It's all about the kitteeehs
October 6, 2012 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Is it time for a kitty? Or two? Am I really ready?

I really want to get a kitty (or two), but I have doubts. So, I know how to care for cats -- I had cats growing up, have adopted from a shelter and generally know the process. I have 2 cats at my parents' house, but don't feel right moving them to my apartment because they are indoor/outdoor and I think they'd be miserable in my studio.

My concerns:

My biggest concern is that they'll have enough space and attention and won't destroy my apartment. So the rest of my thoughts are based on that...

1) I'm in school and working, so I'm not home much. For this reason, I would adopt a pair so they could keep each other company. It's hard to find a sibling pair that fits the rest of my requirements... Right now I think I could make the time to take care of them and have play time, but I'm worried about finals.

2) I have a studio (~~600 sq ft) but since it's all open kitties would have free reign of the place. I'm worried about them trying to get out the front door -- evasion techniques?? Do indoor cats try to get out? I'm used to outdoor cats that want to be let out.

3) I can only think of 1 place for litter boxes -- I know the # of cats +1 rule, but don't see how I can provide this in the space I have. Does it work to only have 1 box for 2 cats?

4) Litter spread. Solutions for litter getting all over the place? I have hardwood floors, and the last time I had the combination of hardwood floors + litter box, litter was everywhere, even with a litter mat.

5) So I am thinking of a sibling / best friend pair because of my amount of time available, they could keep each other company and wear each other out and stay out of trouble (or double trouble!!!). What am I not thinking of? The cats I grew up with were not good friends, just barely tolerated each other.

6) I want cats that will be small as adults -- partially preference, partially the space issue. I'm looking at juvenile / adult cats both for size and personality reasons. Am I on the right track here?

So in summary, should I or shouldn't I? Am I going to be able to provide a good home with the space and time I have without my apartment getting destroyed?
posted by DoubleLune to Pets & Animals (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Solution for litter getting all over the place: a top-entry litter box like a Clever Cat or one you brew yourself from a Rubbermaid container (paired with a litter mat if you like). There is still occasionally stuff on the floor but it's a zillion times better than a standard-entry box.
posted by charmedimsure at 5:29 PM on October 6, 2012

Here's a Goldilocks solution to your dilemma: start by fostering. You'll see what it's like to live with cats in your small apartment, and you can give the cats back when finals roll around. (Unless you've irrevocably bonded by then, in which case: your question has been answered.)
posted by feral_goldfish at 5:37 PM on October 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes to pair of cats! And yes to juvenile/adult cats. We have one litter box for our two cats and they do fine as long as we clean it almost daily. Top entry litter box is a good idea. Our cats love each other very much and bring us a lot of joy. We love watching them play and cuddle. We got them as a sibling pair from the shelter. I think you will do fine.

They do try to get out the door, unless you have a very shy cat they are naturally inquisitive creatures. We keep a mini spray bottle outside the door and if they start getting too close when we're going in and out, they get sprayed. Usually takes a few reminders with this training and then they're good about it for a while. Some cats are extremely clingy so if you're not home much, maybe look for friendly but independent cats.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:45 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

1. Kitties are independent and they sleep like 14 hours a day. They do need playtime and attention, but they're not as demanding as dogs in terms of face-to-face time. Especially if you get two.

2. I had 3 cats in an 800 sq. ft. apartment. It was not ideal, sure, but they seemed no worse for wear. They may try to get out the door--all of my indoor cats were curious about getting outside, and they all succeeded at one time or another. They mostly hunkered down and looked horrified upon escape. I even had a pair of cats who would jump out of a second floor window to the alley below if they could get the screen open on their own. They were fine. Just hung out in the alley 'till I got home. Having said that, however, you should do your absolute best to keep your indoor cats inside--they have no idea what they're doing and might get themselves into trouble.

