What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home

May 11, 2013Allison Murray

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home

Cats are the greatest. PERIOD. That’s why I have 4!!! But, I think that a lot of people get a cat without knowing what they are getting into. They remember that fuzzy Persian kitty stuffed animal they had sitting on their bed when they were a kid but when they have the real deal in their home they kind of freak out.

I’ve put this list together for one reason only. It’s not because I think you’re dumb and it’s not because I want to talk anyone into or out of getting a pet. I want every cat to have a good home. EVERY CAT. Period. A good home is one where the owner knows what they’re getting into and gives their pet everything they need to be healthy and happy.

Here are my tips, thoughts and things to consider when getting a cat as a pet…

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Inside cats can be walked outdoors on a leash with a harness. Kitty harnesses can be expensive so I purchase little dog harnesses instead.

1. You’re going to have to decide if this is an inside cat, outside cat or a little bit of both. If your cat is ever outside unattended you need to keep one thing in mind. Things happen to cats all of the time. Other animals get them, they get run over by cars and sometimes they just plain disappear. My cats are inside ONLY because of this. I feel sad that they don’t get to enjoy outside like other cats but I know that they’re safe.

2.  Like ANY pet, a cat is a little creature that depends on you. When you take one in you are responsible for providing everything that animal needs. Love and attention are free, but some of it is going to cost you money. You have to buy food, litter and pay for vet visits along with regular medications like flea and tick treatments.

3. A cat is not a dog. Cats are far more independent creatures than dogs. So if you want a pet that will sit on your lap at the exact moment you want them to, you’ll probably be better off looking at dogs.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
They stole my spot.

4. A cat keeps weird hours and tend to be nocturnal and sometimes it can drive you nuts. You’re asleep and having wonderfully peaceful dreams when you start to notice an awful shrill sound. You wake up with a cat a foot away from your face howling.  Sometimes they want you to love on them, play with them or move so they can have your spot. Because of this I honestly think cats work better in pairs. If they have a buddy to play with and clean and snuggle with they will.

5. Cats will shred up your business if you don’t take preventative measures. Start clipping your cat’s nails the second you get him or her. That very first day. If you get them started early they’ll be used to it. They get so used to it you can sometimes even cut their nails while they’re asleep and they won’t even wake up.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Baby Liddy. How did I not see the very obvious crazy happening there?

6. Cats will shred up your business (5 continued) purchase or make a scratching post BEFORE you bring your cat into your home. Show your cat how to use it. Scratch your fingers along the sisal. The sound will bring them over and if you’re lucky they’ll immediately get after it. If not just do this every once in a while and they’ll eventually pick it up. Cats are very smart creatures.

7. Cats shed. A lot. This may sound silly but it may be a good idea to color coordinate a bit. Only wear black? A white cat is going to seriously jack up your wardrobe. I know there are lint rollers out there and they work very well, but just trust me on this one.

8. While we’re talking about hair, some cats require regular grooming. Like to the groomer’s which costs money. If considering a cat with long hair ask around to see what the cost will be like and how regularly you’ll need to take your kitty in.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
This is most often my view while I’m working at my computer. Liddy, Gracie and Max are watching birds or something just outside the window.

9. If you don’t have boy cats neutered they’re going to be desperate to wander. If you don’t get girl cats spayed you are going to be up a creek when they go in heat. They yowl, they howl, they writhe around like they are possessed and it’s the loudest and worst at night. If you’ve ever tried to sleep in the house with a lady cat in heat before it is a friggin’ NIGHTMARE.

10. Feral cats will scratch you. You can definitely tame them but it takes time and love and trust. I have scars here and there from where one “got” me but when they decided they loved me, THEY LOVED ME.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Lily. The kitty that jacked me up outside of a convenience store that reeked of fried food and old grease while some strange man stood there and watched.

11. Cats don’t travel well. Invest in a pet carrier. If they get sick, leave them in the carrier until you are someplace contained (like the vet’s office or inside of the bathroom somewhere).

