what should i know before adopting a cat? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 11-22-2010, 03:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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my boys want a kitty for christmas.  i'm considering it, but i really don't know that much about cats and i want to be responsible.  i haven't had a cat since childhood, and those were outdoor cats (lived in the garage, free to go out as much as they wanted, occasionally brought in for cuddles but not really allowed).  so i know their basic needs for a litter box, food, water and attention . . . what else do i need to know?

 

eta: for various reasons, i do think it would be really good for my boys to have a cat or two.  just trying to think about any reasons *not* to do this.

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#2 of 15 Old 11-22-2010, 05:41 PM
 
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If everyone is on board, I think it's a great idea.

 

Cats don't really need much more than the things you listed, they're pretty easy care.  In addition, you'll want a crate, and possibly a cat tree (sometimes cats just need space).

 

One thing to consider is some people don't think christmas is a great day to get a new pet, with all the excitement and chaos.  But it depends on your house and your kids.  You could always do something like wrap up the litterbox, food, dishes, etc and get the cat a day or two later.  Depending on their ages, maybe a certificate that says they can pick out a kitty from the shelter.  That way, it's still "a cat for christmas", and the excitement that comes with it, but your kids are a little calmer when it comes to actually getting the cat.   


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#3 of 15 Old 11-23-2010, 01:53 AM
 
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You're asking for reasons not to do it, , so I guess I'll go through them. Not because I think your family might actually do these things, but because they are common pet issues, and well, you asked. smile.gif

1. Your boys are young I assume? Kids ask for lots of things for xmas that are then quickly forgotten. Do they REALLY want a cat, and understand what a cat entails, or is this just the gift du jour and tomorrow or next week or next month or next year they'll forget all about the cat and want a new xbox console instead?

1a- realize YOU will be taking care of this cat. Its all fine to give the kids chores, but you cant just let it starve when they forget or refuse to feed it daily, or clean the litterbox often etc.

1b- Cats live a very long time. sometimes 20+ years. Thats a very long time commitment for a young child. A family pet is the best arrangement. Think about what would happen to the cat if the boys lose interest- would you be willing to keep it? What about when they go off to college? Too many animals are abandoned because they were bought for children and the parents don't want to take responsibility of the animal when it is forgotten or the child grows up.

2. Cats can have behavior issues. Its not uncommon for cats to pee outside the box. Its one of the main reasons cats are abandoned. Cat pee is stinky and hard to get out of your carpet, clothes, etc. Cats can also be hard to convince to go back to the box, or very finicky about it. they pee outside the box because you moved the furniture and they dont like it, or there's a new baby/puppy/kitty etc, or they dislike their new litter, or the box location is wrong, etc in addition to certain health issues like UTI.
Cats can also cause damage to a home with their claws. Declawing is an option in some countries (I think its illegal in others), but its highly controversial and has significant cons. How would you feel if the cat ruined your new couch? Or caused damage to your home? And if you rent, many landlords require declawing, which might present an ethical dilemma for you.

3. Cats get health issues. You'll need to think about budget, both for routine things like vaccinations, check ups and flea prevention, but also for potential emergencies. Shelter cats in my area tend to have upper respiratory infections for instance, so it isn't even an old cat issues- its something you'd need to always plan for, possibly from day one.

And that is why you should not get a cat. redface.gif

Of course, I think cats are lovely animals and make fine pets. But they do have drawbacks, and those drawbacks can be deal breakers for some people. If you do get a cat, I would recommend-

-Read up on cats as much as possible. Much has changed since you were young, and they deserve to have an educated owner. Since you say you don't know much about cats, I'd really recommend doing a lot of homework BEFORE you make the commitment.

-Do not get the cat for xmas. Animals do not make good presents. Bringing a new pet into a house around all that chaos and excitement is not good for either the pet or the people. wait until your house is back to normal- decorations are down, routine is back to normal, all the holiday excitement is gone. An animal coming into a new home needs a quite, calm space to do so. If you want to tie in the cat, gift cat supplies, a litter box, cat toys etc. If you aren't 100% sure about getting a cat, you could give books about cat care, a stuffed cat, maybe a visit to a local cat show or time volunteering at a cat shelter. If you do want to "give" a cat, make up a gift certificate good for a cat, with clear parameters set on it. Then involve the whole family in picking out the cat (researching the cats needs, deciding if a certain type of cat is a better fit, etc) and THEN go pick out the cat after the holiday has passed- maybe even a few months later.

