So You’re Thinking of Getting a Cat

I’ve lived with 9 cats so far in my life, 5 of them specifically mine. I love cats more than anyone you will ever meet, so I am all for other people getting them… especially if I can visit. =D But there are some things I’ve learned along the way that you should consider before you run out and adopt a kitty.

How many cats should I get?

Generally, 1-3. My favorite answer? 2.

Three cats is practically a litter, which seems like a bit much – especially if they’ll be in the house. But one cat can get lonely. Now, cats are not as social as dogs, so some cats will be perfectly fine alone. But all cats, like people, have different personalities, and some of those personalities are playful and social, and if an owner doesn’t have as much time to interact with that cat, the cat can get depressed and dejected. In extreme cases that cat can actually become neurotic due to a lack of social interaction. And no one wants a neurotic kitty.

Since I know from experience how difficult it is to get a second cat once you’ve had the first cat for a while, I would recommend getting two off the bat to avoid this problem entirely. And to make sure they get along well, you can’t go wrong with getting two kittens from the same litter.

Where should I get it?

There are so many cats in this world who need homes. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong if you get a cat from any place; you are still saving that cat. But I personally can’t bear to think of paying for them at pet stores when there are thousands of stray cats at animal shelters who desperately need homes. Saving kittens that are on the streets is noble, too, as they would most likely also end up in animal shelters. Grown cats off the streets, however, will likely never make a good domesticated pet.

What age cat should I adopt?

That depends. What are your intentions? I’ve always gotten kittens because I like to be extremely close to my cats, and raising them from a young age guarantees that. But if you want a cat who lives with you but doesn’t necessarily revolve around you, a grown cat is a great option. Kittens are also a lot more work; a grown cat is less maintenance. There are plenty of both who need adoption.

Should it be short- or long-haired?

Long-haired cats are gorgeous, but they’re a pain. They leave their fur everywhere, and they are much more prone to hairballs, which are, indeed, disgusting. You can’t help which kitty you fall in love with, but I would certainly recommend steering your love in the direction of short-haired if you’re a low-maintenance type of owner.

Should it be indoor, outdoor, or both?

There are several ways to look at this, and there truly is no right answer. My dad was a huge cat lover, and he firmly believed that being cooped up inside was no life for a cat. I, on the other hand, will never own another outdoor or indoor/outdoor cat. Indoor cats live longer — period. Every time your cat goes outside, it is at risk: cars, predators, cruel people, getting lost, fights with other cats, etc. Not to mention that if it comes back and forth between inside and out it can bring with it fleas, parasites, and other diseases.

But, like I said, there are different ways to look at it. Maybe a freer, more wild life is worth it for the cat even if it does shorten their life expectancy. But my indoor cats are extremely happy kitties. As long as they have windows to look out and plenty of toys to play with and stimulate their minds, they will be fine. So my vote? Indoor. I want these kitties to grow old with me. I have lost three outdoor cats early, and it is truly heartbreaking.

Should I get it fixed and/or declawed?

It is my belief that everyone, everywhere, should always get every single cat fixed at the youngest age possible. There are way too many stray cats and not nearly enough owners for them. There will always be more kittens; you do not need to “breed” your own.

Declawing is another issue. Some people always declaw every cat they own no matter what. Some people think that declawing is an inhumane practice equivalent to torture and should be made illegal. As always, there is more than one way to look at it, and the truth is probably somewhere in between.

If your cat is outdoors, or indoor/outdoor, you should not declaw. A cat outside needs to be able to defend itself from other cats, and it cannot do that without front claws. And no cat, ever, should have its back feet declawed. Indoor cats occasionally get out, and those back claws are their only chance of survival.