As an example, I once had to explain to a police officer who pulled me over why I was bawling with makeup all over my face while wearing a torn blouse with a lot of blood on it and my lady parts somewhat visible through it: Taking a stray to its new home, it vomited and had diarrhea in the cat carrier in my car. She wanted this stuff out of her crate and started pushing it out of the holes and onto my seat. I freaked out because I had purchased my car only 2 days before.

I stopped at a convenience store to use their hose to clean out the crate. When I took her out she freaked and scratched the bejesus out of me. The whole time I was worried she would get away from me and into the woods where I could be sure I’d never find her again. So I cleaned her with the hose while she continued to fight me and I put her loose into my car.

I then spent then next hour trying to coax her out from somewhere under the dash (where she had torn the carpet up to get into in my car that was 2 days old). Oh, and I don’t know if the cop believed me but I didn’t get a ticket or anything.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Marla had a lot going on when I first got her. Her previous owner and unsucessfully tried to burn her to death. (disgustingly, my vet says that this is a common event with unwanted kittens). She was too young to have been weened yet and had all sorts of mother issues. She needed to be on my lap all of the time and that wasn’t possible. So I found this piece of styrofoam That she could lay on and snuggle in. We called it her “Mother”. Mar go to your Mother. Eventually I padded and upholstered it for her.

12. Cats kill things. Don’t be surprised when you find any number of dead things on your porch or on your bed. Cats are hunters by nature and getting upset with them will do no good even if it is upsetting to find a dead bird on your floor. They cannot help it. They are animals with animal instincts.

This can also be a good thing. If you happen to get a mouse in the house it won’t last long enough to chew up your electrical lines or do much damage before they get gotten. Sad for the mouse and your electrician but good for your pocket book.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Rowena. My feral kitty that had to go live somewhere without other cats.

13. Some cats do not play well with others. I took a feral kitty into my guest bedroom but gave her easy access to the outside. She was separated until she could go to the vet to ensure she didn’t have feline leukemia, aids or something that would get my other two kitties sick.

When she got the all clear and we tried to integrate she ran after Marla who was on Russell’s lap. Rowena (the feral kitty) attacked him and he has scars up and down his forearms but she could have killed Marla. Nowadays she lives in the country and she is much happier alone.

I loved Ro so much but she just wasn’t meant to live here with us. If adopting an adult pet be sure you can return them (as awful as that sounds) if things don’t work out and they can’t live peacefully with your existing pet(s).

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home

14. Litter box. Ugh. Just. Ugh. But if you’re going to have them it’s a part of the deal. Everybody poops. You need to keep their box clean which means cleaning it at least once in the morning and once in the evening. A good example would be before you leave for work and when you get home. If you properly maintain your litter box you should have no issues with your cats going where they shouldn’t be (like on the carpet). Everyone I’ve ever known who has had issues has been lazy with the cat box. Looking for a good and cheap DIY litter box, got you covered!

15. Cats puke a lot even if they’re perfectly healthy. You get used to it.

16. Cats are playful and fun creatures. They may not come to you when you want to just pet on them, but bust out a crack stick (you can make one here) or a laser pointer and you’ve got company quick smart. They also need regular play time and do well when they have a couple of toys to choose from.

17. Cats are very empathetic creatures. When I don’t feel well all of my cats take an interest. If I’m laid up in bed, I will always, ALWAYS have at least one laying with me and letting me pet them.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
Because they’re inside cats they don’t get to experience things like snow. So being the crazy cat lady I am, I’ll bring a big bowl of the stuff into the living room for them to play in.

18. Along the same vein as 17, cats can sense when you’re stressed out or upset. I have a hard time with anxiety. One thing that can help calm me down is the repetitive nature of petting an animal. If I’m freaking out a cat on my lap will help me calm down. Whenever I’m freaking out, the cats know it. They’re concerned and come around. While independent, cats are incredibly observant and compassionate creatures.

19. Cats are smart and have a long memory. If you have a guest that is a jerk to them once, they’ll always hate that guest. Always. If a cat wants to figure out a way to get into the top level of the linen cabinet, even when you see no way that they could, they will and they’ll shed all over your clean sheets.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home
See those scratches on my window sill? This happens from the cats jumping up into the windows. I repair them and and they’ll be back shortly, but cats want to sit in windows.

