If you’re thinking of bringing a feline into your life, make sure you know what you’re taking on. Cats may have a reputation for being self-sufficient and independent, but their world revolves around their human...
Posted: 09 February 2020
For people who want a furry friend to greet them when they come home but don’t want the commitment of a dog to walk, a cat may seem like the ideal choice of pet. However, even though cats are naturally self-contained creatures – they have evolved from solitary and independent ancestors that don’t live naturally in family groups as dogs do – it doesn’t mean they enjoy being constantly left to their own devices. While every cat is an individual, most will get lonely and stressed if left on their own for too long.
Cats can form firm friendships with other animals such as the family dog, as well as a very close bond with their human, coming to rely on their companionship. So, while you don’t have to walk them, pet cats still need regular playtime and plenty of human interaction.
Not including how much it costs to actually get a cat you’ll also need money to cover regular vaccinations, boosters and parasite control, insurance (in case they get ill or injured – there’s no NHS for pets – and premiums will steadily rise as they get older), high quality food, along with all the usual feline paraphernalia. This may include litterboxes, litter, beds, a cat carrier, toys, bowls, grooming tools and enrichment items (such as scratching posts and cat trees). And, if they’re not already neutered and microchipped, you’ll have to pay for that too.
DID YOU KNOW?
Cats are territorial and their environment is everything, so you’ll need to be prepared to make your home the perfect place for a fussy feline. Cats like a place for everything, and everything in its place – their food, water, litter tray, scratching post and bed should be placed in different locations around the house, ensuring your cat can access them whenever they need to. Cats also need places to climb up high to safely observe the world and secret hideaways for when they need undisturbed, private time. Find out more about creating a cat-friendly home here >>
A really important behaviour for cats is scratching – this keeps their claws in tip-top condition and exercises the muscles of the forelimbs and spine, which helps keep them in prime hunting condition. Scratching is also used as a form of territorial communication. Scent and sweat glands in between the pads of the feet produce a unique smell, which is deposited when claws are scraped down a surface. So, while scratching posts can provide a practical outlet for this natural behaviour, a cat is still highly likely to make their mark on your furniture. You have to decide if this is something you can accept.
And, of course, cats are natural born hunters. How will you cope if they bring you back a ‘present’ through the cat flap?
You’ll also have to scan your home and garden for items that are toxic to inquisitive cats. Anything that gets on your cat’s feet or fur is very likely to be ingested when they’re grooming. Common poisons such as antifreeze, weed killer and slug bait should be safely locked away. Also be aware that many plants, including lilies, bluebells, foxglove, hydrangea and wisteria are poisonous to cats. Find out more about keeping cats safe here >>
Sometimes aloof and always fiercely independent, felines still love to be entertained and thrive on playing games and being given attention. You’ll need to dedicate some time every day for active play and keep a collection of toys that promote movement: feather toys, climbing trees, paper bags and cardboard boxes for your cat to pounce in and out of. Find out more about how to play games with cats of all ages >>
Cats live to around 16 years and some have even been known to thrive into their 20s. So be sure that when you're making the decision to bring a cat into your life, you understand the long-term commitment you're making.
Cats and humans have been companions for thousands of years but it’s important to understand how cats see the world so you help to make their lives happy and fulfilling. Here’s some feline-focused reading to get you started:
Kittens are incredibly cute and, while it’s rewarding to watch them grow and develop, they require a lot of time and energy. Young kittens shouldn’t be left for longer than four to five hours as they need regular meals throughout the day and close monitoring. In order to develop into confident adults, kittens need to interact positively with different people and experience all the bewildering sounds, sights, smells and sensations of a household – vacuuming, TV/radio, people coming and going etc. It’s a big responsibility to take on – you can find out more with the PDSA's Kitten Checklist >>
You might find that adopting a more mature, adult cat who knows the ropes and is desperate for a comfy lap to nap in may suit you better. Most adult cats can be left alone for a working day quite happily, although every cat is an individual.
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Sources: woodgreen.org.uk, cats.org.uk, rspca.org.uk, pdsa.org.uk