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Almost 70% of American households have at least one cat. Should you join the majority? Deciding whether to adopt a cat is a tough call. There are obvious pros and cons to owning a pet, of course, but opening your home and heart to a feline companion has risks and benefits that you may not have considered.
The biggest benefit of having a cat is companionship. Cats give you someone to talk to and interact with. Every cat expresses affection differently: Some cats may act as though you’re a tolerated roommate, while others love to crawl into your lap. For folks who live alone, a cat (or two) can make a house feel like a home.
A cat can be a reliable source of emotional support, providing companionship without the burden of human interaction. Many people who have depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions consider their cats to be emotional support animals. This designation indicates that the comfort and affection that the cat provides is critical to their owner’s mental health.
Playing with cats can be incredibly fun. Watching a cat chase a laser pointer or attack a catnip-stuffed mouse can be a relaxing, amusing way to pass the time. Your cat will enjoy it too! This sort of interactive play uses their skills as a mighty hunter and helps you and your pet bond.
Your cat will definitely entertain you, but you have the chance to also amuse others. If your cat is exceptionally beautiful, unique, or silly, you can try your hand at acting as their publicist. Sign your pet up for an Instagram or YouTube account and publish some of their antics. You might have the next Grumpy Cat on your hands, and you’ll never know unless you try.
Cats don’t ask for much from their caretakers. Most cats need their food dishes refilled once or twice a day, depending on whether they eat canned food or dry kibble. Their water bowl should be refilled once a day and cleaned more thoroughly every few days. Depending on how fastidious your cat is, you may need to spend a minute or two scooping their litter box each day or several minutes once or twice a week. All told, fulfilling your cat’s basic needs for food and hygiene can take less than an hour a week.
Studies have shown that owning a cat can lower your stress levels. In turn, this significantly reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease. Cat ownership can lower your chances of having various heart diseases, including a stroke, by about 30%.
Sharing a bed with your cat can also help you get a better night’s sleep. In a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine, over 40% of people reported that sleeping with a pet was either helpful or neutral for their sleep.
Having a cat around is the best way to deter mice and other critters from setting up shop in your home. Some cats excel at hunting, while others will ignore other small animals that invade their space. Just by existing, they can keep mice away. Rats and mice are smart enough to know that the scent of a cat spells danger, and they’ll move on to a more hospitable place.
Cons of Owning a Cat
A Long Commitment
Cats live a long time; the average indoor cat lives for more than 15 years. Super-senior cats often make it past 20. When adopting a cat, you’re committing to provide them with a safe, stable home for many years. Many life changes can happen in two decades that could make having a cat more difficult.
Cats are typically affordable pets, but vet care can add up quickly. In their first year, most veterinarians recommend a number of vaccines. These are usually spread between several vet appointments. Spaying or neutering a pet also can cost upward of $100, although community-funded spay and neuter programs can be a low-cost option.
Veterinary care also includes dental checkups and cleanings. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, by the time they reach three years of age, 70% of cats have a dental disease that requires medical intervention.
As your cat ages, you’ll need to see a vet more often. Many vets recommend an annual checkup. Once your cat reaches 9 or 10 years of age, these visits usually include an array of blood tests to monitor organ function and check for signs of chronic disease.
This can be problematic for people who rent homes or apartments, rather than own them outright. Finding a new place to live is never easy, but when your housing pool is limited to pet-friendly rentals, it becomes even more difficult. It can be challenging to find a landlord who accepts cats due to their reputation for destroying carpets.
Once you find a pet-friendly landlord, you may see additional costs. Many apartments and rental properties charge additional pet rent or require a pet deposit up front. Pet rent can range from $10 to $100 extra dollars per month, per pet, and the deposit is typically several hundred dollars. In most cases, these are non-refundable fees.
Scratching is an essential behavior for all cats. Cats require adequate surfaces to scratch, but every cat is different. Some cats will only use scratching posts made of carpet, cardboard, or sisal rope. A poorly behaved cat will claw your furniture, your flooring, and even your walls. It’s up to you to figure out what kind of surface your cat likes to claw and how to deter them from clawing your valuable possessions.
Inappropriate urination can be a problem for cats. Usually, this is tied to health or behavioral conditions, but sometimes it can be as simple as your cat disliking a particular brand of cat litter. Even if a cat uses their litterbox correctly every time, a dirty litterbox smells. If you do not have the time to clean the litterbox often, your home will have an odor as well.
Most cat owners will have to face difficult decisions as their four-legged friend declines in health. The question of whether to treat a cat with an end-stage disease or to choose peaceful euthanasia is one that has no right answer. A study published in 2003 showed that one in five people still experience symptoms of grief a year after their pet’s death. Everyone who adopts a cat knows that the pain of losing their companion is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Getting a cat is not a decision to be made lightly. If you’re on the fence about whether you should get one, you should weigh the risks and benefits carefully. While a cat is only a small part of your life, you will be an enormous part of your cat’s life, so it’s only fair to make sure you’re ready to commit, for better and for worse.
Featured Image Credit: Japheth Mast, Pexels
Roland has been an animal lover all his life, with cats holding a special place in his heart. He is owned by three felines: Wheely, KitzKitz, and Nugget (all rescues) who bring all the laughter and mischievousness one can expect from the feline master race. As the creator of ExcitedCats, his mission is to assist in the search for the best gear to help improve the health and wellbeing of cats everywhere.