Choosing a Cat

The following questions can be used as a guide when helping you to choose which pet is best suited to you and your lifestyle.

Can offer it the right type of home? Do you have enough space? (particularly important for dogs) Do you have the time and money involved in animal ownership? What agea are your children? How stable will your life be over the next 10-15 years?

There are several important issues to consider before adopting a cat. Cats typically live for between 14-16 years. If you do not know what you will be doing, or where you will be living in 5-10 years time, then now may not be the best time to adopt a cat.

Selecting a cat

Before selecting a cat as a pet, try and gather together as much information on the cat or kitten’s mother and littermates. This should include information on whether the mother and litter have been vaccinated against Feline Leukaemia Virus (FeLV) and cat flu. The cat/kitten should look in good health, with no evidence of fleas or worms, a shiny, healthy coat, bright eyes and willingness to play.

Although very cute and very playful, kittens will take up a lot of your time. If you are at work all day, or have young children, an older cat that is already litter trained may be more suitable. Remember to take your cat to the vet once a year for vaccinations, and a general overview of their health.

Bringing your new cat home

Bringing your new kitten or cat home for the first time is an exciting time for you, however it may well be a very stressful time for your new cat. They will have been taken from where they feel secure and happy, putting them in a moving vehicle and placed in a brand new environment. You cannot expect them to be able to adjust to the new surroundings, new people and maybe even new animals quickly.

To make this transition as smooth as possible, take things slowly. When you bring your cat home for the first time, place them in a quiet room with a secure hiding place, a litter tray and fresh food and water. Give them time to come out of their cat carrier and explore their new environment.

Introduce other members of your family slowly, and if you have young children, allow them to come into the room one at a time to pet and play with the cat. Teach them how to handle the cat and offer them a few treats. Make sure they know it is important not to chase or hurt the cat. Give your new cat time to learn to trust you. If you have no other pets, you can give the cat a chance to explore the rest of your house.

Introducing your new cat to other pets

If you already have another cat, introduce the two of them to each other slowly. There may be some hissing and fighting as they get used to each other. Do not leave the two of them alone for long periods of time until your new cat has settled in.

If you already have a dog, then the introduction process is slightly different. Keep your dog in a crate, or outside, to allow your cat to explore the rest of the house. Once your new cat seems comfortable in the house, introduce the dog to the cat. Keep the dog sitting, and on a short lead. Let the cat come over and investigate the dog, but do not leave the two of them alone until you are certain they will get on.

Space requirements

Cats are a lot more independent than dogs, however they still require a lot of love and attention. They can live quite happily as indoor or outdoor cats, but they need a lot of stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in. If you are out at work all day, then it may be preferable to get two cats, so they can provide company for each other.

Financial implications

It has been estimated that cat owners spend between £500-600 a year. This may sound like a lot of money for such a small animal, but you will need to pay for veterinary fees, vaccinations, worming, neutering, food, a scratching post, a cat flap, litter trays and litter.