11 questions to ask yourself before adopting a cat

Sharing your life and your environment with a cat requires commitment. In order to discover if you are made to live with a cat, Marie-Josée Thuot, Feline Behaviour Specialist, offers a few questions you should ask yourself before you decide to adopt your new feline companion.

Can you provide an adequate living environment for your cat?
Kittens and cats have specific basic needs, just like any other living creature. They need a stimulating environment, especially if they’re house cats. They need to be able to climb, to burn their energy, to scratch. You must adapt your home’s environment to suit your cat’s needs. To ensure he has enough stimulation, plan to install a sturdy cat tree, with various levels, give your cat the opportunity to climb, and play with him for ten minutes, two or three times a day. Each cat has his or her own personality, you’ll have to respect your cat’s temperament and limits.

Are my children too young?
You wish to adopt a cat and you have young children? In that case, it would be better if you waited until your children are about 7 or 8. Unless you’re willing to supervise the children every time they’re in contact with your feline friend, and you can teach them respect and gentleness with regards to your pet. Avoid adopting a kitten, which is much too vulnerable from the get go. Opt for an adult cat who will be able to climb and get away if he needs his space.

Do cats get lonely?
Many cats seem to suffer from lack of stimulation. If he spends 9 to 11 hours a day alone, most days of the week, he might develop behavioural problems caused by loneliness and inactivity. Another cat’s company might be helpful, but only if they get along. Sometimes, the friendly presence of another animal, such as a dog, can also help.

Where should I adopt a cat?
Rescue shelters are very interesting because they are full of good and beautiful cats. In addition, when you adopt a cat, you save two lives: your new cat’s, and the other cat who’ll get a second chance because of the space you just freed at the shelter. Choose a pet shop that has a good reputation, find out where and how they get their cats. Make sure they grew up in the proper environment. As for cat breeders, it all depends on the breeding conditions and the breeder’s attitude.

Should I get a cat or a dog?
If you or your kids need a lot of interaction, it would be best to consider adopting a dog rather than a cat. Unfortunately, many people who get a cat have expectations that cats just can’t fulfill. Contrary to a dog, you need to let the cat come to you, not the other way around. You must approach and play gently with a cat, considering its small size and hypersensitivity.

Is two really better?
The best gift you can get a kitten is another kitten, or a young cat that’s less than 18 months old. They’ll have fun together, sleep together, establish a solid relationship, they’ll feel safe when you’re gone to work all day. Living together will have a very positive and beneficial impact on their nervous system. They’ll both be calmer and more well-adjusted, and will benefit from living together.

You just adopted a kitten or a cat?
For most cats, it’s best to set them up in a small, closed room. Your new pet could feel lost in a space that’s too big for him. Make sure you place all his stuff in the room: bed, toys, blankets, bowls and litter box. That will reassure him since all these items have his scent on them. Some cats only need a few days to get used to their territory. Once he feels comfortable in his space, he’ll be able to explore the other rooms of his new home.

Cat or kitten?
A kitten is a newborn. It has very specific needs. It should be able to stay with its mother and siblings at least until he’s three and a half months. The mother plays a crucial role, by her presence, her comfort, and the education she gives to her kittens. And of course, her milk is full of antibodies that will reinforce their immune system.

A kitten that’s less then 6 months old also needs a constant, reassuring presence. Leaving him alone for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time could have dire consequences on his psychological stability. That’s why it’s also important that the kitten sleeps with you. You don’t think you can handle this vital need? Perhaps you should consider adopting an adult cat.

What about the litter box?
The litter box should be adapted to your cat. You have a large cat? Choose the biggest litter box you can find. You have a kitten or an elderly cat? Adapt the height of the litter box. Place it in a easily accessible space, but somewhere that’s not too noisy and mostly private. Choose a litter that provides long-lasting odour control, such as the ARM & HAMMER™ Ultra Last™ Clumping Cat Litter, for his comfort and yours.

Can I give a cat as a gift?
It’s not recommended to give a cat as a gift, unless you have previously discussed this with the person at the receiving end, and that he or she is well informed on the subject of cats. It’s best to let that person choose his or her feline companion. A cat is a life, and it requires long term commitment as well as basic care, time and money.

Is sterilization important?
Considering how easily and quickly cats can reproduce, and the incredible number of cats that are abandoned, stray or euthanized, it is crucial that your cat be sterilized just before he or she becomes fertile. This will also reduce the risk of your cat running away. And since this will make him less aggressive, there will also be less risk of injuries and battle scars. Sterilization also considerably reduces the odour of urine in male cats, and practically eliminates the risk that your pet will mark his territory inside the house.

Related pages:

Are you ready for a cat?

A breed apart

Raising a social cat

The de-clawing debate

Tips for introducing a second cat to your home

Bringing home kitty