Are You Ready for a Kitten or a Cat?

Are you ready for a kitten or cat? Whether you are a newcomer (a person that has never had a cat) or an old cat person (age doesn't matter) let's explore the do's and don'ts of living with a cat.

Having a pet, be it a cat or a dog is rather like getting married, first you get engaged (getting to know one another), then you get married (sharing your everyday life) and then hopefully live happily ever after. That statement gives you an idea of the commitment necessary when you decide to get a pet. This "long term" obligation deserves serious thought.

Cats live a long time, my Mr. Whiskers lived for 18 years, and a normal life span can be from 12 to 20 some odd years. So commitment has to be one of your first thoughts.

Can you commit?

No one knows what the future may bring and there are circumstances that may alter your life plan, but the question here is, barring any unforeseen circumstances are you willing to make the commitment?

If you are only looking for a "short term" relationship, forget getting a kitten or cat.

The animal shelters and streets are filled with unwanted cats that people left to fend for themselves.

First of all, we need to learn a little general information about cats before we get down to the real nitty gritty. Cats have been around for about 50 million years and have lived everywhere on earth except Antarctica.

There are more than 65 million cats living in American homes, cats out rank dogs as the number #1 domestic pet.

Why, you ask?

The answer is simple.

Cats require less space than dogs, they eat less, they do not have to be walked every day, they do not bark and upset the neighbors, they are generally healthy and they are fun.

Cats are considered to be one of the most intelligent of all domestic animals.

Granted they do not do "dog tricks," though with patience you can teach a cat to do many tricks.

Cats are carnivores, which means they are meat eaters.

A cat cannot be a vegetarian, as vegetables do not provide the protein and other vitamins a cat needs.

Cats can hear higher pitched sounds than a dog.

A cat's eyesight is not much better than ours is when it comes to seeing in total darkness, they need some light to see well and need movement to really see an object clearly.

Like dogs, cats see certain colors better than others cats more easily see shades of violet, blues and green.

Cats are known as sneaky, but they are not.

Cats are watchers, they like to observe what is going on.

We know dogs are pack animals and in the wild, dogs hunt as a team to gather food.

Cats, due to the prey they hunt and the method of hunting they use, are solitary hunters.

Today's cats, as a general rule are well fed and the only hunting they do is pouncing on their toys or stalking a bug or two.

Though cats are considered loners they form strong emotional bonds with their caregivers and can enjoy friendly relationships with other cats and animals.

They can suffer from separation anxiety and feel loss.

To reprimand a cat it is important to never scream, yell or hit a cat. To do so will only intensify the situation you are trying to correct.

Now that you have a little background on cats let's get down to the real business of why you are here.

You are going to get a kitten or cat.

Kittens are cute, but kittens grow up to be cats.

Kittens can be a barrel full of laughs, a peckof trouble and last but not least kittens can require a good bit of your time.

So the first thing on our agenda is to take under consideration your lifestyle, finances and free time to be a kitten or cat parent.

Do you have regular business hours or are you on a schedule that is erratic?

Does your job or current lifestyle cause you to travel a great deal? If you do travel do you have someone reliable to become the second caregiver for your pet?

Do you currently have another pet?

If you do, do you have time enough to spend with two pets? Remember, kittens are babies and they need training, handling and time.

Are you on a tight budget? A pet costs money no matter how small it is. If you currently have a pet can your budget afford two vet visits?

A kitten or a cat needs good quality food, toys, vet visits, litter, flea and grooming products and your time.

No matter how tired you are when you come home from work your kitten or cat will need care and some of your time.

If I keep referring to time, time and time again it is because kittens and cats take a good portion of your free time.

I have 3 cats and I work plus I have a husband (which requires a great deal of care and time) so I know the value of available time and how it can be frustrating at times when time keeps fleeting. Please keep this in mind as you mull over your decision to get a pet.

A decision has been made and you are going to get a cat (kitten or cat still under consideration.) Where do you go to find your pet?

