The image of a cuddly, purring cat on your lap, or a cute kitten playing with a ball of wool, is very appealing. But there are a few things to consider before introducing a feline to the family.
Some cats - including this Scottish Fold - think indoors is very over-rated!
- Although cats enjoy human company, they spend most of their time alone, or with their feline friends. They sleep for 14 hours a day, too! It’s important to remember this. Unlike a dog, who will happily follow you around all day, given a chance, cats always have other things to do.
- This sometimes leads owners to believe they can leave the cat to fend for itself for long periods (during holidays, for example), as long as it can come and go freely. This is not true. If a cat finds its food bowl empty for several days in a row, it won’t starve (being a very efficient hunter and scavenger), but will decide to look elsewhere for a home.
- With this in mind, is there someone who can provide food and a little fuss if you’re not around?
- Most cats are happiest if they can spend a large part of the day outdoors. If you live in a city apartment, fulfilling this need might not be possible.
- If left indoors for long spells, cats become bored and stressed. This manifests as a destructive urge, and they will claw at furniture and drapes and jump onto every ledge and shelf, careless of whatever ornaments you keep there.
- If there is anyone in the household who suffers allergies, cats will be a problem. They shed hair and dander (dead skin), to which many people – particularly hayfever sufferers - are allergic. Cat saliva and urine can trigger allergic reactions too. Sneezing, asthma and itchy skin are the commonest symptoms. One possible way round this is to choose a hypoallergenic cat (see the Best Hypoallergenic Cat Breeds section of this guide).
Cats need to do a lot of stretching to keep themselves this supple
- Young children don’t always mix well with cats. They may want to treat the new pet as a toy, and cats have far less patience than dogs when it comes to being manhandled, and they can’t be trained in the same way as dogs either. Youngsters should not be left with cats unsupervised, and you will need to teach them how to act in a way that doesn’t scare or harm the cat.
- If you already have other pets, consider whether they will mix well with felines. Caged animals will need to be kept away from the cat, and a dog will take a while to accept the newcomer. Some dog breeds will simply never settle down with a cat. You generally stand a better chance of forging a friendship if the cat is a kitten when she arrives in your household.
- Cats cost money, in terms of food, vet’s bills and other essentials. (See the section Cat Costs)
- They can live well into their teens, even early 20s, so it’s a long-term commitment – i.e. the children who wanted the cat in the first place might have flown the nest long ago before the pet reaches the end of its life.
- In the early days, of if they’re unwell, cats can make a mess, in the form of using your floor as a toilet or being sick. It won’t happen often – especially when they’re house-trained – but it’s something you’ll have to cope with at some point.
- Cats are born hunters, and at some point they will bring a bird or rodent home for you as a “gift”. You have been warned!