Should we get a kitty?
January 23, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are currently living in a large-ish one bedroom apartment. My boyfriend works and I'm quite busy with school but we would really really love to get a little kitty. I'm worried we won't have enough time to care for the little thing properly.

My main concern is the summer. I might be going away during the summer for a month and it's likely that my boyfriend will be gone the entire time. In case I do leave for a month, I could ask a friend to care for it, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with that.

More generally, I'm not sure how much time and attention a kitten requires. I live right by the university so I study at home all the time, but most mornings I'm gone. Can anyone tell me how big the commitment really is and how much time I should be prepared to spend with a kitten? I'm absolutely willing to spend any time that I do have available with the kitty, but I'm not sure if that will be enough and I don't want us to get a pet just to make it miserable. Thank you!
posted by Grimble to Pets & Animals (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Reading your question I'd advise you to avoid getting a cat.
posted by fire&wings at 7:00 PM on January 23, 2009

I'm not sure how much time you have, but though I recommend you do not *adopt* a cat, I think you should consider fostering one. If you're home most of the time, you have enough time to take care of foster cats (depending on their exact needs), and when you go away in the summer, you do not need to have someone else take care of your cat. Contact your local animal shelters for guidance. This will also let you know if you do have the time for a full-time cat -- if it turns out you do, you're usually given the right to adopt the foster cat first.
posted by jeather at 7:09 PM on January 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Are you me? My boyfriend and I live together in a largish one bedroom apartment, and he works, while I'm in school. We just got a kitty! We decided to get an adult cat because we had similar worries about being able to spend enough time with a kitten, and its awesome. I say, skip the attention-hungry kitten stage and get an adult cat in need of a home! They are much more able to entertain themselves, and will already be box-trained and socialized. (Also, its not kitten season right now. When we went to the shelter there were only a few kittens and they had waiting lists.) As for the summer, you need to figure out what you are going to do with it while you're gone before you get a cat. Either figure out a friend that you feel comfortable with, or budget for a kennel.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 7:10 PM on January 23, 2009

As a long time cat lover I think you should wait until your schedules are more stable. jeather has an excellent suggestion. Your cat would be miserable I think.
posted by JayRwv at 7:12 PM on January 23, 2009

I would say foster a pair of cats to try it out.
1. Even if you turn out not to be the ideal cat parents, the cats will be happier with you than they'd be sitting in a cage in a shelter for the same length of time.
2. A pair of cats will be happier than a single cat alone, and the work & expense are pretty equal to having a single cat.
3. You can find out if you actually like owning a cat.
4. You can give them back before you go away-- or you can decide to keep them.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:39 PM on January 23, 2009

Kittens, especially lone kittens, especially lone young kittens under the age of a year are furry vortexes of round-the-clock attention seeking interspersed with brief naps. Every time I get a new kitten, I forget how much attention they demand, and they are very pushy about getting their dose of you. The attention seeking is both direct (Pet Me Now!) and indirect (Oh Crap, I Have To Pry the Kitten Off the Curtain Rod Again).

Older cats. ~2 years and older, are much less demanding. You'll still get some direct and indirect attention-seeking, but the intensity isn't dialed to 11 all freaking night and day.

The bigger issue is your being away for a month or more in the near future. It can be tough to line up a reliable pet sitter that you'll feel good about for such a large chunk of time, especially as you probably won't have much opportunity to do short test runs w/ the pet sitter before you leave.

I like the fostering suggestion above too; go on your summer plans unencumbered about worrying about how your cat is doing back home and adopt a cat later when your life is more settled.
posted by jamaro at 7:42 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cats aren't like dogs - they don't need nearly that amount of attention. As long as they are fed, watered, the litter box gets changed regularly, and you can fluff them at least once a day, they're usually pretty good, especially if you skip getting a kitten and get an adult cat. So I think your schedules are okay, but maybe wait until after summer, when you won't have to worry about a month long period of time that you're gone.
posted by at 7:42 PM on January 23, 2009

Foster foster foster. It is very rewarding and requires no long term commitment on your part.

You don't even have to foster the same cat(s) the whole time. A good pattern my family fell into for a few years was to take a cat (or pair of cats) home for a week and get to know it, and on Saturday my Dad would take it up to one of the shelter's adoption events. Since he knew something about the cat's personality, he was able to make a good pitch and usually he would get somebody to adopt it. Even if you don't have time to go "sell" the cat yourself, the cat will probably be less cranky and easier to adopt if it has just come from a reasonably quiet home, rather than the shelter.