Shelters are a good source, especially if you are looking for an older cat. The shelter will usually have a surplus of kittens, too.

Breeders are also a great source if you are looking for a particular breed and of course friends, family or neighbors that have cats may have kittens they would be delighted to give you.

I know you are looking for that perfect pet and guess what, to find it, it is going to take some time (that word again.)

Do not and I repeat do not, go anywhere on the "spur of the moment" or on an "impulse" to get this pet that may outlast you. Right here and now take a deep breath and make this promise to yourself: "I will take my time, I will visit with the kittens or cats to see which one likes me and which one I am attracted to. I will not be impulsive."

If you are thinking of getting a kitten (at this point 2 are better than one) you want a kitten that has been socialized.

Socializing a kitten means it has been talked to, has been around family members, played with, handled with care and love and may have been exposed to a dog or other cats outside the litter.

A kitten that has been exposed to people and handling can adapt to life away from the litter more easily.

I have a prime example of a cat that was not socialized. My Boots is 9 years old, I have had him since he was about 9 weeks old.

His parents were feral cats (which may or may not be the reason for his behavior,) my brother took in the mother, when he saw that she was about to have kittens.

He had 2 housecats of his own and did not want the mother exposed to his cats (for reasons too numerous to go into here,) as a result he confined the mother-to-be to a quiet area.

She had 3 kittens, but my brother did not have time to spend with the kittens and as a result my cat is really a piece of work for the lack of a better description.

Boots is scared of his own shadow, seems very fearful of men, will tolerate petting and holding, only if forced to.

He is a compulsive hair puller and is afraid of other animals, but in spite of all his problems, he truly is the sweetest and most precious Tuxedo cat in the world.

It really takes a great deal of patience on my part to deal with all his problems, as every day is different and his reactions to some of the same things changes on a daily basis.

This is why it is truly necessary for you to take your time in picking out a kitten, to be your life long companion.

If you have time, patience, finances and room, two kittens are much more fun then one and will grow up together as best friends.

If a kitten stays with its mother longer than 8 weeks it is apt to be more socialized.

When looking for a kitten and you try to hold one, if it squirms to get away put it down, and keep trying until you get one that purrs when you pick it. That one will be a winner.

If you are looking for someone a little more settled, may I suggest an older cat, by older I mean any cat at least a year or more.

Shelters are full of older cats.

Many people move and do not take their cats, some people cannot take their pets, and there are a variety of other reasons why older cats are left to fend for themselves.

These are the "pearls" of catdom.

The older cats appreciate a new loving home. They will love you with all their hearts.

Again, take your time in choosing a cat.

The shelters have rooms where you can sit and associate with the cats, one at a time.

Find one that suits your personality and one that you can relate to.

Take your time to find the "right fit."

Once you have decided you want a kitten or a cat, the next decision is male or female.

As a cat caregiver of many years standing I have had plenty of both.

My experience has shown me that females are a bit more "independent" than males.

That said, let's get back to the male or female choice. It really is a matter of your preference. However, it is very important no matter what sex you get that you have the cat either neutered or spayed.

Now that you have decided: cat or kitten, male or female, shelter, breeder or friend's kitten, we come to the next important part of this decision. The veterinarian. Truthfully, this choice should really be made before you pick up your cat or kitten.

Why? Well, this person is going to be an important part of your life and that of your cat's.

This goes back again to why you should not decide impulsively to get a pet, you need to take time to research and visit several animal clinics to find a vet and clinic that suits you.

For example, what if you work crazy hours and the normal clinic hours don't fit your schedule, you need to find a clinic that has hours that work with you not against you.

Some clinics even though they take care of most animals, tend to lean toward one kind more than another.

You would not want to take your cat to a vet that really likes dogs better than cats.

Why not? Simply because that clinic will not have the same complete interest in your cat's welfare as they would a dog's.

Plus you need to find a vet whose personality meshes with yours.

