My nth question about cat ownership
April 7, 2021 2:55 PM   Subscribe

I would like a pet cat so much, but I have overwhelming anxiety about biting the bullet and going ahead with it.

I've posted previously about various logistical questions I have about cat ownership issues.

Although an anxious person, I'm mostly ok at managing my anxieties because I avoid triggers. The problem with thinking about adopting a cat is that it brings me face to face with so many of my triggers. tl;dr: does this level of anxiety mean I should just forget about getting a pet?

I love cats. I want a cat. I think frequently how nice it would be to have a feline friend to keep me company at home. But although I have the financial wherewithal, love of animals, and sense of responsibility necessary to be a good cat guardian - I cannot get past my obsessive worries about the minutiae of cat ownership logistics and the claustrophobia of committing to being responsible for the wellbeing of another living creature. Is it normal to feel this way? Shouldn't it be something I feel uncomplicatedly excited about, as opposed to conflicted?

My worries are extensive and I hesitate to write them out, because that would make this question ridiculously long plus they aren't really the point. I think my anxiety is spoilt for choice for things to latch onto about cat ownership.

While my allergies and the adequacy and size of my living space (tiny and carpeted) is a key factor in my worries I do not know if my anxiety about getting a cat will get better if I move to a bigger apartment with more bedrooms, wooden floors (for ease of cleaning up accidents plus better for allergy-sufferers) and a garden. (I realise that most Mefites do argue that cats don't need a lot of space!)

I also worry about once I actually acquire a pet - whether I will then be eaten alive by anxiety every time it barfs or pees in the wrong place or whatever. I spend time on cat forums (and on AskMe) reading all the cat questions and there just seems like so much that can go wrong. But then I also know that interacting with cats (and dogs, which I actually like better, but my lifestyle will totally not allow me to even consider) does make me actually feel calmer and better, so maybe getting a cat would be GOOD for my mental health? I don't know.

I realise that fostering could be a temporary option but living in a one-bedroom apartment means that I am not eligible to apply to be a foster carer. Most rescues insist on the foster cat having its own private space to settle down in, which necessitates at least one spare bedroom.

Moving to a bigger place is something that's on the cards for me, eventually. Should I just wait till then to reconsider the cat thing and see if it continues to trigger the same anxieties? Or are these anxieties an indicator that I shouldn't even bother getting a pet because I'm just going to be even more anxiety-ridden once I get it?
posted by unicorn chaser to Pets & Animals (39 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I will say that if you’re able to manage your anxiety generally, so that it’s at a livable level for you, go for it. You will have added anxiety (especially at first) but you will have experience in managing it. The awareness your question demonstrates is a good sign: you know the first time your cat horks up a hair ball you’ll want to spin out, so you can hopefully interrupt that spinning-out process with more rational thoughts.

There are also benefits that mitigate anxiety generally—there’s so much about a cat’s presence that’s calming, amusing, distracting, centering—and for me it’s worth the added worries.
posted by kapers at 3:02 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I used to be a lot fussier about cleanliness, and then I got a dog and he's so fuckin gross, and my life is a thousand times better. Not only because of the enjoyment I get from my dog, but also because I don't have any choice BUT to accept that there is nothing in my home that doesn't have just a little bit of butt on it now. I've found my peace.
posted by phunniemee at 3:08 PM on April 7, 2021 [32 favorites]

You're taking permanent responsibility for a sentient creature's well-being! It is a weighty matter.

That said, I'm wrestling with very similar issues relating to getting a dog. (For a while I was having dreams where I'd forgotten some pet I was looking after and left it alone for like a month.) I think I've accepted that my anxiety is going to dance its little jig in connection with any important life choices, and that that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy their consequences. Many people's mental health benefits tremendously from having a pet around. I don't see why I'd be an exception to that.
posted by praemunire at 3:10 PM on April 7, 2021

Best answer: I'm not a therapist so I don't feel I can answer some of these questions, but:

I spend time on cat forums (and on AskMe) reading all the cat questions and there just seems like so much that can go wrong.

I'd suggest you stop reading these forums. Sure, things can (and eventually do) go wrong, as is the way with mortal bodies. But I'd say 85% of cat ownership is a pure joy, 14% is a chore, and only 1% is actually stressful/sad. That's of course just one person's experience, but if you base your perception off of people asking questions about their concerns, you're going to get a skewed sense of cat ownership.
posted by coffeecat at 3:12 PM on April 7, 2021 [28 favorites]

If you adopt a cat and find that things really aren't working well or you just (for any reason) can't handle it, you can always surrender the cat back to the shelter you got him or her from.

Sure, you wouldn't want to do that lightly, but from this and your other cat question, it is very clear that you wouldn't. But if things just went really poorly and you decided you had to, I don't think the cat would be worse off than if you hadn't tried in the first place.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 3:19 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm thinking that part of the reason this is so hard is that you can imagine so many things and of course and anxious imagine is all focused on the bad. Once you get the cat, many of these fears will resolve themselves because you will be dealing with the actual reality. Like you might worry about what to feed the cat but hopefully you will (1) ask someone like the vet you can trust (2) find a food the cat likes and (3) the cat eats and is healthy, then I would hope that particular anxiety would go down. Same if your cat get diarrhea - the first time you freak out, you consult the vet, the cat is fine and the next time you will know what to do. So that gradually, the cat becomes familiar and there isn't so much to worry about as there is now when you have no idea how things will turn out.

