The Pros & Cons of Having a Pet Cat

By Lisa McQuerrey

Adopting a cat is a commitment that can last 20 years. Many of the pros and cons of having a pet cat are going to be based on your lifestyle and personality, and the personality of the cat you choose.

Low Maintenance

Compared with dogs, cats are self-sufficient animals. They bathe and groom themselves, use a litter box and don’t bark when the phone rings or someone knocks on the door. You can leave a cat unattended in a relatively small living space, like an apartment, for the course of the workday without worrying about his needing a walk or potty break. In exchange for this self-sufficiency, you get the companionship of a pet you can bond with, albeit it on his terms. While cats are trainable, most cats don’t come to the call of their name or a whistle, and they can be finicky about when they want to spend time with you and when they want to be left alone.

Heart Health

Many cats have loving dispositions and will enjoy sitting and purring on your lap and being stroked. You get the affection of a companion animal, which can have a calming effect and help reduce stress. According to a study by the University of Minnesota, having a pet cat can even can help reduce the potential for high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and related ailments. The fact seems to be that a purring cat makes a person feel good.

Destructive Scratching

According to the Humane Society of the United States, if you don’t train a cat to a specific scratching area, you can find your furniture shredded by cat clawing, kneading and scratching. Some cats will also scratch at walls, clothing and even people. This leaves you with the option of living with ratty furniture or footing the bill to replace clawed pieces and attempting to retrain your feline toward more acceptable scratching surfaces. Some types of anti-scratch commercial repellents and sticky barriers can aid in your efforts.

Painful Scratching

Cats with intact claws can leave painful scratches. Sometimes they scratch or puncture people unintentionally, such as when leaping from a lap to another surface. Other times they scratch out of fear or anger -- such as when a small child grabs a tail or pulls a patch of fur, or when another household pet attempts to play or assert dominance. Clean cat scratches thoroughly, or they can get infected.

Litter Box Matters

Scooping poop is a chore. Even if you have an automatic scooping litter box or a covered box to help reduce odors, the pungent smell can turn off some discerning noses. If cats develop behavioral issues or decide they don’t like a litter box, they may urinate and defecate outside the box. Cat urine is difficult to eliminate from surfaces; it usually must usually be treated with an enzymatic cleaner to completely eradicate the smell and prevent future marking. If your cat begins to do her business outside her litter box, a trip to the vet is in order.

Predatory Behavior

The natural predatory behavior of cats can be both a pro and a con. If your cat keeps your house free of mice, he earns his keep, and it’s a good thing; but if he howls at night to be let out -- and then brings in half-dead birds, rodents and other prey -- you have to deal with his noise and with the aftermath of his hunt. Curb such behavior by spaying or neutering at the appropriate age and keeping your cat indoors.

Frequent Heat Cycles

After the onset of puberty, which occurs at about 6 months of age, a female cat will come into heat several times a year unless she is spayed. During this time period, she may become overly affectionate or aggressive; she may exhibit behaviors including loud vocalizations and urine-spraying. If she connects with an unaltered male during a heat cycle, you could end up with a batch of kittens.