You have been thinking about it for a while, and you – along with your family – have decided it’s time to add a kitty to your household. This is wonderful news indeed. My family has included cats for decades and I can’t imagine life without the addictive companionship that can only be offered by felines.
The objective of this post is to ensure that you are ready for a cat. Therefore, I want to address some issues that could be easily overlooked for those who have never owned cats before.
Outdoors vs Indoors? There’s Only One Answer
I am a strong advocate for keeping your cat indoors, and I have facts to support my position:
How can you argue with facts like this?
The question here is why do outdoor cats have such a shorter lifespan? Why do indoor cats live as much as five times longer than cat that live outdoors?
Here are 5 common dangers that outdoor cats face on a daily basis:
Disease – There are several diseases that are carried by feral cats – and other outside critters – that are fatal to cats. Your outdoor cat can become easily infected with one of these diseases by just coming in contact with an afflicted cat.
I am forever shocked at how few cat owners are even aware that these deadly diseases exist. Here is a list of them:
- feline leukemia (FeLV)
- feline AIDS (FIV)
- feline infectious peritonitis (FIP)
- feline distemper
The good news is that your vet can help protect your cat from some of these diseases.
Traffic – Perhaps the danger on this list that is responsible for the most kitty deaths, traffic is a horrible threat to the cat population. There is a myth out there that cats have an inner sense to avoid cars, but yet thousands of kitties die every year at the hands of drivers.
Sadly, over 80% of drivers keep driving after they have killed someone’s cat. This indicates a general attitude among drivers of how little value they place on the life of a kitty – all the more reason to keep them indoors.
Cruel People – Lots of folks turn their back on this, but there are lots of cruel people out there that find delight in killing, harming, and even torturing animals. And the sad truth is that cats are often the victim of such hatred.
Don’t believe me? What about dog fighting? What about rooster fighting? These are just a few examples of the animal cruelty that takes place every single day.
When your cat lives safely indoors with its loving family, this threat is completely removed.
Poisons and Toxics – Kitties can fall victim to poisons and toxins in a variety of ways. For starters, people often put out rat poison to control a pest problem, but they do it carelessly and their neighbor’s pets wind up consuming them.
Secondly, people get aggravated with an aggressive dog in their neighborhood that invades their property and causes damage. Instead of dealing with this problem properly, they will often try to solve the problem by putting out poison for the dog. This is a threat to cats that live in the area as well.
Thirdly, people are just plain careless with how they handle hazardous materials and local animals become poisoned inadvertently. Indoor cats are not subjected to these hazards.
Wild and Aggressive Animals – There are an assortment of aggressive animals in pretty much every neighborhood. Often times, we see dogs that live in those areas that dislike cats and attack them at every opportunity. I have several friends who have lost their beloved kitties this way.
But aggressive dogs are not the only threat, there are wild animals that also attack cats. Animals like raccoons, badgers, possums, groundhogs, and bobcats will attack them. It really depends on where you live as to how many different threats exist to your cat.
What Kinds of Medical Expenses Should I Expect?
Understanding the medical needs of a cat is vital information to learn before taking the plunge into cat ownership. You need to be fully aware of those expenses that are required on a routine basis. So let us look at the medical expenses to expect from your new cat:
Annual vaccinations – This often depends on what is required in your area or state. The standard rabies shots are always required. And if you ignored the last section and decided to have an outdoor cat, there will be additional vaccinations required – in most cases. If you get your cat from a pet shop or animal shelter, they will often times perform these vaccination for the first year.
Annual Check-Ups – Your cat must get an annual check-up, just like you do. This is how you can detect small problems and issues before they become big issues.
It is during these examinations that you vet will suggest other treatments for your cats. Some of these can be vital and some can be addressed later. One example of this is having their teeth cleaned. While this may sound over the top to some people, dental care will allow your cat to keep their teeth into their golden years.
De-Sexing – Unless you plan to raise cats for a living, getting them de-sexed is a must. Often times, your cat will already be spayed or neutered when you first get them. This depends on where you get your kitty. There are lots of pet shops and animal shelters out there who perform this procedure to all their cats. If this is not the case, it will be a one-time expense for you.
Flea, Worm, and Tick Protection – Generally speaking, worms are dealt with on a case by case basis. Once they are gone, most worm treatments are no longer needed.
Flea and tick protection is applied on an ongoing basis. The most effective brands today require a drop of ointment applied on the back of your kitty’s neck once a month to keep fleas and ticks away.
This is yet another case where outdoor cats are far more vulnerable and typically require a little more attention.