20. Everybody wants kittens, if you’re in a place to take in a rescue, look at the older cats. I swear the older ones will always remember what you saved them from.

21. If taken care of properly, cats can live to be 20+ years old, making them a perfect choice for someone looking for a long-term companion. They also take less energy than a dog making them a good choice for less active or elderly owners.

22. Every cat has their own personality and that is so much fun. My littlest Marla is the big boss and she struts around like she owns the place. Max loves water and takes a shower with me and will talk your face off (just like me). He’ll only quiet down after you exchange words with him for a bit.  Gracie loves strangers and can’t stay awake at night. He tries but he’s not nocturnal like the others. Liddy doesn’t understand personal space and is happiest when she’s on your lap all. of. the. time.

What You Need to Know about Owning Cats BEFORE You Bring One Home

There isn’t a perfect mold that cats come out of. Some of the above may pertain to you and your kitty and some may not.

And if you love cats, you LOVE cats. Seriously. Search for the tag #cat or #cats in Instagram (or even just look at my cat filled feed). Cats make wonderful pets and if you take care of them they will always be one of the best companions you could ask for.

Want to see some stuff you can make for your cat or future cat? Check out my Crazy Cat Lady Roundup.

Comments (16)

  • Pat S

    May 11, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    Great pictures of all your cats. We let our daughter adopt a cat a couple months ago. She is 6 years old and gets along fine with our dog. Love having her company when Cleo feels like bestowing it. Pat S

  • Allison Murray

    May 12, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    Thanks, Pat. I've found that my dog who doesn't like other dogs does incredibly well with the cats. She cleans them and protects them. The whole cats and dogs thing is definitely a myth (although I'm sure there are a fair amount of cat hating dogs out there). I'm glad you and your daughter have Cleo!

  • Lauren @ The Thinking Closet

    May 12, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    I am a total cat lover. Grew up with a Siamese cat named Christopher Columbus until he was 19. Then, we had two alley cats (sisters) given to us by my fifth grade teacher; sadly, they've both passed now. But I have so many fond memories from my childhood of cats on my lap, cats sleeping under my covers by my toes, cats purring in my ear, cats sitting RIGHT in the middle of where I was working and taking a nap…. And sadly, my husband is VERY allergic, so that means we won't be having one in our house, but we've adopted a stray that roams our neighborhood and has claimed us as her owners. We've claimed her, too, in a way…giving her a flea collar and buying cat food to feed her. Actually, reading this reminds me that I want to look into getting her spayed; I heard that the Humane Society will do it for a very small price if you're bringing in a stray. Just need to get a cage! Anyway, all that to say I nodded my head throughout this entire piece and loved seeing gorgeous photos of your kitties along the way. It's clear that you have a heart the size of Times Square to care for so many kitties, especially ones that have been abused or without homes. I commend you for that, Allison!

  • Allison Murray

    May 12, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    I know you area cat lover, Lauren and I totally dig the name Christopher Columbus. Monumental!

    I remember your feel good cat videos :) It's unfortunate that Mark is allergic, perhaps one of those hairless kitties are in your future? I love that you've "taken in" a stray as much as you can. To get a cheapie fix, try calling your animal shelter. Explain the situation and they could very well take care of the procedure for you or send you to their vet for the adoptee rate. The last thing they want is a cat having more cats for them to worry about so more often than not, I've found them to be very helpful.

