There are lots of factors to weigh when considering whether to get a cat—what you can afford, your lifestyle, and who you share your house with. We’ll help you think through all the pros and cons.

By Austin Cannon
August 24, 2020
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Linda Robert / Unsplash

There are lots of great reasons to get a cat: Their love of life’s simple joys. Their silly antics. Their “I don’t care about you until you’re trying to read your email” attitude. The fact that their vocalizations likely won’t wake the neighbors. But here are some more things to think about when asking the question, “Should I get a cat?”

Before you rush out and bring home a furry feline friend (or two), you’ll want to carefully consider the question of whether you should get a cat. Your readiness for adding a cat to your household comes down to your lifestyle, your finances, and whether you’re in a position to have another living thing depend on you entirely. 

Abbie Moore, executive director of Adopt-a-Pet, says potential owners should start by focusing on the “three Cs” as they consider adopting a cat: commitment, cost, and care. “Are you ready to have a companion animal?” she says.

If you adopt and then discover you aren’t ready for the commitment, you could have to rehome the cat, which can be an arduous and emotionally difficult process for both you and the animal.  

Here are some of the factors you should weigh as you consider whether to make a furball part of your household.

The Three Cs

Moore suggests that the first place you start when trying to decide if you're really ready to add a cat to your home is with the three Cs: commitment, cost, and care. Each of these factors should be carefully considered before you take the pet plunge.

Commitment

This is the most important thing to consider, Moore says. Being fully dedicated to your cat as part of the family will help you overcome whatever future hardships or obstacles might sprout up, whether that’s financial struggles, a new child, or a move. “Commitment does go a long way toward mitigating all the other things,” she says. 

It can be a long commitment, too. Cats can now live for 20 years or so, plenty of time for you to experience all sorts of life changes. 

Compared to dogs, cats are relatively low maintenance and can co-exist with busy owners, Moore says. But still, living with a pet for up to two decades requires some thought. “That’s a very big commitment,” Moore says.

Cost

Moore wants to make it clear that you don’t have to be rich to be a good cat owner. People of all income levels can be good parents. At the same time, this cat will depend on you. That means springing for food, litter boxes, and other essentials

Then there are the surprise costs of having a cat. Can you pay for care if your cat gets sick or runs into some other health issue that requires a visit to the veterinarian? You never know when a cost is going to creep up on you when you have a pet.

If cost presents a potential problem, the Humane Society of the United States has published an online guide of ways to secure low-cost services for your pet. When it comes to vet care, for example, the society says going to a vet in a smaller town or at a local veterinary school might cost less than your original option. 

Care

Much like the discussion about costs, Moore says it’s a good practice to prepare for your cat’s unexpected care needs, whether that’s emotionally preparing them for a trip to the vet or fulfilling enrichment needs at home. Cats are mostly independent, but you’ll need to care for them daily, too: cleaning, feeding, and playing. 

Unless you get a hairless breed, your cat will shed, so you and others in your house will be tasked with some sweeping and vacuuming. You probably don’t want your house to smell either. That means scooping poop out of the litter boxes and changing the litter. But don’t let that scare you. Cats are low maintenance compared to dogs. 

“They’re great for people who live busy lives and work long hours,” Moore says.

Consider Your Living Situation

If you live by yourself, you’re the only person who needs to be willing to live with a cat. Not so when family or roommates are in the house. Are you or your roommates allergic to cats? That can be a significant obstacle to owning one, Moore says, but it’s not impossible. 

Cats Protection, based in the United Kingdom, offers some tips for allergy sufferers living with cats, including making your bedroom a cat-free zone, washing your hands after touching the cat, and upping the ventilation in your house by opening windows. 

Children present another question. If you have a baby or a small child who doesn’t know how to treat a cat, it might be best to wait a little longer before you add a cat to your household, according to the Central California SPCA.

In any instance, make sure the people you’re living with are on board with cats. In all likelihood, they’ll probably have to help take care of them at some point.  

Well, if you made it this far and found yourself nodding along to these queries and still wanting a feline friend, it may be time to start looking to adopt your own Tom, Milo, or Garfield.