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Things to consider before getting a cat

Cats needs are much simpler than dogs.  They need to be fed twice a day, either have access to the outside or a cat litter tray indoors, but they do not need to be exercised and taken for walks.  A cat's average lifespan is 14 years, but they have been known to live a lot longer than this.

If you take a pet into your home then you will be making a commitment to caring for it in the best possible way, and in the case of a cat this may be for a very long time.  A cat can live up to 20 years, so a kitten bought when a child is young might remain with you when they leave for university or work away. 

Whilst some cats can be aloof, most are very people friendly and love affection.  Unfortunately they seem to pick on the least cat friendly person to sit on, so perhaps are not ideal if one person in the household does not like cats, or is allergic to their hair. 

Long haired cat
Long haired cats are beautiful, but that coat needs daily brushing to ensure it's free of mats. 

COST OF KEEPING A CAT



Feeding



The answer to this question is really how much do you want to spend?  It can be fairly cheap to feed a cat, or you can make it expensive!  There is a large variety of cat food on the market. 
There are complete dry or tinned foods (which are the cheapest) at 15 p to 30p per day), to the gourmet foods which will cost a lot more depending on the type you choose!    A high quality cat food need not be the most expensive! 

Cat's need a diet rich in meat - they cannot be fed dog or human food as their staple diet.  When selecting a cat food check that the first ingredient listed on the packaging is either meat, poultry, eggs or fish, and that there is a high percentage of protein.  Some cats are very fussy eaters, and you may need to try a variety of foods before settling on what she'll eat - cat's have been known to starve themselves rather than eat something they find unpalatable.  Although some cats are excellent at persuading their owners that they can only eat fresh fish and chicken you should be able to find a commercial food that will suit, although it might take trial and error. 

Indoor or Outdoor Cat?



Although it's hard to walk down a road without seeing a cat, cats are increasingly being kept as indoor pets.  Left to their own devices outside cats can wander, get run over, get stolen or get attacked by foxes, other cats or chased by dogs.  Many owners are choosing to keep their cats indoors permanently and their pets do seem to adapt to this well.  You may well want to consider this option if you live on a busy road.  Losing a loved pet can be devastating for the whole family. 

If you have an indoor cat then you will need to provide for its toilet, and this is normally in the form of a cat litter tray. 

Litter Trays



For the first couple of weeks after you get your new cat - or for longer if you are getting a younger kitten or want to keep your cat indoors permanently - you will to provide a litter tray.  Litter trays have to be cleaned daily, special tools are available to remove the solid matter, and you will need to refresh the litter every few days.  Litter trays do smell, even with the special odour removing litters.  If you have young children you will need somewhere for the tray to be kept out of their way.  In addition, pregnant women should not come into close contact with cat feaces.

Buying litter isn't too expensive, but does add extra cost to keeping your pet, and should be taken into consideration.

A Cat Flap





If you are going to allow your cat to roam outside the most convenient way is to have a cat flap, espeically if you are out a lot.  Electronic cat flaps recognise the tag on your cat's collar or even read its microchip so only your cat (or cats) can use that particular way into your house.  This way you don't end up feeding all the neighbourhood cats!

Whilst convenient, cat flaps do mean cutting a hole in your door!  Cat flaps are made for both wooden and glass doors. 

Baskets and Accessories



Cats do not need a lot of accessories, but especially if you have got children you may find yourself pressurised into buying some.

See also:

Introduction to Cats as Pets for Children
Cats - Good Points and Bad Points
Should you Choose a Cat or Kitten?
Your local supermarket or pet shop will stock a number of brands of cat food, many of which will be familiar from adverts on the television.  But the best known names may not be quality that you are looking for.  Shops on the internet often have a wider variety of cat food (and toys and accessories) and often are a lot cheaper than you can purchase locally.  Some links you might find useful are:

Pet Planet
Medic Animal
A long haired cat will need brushing, but a short hair will look after itself, keeping itself scrupulously clean.

Cats do not particularly depend on human company, so are a good choice if you are out at work all day.  If you go away for a weekend you can get a device which works on a timer so that meals are presented to your cat - who may well not notice that you are not there!  If you go away on holiday you can either put them in kennels or a cattery, or if you have a helpful neighbour they may be able to feed them for you.  If you are going to be out at work or away a lot then getting two cats is better than just the one, as they will be company for each other. 
Cat toys are a good investment for kittens, but this animals don't really distinguish between the expensive cat toy bought from a shop, or a piece of newspaper rolled up and tied to a piece of string.  They will happily chase both.  Cotton reels and balls of wool are another favourite!  Kittens should be encouraged to play with toys from the beginning to discourage them from regarding fingers and small hands as toys!

A cat bed is useful, if you can teach the cat this is its own special place.  There are beds which hang on radiators which are sure to tempt your pet away from your bed or favourite armchair!

If you want to keep track of your cat you may wish to get it used to wearing a collar.  Not only may a bell prevent it being quite so successful in catching birds, it can hold a name tag with your contact details on should s/he go missing, or worse have an accident.