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Cats and Kittens: Real Talk

Are you ready to adopt a cat?

Cats or kittens can be a wonderful addition to the family. The better prepared you and your family are to handle the responsibilities, the more joy your family and your furry friend will bring each other. But there are things that you and your family should consider and discuss before making the decision to bring a fluffy furball friend into your home.

Domestication: House pet vs Feral Cat

One of the most common misconceptions is that cats are independent and self-sufficient, and don’t need much in the way of attention. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The modern house cat as we know it descends from centuries of breeding throughout the course of human history. Even feral cats and barn cats are considered domesticated, in the sense that they are all dependent on some level of human intervention for survival.

Feral cats that live in colonies stand only a slightly better chance of survival than a lone roaming feral cat. Generally, a feral cat may not live to be older than 2-3 years without human intervention, such as a local TNVR program and/or feeding and shelter stations.

Many cats do have an independent nature in the sense that they don’t seem to need or want a whole lot of physical affection. But they are still very much dependent on us to provide environments that meet their needs – both mental and physical.

Some cats do appreciate, and even demand, cuddles and pets. Some are so needy that it seems like they want to be all over whatever you are trying to do. If you work from home this might be cute at first, but it can become an annoyance really quickly.

Things to think about

Before you make such a life-changing decision in the heat of the moment, slow down and take some time to consider some things:

Is everyone in the household on board with this choice?

Are they willing to take on some of the day-to-day responsibilities of feeding and entertaining your new pet? Will they help clean up after it (cleaning out the litterbox)? If not, then perhaps getting a pet isn’t right for your family at this time. If you have kids badgering you for a pet, it’s really important to consider their ages and the level of responsibility that you can reasonably expect from them. And if someone claims an allergy, that needs to be respected.

Is your home a safe environment for a cat or kitten? Are you willing to make it so?

Cats are curious by nature. They will explore their environment – sniffing, batting, and tasting are some of the most common ways cats explore. If you keep houseplants or shiny decorations around, you can bet little Miss Cleo Kitty is going to check it out.

Some houseplants can be toxic to cats. Lilies are particularly deadly. Even a small amount of pollen picked up on a paw and licked off when the cat grooms itself can cause fatal kidney failure. Aloe plants are also highly toxic; some common beauty and first-aid products made with aloe are toxic if ingested. Jade plants and Monstera are also toxic. The New York City ASPCA website has a pretty comprehensive list of both toxic and non-toxic plants.

Can you afford to keep and care for a pet?

Consider the costs of owning a pet:

  • Vet bills (including spay/neuter costs, annual vaccinations, emergency care)

  • food

  • toys

  • kitty litter

  • Grooming; cost of grooming tools if you do it yourself

  • Cost of allergy treatment and medications if anyone in your household is allergic

Cats do spend time grooming themselves. But they also occasionally need to be bathed. They should also get regular brushings. This will cut down on hairballs for them, and dander in the home. They need regular vet check-ups, and annual shots for things like feline distemper and rabies.

They may also need their nails trimmed if they don’t have access to a scratching post. Every so often, the nail sheath is shed and replaced by a new one. Cats should NEVER be declawed. Not only is it unnecessary, but it also deprives the cat of its primary means of self-defense. It’s a painful and inhumane procedure. A cat’s claw is actually the tip of a bone. The nail sheath covers and protects it. The procedure to declaw a cat involves deliberately breaking and cutting those bones. Many vets won’t perform this procedure anymore.

Does anyone in your household have allergies?

One of the reasons so many people give up or abandon their pets is because someone in the family says they are allergic, and either can’t afford allergy medication or they don’t want to deal with regular allergy therapies.

If you or someone in your home is allergic, there are over-the-counter medications that are effective for alleviating allergy symptoms. Your allergist may also recommend allergy shots or other prescription medications to help with that. But there’s the costs of this treatment to consider, on top of all the other costs. If you can’t afford the costs, or don’t want to deal with regular allergy therapies, then maybe you should reconsider getting a pet.

Can you meet the needs of a cat or kitten, in terms of both physical exercise and mental stimulation? Do you have the time?

Cats, like dogs, need exercise and mental stimulation. It may seem like they spend most of their time sleeping during the day, but they spend quite a bit of that time lightly dozing – sort of like sleeping with one eye open. Their senses are alert, and they are ready to react.

Many cats are most active during the early evenings and early mornings. Some cats tear around the house all night and then sleep all day. If there is nothing in their environment to keep them safely and sufficiently occupied, you may find a mess in the morning. A bored cat will knock things over and scratch up the furniture. The kitty litter (and poop) will be all over the place, leaving a literally empty litterbox. Oh – and if you use that clumping litter, those clumps of pee-soaked sand will break up into tiny pieces all over your carpet. They’ll get into all the tiny cracks in the hardwood flooring, and in the corners and cracks at the baseboard.

A bored kitty is almost as bad as a bored dog and can be just as destructive in different ways. You’ll need to find ways to interact with your cat to keep her entertained or create an environment where the cat can entertain herself. Flirt poles (those sticks with the string and feather attached), balls, interactive toys that you can stuff with treats, and a laser pointer are some things you can start with. A cat condo also doubles as a scratching/climbing post.

Can you keep the cat indoors? Are you willing to keep the cat indoors?

Some areas have ordinances and regulations that require all cats/kittens kept as pets to stay indoors or on a leash at all times when outside. Many people believe (misguidedly) that pet cats can’t or shouldn’t be kept inside all the time. They feel that cats should be able to come and go as they please. This is so dangerous. The cat could be hit by a car or get into fights with roaming feral cats. It could be killed by a random roaming dog – or worse, torn apart by a whole pack of roaming dogs or other wildlife like coyotes.

Can you afford to feed a kitten or cat properly?

It’s not as simple as plunking down a can of tuna or shoveling a scoop of kibble into a bowl. Kittens need more in the way of certain vitamins, fat, and certain minerals than adult cats, to promote healthy growth. A diet formulated specifically for kittens gives them what they need in small, digestible amounts that will be easy for their bodies to absorb properly. Adult cats don’t need as much fat in their diets. Some cats or kittens may have health conditions that require a specific kind of diet. So, choosing the proper diet for the life stage and health condition of your pet is important.

Do your homework when choosing a pet

Remember – do your research carefully when choosing a breed. Like dogs, cats have certain health issues that they may be predisposed to. They will have unique personality traits and energy levels. Take these into consideration along with all the other things. Ask yourselves: Do you want a cat that likes to lay around and snuggle with you, or do you want a cat that’s going to entertain you with its seemingly endless antics?

A word about fostering

If you are still not sure, even after considering all these things, you may want to consider fostering. This is a good way to see if you and your family members actually want to take on the responsibilities and reap the benefits of having a cat or kitten in the home. It also helps keep pets out of animal shelters, many of which are already overcrowded.

If you’ve discussed these issues with the other members of your household, and you’re sure that everyone is on the same page with you about it, then you may be ready to add a furry ball of fluffy feline friendship to your home.

*For more information on adoption or fostering, please contact the Jackson County Animal Protection Society. Image credit: ©2020 John Weland, Alisha Weland. Models: Payton Scott, Alisha Weland, John Weland

Written By: Raven Knighte

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