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What lifestyle changes should new cat owners expect?

Should I Get A Cat?

Arden Moore (Animal Behavioral Specialist, Editor and Author) gives expert video advice on: What lifestyle changes should new cat owners expect?; Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have children?; Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have a baby? and more...

What lifestyle changes should new cat owners expect?

First I want to congratulate you for considering getting a cat. You won't be sorry. Cats make great furry roommates. Think about that. When you were in college you might have had that roommate that you wish you never had. Cats can give you so many and they won't leave the lights on. Cats do a lot of wonderful things. But specifically if you're thinking about getting a cat for the very first time, there are some points to consider, some lifestyle changes to make. First, talk with your cat savvy friends that have cats. Hang out with them a little bit. Find out if you'd really like to have a cat because when you think about it, you're going to probably have that cat longer than you'll have one, two, or even three cars. Cats can live up to 20 years and beyond. So when you make that decision to get a cat make it with the thought, “Hmm, do I want to have a cat for 20 years?” And next, find out what's entailed for your home: any lifestyle changes. Whether you live in an apartment or a house or even an RV, cats can be very adaptive but cats are homebodies. So you may pay the mortgage, but the cat's the one that really feels like they own the home. The third point is your time commitment. Are you willing to be able to engage with that cat and play with that cat? That doesn't mean you have to spend hours and hours of day with the cat, but little purposeful five to ten minutes of interaction with your cat will go wonders in their behaviour, and actually make you feel pretty good too.

How much will it cost me to get a cat?

Well, you're going to have a cat for a long lifetime. On average, it's about $600, maybe, a year when you compute cat litter, cat food, veterinary costs, and the all-important cat treats and cat toys. I mean, they're just like furry little kids sometimes. Many cats can live long, healthy lives with just routine veterinary care. So, when you compute the $600, maybe times 20, then you're talking about, what, $12,000. And that's a pretty good investment for twenty years of a companion that's giving you lots of love and lots of attention.

Will a cat need a lot of my time?

You've got to assess your own lifestyle. Do you want a cat that's very engaging? Do you want a cat that is mellow? That helps a lot when you make your decision. As far as time investments, the nice thing about cats is they tend to have short attention spans. So we're not talking an hour solid of interaction with your cat, but maybe five or ten minutes of one on one time a few times during the day. When you wake up, before you go work and in the evening. That does a lot for the cat. They just need to know that they are part of the family, and don't make great demands on your time.

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I travel or work a lot?

If you really love cats, you might consider getting two cats. Now don't panic, it's OK. It gives them companionship. You can get a littermaid or you can get two cats that maybe get along really well at a shelter. That helps a lot. With that said, I don't recommend you leave cats home alone for a long period of time, even a weekend visit. It's nice to have a neighbor or a professional cat sitter that can pop in and say Hi to the cat, making sure they have enough food and water. We do travel a lot and I know that you can't predict where your next job is going to be and what your job demands will be. But, I highly recommend maybe getting two cats and just making arrangements for someone to pop in and say Hi to your cat while you travel.

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have children?

With regards to having a cat if you have children, it depends on the age and the personality of your children. A lot of people do better if they wait on getting a cat until your child is about five, six or seven years old. The reason being is nothing against the child, but the child is developing mentally and socially as well, and when they are younger they really don't understand that if they pull the kitty's tail that the kitty can get hurt.

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have a baby?

First of all, cats have had a bad rap that they're going to suck the breath out of your baby. That is just not true, it's an old wives' tale. Secondly though, you need to make sure that you introduce your cat and baby properly. I would encourage that you let your cat smell the smell of the baby: the blanket and things like that. But you also have to be a little more cautious. I would keep the door closed in the crib room where your baby is, or have your cat in a safe interactive area where they can be while you tend to your baby. Another issue you might have is "While I'm cleaning the litter box, is there going to be danger of toxoplasmosis for the baby?" It's this big scary term. And actually, you can get that disease probably more readily working in a contaminated garden than you will in your litter box.

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have an older cat?

There are some things to consider if you want to get a cat if you already have an older cat. First of all, you've got to check out what your existing cat or the resident cats' temperament is like. Has that cat ever been exposed to other cats? Have you had friends, neighbors or houseguests come over? How was your cat's reaction to that? That's important. You really have got to keep that in mind.

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I have other pets?

Well if you're like me, you like cats, dogs and other pets. If you're considering adding a cat to your dog household, you need to do it very carefully. There are some dogs that are not real big fans of cats, and then there are dogs that are like "I love you, come on, share the bed with me". You need to make that introduction of the dog to the cat smartly. And by that I mean, you need to keep your dog on a long lead, and have the cat be able to have plenty of escape routes, and let the cat be able to duck under the bed, get in you closet, and things like that. What I do is, I have really good quality treats around for my dog. Whenever the dog is well behaved around the cat, not chasing, not running, you say "good dog", and you give them a treat and say "we love kitties, kitties are our friend". If the dog tries to chase the cat, you've got this long line, all you do is step on it. And when the dog looks at you, you give them a command like "hey, sit, good sit". When they're relaxed again around the cat, you reward the dog for being cool and calm around the cat. Dogs are no dummies. In no time they're starting to realize, "good treats happen when I'm really good around the cat. I think it's worth my while to be good around the cat".

Is it a good idea to get a cat if I am allergic?

If you are allergic, you should really try and stay away from cats. But, if you love cats, the biggest asset is to get HEPA air filters. They really take the cat dander in the air. The second thing is, just chuck it up... you're going be a tidier housekeeper if you will. You're gonna need to wash, make sure you wash your cat's bedding at least once a week. The other thing you need to do, is if you can, be smart - use more flooring like vinyl and wood and laminate and less carpet. Be sure you wash your rugs often. Other things you may need; you may need to get some decongestants. I would urge you to work with your doctor on that. And if all else fails - allergy shots. But that said, there are actually some cats that are less for some strange reason prone to creating allergies. One breed is called the Siberian cat. There is also some research on the way to create some allergy free cats.