- think about some crucial cat issues- do you want an indoor only cat, indoor/outdoor, or outdoor cat? Declawing- yes or no? Educate yourself on cat food and feeding options (grocery brand? natural kibble? canned? canned and dry? Raw? ) All of those can become very heated debates among cat owners, and most you'll want to be clear on from day one.





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#4 of 15 Old 11-23-2010, 07:30 AM
 
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Everything Oubliette8 said, plus you should know that those nail caps that are designed to keep cats with claws from destroying your furniture/belongings are easily chewed/pried off by the animal, and gluing them on is NOT as easy as they make it look in the ads!

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#5 of 15 Old 11-23-2010, 09:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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thank you!  this is exactly what i was looking for.  :p

 

i do understand that this will be my pet, as in my responsibility.  my boys are quite young, and i do remember very well how the magic wears off and it becomes a chore.  i would not consider getting a cat if i didn't want to be the one taking care of it.

 

the financial commitment concerns me.  food and routine stuff is not a big deal, but i'm worried about health issues, as i really don't have room in my budget for it.  so does that mean i can't afford a cat?  possibly.  probably.

 

we would not be bringing the cat home on christmas.  i was thinking early, but late is a better idea, because then they still get the 'surprise' factor of unwrapping the kitty's things, with maybe a photo and an explanation that the kitty will be ready to come home on x day, and a book on kitty care.  we can't actually go to the shelter on christmas.

 

my only real mental block here is the possibility of major pet health expenses.  we had a dog for five years and never had anything crazy, just a one-time issue that probably was around $300. 

 

i agree with you that animals are not good presents.  however we have been talking about getting a cat (or two cats) for a long time.  my (soon to be ex) husband and i split up in the summer, and it has been stressful for my kids.  i think having a pet to cuddle and love might be really good for them, and it does reduce stress.  i think they might also benefit from having that care-taking role.  i was planning to wait until spring, but my younger son can think of nothing he wants for christmas other than a cat, and unfortunately their dad is moving to the other side of the world in january, so having a pet may also help them cope with that big sad change.

 

i'm thinking of getting an adult cat that is already litter trained and known to be good around children.  if we bring home a kitten, dumb question but . . . how hard is it to train a kitten to use the litter box?  please tell me it's easier than potty learning!  lol . . .

 

oh: what do you think of bringing my boys to "volunteer" at the animal shelter on a regular basis, petting and playing with kitties?  is there any chance they would enjoy this without it becoming a crazy kitty-begging fest?

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#6 of 15 Old 11-23-2010, 11:32 PM
 
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Its really impossible to forsee health expenses. Part of that is because cost varies greatly across the country. What costs me less than $200, I've seen cost $500+ in other parts of the country. And you just never know whats going to happen. Some animals, like people, are never sick a day in their lives. Others seem to be walking accidents, and are always getting into trouble. Mostly what I was trying to point out is, some people will dump a pet because it gets some minor problem. Maybe it has a UTI and they don't want to pay for antibiotics etc. So its important to realize that cats can and do get sick, and you need to be prepared to deal with it. Thats not to say you should have unlimited funds. We're sort of hand to mouth here, but I know my dog may have health issues just like any other living creature. When she does, I figure out a way to get it done. But, if something totally unexpected happened and we were faced with the possibility of a several thousand dollar vet bill, I'd have some tough choices to make. I expect that is probably normal for most pet owners. There is pet insurance, but I've heard mixed reviews.

About litter boxes, kittens normally learn to use the box from their mothers. So long as your kitten was raised by Mom, it should be fairly straight forward. If you get an older cat, make sure it doesn't have any reported litter box issues, if thats important to you. Also, cats sometimes stop using the box when they are stressed, so it might be best to restrict them to the room where you will keep the litter box for the first few days, so that they can get used to you and the move, and they know where it is and don't have to go far to use it. You might also look for a litter called Cat Attract for the first few weeks if you're concerned, it has a special formula that lures cats to the box. Its also useful if your cat stops using the box at a later date.

