need some of the variety of sounds, smells, and experiences that they would get if they were outside. Toys like feather toys or laser toys that allow them to pounce and pretend hunt are important for a cat to have access to. Each cat's personality is different. VCA Hospitals reports that some cats will even take to hurting themselves if they are excessively bored.
Is there room in the budget?
It's common for an animal shelter to charge an adoption fee, which goes toward the care your new cat received while they were in the shelter. Often, cats from a shelter receive some vaccinations and may already have been spayed or neutered, but that varies by location.
Plan for spending a few hundred dollars in veterinary care and supplies when you first bring your new cat home, particularly if you choose a kitten. Kittens need several rounds of vaccines, whereas an adult cat may already be vaccinated. You can offset some of the costs of ongoing veterinary care by purchasing pet insurance, or by putting aside $25 or so each month for your new cat's care.
Purchase the right supplies
Whether you bring home a new adult cat or a kitten, you'll need a food and water bowl, cat bed, litter box, a scratching post, a carrier, grooming supplies, and toys. Ongoing expenses include litter and food at a minimum. If you're just getting to know your new cat, you may need to replace their scratcher and litter box if you observe that it's not working for them.
For instance, some cats get scared when they go into a litter box, and may prefer either a shallow, open box or an enclosed hut-type litter box. When it comes to scratchers, there's as much variety in the type and function as there are cats. Some cats like to scratch vertically, some cats like to scratch horizontally, some like cardboard, some like carpet, etc. It can take some experimenting to find the style and location of the scratchers, litter box, and toys that your cat really wants.
Cat- or kitten-proof your home
While kittens are probably not as destructive as puppies, especially with regard to a puppy's strong need to chew, there are a few things that new pet owners need to look at in their home. Kittens are lively and curious — and small! — which can lead to them getting behind or under furniture, escaping outside when they shouldn't, or otherwise getting into trouble just like a baby who has begun to crawl. Take a look at your home from the kitten's eye level, and be aware of things that your kitten could knock over, things that could fall on it, or things it can get into.
Cats love to scratch and go potty in soft dirt, so potted plants might be one of the first things they explore. Keep plants out of reach, or cover the surface with rocks so the cat is not tempted to paw in it. MEOW Cat Rescue recommends securing screens on windows, keeping your kitten off balconies, porches, and high decks, and keeping toilet lids down, among other things.
If you end up with a nervous cat, they may chew on things like shoelaces or computer or phone cords. Kittens can get tangled in a clump of cords. They should also not be able to chew on plastic bags, twist ties, sewing thread, or other non-food items. These suggestions should help make your home a safe environment for your kitten.