A great deal time and thought should be put into this decision. A cat can live for 15+ years. Are you prepared to commit to a cat for this amount of time? Have you discussed obtaining a cat with the rest of the family? It is important that everybody should be happy to adopt a new family member. Do you have the finances to support a cat? Expenses you should budget for include:
- Cat food.
- Cat litter.
- Routine medical/veterinary costs such as annual vaccinations and health checks, worming medication, flea medication.
- Unexpected veterinary costs. These can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Do you have the time to commit to a cat? You will have to spend time playing with your cat, petting, feeding, cleaning litter trays and grooming. Do you know what you will do with your cat when you go on holidays? Do you have a friend or neighbour willing to housesit for you, if not, do you have the funds to pay for boarding when you are away?
Purebred or mixed breed?
Are you looking for a particular breed or cat or do you want a mixed breed cat? There are pros and cons with both. Many pure breeds have a particular personality trait, although this isn't always a given. For example, Devon Rexes are known to be active and extremely friendly cats. Siamese cats are loyal and often quite talkative, Persians are quieter and more laid back. Take time to research the many different breeds if you are wanting a purebred.
Mixed breed cats are just as special as purebreds and have just as much to offer a new owner.
One cat or two?
Are you away from home for extended periods of time? If so, it is recommended that you adopt two cats so they have company when you are not at home. Obviously, this will mean greater expense, twice the food, vet bills etc., but you will also have double the fun!!!
Where is the best place to obtain a cat?
This depends if you want a purebred or mixed breed cat.
Registered breeder: If you are looking for a purebred cat then the best place is from a registered breeder. Such a breeder will be registered with a cat council and will have to adhere to the code of ethics set down by the council. There are also what's known as "backyard breeders". These breeders aren't registered with any cat councils, therefore they don't have to justify their actions to anybody. A registered breeder should have researched the lines (the cat's ancestry), and know what if any possible genetic problems may be in the lines. A backyard breeder isn't likely to do this. The vast majority of registered breeders breed because they have a love of the breed, and care very much about any kittens they bring into the world. They are usually happy to provide you with advice even after your kitten is in his new home. Buying from a registered breeder will also enable you to meet the kitten's parents, and get a general idea of their temperament and personality. Which can be useful in predicting what the kitten will grow up like.
Animal shelter: More often than not, animal shelters are overflowing with cats and kittens desperately in need of a new home. When you adopt from a shelter you will pay a small fee (usually around $100.00), but the cat will be desexed, health checked, vaccinated, wormed, de-flead and depending on the state microchipped, so it really is very good value to take a cat from a shelter, plus there is the added benefit of knowing you have given a home to a cat in need.
Pet shop: Pet shops often sell both mixed breed and purebred cats (without papers). It is not recommended that you purchase a cat from a pet shop. Pet shops will have performed the basic requirements for a kitten such as vaccinations and microchipping but it will be up to you to pay for the desexing. Once you have paid for the kitten, and then the desexing you will likely be more out of pocket than you would have been by choosing a shelter cat or purchased a kitten from a registered breeder. Many breeders desex their kittens before they go to their new home, saving you having to do it. As many breeders receive discounts from veterinarians this saving is able to be passed onto you. There are often topics posted about the sale of purebred cats on our forums and the difference in price between buying from a pet shop and a registered breeder are astounding. Most people conclude that a pet shop will be the cheaper option but this is absolutely incorrect. There is also the moral issue of selling pets in shops. This allows for impulse buying. Pets should be obtained after considerable thought, not in the heat of the moment.
Free to good home: You may know a neighbour or friend who's cat has had a litter of kittens or see an advertisement in your local paper. Generally, it is not the best way to find a kitten. The initial outlay may be free but by the time you have paid for the kitten to have it's full course of vaccinations, microchipping and desexing you are often more out of pocket than you would have been if you'd obtained a cat from a shelter. There is also the risk of not knowing the cat's health status. If the mating was unplanned do you know the mother and father's medical history? Have they been screened for diseases such as FIV or FeLV? Both of which are fatal.
