Whether or not you should get a cat is not an easy question. It also took us a long time until we decided to get cats – supported by a lot of cat lovers among our friends who were cheering us on. I want to give you an honest picture what to expect with one or two cats and what you have to watch out for – maybe it’ll help you get a better idea so you can make an informed decision.
The Kitty Blues
Maybe you’ve heard about the Puppy Blues before. The Puppy Blues is a depression that sets in for many dog owners after they get a puppy. In my experience with dog owners, the Puppy Blues is a real thing – and so is the Kitty Blues, even though nobody tends to talk about it.
When we got Garrus and Wrex, I used to keep a diary. From the fifth day onwards, our bad mood is quite apparent. Then there were doubts if it was the right decision. Then a shocking realization how long we were going to be tied to these little cats. What had we done? Kittens need a lot of attention and they do all sorts of silly things. They chew your plants, if you’re unlucky they’ll pee on the floor, they’ll start climbing up your legs by digging their claws into your flesh. They want to be fed regularly, no matter if you’re staying in or want to go out with friends. Kittens are a lot more work than grown cats, but getting used to an older cat surely comes with its own problems.
Meanwhile, Garrus and Wrex are older and have quieted down, so living with them is a lot more relaxed than it was. I’ve grown very fond of them and I’d definitely miss them if they weren’t there. It’s very special to live with two little panthers. Even now they sometimes make life difficult for us, but then they sit on my lap, let me cuddle their furry tummies and they start purring contently. How can I not love them? But they’re still a lot of work.
The space you’ll need
Cats need space. Since we’re talking about indoor cats, they should really have a place to escape to where they’re not bothered by humans. A guest room would be ideal so they can hide there occasionally when it gets too much. If you have an indoor cat, you’ll also be happy to have a kitchen that’s separate from the rest of your apartment, where you can cook without having cat hair in everything. It’s also highly recommended to have some vertical space for your cats – maybe a shelf on the wall they can climb up on. Lastly, it’s also nice to have a spare room to hide out in from your cats if you need some quiet time to wrap a gift or something, an activity cats just love to help with. My point is: If all you have is a studio apartment with a kitchenette, consider if you really want to complicate your life with a cat. (We have a separate kitchen and it still feels like I haven’t had a meal without cat hair since 2015.)
Cats want to be fed regularly – three to four times a day when they’re little, two to three times a day when they’re older. I’ve already written about How to change your cat’s feeding time. Of course there are cats who are fine to nibble on dry food occasionally during the day and who will patiently wait for the occasional meal of wet food. This will definitely make your cats a lot more convenient. Our cats eat anything they can find as fast as possible so they depend on regular mealtimes. This makes it more difficult if you want to go out after work – you have to go home and feed the cats first or live with a guilty conscience. Alternatively you can also use an automatic cat feeder, but the fact remains that you have to plan around your cats.
One big disadvantage of having cats, or any pet really, is that they make vacation planning more difficult. I know people who never go on vacation, so they are very relaxed cat parents. Most people I know like to go on longer vacations, though, or they like to spend the occasional long weekend at their parents’ house. Whether it’s a short vacation or a long trip, your cat needs to be taken care of. I’ve heard of cats who can be left with a big bowl of dry food for a weekend and when the owners come back, there’s still some of it left. Maybe there are cats who don’t mind using the same cat littler without cleaning for a weekend. Still, cats should have contact to a human every day and they should get fresh water every day. Also, the cat litter shouldn’t get too dirty, or your cat might decide to pick a clean corner in the house instead. In short: You’ll need someone to take care of the cat while you’re on vacation.
Your next-door neighbor
Ideally you have a nice neighbor who doesn’t mind swinging by twice a day to feed your cats and clean their litter box. That’s the most convenient arrangement – everything stays in its place and your neighbor is happy to help. Still, you’ll have to make sure your neighbor isn’t on vacation when you need their help, and you need to make sure to bring them a nice thank-you gift.
Your acquaintance in the next town
It’s also a good solution if you have a nice acquaintance who will take your cats in while you are gone. During long vacations, this is a very good solution. Our cats are very needy and cuddly and it makes me sad to think they only have a neighbor popping in for maybe an hour at most and they’re all alone for the rest of the time. So, take your cat to an acquaintance who can spend more time with them! In this case, you have to take all your cat paraphernalia – plus the cats themselves who might not be too excited to have to get into their carriers. You also have to take food, litter, the cat toilet, toys, a brush and a lint roller, which is quite a lot to carry. In this case, too, you have to follow your friends’ schedule and go on vacation when it’s convenient for them. I always worry if my cats will behave or if they’ll destroy anything while they’re gone. Then you pick them up and carry all the stuff back to your own place.
