Are you thinking of getting a cat?
Think carefully before getting a cat. A cat is a wonderful companion but can easily live 15 years or more, so this companion will be with you for a long time. Consider carefully whether you will be able to take care of it every day and provide the right environment for it. Think also about the financial implications (cats will need proper cat food and veterinary care), what you will do when you go away on holidays and what other pets are already in the house.
If you have thoughtfully considered all these questions, and other aspects of cat ownership, and if you are sure you are able to provide a good home, then go ahead and get a cat. They make great companions!
Where should you look to get a cat or kitten?
Development of personality and behaviour traits in cats, as in other species, is a complex interaction between their genetic makeup and their environment. How kittens are bred and how they are raised during the early weeks of their life can have a profound effect on them, and their later ability to integrate well in a home environment. How a cat behaves towards humans, how confident or fearful they are and other characteristics will all be affected by what happens during kittenhood. Much of this ‘personality’ development has already taken place before a kitten goes to a new home, but good breeding and early life care can help ensure kittens have the best opportunity of leading happy and healthy lives. Kittens should stay with their mother at least until seven weeks old, and preferably until 12 weeks of age or older. Never be tempted to take home younger kittens.
There are a variety of ways to find a pet cat –a pedigree kitten can be bought from a breeder; a kitten or adult cat can be acquired from a homing/rescue centre, some people acquire a cat from a friend or neighbour. Always try to find out whether your cat has been well looked after. Knowing the behaviour of the mother, can give you some indication of the behaviour of your kitten.
There are many good rescue or rehoming centres, and acquiring a kitten or cat from one of these is an excellent idea. In professional, well-managed centres the staff will be able to help you in make a suitable choice for your needs and your family situation (e.g. a cat which has been used to children or dogs if you have children or dogs). Sadly, however, there are some 'rescues' or 'sanctuaries' where cats are kept in less good conditions – always make sure you are able to look around the centre and sure that it is clean, hygienic and that the kittens and cats are happy and healthy.
Buying via the internet is very risky, and would certainly need detective work to find out whether the kittens have been bred well. Best to avoid.
Should I look for a cat or a kitten?
A kitten is cute and fun, but in reality will quickly grow into an adult cat. It may also be more difficult to predict what the final personality of a kitten will be, whereas with an adult cat this may be much easier to assess (although their behaviour can change in different environments).
There are many lovely adult cats which need homes. They are often overlooked because many people will only consider getting a kitten. However, there are real benefits to choosing an adult cat – not least kittens can be a lot of hard work and are much more likely to get themselves into trouble! Adult cats are usually a lot more sensible and predictable.
Which pedigree breeds suffer from genetic defects?
Cats can suffer from inherited disorders, like other animals. These tend to be more common among pedigree cats because of the selective breeding and in-breeding that takes place within breeds. For more information, see http://www.icatcare.org/advice/cat-breeds/inherited-disorders-cats
Can I have a cat if my apartment has no garden?
For a cat, being able to go outdoors brings huge advantages – it allows variety to its life and allows it to use its natural exploring and hunting behaviours if it wants to. Of course there are risks outside for cats, but you need to balance these with the very positive aspects of physical and mental stimulation and the ability to perform some of its natural behaviours that going outdoors permits.
Cats can adapt to an indoor life, as long as some minimum requirements are respected, such as sufficient place to move, quiet places to sleep and hide, enough stimulation not to get bored, a post to scratch and a litter trays that are cleaned daily. Note that indoor cats tend to gain weight more easily through lack of exercise, so you may have to adjust your cat's diet. Be careful not to leave your cat unattended around an open window or a balcony. Cats do need to be able to climb and sit or rest up high as well, and it is crucial that cats are allowed enough space indoors.
Cats kept indoors are at a lower risk of catching contagious diseases that are transferred between cats, and are less likely to get into fights, but on balance, in most situations allowing a cat outdoors has greater benefit, and some risks can be reduced by (for example) keeping them in at night..
For more information on indoor cats: see the Ohio Veterinary Faculty Indoor Cat Manual http://www.vet.ohio-state.edu/assets/pdf/education/courses/vm720/topic/indoorcatmanual.pdf
What does it cost to keep a cat?
Keeping a cat inevitably involve involves some expense. A US study calculated that keeping a cat for 14 years costs between 4,521 and 18,322 dollars. A UK study estimated the costs to be between £9 278 and £13 090 over 14 years.
These figures sound scary, but the biggest cost is food (10-20€/month) and litter (5-10€/month) for indoor cats, and keeping all pets involves expense.
You also need to consider costs for regular veterinary care, routine, vaccinations, treatment for fleas and worms and treatment of your cat when it becomes ill or has an accident. You might consider taking insurance for this.
One-off costs will be the possible cost for obtaining the kitten/cat, neutering your cat, having it microchipped and buying equipment for your cat (scratching post, etc).