Before Getting a New Kitten or Cat

Before getting a new kitten or cat, one of the things to ask yourself is: Can I properly care for a cat and provide a stable, safe home for its lifetime which is typically about 15 – 20 years? Many statistics show that as much as 50 percent of all cats change owners at least once in their lifetime. This is an appalling and alarming statistic.

Can I Afford A Cat?

The initial purchase price (or adoption fee) of a cat is not the most expensive cost as there will be many other costs over the cat’s lifetime. Those costs include food, litter pans, litter, toys, scratching posts and/or cat trees, and veterinary care. Veterinary care (without taking into consideration any catastrophic health problems) will run about $100 – $300 per year. Preventive and consistent care is vitally important to any cat’s overall health. If an owner cannot afford veterinary care, it is probably a good idea not to get a cat. Additionally, depending on where an owner lives, there will be a one-time fee of anywhere from $70 – $500 for the cost of getting the cat spay or neutered. Even if the cat is an indoor only cat, it recommended that it have all of its vaccinations, including rabies (a rabies vaccination are legally required in many cities and/or states for cats and dogs), and depending on where you live, there may be other medications that are strongly recommended by the veterinarian on a yearly basis (such as a heartworm preventative medicine). Many people believe that because their cat is an indoor cat, it does not need a rabies vaccination. However, consider what would happen to you and/or your cat if it bit someone while they were in your home? First of all, the authorities will most likely remove the cat from your home and quarantine it for a period of time (at cost to you for boarding and care); if on the off chance your cat shows signs of rabies it will be destroyed. It is highly recommended that a potential owner check with their veterinarian to find out what vaccinations are required by law.

What Breed of Cat?

All kittens are cute and most people fall in love with a cat or kitten because of its look (the cuddlebility factor). Some people prefer a pedigreed cat because of certain breed characteristics while others prefer a mixed breed cat. If desiring a pedigreed cat, careful consideration should be given as to the breed characteristics of that breed. For example: how much grooming will the cat require, how much will it shed, how playful or active is the breed, how big will the cat get? Are you looking for a cat that gets along well with small children or elderly people? Do you need a cat that gets along with your dog? Do you desire a cat that is calm and loves to cuddle and will sleep with you at night? These are just a few of the things to consider before bringing a cat home.

Should You Get a Kitten or an Adult Cat?

Many people, when considering whether or not to get a cat, will only consider getting a kitten. Here are a few reasons why an adult cat may be desirable:

  • An adult cat has already developed its personality so you will know exactly what you are getting;
  • An adult cat is already litter box trained;
  • An adult cat should only need yearly examinations and vaccinations (instead of a series of vaccinations that a kitten will require in the first 6 months);
  • An adult cat has already gone through its “teenager” phase;
  • An adult cat can “bond” just as well as a kitten with a new owner.

Where to Get a Cat?

Animal Shelters – While many shelters are no-kill, most are not. Getting a cat or kitten from an animal shelter may well save it from being put to death. Typically, you should look for a cat that looks clean, healthy, with a shiny coat and clear eyes. Ask to visit with the kitten or cat in a private area to see how it will interact with you. How friendly is it? If the kitten or cat appears lethargic, it may be best to look at another one as this one may be sick. Ask the actual caregivers of the cat or kitten for any information they may have on it. Ask why the cat was surrendered to the shelter. Keep in mind that many people do not always tell the truth to shelter personnel when they surrender their pet. So, sometimes the shelter may not be aware that this cat or kitten may have undesirable behavioral traits (i.e., not using its litter box) or have some type of major health concern which may shortly require a very high veterinarian bill. Many shelters will have already spayed or neutered the cat or kitten prior to its going to a new home. If not, they will generally require that you do so within a certain time period. Do not over-look the adult cats.

Responsible Breeders – If you are looking for a purebred/pedigreed cat or kitten, it is best to locate a responsible breeder. To find such a person:

  • Visit a local cat show which is a great way to see the different breeds of cats, meet breeders, and ask questions.
  • The Cat Fanciers Association (“CFA”) has an on-line breeder referral list which can be searched by breed, location, and other search options. (Please Note: the CFA does not endorse or recommend any particular breeder or cattery on the list.)
  • Nowadays, there are many show breeders, as well as hobby breeders, that have web sites. To locate a breeder in a particular area via the internet, use a search engine (i.e., yahoo, Google, etc.) and type in the particular cat breed and the state you reside to get results for breeders in your particular state or locale. Some breeders advertise in Cat Fancy or other such publications.

Responsible breeders will have (at a bare minimum) a written health/genetic guarantee, provide a starter kit that goes home with the kitten or cat (containing the type of food it has been eating, feeding instructions, breed information), have some provision for (or already had it performed) the spay/neuter of the kitten or cat, provide documentation of pedigree, parentage, and vaccination records. When interviewing a breeder, listen to your intuition; if anything feels “off” about a breeder, do NOT get one of their kittens. If this happens, it is recommended that you seek out and interview another breeder. Remember, a responsible breeder will want to interview you and get to know you as a potential owner as much as you may want to interview them.

Pet Stores – A responsible breeder would not allow their kittens to be sold in a pet store or other re-sale outlet where they could not personally interview the buyer to make sure they are aware of the responsibility of caring for an animal. Most responsible breeders belong to breed clubs and sign a breeder’s code of ethics which prohibits them from selling to retail outlets (pet stores). More often than not, the puppies and kittens for sale in a retail outlet are from commercial, “puppy” mill type operations. Some stores (i.e., Petco, etc.) do have cats for adoption through a local animal shelter but are not actively involved in the resale of cats and dogs. If getting a shelter pet through this type of adoption process, make sure that the adoption procedures comply with that shelter’s normal adoption process.

Private Sources – Sometimes, if an owner can no longer keep their adult cat, they may place an ad through a local newspaper, grocery store bulletin board or veterinarian’s office. As long as you can meet the person, observe the cat in its home environment, and make sure the cat is healthy, there is no reason not to get a cat this way. If it is a kitten, make sure it is at least 12 weeks of age, is properly litter box trained, had age-appropriate vaccinations/wormings, and appears healthy. (Warning: responsible breeders would not advertise this way nor use Craigslist or something similar).

Getting a cat is a lifelong commitment of not only an owner’s time, but their money in order to keep them in food, toys, and proper health. If the on-going cost of keeping a cat beyond the initial cost of it (i.e., veterinarian, vaccinations, cost of spay/neuter, unforeseen health issues/costs and more), then perhaps it is not the time to get a pet.