I want a kitty!
April 24, 2011 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I just moved to Orlando, and I'm a little lonely. I really, really want to adopt a cat. However, I'm not convinced that it is a good idea. Help?

1. I want a cat. Badly. Both for funness and for anti-loneliness. But I don't want to adopt one if I can't give it a good life!

2. I'm gone Mon-Thur from 6:30 am to 3 pm for school. I'm home most of the afternoon & evening, and most weekends.

3. I'm concerned about the cost - I don't have a lot of money to spare. If I adopt a cat, I'll be paying $375 up front ($75 for adoption, $300 for my pet deposit at my apartment), say another $30 for a litter box, food & water bowls, and then, I'm assuming something like $40 a month for litter and food - does that sound about right? Plus vet fees, if issues come up.

4. I will be driving back up to NY from Florida in October, probably over 2 days. Hopefully I will be moving into my own place, but it is possible that I will be moving back into my parents' house in the short term - where there is a 14 year old cat who has never liked other cats.

5. I do have plenty of space, including a screened in porch. I don't have a whole lot of furniture, but what I do is Ikea & ok if it gets scratched up.

I'm only going to be here for another 6 months, so it won't be the end of the world if I don't get a cat. I'd also rather not foster a cat. I'm not opposed to getting 2 cats, but I imagine most of my concerns (the money, the drive, the possibly moving into a space for a short term with a hostile cat) would be made doubly worse with 2 cats!

Thanks for your help in advance!
posted by firei to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would wait it out if you know you're going to be moving in a few months. October really isn't that far away.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 9:46 AM on April 24, 2011

I got a cat about nine months before I moved to Florida from New Jersey. He's been expensive at times (kitty heart problems), but he's made it with me through multiple long car trips (including Florida to New Jersey, with overnight hotel stays--they're better with that stuff if you get them used to traveling while young) and multiple moves.

He's been worth all of the inconvenience.

I say, get the cat. Get it knowing you'll have to sometimes adjust your plans to the cat, that it's a responsibility and an expense and all of that. But get it. Your life will be better for it.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2011

I would wait. I really appreciate your concern for the happiness and health of any future kitty, and there are definitely some cats that could easily weather the moving and changes and so on; but for other cats the series of stressful changes just as they're settling in would be a crisis. You should also be sure to plan ahead - seriously - for possible vet costs, including probably getting pet insurance.

I can't wait till I can afford a cat!
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:00 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Since you are concerned with the cat's welfare and not just your own desires, you will be a good cat owner! Cats are much more tolerant of being left alone all work day than dogs, I wouldn't worry too much about that. It is very good to plan ahead about expenses, because vet bills especially can be a problem if you are on a tight budget. But if you are planning on keeping the cat indoors, that can cut way down on vet bills. The cat is less likely to get hurt or exposed to diseases. I suggest that you sort of stay open to the appearance of your dream cat without hunting too hard while you are in FL. If you and the perfect cat find eachother there, go for it. If not, you will avoid the travel and moving issues by waiting till you are in NY.
posted by grizzled at 10:03 AM on April 24, 2011

Consider fostering.
posted by aniola at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, sorry, missed the part where you said that's not what you're looking for. Personally, I'd wait. If you're looking for a cat for funness and loneliness, could you try volunteering somewhere to fill that need right now?
posted by aniola at 10:07 AM on April 24, 2011

Best answer: 2. Your work hours are fine, most cats have no problems with being left alone. Quite a few prefer it.

3. Your set-up costs are probably going to be in the $50-60 range. Sure you can get a super cheapo litter box but about a week in you're going to wish you had sprung for the covered one because there is litter all over the floor. I go through about $7 of litter per month (one box of Tidy Cats from Target) and our food is about $20 for a month's supply (good food is a huge priority for us though, you may be happy feeding friskies), so your monthly costs are probably slightly lower than you imagine.

Vet costs are your biggest unknown, our vet does a free initial check-up for cats you adopt from the shelter so you may luck into that. So far he doesn't have any medical problems but he is still young and things come up randomly (like our dog needing to have a tooth extracted - there's $600 we we're expecting to spend). On the other hand he H A T E S having his nails clipped and he has to go back to the vet for that because he bites and scratches like crazy so there is another $20 every other month or so.

As for getting two, I would only recommend it if you have seen them interact already and seem fine and do it when you get the cat so that no one can establish your house as "their" territory beforehand. Or get two kittens. Or just get one cat, seriously, it is just going to sleep while you're gone anyway.

Should you get a cat? I can't answer that for you but I wouldn't say it is a bad decision. Our cat was pretty much a huge impulse adoption but we definitely knew what we were getting into when we did it because we've been pet owners for a long time.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2011

For what it's worth grizzled, there is a serious feral/stray cat problem in most of Florida. While OP will have to stay on top of flea protection, I'm sure she can find a kitty in dire need of a home there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:10 AM on April 24, 2011

I don't recommend adopting a stray off the street, as they often come with serious medical problems (worms, FelV, Feline Upper Respiratory infections, ear mites, etc).

I do suggest saving for a few months - get a jar and label it "Kitten Fund" and put in as much of your latte (or whatever) money as you can bear to part with. Or choose a different savings strategy that works for you. Check the amount each month. If you're comfortably close to the amount you should be saving for large vet bills, then, yay!

If not, either ramp up your savings or delay kitten acquisition for more time.