Whether you have decided on a kitten or a cat, one of the first things you should do is take it to your vet for an examination, especially if you have other cats at home.

Make certain your new kitty has a clean bill of health.

This is also a good time to start your kitten with its kitten shots.

Hopefully your breeder, the shelter or the person you got your kitten from has already started the shots.

Kittens need to be vaccinated with what is known as the 3 in 1 vaccine. These shots are given at 2, 3 and 4 months of age. These shots are to protect your kitten from viruses that can be fatal.

This might also be the time to consider pet insurance. I am not certain it is worth having or not.

However, pet insurance is worth looking into.

Talk to your vet, talk to friends who might have it and research it on the Internet.

Like human health insurance companies you need to find one you can trust and that has been in business long enough to qualify as reliable.

You have picked out your kitten/cat and are ready to bring it home, but before you do let's go over the things you should have ready for that ball of fur.

You will need a food bowl, water bowl, cat carrier, litter pan and litter, a comfy bed, kitten or cat food (both wet and dry) preferably the brand that it is used to eating and some cat toys. For more detailed information on what you need for your new pet see (getting ready for your new pet.)

Now that we have all that under our belts, it is time we thought about feeding our kitten. Kittens are like babies and need to eat many times a day. Their tiny tummies can only hold a little food at a time and so they get hungry more often.

When you picked up your kitten, it should naturally have been weaned from its mother and is eating solid food.

Make certain that you find out what food the kitten has been eating and how often its caregiver has been feeding it.

This is very important as the kitten's internal system is now used to a certain kind of food and for the time being you want to keep up the same routine.

Remember that this poor kitten is going to be stressed out just by leaving its mom and its littermates. So you do not want to institute any more changes into its life at this time.

A kitten up to 12 weeks of age needs to eat at least 4 times a day and sometimes more if they are small eaters.

Be certain that you only feed your kitten "kitten food" and not food made for adult cats. This is very important as kitten food has the correct vitamins and minerals that a kitten needs for growth.

From 3 months to about 6 or 7 months feeding about 3 times a day seems to be enough. However, it really depends on the kitten, some cats are grazers (mine are) and like to eat little bits at a time, but often.

This is where dry food is a blessing. Dry food is available for kittens, be certain that you buy a good quality dry food and not the inexpensive brand.

After the 7th month you can begin to go to a twice a day schedule.

I feed my cats three times a day even though they are all older, only because they are used to it and it fits my work schedule. I leave dry food out all the time as they are grazers and I feed them wet food at the 3 meals (canned or foil packages.)

It is important to have fresh water available at all times.

As you bond with your cat you will be able to tell what it wants to eat and when.

Cats prefer routine. Change is something that makes a cat uncomfortable.

At this point I would just like to cover a few more things that are part of a pet parent's life.

One day you will come home from work feeling frazzled and beat and all you want is to sit down and do nothing for a while and along comes kitty (who has been alone all day) and needs a pet.

Petting or playing with the cat is the last thing you want to do. Right!

This is where you are wrong petting, talking to and playing with your cat for 5 or 10 minutes after you arrive home is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and your cat.

Petting something warm and fuzzy has a wonderful calming effect on the human mind. You would not only be doing your cat a favor by petting it, you would be doing yourself a bigger favor.

Your blood pressure would lower, the stress would leave your body, if you have a headache by relaxing it might disappear and in the end you might save yourself a future doctor bill.

All this by just petting and talking to your cat, "is this a great country or what."

A cat is not a dog and will never react as a dog when greeting you on your arrival home.

However, that does not take away from the sincerity of your cat's feelings for you.

Cats are in many ways like small children. If in order to get some attention like children, cats will do something naughty like jumping up on the counter. The thought behind this action is "any attention" is better than no attention at all. Cats do need love and someone to play with them, namely you.

Give serious thought to this undertaking of being a caregiver to a cat, do it only if you sincerely feel you will commit not only the money it takes to raise a cat, but you willingly give of your heart Good luck.