3. You could stack two boxes. One front entry and one top entry. 3 might be the most ideal number, but 2 would be sufficient. Cats work it out on their own, but with more than one cat hilarious litter things go on all the time. One will leave his business out, the other will cover up his AND his buddy's. They might somehow come to a consensus and use one for poop and another for peep. Sometimes they each decide to have their own. They're funny.

4. Litter mats are pretty helpful, but there will always be at least some litter around, even with top entry boxes, because it can get stuck in their fur/paws.

5. If you can find two cats who already live together, that would be ideal. Two female cats can be problematic, so try to get two males or one male and one female. Whatever you do, make sure all the cats have been tested for feline leukemia and FIV.

6. As long as you don't pick up something like a Maine Coon kitten, you should be ok on size. Adopting adult cats is an awesome thing to do; they are much more difficult to place. Black cats are the most difficult to place, so consider that when looking to adopt.

Ahh, apartment destruction. Claws are the devil on furniture and carpets, but you can ameliorate that with scratching mats/posts and furniture tape. I'm wobbly on declawing. The kittens I've adopted with claws kept them unless it was required that they be declawed by my apartment. In those cases I did tendonectomies because I'm not a fan of the traditional surgery. There's a new surgery that some vets seem to like that kills the nail at the nailbed with a laser. I don't know anything about it.
posted by xyzzy at 5:52 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had two cats in a *tiny* (not even sure how tiny) studio. I only had room for one litter box. They were fine. Now that they're living at my dad's and there are 2 boxes, they still both use the same one. I'd come home from work and my place wouldn't be in shambles and they'd often be cuddled up on the bed (I did get them as kittens with one being a few months older than the other).

I live in Korea and I don't have hardwood, but this vinyl like stuff that goes over the in floor heating. I got a big mat from Costco and put it under the litter box.

My more bonded cat, Gidgette is going to be flying out soon to live with me (I miss the little booger) but her sister Ivory (AKA The Princess of All Princesses) is going to stay in the US with my family.

Good luck. And don't forget pictures :-)
posted by kathrynm at 5:54 PM on October 6, 2012

I have two cats, and I really like the Clever Cat box. I've only ever had one box, but I scoop twice per day (it's in my bathroom, so it fits right into my am/pm routine). On that note, let me also recommend the Litter Locker. Absolutely smell free, I throw away the bag of scooped stuff every week.

Pair of cats is nice. Mine are not best friends but they def keep each other company.
posted by maryrussell at 5:55 PM on October 6, 2012

I want cats that will be small as adults

Domestic cats don't have anything remotely like the size variation of dogs. A few breeds – Norwegian forest cats, Maine Coons – are known for getting large, but aside from that, all adult cats are much of a muchness in size. There isn't the same risk of adopting a small kitten and having it turn out to actually be a tiger as you'd have with finding your cute puppy was growing into a Great Dane.

Siamese-type cats tend to look smaller because of their short fur and delicate bone structure, but they often make up in noise level for what they save you in size.
posted by zadcat at 6:05 PM on October 6, 2012

Oh gosh, I guess I need to add the "current" (i.e. at my parents') kitties' pics. Here and again.
Paris (the tabby, male) is like 3 times the weight of Monique (the calico), so when I'm talking about size that's my difference between big and small.

I never heard of a top-entry litter box, that looks pretty workable.

I don't think I could foster -- I get attached much too quickly.
posted by DoubleLune at 6:19 PM on October 6, 2012

You were me 3 years ago! This is totally do-able, trust me. I actually wanted to start with fostering 1 cat, but i ended up taking in a pregnant kitty who desperately needed someplace safe to have her kittens, and, well.. i ended up with 3 cats in the end. Although it was a 1 brm, it was only about 550sqft, so even smaller than your place.

1) Two cats (especially a bonded pair) will keep each other company, no worries. I often work 10-12 hour days, and my 3 barely notice I'm gone.

2) Evasion techniques - at least in my case, they're not needed. My mommy cat, even though she was found in a barn, has no desire to escape, at all. The only time she's tried to get to the other side of the door was because that's where I was. The "kittens" (in quotes because they're almost 3 now) don't even try. Not sure if i lucked out or not, so YMMV.

