Taking the leap from cat fan to cat owner requires more than just a love of felines. Nicky Trevorrow, Behaviour Manager at Cats Protection, offers advice on what to consider before adding a cat to your family.
Getting a cat is an exciting time — but there’s a lot more to it than simply picking the cutest kitten from a litter. From sorting out vaccinations to choosing pet insurance and cat-proofing your home, cat ownership is a serious commitment. Cats can live up to 18 years or more, so choosing to become a cat owner is a big decision. Here are some considerations to bear in mind before taking the plunge.
What you should know as a first-time cat owner
Well-socialised cats can make amazing companions. There’s also plenty of evidence that spending time with your cat can be good for your mental health. But if you’re imagining yourself curled up on the sofa, enjoying plenty of cuddles with your new friend, bear in mind that cats are independent creatures. While some love plenty of human interaction, others prefer to spend more time on their own, or be selective about which humans in the family are their favourites.
If you’re getting a kitten, you won’t necessarily get a good sense of their personality until they’re a little older. For rescue cats, the charity or organisation that’s rehoming them will usually have a good idea of each cat’s temperament and whether they’ll be a good match for your family.
Consider the long-term care your cat will need
Cats are often easier to care for than dogs, but that doesn’t mean they can do without plenty of attention. Before you bring a cat or kitten home, you’ll need to spend time and money getting everything they need. This not only includes equipment like food bowls and litter trays, but also cat-proofing your home and making sure everyone in your family is on board with the idea. A good way to prepare is by using our checklist.
You also need to make sure you can afford all the financial costs of pet ownership. You should budget around £70 per month for one cat, after all your set-up costs have been covered. Cats thrive on routine, so consider if your circumstances can provide the stability they need. While cats are relatively self-sufficient, they shouldn’t be left home alone for too long.
Are there any disadvantages of having a cat?
Cats are territorial, so if you move home a lot this may make them feel unsettled. Consider if your home is suitable for an outdoor cat — will they have plenty of safe places to roam or do you live near a busy road? Many cats thrive by only living indoors, but you’ll need to make sure your home is set up for them and they are provided with enough stimulation.
Cats are generally very clean and spend a lot of time grooming themselves. But they’ll probably still leave cat hair on your soft furnishings — even if you buy them the most expensive bed. You may also need to deal with the less fun side of cat ownership, like scratched furniture, ankle pouncing, and your kitchen counters being covered in paw prints!
Fear not, help is at hand if you experience any of these issues. You can contact a qualified behaviourist from the Animal Behaviour & Training Council.
How to choose your new cat
While kittens can be great fun, they require a lot of time to become more sociable around humans, learn how to use their litter tray and settle into their new home. Adult cats from a rescue centre are a great option as they’re already litter trained and you’ll have a better idea of whether their personality will suit your home.
If you do decide to get a kitten, remember that there’s not one best breed for a first-time cat owner, as everyone will have different requirements. Breeds like Siamese cats tend to need a lot more attention and hate being left home alone, while others like Persians can suffer from additional health and welfare issues, meaning you may spend more at the vet. Make sure you research breeds that will suit you and your family and only buy a kitten from a reputable, responsible breeder, rescue centre, or private seller.
What problems do cat owners encounter?
Cats are sensitive creatures and can easily become stressed or anxious. This may lead to undesirable behaviours such as scratching furniture or urine spraying. Outdoor cats may go missing for a few days as they explore their territory, and this can be worrying for cat owners. Make sure your cat is microchipped and consider keeping them inside at night to minimise the chances of them wandering too far.
Indoor cats need plenty of stimulation so you’ll need to provide cat trees plus high-up places for them to climb. A lack of active play can also lead to boredom, stress, and weight gain, so make sure you have the time to play plenty of games and activities to keep your cat mentally and physically healthy.
If you already have other pets like dogs or rabbits, you’ll need to consider how to safely introduce your cat into the current household dynamics. There’s no reason why your pets can’t live very happily together, but it’s important to plan ahead so you can introduce them to each other safely.
Should I get a cat?
Take our quiz to find out if you’re ready for cat ownership.
1. Are you ready for a long-term commitment?
2. Are you financially prepared for cat ownership?
3. Do you have the time to take care of a cat?
4. Are you ready to research reputable breeders, shelters, and private sellers?
5. Is your home cat-friendly, or can you make it so?
Please answer all questions and submit again.
Congratulations! You’re on track to welcome a cat into your home!
While you’re clearly a cat lover, now is probably not the right time for you to get a cat.