Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
Cats have a reputation for being low-maintenance, easy-care pets, which is why many people assume cats don’t need as much attention as dogs do. These folks apparently believe this month’s myth:
Cats are PURRfect pets for people with busy, always-on-the-go lifestyles.
Sure, cats are more independent and are well suited for apartment living and small homes. They can also be left alone more easily than dogs. But as long-time feline fanciers know, many cats are social animals who enjoy daily attention and affection from their owners.
Plan on spending some time at home with a cat
The fact is, no cat does well when left alone for long hours every day without environmental enrichment or companionship — no matter how self-reliant they may seem. Without enough stimulation or contact with other pets or their owners, a kitty can become bored, depressed and even develop problem behaviors such as overgrooming or litter box avoidance.
You should also know that cats bond with their owners and even crave their company. (Plenty of cats greet their owners at the door each night with meows and ankle rubs!) If your social life and career regularly keep you away from home, you should reconsider getting a pet. But if you spend most of your evenings and weekends at home, a cat can be a wonderful companion that helps you unwind with soothing purrs.
What you should know before adopting a cat
There are things you need to think through before you get a cat. For starters, pet ownership means committing to providing your kitty with the basics, like food, fresh water, litter box and litter, toys and veterinary healthcare. “Free kitten or cat to a good home” really is a myth.
You should also be prepared to make some lifestyle adjustments when bringing your new feline friend home. Here’s what people often don’t tell prospective cat owners about cat ownership:
- Cats can be extremely fussy about their litter boxes, so keeping boxes clean and fresh is important to avoid house-soiling “accidents.” The rule of thumb is to have one litter box per cat plus one more.
- Indoor cats can live for 15 years or more, so if you’re adopting a kitten, be prepared for a long-term commitment.
- Scratching is a necessity for cats, so you’ll want to provide plenty of appropriate scratching posts and surfaces.
- Cats, even those who spend the vast majority of their time indoors, need routine veterinary care too. Not only do they need protection against infectious diseases such as rabies, panleukopenia (feline parvovirus), herpesvirus and calicivirus, but older cats frequently suffer from chronic diseases such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), chronic kidney disease and diabetes.
- Just as dogs have different personalities, so do cats. Some are aloof and don’t like to be held; others enjoy curling up on your lap and being petted. You may need to adapt to your cat’s individual personality.
Before adopting (or buying) a cat, you’ll want to learn more about these amazing and quirky companions. The American Association of Feline Practitioners has created a website, The Cat Community, that’s devoted to educating pet owners about all things cat. Check it out!