Having a cat around the house can be a real joy. If videos on the internet are anything to go by, cats have bundles of personality and can surprise and amuse you in equal measure. They’re also known for making great companions and for helping you feel relaxed.    

What’s more, cats are highly independent animals, so you don’t need to worry about going out for long walks with them in the middle of winter.

Although getting a cat doesn’t entail the same level of commitment as a dog, it is still a big decision. You must be able to provide them with a safe and loving home.

If you’re considering getting a cat, here’s a checklist of questions to help you make the right decision. 

Will you be around?

Cats are relatively simple and low maintenance to care for in comparison to dogs. They’re quite independent and can more easily fit into people’s busy lifestyles.

But, like any pet, they need care and attention, some more so than others, and especially kittens. Some cats need the comfort of a regular routine in order to feel safe and relaxed.

If you’re away from home for a short time, you can leave a cat feeder on a timer and your cat should be happy with that. But, if they are left alone for long periods of time, cats can become lonely and unhappy. So, consider: if your home is often left empty for days on end, who would look after the cat? Would you need to regularly fork out for a cattery?

Can you handle the hair?

One of the easiest things about having a cat is how they keep themselves clean. But you do need to be prepared for a fair bit of hair being left around the house. 

Similarly, cats may scratch carpets and furniture, and bring in prey when they go outside (something to bear in mind particularly if you like having birds in your garden).

For most cat owners, a little bit of mess is a small price to pay, but it’s something to consider if you’re not prepared to do extra housework.

Will they be able to get out?

Do you live in a flat without outside access? 

While some cats might be happy inside - provided they get lots of attention and time - others might get bored and feel unstimulated. Being outside provides them with variety and allows them to fulfil any natural urges to hunt.

Also, bear in mind that if you’re keeping a cat inside, then you’ll need to add cleaning out a litter tray regularly to your list of household chores. 

Can you and your family make a long-term commitment?

Domestic cats can live for up to 20 years. Some have even been known to live as much as 30 years or more. So, if you get a kitten, you’re potentially making a very long-term commitment. 

It’s important that your family, or anyone that you live with, is involved in the decision. If someone is unsure about getting a cat, then you may need to consider if this is the right time. 

Can you afford it?

Have you considered how much it will cost you to have a cat? According to vet charity PDSA, most owners spend at least £12,000 to care for their cat over their lifetime. But that figure could double to around £24,000 if they have a particularly long life or require extra care. 

The PDSA estimates initial set-up costs (not including the cost of buying your cat) to amount to around £250, covering the following:

  • Bed
  • Food and water bowl
  • Microchip
  • Initial course of vaccinations
  • Neutering
  • Scratching post/cat tower
  • Two litter trays and scoops
  • Toys
  • Brush or comb for grooming
  • Cat carrier

Would a new cat get along with your other pets? 

If you already have other pets, what are their temperaments and how might they react to having another animal in the house? 

If you already have a dog, then introducing it to your new cat will likely take some time and care.

Is your home safe and entertaining for a cat?

You’ll need to make sure your home is cat-friendly. That includes ensuring there is plenty to keep your cat entertained and happy - think scratch posts, hiding places and plenty of places to cosy up.

Crucially, is your home safe enough for a cat? Do you live near a busy road? If so, you may need to invest in properly cat-proofing your garden. Other dangers to bear in mind include ponds and plants that are poisonous to cats, like lilies.

Time to make a decision

If you answer no to any of these questions, then maybe this isn’t the right time for you to get a cat. You can always revisit your decision in the future, if your lifestyle or circumstances change.

But if you feel that these questions aren’t a problem, and you can give a cat a safe and loving living environment, then you might be ready to welcome a new feline companion into your home.

For tips on how to keep your pet safe and happy, go to Solved.