But there are reasons to declaw an indoor-only cat. Namely, property destruction. Some cats naturally gravitate toward scratching posts – yahoo. But others can wreak havoc on furniture, curtains, doors, and other possessions. My vet put it this way: with so many owners getting rid of cats because they can’t afford to have their furniture ruined, how can declawing be considered completely wrong? If it saves the lives of cats, it seems worth it. And although you hear that it is equivalent to removing a human finger at the first knuckle, that is not true anymore. If it’s a difference between having to get your cat declawed or getting rid of it, I certainly think declawing is the lesser evil. Some people disagree, and that’s fine. You’ll have to make your own choice.

If you do think declawing is the way you’ll go: do it early. Young kittens heal so much faster than older cats. They can be declawed and fixed in the same appointment and be back on their feet after a day or two. A very young kitten won’t even remember having claws and will never know the difference. And yes, declawed cats can still climb, play, and do pretty much everything else a cat with claws can. I’ve even caught my declawed kitty “scratching” the scratching post. Another consideration: if you have more than one cat, you will need to have either all or none of them declawed. Cats do fight, and you don’t want one cat to be at an unfair advantage, as this can lead to serious power struggles and conflict.

What are some other considerations?

Where will you put the litter box(es)? You need at least one litter box for each cat you own, and yes – they do stink. I mean, there’s shit in there. What do you expect? If you’re a neat freak, you might want to consider putting your litter boxes in the garage and having a kitty door to get to it. The downside of that is that if your cats are indoor only, you can’t easily pull your car into the garage. The upside is that your house won’t smell like litter box. Another option is to put your box in a bathroom, although that can be kind of gross for non-cat-lovers who visit your house. Do you care? This is something important to consider before you get a cat. A litter box needs to be scooped every day.

Will cat hair drive you crazy? You can get a “neutral” colored cat (tan, gray, brown) to help hair blend in to furniture, but it will still be there. If you don’t want to be constantly vacuuming, lint rolling, and saying, “Sorry about the cat hair,” this is a serious consideration. It gets in everything, on everything: promise. As I mentioned above, long-haired cats are worse, but all cats shed. Don’t get a cat if you’re not okay with that.

Can you afford a cat? Vet trips are super expensive. Fixing a cat can easily cost $200, and that’s per cat. Food, litter, toys, emergency vet visits… it does add up. And there will always be unexpected expenses: count on that. Hundreds of kitties are put on the streets and sent to shelters for this reason every year. Plan ahead. Please be responsible and don’t get a cat if you can’t afford it.

Are you allergic? You might want to get tested before you get a cat.

Will the cat(s) be allowed to sleep with you? Or go into your bedroom at all? Sleeping with a pet has been shown to decrease sleep quality. Is that worth it to you? If not, is your home big enough for your cat to sleep elsewhere if you close your bedroom door at night?

Do you have the space for a cat? Admittedly, cats aren’t dogs; they don’t need to be walked or have a huge yard to run around in. But they do need some space. Cats like to be alone for at least part of the day. If you don’t have at least a couple of rooms that are cat-friendly, you might have a grumpy kitty on your hands. And multiple cats need much more space than just one. They are very territorial, and definitely need to be able to get away from each other. Vertical space is a great solution for this. Cat towers are a nice option to increase kitty’s domain.

And, finally, will your housemates be okay with your cat(s)? Hopefully your spouse/roommate/family aren’t cruel enough to hurt or “accidentally” release your cat, but that does happen and it’s very sad. And even if they tolerate it, will they be happy? Depending on your relationship with said housemate(s), this could affect you more than your cats. Consideration for others is definitely something to keep in mind. A happy housemate is a good housemate.

So there you have it. Every consideration I could think of about getting a cat. I hope it helps. Peace, love, and kitties to you all.

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  • febe moss

    Very informative! You should post this on the denton animal shelter’s website!!

  • febe moss

    they also have a facebook as well!

  • Peggabiggs

    Great discussion and especiallly the pics of those adorable kitties. I’ve always gotten my cats when they were young kittens, but I’ve recently been reading up on cats, feral and otherwise and learned that they shouldn’t be separated from the mother cat until they’re 12 weeks old. Apparently, they learn way more than I ever knew from the mamma—things like putting up with the frustration of being weaned, learning patience, and hunting mice, etc. The claim was made that almost every problem cat behavior has its source in being taken away too young from the mamma.

