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Have you been wanting a cat but need some help deciding whether you're ready to make the commitment? There are plenty of factors to consider, and these prerequisites are a good place to start.
1. You appreciate the importance of socialization. Sometimes cats unfairly get a bad rap as being an antisocial species, but for many felines, that couldn't be further from the truth! Properly socializing your cat can make her less likely to slink away out of fear when friends and family visit. So how do you encourage a cat to be more confident? Introduce her to new experiences — including people, sounds, smells and household appliances — and pair them with plenty of praise and treats. There are even kitten kindergarten classes that offer positive experiences and training. Placing a high value on socialization and understanding what it takes to raise a self-assured kitty shows that you might be ready for a cat.
2. You're financially prepared. It's hard to estimate how much caring for a cat will cost, but here are some expenses you can expect: food, litterboxes, litter, toys, identification and microchipping, bowls, parasite preventives, grooming tools, enrichment items (like scratchers and cat trees), and veterinary care. That last one is a big deal, of course. Too many cats don't see the veterinarian nearly as often as they should. For some felines, an annual exam may be enough; for others, like senior cats and those with specific health conditions, visiting the vet a few times a year is often necessary. When you're calculating costs to decide whether you can afford a cat, make sure to factor in payments for routine health care, a budget for emergencies and the cost of pet insurance, if you elect to purchase it.
3. You have time to exercise your cat. Yes, we said exercise! You may not take your cat out for a walk like you would your dog — although many cats can be trained to walk on leash — but exercise is more important than many potential cat owners realize. Not only does it help keep your kitty in good physical and mental shape, but it strengthens your bond with her. That's a real bonus, if you ask us. So dedicate some time every day for active play and keep a collection of toys that promote movement: feather toys, laser pointers, climbing trees, paper bags and even cardboard boxes.
4. You're committed to creating a cat-friendly home. One of our favorite things about cat-friendly houses is seeing those scratching posts, cat trees and food puzzles. These enrichment items encourage cats to express their natural instincts, from climbing and jumping to scratching and hunting for food. Basically, they help make life exciting — and who wouldn't want that for one's favorite feline? Once you've thought about how to deck out your digs with enrichment tools, there's another aspect of feline-friendly living to consider: cat proofing. If you want to bring home a cat, be prepared to eliminate (and consistently watch out for) items that could poison or harm her, including certain foods, medications, cleaners, chemicals, plants and more.
5. You've accepted litterbox duty. Obviously, we love cats, but let's be honest here: Litterbox duty is no one's favorite part of cat ownership. But it's necessary, of course, so we make the best of it. To help keep the litterbox clean (and to make litterbox duty as quick and painless as possible), we recommend putting together an easy-to-grab kit with all the essentials: litter, bags and a scoop. And remember that if you have multiple cats, the rule of thumb is that you want to offer one litterbox per cat, plus another litterbox. That will hopefully help ward off potential territory disputes and the resulting accidents.
6. You're prepared to make a long-term promise. Many felines live into their late teens, and some have even been known to thrive into their 20s! That's pretty amazing. So be sure that when you're making the decision to bring a cat into your life, you understand the kind of long-term commitment you're making. With any luck, you'll have plenty of happy years ahead to spend with your cat.
Now it's your turn! To all our current cat owners: What did we miss on this list? How did you know you were ready for a cat? Tell us in the comments below.
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