With kitten season in full swing and June being National Adopt-a-Cat month, the mew of a cute kitten can be irresistable. But before adopting, there are a few factors to consider, such as if a cat fits into your lifestyle, whether to get a kitten or an older cat, and how to welcome your new feline to the family.
Commitment and costs
When deciding whether to adopt a cat, first and foremost, determine if you’re ready to take on a long-term commitment. “A cat can mean 20 years of daily care,” said Melissa Levy, executive director of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society.
While lower-maintenance than most dogs, cats do require socialization, said Carolyn Fitzgerald, director of operations at Morris Animal Refuge in Philadelphia. “Daily petting and playtime is crucial to fostering a happy cat that will engage with your family.”
At least 15 minutes of interaction per day is recommended for any cat; some will need more for mental stimulation and energy release, especially in a small apartment.
Cats are relatively budget-friendly. Adoption fees average $50 to $150 per cat, which typically includes spaying or neutering and the first round of vaccines. Sometimes the price also includes a microchip implant. After that, expect to spend $30 to $40 a month on food and litter, at minimum. Don’t forget to factor in money for a scratching post and toys.
Aside from the upfront investment and monthly maintenance, the next major expense is health care. Fitzgerald estimates general wellness visits totaling $100 to $400 a year. For some, it’s worth considering pet insurance, which averages $25 per month.
Pick for personality (and age)
“Cats are like humans — there are all sorts of personality types,” said Karen O’Rourke, the president of Stray Cat Relief Fund and owner of six cats. “Some just want to chill in your lap all day. Others are high-energy and want to play nonstop, which can be great for families with kids or other playful kitties.” Some are more affectionate, and others are timid, requiring a patient person to gain their trust.
If you prefer owning one cat at a time, Levy advises opting for an adult, since kittens need to socialize. Shelters often provide personality clues, and their staff is trained to help you find the right fit, too.
Choose a kitten, and you’ll need to be prepared for any personality outcome.
Prepare your home
Before bringing a new cat home, pet-proof your house. Do a quick scan of your furniture. If a cat hops onto a shelf of your bookcase, will the entire unit fall down? Make sure your window screens are secure, too, and that window blind strings are tied up. Put away fragile items, as well as plastic bags.
Household plants can pose danger, too; some common varieties, including peace lilies and aloe, are toxic to cats. Refer to the ASPCA’s site for an exhaustive list. Likewise, toxic household products, including medications and cleaning products, should be placed out of reach.
Once your house is in gear, identify a room to serve as the cat’s home for the first week after adoption.
“Change can cause cats to easily become stressed out. They should have a small, quiet space — even if it’s just a bathroom — where they can slowly adapt,” said Levy.
If you have other pets, ask the staff at your place of adoption about getting all parties acclimated. Rescue centers offer resources and tips, and sometimes even know a cat’s pet-exposure history. If a dog is involved, keep it leashed while introducing the cat — and don’t give up hope if it’s not love at first sight. Multiple introductions may be necessary.
Kids should also be introduced with care. “Children need to be counseled on how to pet so that the cat doesn’t end up getting manhandled,” Fitzgerald said. “A little coaching, like instructing them not to grip a cat around the neck or pull on its tail, is generally all it takes.”