    By the way, even some vets will give you a seriously steep discount if you mention that it is a stray or feral cat. Also there are often services that cater to lower income families that will often help out if you explain that you're trying to help out a stray. But if they've got a jam packed schedule, they're going to put preference on the lowest income clients. Good luck with your

  • Alice

    May 13, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    Well you know me, I'm all about cats… hehe, and I LOVE this post! I think you've covered up pretty much everything. And it is so important that people think before they get a cat. I've seen people return cats 4-5 months after adoption, because they realized they're just too much to handle or they're very different from what they imagined them to be. And they're definitely not plush animals, that sit on a shelf all day long. And there are so many people that only want kittens, without realizing what kittens are like growing up and that most of them are extremely energetic.
    My cats are indoor only cats as well. I could never ever let them go out. 2 of them are actually afraid of going out, they like the just observe the world through the window. the third one, Fergie, is more confident, as she used to be an outside cat. That's also how I got her – she was found in a bush next to a road, run over by a car, injured so badly she couldn't sit properly, she couldn't pee or poo without help. A few thousand dollars + 3 surgeries and 6 months later I adopted her, and she's doing great now (she wasn't as nice in the beginning, but is really trusting us now). But they could tell by her overall state (clean fur, well fed, socialized) that she had owners somewhere and she wasn't a stray. But no one came forward to say it was their cat.

    I'm sharing this on Twitter!


  • Allison Murray

    May 13, 2013 at 1:45 PM

    Thanks, Alice. I didn't know about Fergie. Only a true cat lover would go to the lengths that you did to give her a loving and secure home. It makes me so proud to know you :)

  • Dee

    May 14, 2013 at 10:45 PM

    As a fellow crazy cat lady, this is hands down the best post about cat ownership I have read in a long time.My two little mad furballs agreed.

  • Allison Murray

    May 15, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I am so glad to have some feline approval, Dee! Thanks :)

  • Hilda

    May 28, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    The kitties are soooo adorable! I have 1 cat, her name is "Banana" and is my spoiled baby. I completely agree with everything you have covered on this topic. I spoil Banana with homemade Chicken, Turkey, fish, vegggies, an occasional ice cream, she likes some fruit (except Bananas, lol). However, I also take care of 1 and on occaion 2 feral cats when they come around. The feral cas love coming over because they know they get fed well too. Cats have major tudes but they give some much love in return. Thanks for your wonderful post AND your awesome blog. I would love to personally "thank you" from the bottom of my heart for all you have done to take in and take care of those precious four-legged sweeties. All they want is love. Plus, for the most part, they're self sufficient. Good luck and many more blessings your way. ;-)

  • Allison Murray

    May 28, 2013 at 6:05 PM

    Thanks so much, Hilda. I love that you love cats and I especially love that you named yours Banana. :)

  • Janis

    November 5, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    I am always so sad to see that dogs and cats are unwanted and often abused. I am so glad your kitties, especially Mar who has found a wonderful forever home with her hoomins. We have 7 cats, and the latest 2 were also rescues. They are such a joy to me, and I cannot imagine my life without kitties, even (or perhaps especiall) when they try help with all my craft projects. :D

    1. Allison

      November 5, 2013 at 8:31 AM

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Janis and I’m glad that you’ve got the love and companionship of some sweet kitties who needed homes! They’re definitely crafty creatures and I’m lucky to have four kitty crafting assistants :)

  • Janis

    November 5, 2013 at 7:26 AM

    Also, I agree completely with number 20. :D

  • Amber

    December 31, 2013 at 12:01 AM

    You probably should add this one to the list: Teach your children at a young age that cats do not like to be messed with. I wish I had known that before my former cat got me in my right eye. I had to have a transplant. We gave him to a better home and I understand now that it was my fault, but it could have been prevented.
    And if you don’t want to declaw your cats, but are sick of being scratched, there are claw caps for cats that allow them to have their claws for climbing and defense, but keep them from harming you and your furniture. They make them for dogs as well: http://www.softpaws.com/

    1. Allison

      January 10, 2014 at 11:20 AM

      That is the absolute truth about children and cats. I see kids constantly going up and pulling on tails and forcing them down to hug on them and their parents just let them. You can even say, “that cat is going to get him” and they’ll ignore it until the kid does get it. Then it’s the cat’s fault and that isn’t okay.

      I hadn’t heard of softpaws before but I’ll check them out!

  • Aspen

    February 1, 2014 at 8:34 PM

    So true! I have two cats and they couldn’t be more different. I am in absolute agreement with the shedding; my clothes are on the darker palette and I have one mostly white cat. It is…interesting. The vomiting though, I will never stop worrying on that one.

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