Cat Food – Cats have a notorious reputation of being finicky about their foods, and for the most part, this is unfortunately true. I have taken in several homeless cats that are practically starving. Initially, these homeless cats will eat most anything, but after they realize food is no longer scarce, they become picky.
Some cats love wet food, some prefer dry food, and some will eat both. But they won’t eat all wet food or all dry food – they will develop their own preferences. So it will take some time to figure out what your kitty likes. The good news is that cat food really isn’t that expensive.
Sometimes your cat will have special needs that will require prescription cat food – which can be rather expensive. These special needs are things like weight control, dental health, kidney health, and even diabetes.
Cat Litter – If you opted for an indoor cat (and I hope you did), then you need to add kitty litter to your budget. I will discuss litter boxes and litter in more detail later in this post.
The Importance of Environment
In my opinion, the biggest disconnect among a cat owner and a non-cat owner is their understanding of a cat’s psyche. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, the fact is that it is a huge deal – this is especially true for those who plan to keep their cat indoors.
Cats are very independent and require their space and privacy from time to time. Most people who are used to dogs are quite accustomed to walking up to them and getting a welcomed response. This is not how you interact with a cat. Until you become acquainted with them, you let them approach you when they are ready. After that, they become approachable and more lovable.
Cats also prefer environments that are relatively quiet and less chaotic. They do best in homes that have a steady and stable routine. Most of them do not fare well in homes that have young children because they do not like the noise level and the chaos.
Oddly enough, many cats do very well in homes that have dogs. In fact, they often become great friends with one another. All you have to do is go on Google or YouTube, and you will see hundreds of pictures and videos of cats and dogs cuddled up taking naps together.
The next thing that cats need is some space of their own and places where they can get some privacy. A perfect place for an indoor cat is a screened-in porch. This is what we have for our three indoor cats and they love spending time out there. Screened porches are excellent ways for them to get away from their humans for a while and to observe nature as well.
The overall importance of having a healthy environment for your cat is that it helps keep their stress levels low. So many people overlook the notion that their pets experience stress. This is a bad thing for cats. A stressed out cat will start doing unwanted things like spraying up your house, tearing up your furniture, and pooping behind your couch.
So you should always take this into account before you do things like moving furniture, bringing new pets into your home, having guests over, and so forth. And if you are planning to move in the near future, then you should wait until you have moved and settled into your new home before adding a new kitty to your family.
A cat’s litter box is incredibly important to them. This includes where they are located, how many are available, and how they are maintained. So let us discuss these three factors as they pertain to your kitty’s litter boxes.
Location of Litter Boxes
Just like you, your cat prefers privacy when going to the bathroom. How comfortable would you be with a commode that is located in your in den, or on your front porch? Your cat feels the same way.
So when you are deciding where to place your litter boxes, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if you would use the litter box in a given location. Never forget how much they value their privacy when they do their business.
Number of Litter Boxes
Experts tell us that we should have at least one litter box per cat plus one additional box. For instance, if you have two cats, then you should have three litter boxes. This is important as cats can sometimes become territorial about their litter boxes.
If you have only one litter box, the alpha cat in your house may not allow the other cats to use that box. Such a scenario will force the beta cats to poop and pee behind your sofa and under your bed – which can become an ugly habit.
Maintenance of Litter Boxes
Taking care of your litter boxes is extremely important. To begin with, you need to find high quality litter to use and ALWAYS use that brand of litter – never use another brand. Your cats prefer routine and predictability which includes using the same litter all the time.
Next, you need to scoop their litter boxes on a daily basis. Scooping their litter box is like flushing the toilet to your kitty – would you use a toilet that hasn’t been flushed? You should also keep containers of fresh litter handy in order to replenish the cat litter levels as you gradually scoop it down.
Every few weeks or so, it is a good idea to empty the litter boxes and wash them. Then fill them with fresh litter. If you are pretty good at keeping your litter boxes scooped and replenished with fresh litter, then you could probably get away with washing the boxes once a month or so.
As long as your cats are reliably using the litter boxes, that is a sign that you are doing a good job maintaining them. Keep in mind that sometimes their potty habits will change because of non-litter box factors – such as an elevated stress level.
The Joy of Cat Ownership
As you consider everything that I have addressed above, adding a cat to your family is not as hard as it sounds. I think that cats are the easiest pets in the world to have in your house. After you have connected with them, and they understand your routine, they are pretty much self-sustaining.
- You don’t have to walk them
- You don’t have to housebreak them
- You don’t have to take them outside to potty
- You don’t have to board them for short absences away from home
- They are among the quietest pets you could have
In my opinion, there is nothing as fulfilling and joyful as having a loving relationship with your kitty. It is hard to describe, but every cat lover knows exactly what I am talking about.