3) Ideally you should have two litter boxes, but it may not be necessary. You'll have to experiment. Be aware that you might just need two though - a second box is way better than pee everywhere. That being said, I can get away with 2 boxes for my 3 cats.

4) My favourite litter box solution (and I've tried so many...): Get a cheap rubbermaid container, the big storage tote kind with a lid. Cut a hole in the narrow side, 3 or so inches from the bottom. Boom - cheap, durable covered litter box. Place the litter box on a cheap, low-pile rug (i use something like this) to handle the litter situation.

If you want to add another litter box, get a standard high-sided litter box and put in on top of the rubbermaid box. You now have a two story litter box. 2 of my 3 actually prefer the one on top. Be warned however, this does mean more litter gets everywhere. The mat is essential!

5) Talk to rescue groups about adopting a bonded pair of cats. They're usually aren't siblings, just cats that for whatever reason need rescue but come from the same home and would be better suited staying together. Trust me, they will be available, and they're harder to adopt because any good rescue will do everything in their power to keep the kitties together. You will be doing a good thing.

6) If it were me, I'd be less worried about cat size, and more worried about the coat on the cat. Cats that shed less are way less noticeable (to me anyway) compared to 10lb vs 15lb cats. I love my three black cats for this -- they're shorthair and although they shed, it's nothing compared to the persians I've had in the past.

If you look for cats that are 1 year+, then their personality will be developed by then as well. Kittens are such a crap shoot, they could either end up as friendly as can be or aloof as heck, and there's no real way to be totally sure which way they'll end up until their older.
posted by cgg at 6:29 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're smart to look for a pair who are already bonded. When we were looking for our second cat, we kept coming across awesome cats who really really wanted to be recruited as a team, so we felt dumb for not doing this in the first place.

Only one litterbox:
this can often work. We keep ours in our bathroom, following the rule that every time you flush for yourself, you flush for the cat. It sounds like a drag, but it's actually a lot easier and more pleasant than letting things pile up.

Litter creep: as a second barrier, lay a human-type doormat at the bathroom door.

Size of apartment: however small it may seem to you, cats are generally grateful to be allowed to share your space -- older shelter cats can be almost effusively grateful. If they try to escape, or chase each other round and round the perimeter, that just means they're curious and boisterous -- many cats in spacious quarters act the same way.

Size of cat: need not be proportional to apartment, but if you happen to find small cats mysteriously appealing, by all means humor your preference. Small cats need homes too, and will appreciate your appreciation.
posted by feral_goldfish at 6:29 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

My favorite litter box solution is toilet-training. Best decision I ever made with my cat.
posted by roomwithaview at 6:57 PM on October 6, 2012

"evasion techniques?? Do indoor cats try to get out?"

Mostly not -- eventually. Evasion technique, especially for kittens: Keep a few cat balls by the door, ideally with bells in them, and as you get ready to leave and the kitten is pondering bolting out the door, toss the ball away from the door. They chase, you leave. Eventually this trains many cats out of escaping; others grow out of kittenhood and lose interest. (This also works pretty well with kittens who think attacking ankles on the stairs is the Best Game Evah!)

All three of the cats I've had were adopted after being abandoned outdoors (and losing an eye each in the process!) and became indoor-only cats. #1 spent a pretty long time as a kitten try to escape out the door not because he wanted to be outside, but because he wanted to go wherever I was going. Eventually he got older, less-excitable, and realized I always came back. #2 was traumatized by having been abandoned outdoors and as soon as he realized the house was warm, dry, and had magically regenerating food, he was like OH HELL NO OUT-OF-DOORS. If we left the outdoor door open too long, he would go hide so it wouldn't, like, suck him out. #3 has never shown any interest in going out the door. He's barely interested in gazing out the window. His life goal is to be king of the laundry, and laundry only exists indoors.

One litterbox will be fine if you clean it diligently (and your cats aren't weird about the litterbox).