Finally, check with local vet offices. They may have leads on healthy kittens that need to be re-homed, and the fee might be lower, depending on the office, with the expectation that you continue care at that office.
posted by bilabial at 10:44 AM on April 24, 2011

I say go for it. Large screened porch, lots of room? Nice. There are kitties sitting in cages waiting for a home right now. You're aware of costs, you're thinking about the cat's needs, I think you'll do fine. I like to get cats in pairs so they have a companion, personally (siblings, bonded pairs, whatever) but getting one is fine, too. I'd recommend a young adult cat rather than a kitten: settled down a bit, won't be lonely while you're out of the house, etc.

Barring anything weird, you'll probably get your $300 deposit back, so keep that in mind when considering expenses. You'll want to pick up a fairly large cat carrier so that your cat will be comfortable on your drive from Florida to New York, so price those and add it to your initial cost estimate.

Bring your new cat home on a Thursday after your last class so you can spend the whole weekend with him/her. Cats adapt to new situations pretty quickly and by the end of the weekend you'll be settled in.
posted by clone boulevard at 11:01 AM on April 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would like to add that even though the kitty will not "technically" be outdoors, it could still easily pick up fleas sitting in a screened-in porch, so make sure to keep the cat protected.
posted by foxhat10 at 11:30 AM on April 24, 2011

Your place and hours sound perfectly fine. Kitty would be quite happy with these.

It sounds like the location and the cost are the potential issues. If you're adopting a kitten, there will be follow up shots, but those _might_ be included in the adoption fee (at the shelter I worked at they were -- check).

Normal expenses are food and litter, yes. If you clean the litter box regularly litter will last longer (if you let it form gigantic clumps you'll burn through it faster). Plus kitty will be happier. Once a day is ideal (it's also super fast if you're doing it daily or almost daily).

The unknown factor is vet, yes. Normally a young cat / kitten isn't going to need much vet attention other than followup shots, but obviously you can't know that for sure. I wouldn't worry about it too much, if the cat is healthy when you adopt (now, if you adopt a much older cat it can definitely be an issue).

And remember -- you don't have to provide a _perfect_ home. There are plenty of cats and kittens in shelters right now with not very much space, sharing with lots of other cats (generally not something they prefer), etc. Having their own space will make them super happy! Having a human who obviously wants to play/pet/etc them will also make them happy.
posted by wildcrdj at 11:53 AM on April 24, 2011

"I'm gone Mon-Thur from 6:30 am to 3 pm for school. I'm home most of the afternoon & evening, and most weekends. "

The cat won't mind. I'd consider getting two so they could keep each other company, but a solo cat wouldn't mind either. It's not that long a period and the cat would probably sleep for most of it. And access to a screened-in porch? That's like getting your cat HDTV of awesomeness. You can ask at the shelter about cats who don't mind being alone -- not a standoffish cat, per se, but one who's not already attached to a buddy and who likes quiet time and so forth. An adult adoptee is more likely to fit the bill than a kitten.

"it is possible that I will be moving back into my parents' house in the short term - where there is a 14 year old cat who has never liked other cats."

I had to do this during a transition period between grad school and the real world, and while my parents' cat was not a big fan of one of my two cats (one of them just slept on my bed all the time; the other one wanted to be FRIEEEEEEEENDS with my parents' elderly cat), they managed to work it out and coexist and survive and forget about it as soon as it was over.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:32 PM on April 24, 2011

I absolutely adore my two cats, but they are 1) expensive (one is rather nervous and urinates on everything) and good quality cat food ain't cheap, and 2) more demanding than I could have anticipated. I know it's tough, but I'd recommending holding out until you're in a more stable place. As aniola says, volunteering at a local shelter could be a good in the meantime-- you'd probably make some human *and* animal friends in the process.

That said, your current living situation sounds cat-friendly. Maybe a mature, very mellow, very healthy cat could be a possibility?
posted by cymru_j at 3:03 PM on April 24, 2011

Best answer: I moved three years ago to a new city and, like you, wanted to get a cat to help allay some of the loneliness but was worried about costs and my own uncertain living situation. I am also gone similar hours (though sometimes longer, like 10am - 10 pm). I waited a bit - I tried, actually, to find a cat in my second year here but it didn't work out for whatever reason. When I finally decided the time was right I found my little demon sitting in a cage, desperately needing more than 2x2 feet. I still am gone for long hours at times, he's had a fluke medical problem that's cost me more than I expected for a cat under 1 year old, and he's had to endure a 12-hour car ride twice with me - BUT. I would do it all again and more - he's hung in with me, I absolutely adore him, and I think we were supposed to find each other. Maybe that's why, when I looked for a cat my first two years here, I didn't find one - he wasn't born yet!

I only chime in with this longish anecdote because I think the answer to your question could easily be either 'wait' or 'go for it.' You have the right elements for a good home for a cat who is currently in a shelter, but you also might wait. Maybe it would do you good to go out to a few shelters and see if the right cat for you is out there? If one doesn't click, maybe you're not quite ready - then again, you may see a little guy sitting in a cage and realize you have to take him home immediately.
posted by AthenaPolias at 5:52 PM on April 24, 2011

Just a mention that kittens would perhaps not do well with your schedule at this time. If you have a hyper one like mine, he needed to be entertained all day in order to allow me some sleep at night, plus to meet his needs. An adult cat would probably be a good fit for you and your schedule.
posted by gilsonal at 7:45 PM on April 24, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the advice! :)
posted by firei at 2:39 AM on April 25, 2011

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