Whatever you do, don't get a kitten (though you could foster a few). They require a lot of attention. If you get a kitten and then don't spend enough time holding it and paying attention to it, you can inadvertently do irreparable damage to its attitude towards humans. So don't get one unless you know you can deal with it.
posted by Commander Rachek at 7:59 PM on January 23, 2009

I'm going to go against the grain and say: Get a kitty. I've had cats my whole life. You're home plenty during your normal schedule to socialize a kitten and meet its needs (which are: food, water, play, cuddle, sleep, and clean litter - not necessarily in that order). When summer comes, find a cat sitter (there are people who cat sit in their own immaculate homes) or take it with you. Cat's are super adaptable. You could foster a kitten but if you're anything like me, you'll just end up adopting it in the end, anyway.
posted by dchrssyr at 8:28 PM on January 23, 2009

What if you foster until after your summer trip? You'd get to know what it's like to have a kitty---which is awesome, btw...we've had three or more at a time for at least 15 years, and the built-in entertainment/furry cuddling is not to be missed!. However, leaving a kitty (anywhere, with anyone but you) for up to a month so soon after getting one, could be hard on the kitty, and such upsets can lead to unpleasant behaviors which tend to come about when big changes happen in a kitty's life---things such as spraying, peeing, lifting up your bed pillow for the express purpose of depositing a poo underneath---yes, this happened, we have no idea how...but as to why...we'd moved to a new place, and kitty was upset. Fostering would give you time to accumulate the accoutrements for a kitty, as well as the time to get used to the reality of having a kitty...which again, I can't speak highly enough of. You may save money on cable, they're that much fun.
posted by mumstheword at 8:28 PM on January 23, 2009

You sound like you easily have enough time for an adult cat, but I'm not sure about a kitten. (Have you had a kitten, by the way? It is like a very cute attack cactus.)
posted by salvia at 9:21 PM on January 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd advise waiting until after your summer trip, and then considering the idea again. I'd also agree that you should consider an older cat, or getting two cats, who can entertain each other while you are at school.
posted by Joh at 9:22 PM on January 23, 2009

I just got a kitten. Given, its probably younger than one you'd be getting (5 -6 weeks), I can tell you you'll want to be able to spend a good deal of time with it.

First, you'll feel bad if you dont. Itll be cute and little and fun.
Be ready to spend half the time you're home with it at least having it in the back of your mind, if not paying full on attention.

Mine insists on sleeping on my lap, trying to get on the keyboard, climbing up my back (using its nails) or trying to destroy something. It's main picks are the table legs, my shoes and my black workbag. I would love for her to sleep on my bed or even come in the room with me at night, but I'm afraid I'll roll over and squish her, plus she doesnt understand that her nails hurt me. Kittens also tend to vomit sometimes.

Oh and I'm constantly worried she'll get into something bad. The other day she was throwing up whole matches and dentil floss. Now we've ben freaked out about what she might try to eat.
posted by nzydarkxj at 9:24 PM on January 23, 2009

You can't go away for a month and leave the cat to its own devices. I had an adult cat, about 7, when I went away for a month. I had a cat sitter IN ADDITION to three of my friends coming by to check in on the cat/turn lights on and off/get mail (although the cat sitter could have done all of that). I hired the cat sitter so that I didn't have to feel guilty about asking friends to change the litter box, and so my friends could do it because they liked my cat and were in the neighborhood and not worry about getting stuck at work and missing their 'cat shift'. the sitter came every other day which was sufficient for my older fellow, and the friends filled in the rest. The result was that when I came back, he pouted for three hours, and then all was well again. But I had had him for two years at that point.

You can't leave a new cat alone for a month just after getting them - not a kitten and not an adult cat.

Kittens are wonderful but you will not sleep because they will be waking you up at 5am, and if you leave them alone for long periods of time they will retaliate by eating your shoes, your purse, your books, your couch and anything else left lying around. I would recommend an older cat, who will give you just as much love and joy, and you have the added benefit of saving an animal that most people will not want (everyone else thinking OMG KITTEH PLS).
And you can get one now if you are willing to assume the expense for a sitter while you are gone.
posted by micawber at 9:36 PM on January 23, 2009

Many people think that cats don't require as much attention as a dog, but I find that not to be true. Sure, you can ignore them, and they'll adapt. You'll get a mopey boring cat that's not interested in you at all that way. Dogs will bounce back, no hard feelings, but cats won't. To get a fun happy cat with personality that loves you back, you need to invest a lot of attention and love.