Cat or kitten?
Let's face it, kittens are cute, they are playful and they are entertaining to watch. It is wonderful watching your bundle of fluff grow into an adult. If you are adopting a kitten please make sure it is old enough. The ideal age is 10 - 12 weeks, although some purebred breeders hold onto kittens until they are 14 - 16 weeks. A kitten learns so many manners from its mother, and those first 10+ weeks with mum are extremely important for the kitten to learn socialisation skills. A kitten's immune system also takes some time to mature and adopting a very young kitten may result in it being more vulnerable to infections. At 10+ weeks of age, your kitten will still be small and cuddly, so there is still plenty of time to enjoy kittenhood, with the advantage that it has had the best possible start to life with his mum.
Adopting an adult has it's advantages too. His personality is developed, so you know what you are getting. Adults, in general, are less energetic than kittens, require less training and are less likely to chew on cords etc. Adults are often overlooked for adoption at shelters, which is a terrible shame as an adult can provide just as much love and companionship as a kitten, so do give some thought to adopting an adult. If you have a young child/toddler then an older cat may be better than a small kitten.
If you are looking for a purebred but want an adult you could investigate buying an ex-breeding cat from a breeder. These cats are often still relatively young and are sold at greatly reduced prices.
Long hair or short hair?
This comes down to personal choice. Longhaired cats are beautiful, but do require regular grooming to keep their coat matt free, so please be prepared to put in the maintenance that comes with a longhaired cat.
Preparing for the new arrival:
You will need to purchase some items in preparation for the new family member. These include:
- Litter tray and cat litter. There is a wide variety of cat litters on the market these days, some better than others. It is best to avoid clumping cat litter with kittens.
- Scratching post, cats have a need to scratch and enjoy scratching. Providing your cat with his own scratching post will reduce the chances of your cat using your furniture or carpet.
- Food/water bowls: You can buy cheap plastic ones, metal ones or pottery ones. My personal favourite are the pottery ones as they are more sturdy and therefore there is less of a chance of the bowl being knocked over, plus they can be put in the microwave should you decide to warm the food before feeding your cat.
- Cat carrier for those trips to the vet.
- Cat toys.
- Cat bed.
- Cat food: A premium quality brand is the best, and select one for the appropriate age of your cat. For example if you adopt a kitten, then buy kitten food etc.
Should I let my cat outside?
There is much debate over indoor or outdoor cats. It really is best to keep your cat indoors, not only for your cat's safety but also so it doesn't impose on the neighbours. If you do feel it important that your cat enjoy the outdoors then it is recommended that you either provide the cat with a suitably built cat enclosure or train your cat to walk on a leash.
Most shelters and many breeders now desex their cats before they go to live with their new family. This saves the owner the time and expense of doing it themselves. With so many homeless cats in shelters it is so important that you ensure your cat is desexed. Not only is it morally the right thing to do by not contributing to the overpopulation of cats, but there are also many health benefits to desexing your cat.
It is essential that your kitten or cat be vaccinated. Shelters and registered breeders will have ensured your kitten has had at least two vaccinations prior to it going to it's new home. If you have obtained a kitten from another source then it may not have received his shots. Your veterinarian will be able to advise on when and which vaccinations should be given. Even if your cat is indoors only, he will still need to be vaccinated. As a rough guide, your kitten should be vaccinated at 8 weeks, 12 weeks and 16 weeks. But please speak to your own veterinarian about this.
Kitten proof your home:
Before you bring your kitten home, check your home for possible dangers. You can start by reading our article on kitten proofing.
Planning for routine and unexpected medical expenses is essential. Unless you have a readily disposable income it is advisable you ensure you are covered for veterinary fees either by obtaining pet health insurance or setting aside a small about of money weekly (say $10.00) into a kitty fund, which is only used for medical expenses.
Finding a vet:
Again, this is something which should be done prior to bringing your new cat home. Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations.