Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Thinking of getting another cat? Answer these 5 questions first

Blind cat senior cat
When I brought Lucy home, all those years ago, it brought my total cat household tally to three. (And isn't she cute here? This was before her surgery, when she still had lovely little mascara marks. I miss those a little.)

When I got married, I added several more cats to the total. (It was sort of a package thing.)

Right now, I have a total of five cats under my care. And to me, that seems like a lot. I know I'm at my own personal capacity.

But I'll admit to pangs when I volunteer at the local cat shelter. There are so many cats that need homes and help, and sometimes, I'm tempted to provide that assistance myself.

So I thought it might be useful to pull together some thoughts on responsible cat ownership, and how one could determine if the current cat quota was too big or just right. Here are the questions I ask myself.

1. Can I afford to give another cat premium cat food?

I'm a firm believer that the quality of food you put into a cat is directly related to the health and longevity of said cat in the future. That's why I don't shop the bargain bin for cat food. I research a brand, ensure that it has an ingredient list that will work for my cats, and I buy it. If, by adding in another cat, I can't follow those steps, that's a sign that I have too many.

2. Can I afford to cover veterinarian costs for all of the cats?

Routine care for multiple cats can add up, especially when you consider flea control and periodic vaccinations. But cats also sometimes need emergency care, and it's not unusual for aging cats to need very expensive treatments (which is something I'm dealing with right now). If I can't provide that to all cats, I really shouldn't add in any more.

3. Can I provide playtime and affection to all the cats? 

Felines can seem solitary and isolated, as though they don't need anything from their human counterparts. But all of my cats seem to need their private time with me. They need to play, they need to be groomed and they need a little love and lap time, too. Having too many cats means someone get shorted from the love and affection that's required, and that can lead to all sorts of problems, including fighting and litterbox woes. If I don't have time to kill right now, I shouldn't get more cats.

4. Is there room in my home for all of my cats? 

In general, cats seem to like to claim a space and protect it against intruders. That means many cats simply don't like to share too much space with other animals. If my home is really small, I may not be able to carve out a space for a new pet, and that could (again) lead to cat fighting. Without a ton of added room, I may not be able to add a cat.

5. Are my current cats getting along?

Since overcrowding leads to behavior problems, it's worthwhile to really assess how well the current crop is interacting. If everyone is playing nicely, cuddling periodically and avoiding fighting, I might have a good number of cats. If I'm already seeing some crankiness, I certainly shouldn't get more.

I know this isn't an exhaustive list. I haven't discussed local laws regarding pet density, for example. But it could help you to understand just when you're not quite ready to add a new kitty to the mix.

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