The cat hotel
A third option is to take your cats to a cat hotel. It’s more convenient than taking them to an acquaintance, as a cat hotel already has a bunch of cat toilets and you can usually pay extra so you don’t have to bring their food. Our cat hotel is about $9.50 (£7.50) per day and cat, plus another $8 (£6) for any additional cat. Food is roughly $1 (£0.80) a day. This will give you an idea how much a cat hotel will set you back. (Alright, I’ll do it for you! $19.50 a day is $195 for 10 days of vacation. One cat will still set you back $105.) Add to this that it’s hard finding a space in a cat hotel during the holidays, so if you don’t reserve a space early enough, you might be out of luck for a vacation at the beach in your summer break or Christmas back home with your folks. It’s also hard to tell if your cat really enjoy their stay at the cat hotel. (Which is not to say they’re particularly unhappy there, but I’ve also stayed in hostel rooms with 11 other people and it wasn’t exactly the greatest experience of my life.)
But since we’re at the topic of money…
Cats are not cheap! As a very rough number I can say that $100 a months is not unrealistic for two inside cats. That doesn’t include the cost of buying a cat carrier, cat tree, toys, bowls, etc. If we assume that’s all you have to pay for a cat and we don’t include buying furniture, paying for cat hotels or the vet, you’ll still be paying roughly $12,000 for your cats in 10 years. That’s a lot of money. $12,000 for the pleasure of scooping cat litter every day? It’s not everyone’s idea of fun.
I keep hearing people say that cats are very clean animals. It’s true, they always lick themselves clean after eating and they smell good. But especially with cats that live in an apartment, that’s not all there is. As mentioned before, there’s cat litter you need to clean regularly. You have to scoop their poop daily and every few weeks you have to clean the litter box completely. This takes time. Occasionally cats will get diarrhea, and since they’re missing opposable thumbs and can’t use toilet paper, they’ll use the floor instead. Someone has to clean that up, too. Or your cat pees on the floor because it’s unhappy or sick. And even if your cat is lovely and healthy, it will still carry cat litter throughout the whole house. Cat hair collects in corners and sometimes your cat will throw up a hairball. Those things all don’t clean up themselves. Our cats have pushed over several plant pots, a full watering can, a coffee maker, they have thrown up on the carpet several times and the other day, Wrex managed to throw our balsamic vinegar on the floor. What a mess!
Other cat problems
Apart from all this trouble, there are a lot of other problems you might run into with your cat. Maybe your cat will start peeing on the floor and you can’t figure out why. Maybe your cat doesn’t like closed doors and scratches holes in them. Maybe it fights with other cats or meows all day long, pushes over your plants and scratches any visitors. It’s also not unheard of that a new baby arrives and your cat won’t accept the new addition to the family. Many of those problems might be solvable with patience and professional help, but they all cause a lot of stress. Stress you didn’t have if it weren’t for pets.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a cat – quite the opposite. I know many shelters are filled with cats needing a new home, so go ahead! I merely want to impress in you the importance of making an informed decision. Once you have a cat, it’s hard to change your mind about it, and it’s not fair to the cat either.
So consider these things:
Do I have space in my life for a cat?
Am I ok with planning around the needs of my cat? Do I have the time and patience to feed my cat twice a day and play with it? Am I intending on moving soon or having a baby which might not be compatible with my cat?
Do I have space in my apartment for a cat?
Is my apartment or house big enough? Is my kitchen separated from the rest of the house? Does the cat have enough space to run around? Is there space for a cat litter and am I ok with find cat litter and cat hair everywhere? Do I have my landlord’s permission to have cats?
Is a cat more important to me than a vacation?
If you live traveling, mostly during summer or winter holidays, consider who will be there to take care of your cats. Do you have a relative or friend nearby who doesn’t mind feeding and cuddling your cats while you’re away? Are you ok with missing out on your Christmas holiday if the cat hotel is full and nobody else is around to care for your little furries?
Am I ok with spending money on cats?
Depending on how healthy your cat is and what food and litter you buy, they can easily cost you $1200 a year. Do you have that kind of money to spend? Do you want to spend that kind of money? Do I have the means to pay for emergency surgery if my cat suddenly gets sick?
Am I fine with the stress a cat brings to my life?
Do I only want a cat to cuddle or do I still love my cat if it wakes me up at 6am with loud meowing?
If you still go ahead with getting a cat, I wish you the best of luck with your animal, strong nerves and that, like me, you’ll still have moments of joy with your cat every day, even when they cause havoc. It’s a special feeling to have a little feline friend who contently cuddles up on your lap and purrs.