    • That is very interesting, and something I’ve often wondered. Most shelters put them up much, much earlier than that. I suspect that you’re right… but there’s more than one way to look at that too. People want to adopt younger kittens because they’re cuter. Older kittens sometimes, sadly, don’t find homes at all. Is it better for them to be taken away a bit too early and have a nice home, or to stay with their mother longer and risk being put down? It’s a sad choice, and I don’t know that there’s a right answer. But for true cat lovers, this is a good point and definitely something to consider. Thanks!

  • I accept your challenge. Five cats at the moment, and they are my babies. I don’t think you could possibly love cats MORE than me. Maybe as much. 😉

    Input from someone with different experience:

    The cat’s age isn’t as important as the cat’s personality. I’ve adopted more adult cats than kittens, and never had any problems with affection and close relationships. Our last adoption was a full-grown male cat (2-3 years old, long hair, possibly part Maine Coon and possibly part Ragdoll), and he is the lovingest! His love is constant and furious (you’ve never been face-booped so hard!). He spends all his time sleeping around us, jumping in our laps, and generally offering all the affection possible – he’s currently stretched out on the chair next to me. 😉 He was like that when we went to meet him at the Cat Haven, so you can judge how people-friendly an animal will be by their initial interaction, to some degree. Adopting adult cats is just as rewarding as kittens, definitely.

    On that note, adult cats off the streets are definitely not a lost cause. What they are is a VERY LONG PROCESS. Very long. Years long. One of my cats was an especially nervous stray when we found her. Two years of feeding, coaxing, petting and soft words, and she is now always affectionate when I see her, and is starting to come inside if I offer her an open door. Now, I’m not saying that a stray adult cat will ever be like a hand-raised kitten, but they can be domesticated, and they can be taught to love people. They might always prefer to be an indoor/outdoor cat, but if you’ve got that kind of dedication already, there are solutions like cat-runs (even non-fixed ones if you don’t own your home) so you can keep them safe and contained, without them running off to be injured by the big bad world. I’ve just started the process with another, even more frightened stray who showed up (they know the cat houses, man).

    Yay, cats. <3


    • Ashlee! How is possible that I didn’t already know this? I love that you love cats *almost* as much as I do. 😉

      That’s a really good point about cat personalities being more important than age. A cat’s personality comes out more and more as the kitten grows up, so waiting for an older cat could actually be to your advantage. You can hand-pick the friendliest, quietest, etc. (Whatever your preferences are.)

      My thinking is that stray cats are happy being wild. I’m sure domesticating them is possible, but like you said, I don’t think they’ll ever be happy being a human-centered inside-only cat. It seems to me that the most you can be with a stray cat is a “friend,” not an owner, since they will likely come and go as they please. In my thinking, the best thing to do for a stray cat is get it fixed and let it back out to live its life. I’m sure there are exceptions, and someone as dedicated as you are is obviously a good example of improving their quality of life and general safety/well-being. It’s too bad that everyone doesn’t care as much as you do; the kitty world would be a better place. =)

  • This is a great post. Cats are some strange animals ( says the girl who was raised with dogs). We decided to get cats since we live in a one bedroom apartment, and we picked out two kitties that were so different in personality it was comical! But I’ve found they managed to temper each other out.

    There isn’t a lot of space in here, so I actually do take one of my cats for walks. She’s too smart for regular cat toys and she loves to explore, but I live too close to a major road to feel comfortable about letting her free. Cat walks are an awesome way to bond with a cat if they’ll let you do it. I started by leaving the harness and leash out so the cats could play with it. Then I tried putting the leash on her. The final step was to put the leash on and go outside. I don’t lead her, I let her pick where we go, and when we reach a boundary (like the parking lot), I hold my ground and walk no further. I don’t tug, but I do tell her “no” and I wait for her to turn around. It works pretty well for us.