That's not to say you can't take a vacation. I'm just saying, on a daily basis all the other time, it's more attention than non-cat people think. You can't just live in the same house. If you can give it some personal focused attention for a while every day, you should be ok.
posted by ctmf at 10:00 PM on January 23, 2009

Last year I adopted a 10 year old cat. His name is Horatio. I live alone and I work full-time, and occasionally spend weekends in another town. This is Horatio's schedule:
  • wake up when human decides to acknowledge the alarm (the radio).
  • Graze from food dish.
  • Go outside for a pee.
  • Come back inside, curl up for nap while human goes off to work.
  • Nap in the morning sunshine.
  • Look out the windows for anything interesting.
  • Watch the bunnies and squirrels hopping around outside.
  • Find best spot for afternoon nap.
  • Nap through the afternoon.
  • In the late afternoron, relocate to the door and wait for our happy reunion.
  • When human come home, roll around on the floor for a belly rub.
  • Go outside for a pee. Enjoy the sunshine.
  • Sit on lap.
  • Encourage the return of bedtime with helpful proddings.
  • Have dinner.
  • Curl up at foot of bed for a long night's rest.
Having a cat is really no imposition at all on a daily basis, particularly not an older cat. And let me tell you, older cats are AWESOME. They're fuzzy wonderful cuddly teddy bears full of love! It takes time to get to know a cat, as they reveal their personality slowly, but after a year with a grown-up kitty, you'll have gotten to know a fantastic little creature. Horatio and I are very attached, and at a year and a half now I can see how he reacts differently to me than to other people. We have great love for each other, and while I wish I could have cuddled him as a kitten, I'm delighted to have an older guy. He's perfectly healthy, and no one believes he's 11 years old. I'm sure I have many more years to enjoy him.

A month long absence is hard, though. I just went away for 2 weeks and boarded my cat, and boy he did not like that. I'd rather give someone I trust the money to come live in my condo for that time. If you want to get a cat, you might consider waiting until after that month long break. At least then you'd be giving your cat a year with you before you disappear.

Rescue an adult! You'll never regret it! Be part of the solution!
posted by Hildegarde at 11:10 PM on January 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm nthing suggestions to adopt an older cat.

Older cats' personalities are already defined, and a little alone time doesn't seem to bother them. Kittens, on the other hand, require all kinds of loving so that they are sociable and sweet when they get older.

I work, I go to school, I live alone, and I can tell you: my cats spend most of their time engaged in independent activity, even when I am home, but still appreciate a hearty belly rub. Most I adopted (or were given to me) when they were out of, or almost out of, their kitten years.

Find and visit a local no-kill shelter - the staff there really tend to know their charges, and adopting a kitty from there means you've opened up a spot for another little dude within the shelter. They will be able to tell you whether you're adopting a kitty that needs a lot of attention, one that is chill and likes to sit at the window, one that needs to be the only cat, and so on.
posted by palindromic at 5:19 AM on January 25, 2009

Based on the info you've provided, I'd recommend against getting a cat for the time being.
posted by Lucy2Times at 7:34 AM on January 25, 2009

New pets require a large time investment. I would really think before getting a new kitty. The fostering idea is excellent, however.

If you decide to take the plunge, consider the following: why you should adopt two cats.
posted by killy willy at 8:44 AM on January 25, 2009

Nthing getting two at once. I've had several different cats (one at a time), but adopted two sisters almost two years ago. It's so great having two. They play with each other, instead of bothering us, and they are both available for cuddling.

You should probably wait until after the summer. A month is too long to leave a cat, even if you have people coming by.
posted by apricot at 4:48 PM on January 25, 2009

Wait until after the vacation. It will be hard on the cat for you to go.

Cats do not need a ton of attention, but they do need [i]some.[/i] It would be kinder for you to adopt an adult cat, as kittens get much lonelier, and much, much kinder for you to adopt two cats whatever age you get. They're not much harder to care for than one, and more than make up for extra food/litter expenses because they're able to give each other attention and play with one another rather than making messes in your home because they're bored.

My boyfriend and I adopted two adult cats a year-and-a-half ago, and it's been great. They're littermates so they keep each other company and we've never had behavioral problems.
posted by schroedinger at 7:21 PM on January 25, 2009

I'm worried we won't have enough time to care for the little thing properly.

Congrats! You've sucessfully answered your own question.

So if you decide to get a cat after you and bf return at the end of summer, the good news is that cats, in general, are much easier to take care of than dogs. That is to say, indoor/outdoor cats, but even indoor only cats don't need to be all. All you really need for a cat is, of course, food, water, and a litter box. Every cat I had as a kid was indoor/outdoor, so they would come and go as they please--they are independent creatures. It a bit worrysome at times when they're gone for a few days at a time, but they'll eventually come back home. Be sure to train the kitty with the litterbox and save yourself headaches later. Also, cat piss is very, very smelly, much worse than the poo.

Buy yourself one of these patio pet doors and cats are super hassle-free!
posted by zardoz at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2009

Yes, I vote for getting an older cat.

I loved my cat when he was little, but yes, they require alot of attention as kittens. They want to play, and run around, and get receive attention from you. At all hours of the night. Or day.

But... now my cat sleeps most of the time. In the mornings when I'm waking up he will cuddle with me. And likes to greet me when I come home, but most of the time he is happy sleeping, either under my bed or on the rug in the afternoon, when the sunlight hits that spot.
posted by Locochona at 9:08 PM on January 25, 2009

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