As far as kids and volunteering, I don't know how old your boys are, but it would probably depend greatly on the child. I was thinking it would be more for an older, mature child. And, some shelters do not allow underage volunteers, so you may need to ask around and check private rescues. Our county shelter you need to be 14 to volunteer, but I think some of the private shelters or rescues would have jobs for younger kids.

If you want a rescue cat, , I'd suggest laying down some ground rules and possibly looking by yourself first. Most shelters have MANY cats, but not all would meet your requirements. If you want an older cat, it might be better if you narrowed it down to one, or maybe a few possibilities first, and then took the kids to meet only those. Then you wont have to worry about them falling in love with a cat that's a bad fit. A kitten would be easier if you want the boys to have more say, as kittens tend to be more like blank slates than older cats.
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#7 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 07:07 AM
 
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I have gotten cats and some adjust well.Others have sprayed/peed up the house.I have gotten kittens and littler training was not a issue. No health expense beyond worming and eye irritation.Oh I did spray them there was that cost. If you do  vet visits you will have to factor in the costs they charge for visits and vaccines.

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#8 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 07:22 AM
 
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I think getting a kitten is pretty easy, compared to a puppy or baby they are a piece of cake! 

 

The best way to teach them to potty IMO is to put a little litter box (not the big one you'll use when the cat is bigger and better able to get in, use a little gift box for now) near the food (not right next to, about a foot away) and as soon as the kitten eats put him/her into the box and scratch the kitten's front foot into the litter.  Do that each time the kitten eats.  I've had a bunch of kitten and never had any peeing outside the box issues.  Gradually switch to the big box in its future location as soon as the kitten knows this is where you go. 

 

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#9 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 07:37 AM
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Oubliette has covered just about everything. I have been a crazy cat lady since I was a teenager, so I've dealt with a lot, including a cat who is a heartworm survivor and also a cat with FIV.

 

We were a military family and have had a LOT of landlords. I've never had one demand declawing. I guess it could happen, but I've never heard of it. Just sayin'.

 

Kittens are adorable....but they can cause damage and wreak havoc just like puppies do. Our youngest cat (he's a little over a year old) wrecked nearly $300 worth of electronics with his wire chewing habit. Kitten-proofing for wires was really difficult. He blew out our computer speakers and gnawed through the wire for the Wii remote charger, among other things.

 

Your cat will be healthiest if fed high-quality food, which can be pricier.

 

Some shelters won't let children handle animals as volunteers. They will allow children to volunteer, but will make them do things like cleaning cages. Depends on your shelter and your area. You should find out before bringing it up with your kids, so there won't be confusion or disappointment. Some, like in my city, won't let children volunteer at all for liability reasons.

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#10 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 08:51 AM
 
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Pretty much what everyone else said. I've had tons of cats since I was born. Financial stuff has never been an issue for us, thankfully. But my one big piece of advice is to look at this cat as a living being and new member of your family. So many people get them as sort of an accessory or something cute that is in the way. I mean, if you look back in the pet archives even you will see countless stories of people not wanting cats now that they're not cute kittens or sick of dealing with messes or behavior issues, etc. IRL tons of people I know who get pets end up rehoming them because they don't want to bother clipping their nails, or whatever not thinking about the emotional issues it causes the cat and their children. The fact that you're here asking about these things is impressive to me. So many people don't think this through realistically.

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#11 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 10:18 AM
 
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Forgive me if someone has already said this one, but I think you should be sure that your boys can handle being gentile with a cat even when they are excited. My son is almost 4 and we are cat sitting for a few days. He is really a sweet boy & loves the cat, but I am constantly telling him to give kitty some space, not to drop toys on kitty, stop chasing kitty, use gentile hugs with kitty... I'd like to have a cat but we'll have to wait a few years. Also, if you get more than one, I'd suggest cats who were housed together at the shelter or kittens. Older cats seem to have problems adjusting to cats they don't already know. Good luck.