    She knows where the leash is, so if I dig around in that spot, she gets excited. Put her leash on, and she’s at the door trying to reach the door handle, lol.

    • That has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard. My cats would murder me in my sleep if I tried that. Walking the cat! I love it. I wish I could watch a video of this strange and wonderful occurrence. It sounds hilariously cute.

    • Peggabiggs

      Unbelievably cute! I’d like to watch it, also.

    • I’ve been trying to get a video of it for a while. It is as cute as it sounds. I’ve gotten both cats on a leash, but the boy doesn’t like to actually explore. Just my girl. She moves really fast!

  • Excellent entry. The only thing that would make it better would be more kitty pictures!!

    So this is more of a response to your Tweet about the Yahoo article (I’m still Twitter-retarded and don’t really understand how it works): I actually was having trouble with Holly getting on top of our bookshelf (she only recently discovered it wasn’t too high for her to jump up – insert many a expletive), which is where I kept all my breakable knick-knacks that I thought was out of her reach. I looked up that same article ( about a month ago to figure out what I can do about it, and so far the double-sided tape works. Keep your fingers crossed for me that it continues to do so!

    • =) Thanks! Ah, yes. Breakables are a problem. Snaps just broke one of my favorite office accessories (a cute hour-glass), but to be fair, it was on the desk where he could easily reach it. We tried the double-sided tape to keep Buttons from scratching our sofa, and it didn’t work. But that was because she could just move over; it might work for your purposes. Another thing you could try for the bookshelf is one of those mechanized hissing-sound machines. It’s motion-sensored and supposedly scares them away, but I’ve never tried one. =/ Good luck!

  • A. B. Davis

    You made me feel loads better about my cats and my ‘cat lady’ status. I thought it was just me that has to apologize for all the cat hair–I thought I was missing something with all my cleaning in that I would still find it…EVERYWHERE. Also, I’m glad to hear that your two sweet-looking cats fight, because my two go at it. I think you may have inspired me to write a blog about my two rescued, psychopathic kitties. 🙂

    • I’m so happy that you’re a cat lady too. 🙂 I think it’s pretty normal for cats to fight; both of the people I know besides me who have two cats also get the occasional squabble. The only two cats I can think of who didn’t fight were my childhood cats — sisters from the same litter adopted at the same time. I would love to read about your rescued kitties!

  • Katy

    I myself have three cats. (One of which decided to crawl all over me while I was reading this.) And they all have a crazy story to tell of how they got here.

    Two of them are from the same litter–so I agree with what you said: you can’t go wrong with siblings. Me and my family (as I said somewhere else on this site, I’m a teen and live with my parents still) actually had another cat, Raz, who has since passed and every day he would sit at the back door and stare at an all-black stray. Eventually, we just took her in and named her Sabrina. (Yes, like the teenage witch.) What we didn’t know was that she was actually pregnant. Then we found her owner, so the owner took the cat and we kept the kittens. We eventually gave them up to the SPCA, but kept one, and she was an indoor/outdoor cat. A few generations down the line, (we have a tendency to get attached to one particular kitty and keep them) we wound up with those two. The boy, Butters, is fixed and terribly fat and yellow. The girl is our timid little Lizzy.

    The third picked us, we always like to say. On Thanksgiving a few years ago, she ran in the back door of our house and when we tried to kick her out, she got attacked by the bulldogs next door. And she came back to us, and now what were we supposed to do? Leave her to die? So we nursed her back to health, but by then we didn’t want to get rid of her. We realized she was actually fixed, and named her Bella because she had a little collar with a bell on it. So we put up flyers, but no one ever came to claim her. She’s still kind of an alley cat–just an alley cat who lives with us.

    So that’s the story of my odd cats.

  • Katy

    In fact, the reappearing tan/yellow cat in your pictures looks very much like my Butters. (His name is short for ‘butterscotch’ because that’s what color he is.)

    • Your cats sound great. 🙂 Butters is a really cute name for an orange/yellow cat! You and your family sound like wonderful kitty owners!