Personally I will always adopt adult cats by preference in the future (or at least young adults) because a kitten is a heck of a lot of work and they take so long to train out of annoying kitten behaviors, especially in smaller spaces. Adults can be good pets right out of the shelter, and in a small space might be a bit more sedate/less in need of running around. I think adult cats take a little longer to warm up to a new owner, but that's okay with me, they're good company even if they're hiding under the chair all the time.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:50 PM on October 6, 2012

A lot of this depends on the history of the cats adopted.

Cats that were born in the wild and raised a bit by their mom generally want to get out. Cats that are bottle fed (left mom too young to be weened) and/or were born to an indoor mom cat are far far happier indoors. Generally. There will be outliers in both categories. Cats are weird.

Think of everything in your home as disposable, because yes, cats scratch. Even the awesome cats with tons of scratching devices. Please don't declaw your cats! If you get them young enough, you can probably train them to accept soft paws (claw covers) or the like. Older cats? Not so much.

What I am saying is that if you get itty bitty kittens from the same litter, or who seeto get on, you have every chance of training them up right. If you choose a cat rescued from outdoors, it will lead the show.

I've rescued and lived with gazillions of cats. The only two cats that never ever scratched furniture both lived in households where they had free access to the outdoors. Cats that had never been outside did not miss being outdoors. Cats rescued from the wild as older kittens never fully assimilated to the indoors. One I lived with needed weekly walk-abouts from the safety of a sherpa bag to remain happy. The other I still live with and breaks out if we don't let her out.

This is a fulltime job and a fulltime commitment.

Were I you, and the right cats didn't appear on my doorstep with the Fates begging me to give them a home, I wouldn't do it right now.

I think you are asking all the right questions. It sounds like a poor idea. Everyone above is correct that it is workable, and you'll love them to pieces! Just saying that you live in a studio, you might need to move at some point and pets make that difficult, you might not want your furniture and possessions scratched, and you might not enjoy the collossal committment two kitties require.

If you worked from home and we were talking just one kitty, my answer might be different. It is difficult to re-home two cats together, should you ever want or need to do that.

Lastly. Cats are like tribbles, once you have one, you almost always end up with three. They multiply without even trying. They find you on their own and need rescuing from the street, friends moving overseas want to fob off their cats to you, they drop out of the sky into your lap and you just can't say "No!"

If after all of my cautioning you judge that financially and time-wise you can support them, enjoy your new family members!
posted by jbenben at 9:27 PM on October 6, 2012

I'd have to respectfully disagree with jbenben that cats are a fulltime job. With a fulltime job plus a part-time volunteer job and continued graduate coursework (I like to stay busy), I also have two cats, and luckily they take very little time to care for or I would never able to keep them. Basically, when I'm home, they like to sit on my lap or hang out with me, but otherwise they are pretty happy to hang with each other. I found that they were very well socialized by the animal shelter (where, as 1 year old black cats, they had to stay for 8 months before we adopted them). Even without being hand fed or anything (they were dumped on the shelter's doorstep in a cardboard box in the snow), they are very well behaved. I had a pretty good idea that they were going to be well behaved cats by spending about 30 minutes meeting them at the shelter before I adopted them.

They also only scratch their scratching posts about 99.5% of the time, we're still working on the other 0.5% of the time but I just spray them with a spray bottle if I happen to see them clawing the wrong thing. They have destroyed zero possessions of ours. My husband and I cut their nails about twice a month, which takes about 10 minutes as long as we double team it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 10:28 PM on October 6, 2012

I have one of our litterboxes in a long storage bin, about six inches deep; I don't know the length off hand but it's long enough to hold the litterbox and give at least a foot of turn-around space. It's a covered litterbox too, but that doesn't keep all the litter inside. I see a lot less litter around that one than the one in the upstairs bathroom, which just has a mat. If you do decide on a second litterbox, consider keeping it in the bathtub and just taking it out when you shower. I did that for a good while and had no problems.
posted by lemniskate at 7:29 AM on October 7, 2012

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