 

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#12 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 02:50 PM
 
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re: the wire biting issue...I had a cat who loved wires and the only thing that worked was rubbing dish soap (no water)  in my hands and then rubbing every exposed wire in the house with my soapy hands.  She tried to chew one, was grossed out by the smell, and didn't try it again for about a month, when she did it again I repeated.  Had to repeat a few times but it got her out of the habit forever.  She wasn't ingesting any-- it was just smelling it that was revolting to her. 

 

 

 

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#13 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 02:57 PM
 
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For biting/clawing-my cats hate mint and menthol.

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#14 of 15 Old 11-28-2010, 08:39 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doubledutch

 

the financial commitment concerns me.  food and routine stuff is not a big deal, but i'm worried about health issues, as i really don't have room in my budget for it.  so does that mean i can't afford a cat?  possibly.  probably.

 

my only real mental block here is the possibility of major pet health expenses.  we had a dog for five years and never had anything crazy, just a one-time issue that probably was around $300. 


In terms of financial commitment, we gave this a lot of thought last year before we adopted our cat.  We have very little disposible income (a few months ago we were paying 60 percent of our tiny income for rent, we're house sitting now, but will be going back to 50-60% in a few weeks probably), and not all that much money altogether.  We talked about the fact that if the cat got sick, we had a thousand or two in savings (all of our total savings for a rainy day, and a down payment someday and other things. actually, we got down to about 300 last spring from rainy day issues... but anyways), that we could and would use for the cat, but that if he required a very expensive treatment, we would have some hard decisions to make, as another pp said. Our kitty has been healthy so far.  (He did have an upper respiratory infection like most shelter cats but when the humane society took him (from the local shelter), they  quarantined  him for two weeks and treated the uri.  apparently most/many cats have uri's and intestinal parasites, so be prepared to treat those right away if needed. also, from family and friend's expeiriences, it seems that kittens are often sicker than adult cats. (though I imagine old cats have a lot more issues as well.) That's why we chose an adult cat (1.5 was the perfect age, as he still acted a bit like a kitten and was full grown but still had a smidge of kittenishness about him, while not having the greater expense of a kitten.)

 

 

 

Quote:

 

Quote:Originally Posted by Oubliette8 View Post

Its really impossible to forsee health expenses. Part of that is because cost varies greatly across the country. What costs me less than $200, I've seen cost $500+ in other parts of the country. And you just never know whats going to happen. Some animals, like people, are never sick a day in their lives. Others seem to be walking accidents, and are always getting into trouble. Mostly what I was trying to point out is, some people will dump a pet because it gets some minor problem. Maybe it has a UTI and they don't want to pay for antibiotics etc. So its important to realize that cats can and do get sick, and you need to be prepared to deal with it. Thats not to say you should have unlimited funds. We're sort of hand to mouth here, but I know my dog may have health issues just like any other living creature. When she does, I figure out a way to get it done. But, if something totally unexpected happened and we were faced with the possibility of a several thousand dollar vet bill, I'd have some tough choices to make. I expect that is probably normal for most pet owners. There is pet insurance, but I've heard mixed reviews.

 

exactly.
 


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#15 of 15 Old 11-30-2010, 06:31 PM
 
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I just wanted to add that the indoor/outdoor issue is something to seriously consider. Outdoor cats wreak havoc on songbird and small mammal populations. I also see way too many cats on my commute every day that have been hit by cars. If you do go ahead and get a cat, keeping it indoors only is the safest thing for everyone.

I'll also put in a vote for adopting an older cat. My cats were about 5 when we adopted them and they've been a great addition to the family. Kittens are cute, but they only stay cute and teeny for a short time and I didn't feel like dealing with baby cat issues (mainly litter box training even though I'm told it's pretty easy with kittens). I've also met a lot of cats that were sweet as kittens and then underwent crazy personality changes as they grew up. By getting adult cats, I was pretty confident that their personality was already pretty well developed. There's also the fact that shelters and rescues have a much easier time adopting out cute kittens than slightly older cats.

That's pretty much my only advice regarding cats. I absolutely love my cats and I fondly remember the cats that joined my family after my parents divorced. They were a great comfort when I was a kid and needed some snuggly company. Best wishes!


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