Also, I think sometimes we just have a certain amount of anxiety and it is all going to go somewhere until we learn to manage it. If you aren't anxious about the cat, it will be something else. So maybe the cat won't add to your anxiety.

Plus the cat can be a good distraction - as someone said above, most of cat ownership is mix of pleasure and chores but does fall into a routine, at least most of the time.
posted by metahawk at 3:23 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think animals in general are just really, really helpful for people with anxiety (and other mental health issues). They help to ground you and focus your attention on something outside yourself, and bring so much joy, amusement, and bonding. Which isn't to say you won't feel anxious about specific cat-related things, but dealing with them will increase your confidence and decrease the anxiety over time. If anxiety is the main barrier, I say take the plunge!

Your allergies might be more of a barrier though. A lot of people swear that they got used to their cats & their allergy symptoms lessened, and I believe them, but that's definitely not everyone's experience. I don't know how severe your allergies are, if they are mild then it may be easily manageable but if severe and/or related to asthma then I would definitely wait until you in a non-carpeted place before even considering.

I think it's also worth keeping in mind that you could always rehome the cat if it was not working out. As long as you went into it with good faith, you would not be a bad person for making that decision. This is a decision that is reversible, even if doing so isn't ideal.
posted by DTMFA at 3:24 PM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

One thing to keep in mind is that you're seeing the stuff that goes wrong, not the stuff that goes right. When we're motoring along, all systems go, we're not asking stressed out questions or posting about our difficulties on AskMe or forums for cat-havers. So it's a very self-selected focus there. I personally think the fact that you're concerned at all is a sign that you will be a great cat parent. Right now, I'm in a constant state of stress over money and what will happen when I bring my guy in next; he's been in the emergency twice in the past couple years, as well as his normal everyday issues which are legion, but even though he's the World's Most Expensive Cat, I wouldn't trade it for the universe.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:26 PM on April 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

I’ll answer as an anxious cat owner. Like you, I was worried about space and despite getting the OK from AskMe, I held off on getting one... until a friend needed an urgent short term fosterer. That was in Jan 2015 and the cat’s still with me! (I did move to a bigger place soon after)

I do worry. Mostly about health issues and injuries (mine are outdoor cats). My boy pukes a fair bit. I clean it up (seriously, it’s not a problem! It doesn’t show. You can get special pet upholstery cleaner).

My fears of loss are my main anxiety. I think about their eventual demise / disappearance / death almost every day. But even with that, it is absolutely worth it. They are a delight and make my life soooooooo much better. And I’m a pretty good cat owner. (I’ve also gotten better with time. I used to fret much more about being terrible and doing everything wrong.)

So I think you should go for it! Cats are great.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 3:31 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am a worrier/planner/anxious type and also a cat owner! One thing to remember is that if all goes according to plan, your cat is going to die one day in your care. Sorry, that is horrible, but also true and by design. Your goal is to give your cat as many great, safe years in a loving home as you can.

Can you literally list all your worries and think them through? For example:

#1 Can't keep cat alive: correct, science has not advanced to this level. Good news, you can cross this off the list.
#2 Cat dies because of something you did: improbable, but possible. Ways to prevent that: learn about common dangers to cats (so many plants are toxic!) and avoid them. You will do your best and that is enough.
#3 Cat needs expensive vet care: ? I don't know your situation but it is possible to budget for emergencies.
#4 Cat requires finicky medical care: you will learn what to do and do it! I am a shrinking violet and I gave my roommate's cat subcutaneous fluids, and my cat ear drops and daily pills. This stuff sucks but there are great vets out there and even youtube videos that can help you learn to do whatever needs to get done.
#5 Your cat will destroy your fondest possessions: possible! Imagine what that would feel like, deal with it emotionally. Can you still imagine loving a creature that did that? If so you are good to go. (and try to prevent if you can by storing things in cat-proof containers and locations.)
#6 You will become exhausted by the day to day: possible. It's about 30 minutes to an hour daily of light effort for me, an able-bodied adult. And it can be truly annoying some days to deal with, say, litter box changes. Only you know, but I bet your cat will be 1000% worth it. Good luck!
posted by prewar lemonade at 3:39 PM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I also worry about once I actually acquire a pet - whether I will then be eaten alive by anxiety every time it barfs or pees in the wrong place or whatever.
Well, to be honest, you probably will be eaten alive by anxiety. It might be mitigated by their adorable antics, unless they come down with something and don't give you many antics at all. It's worth it to get on top of managing your anxiety first so that when you do get your little ones you will be able to cope with whatever they throw at you.

I am someone with a "partially managed but not really" anxiety response. I would not recommend anyone get a pet who doesn't have an anxiety treatment that works for them.
posted by bleep at 3:45 PM on April 7, 2021

As for the allergies, if you haven't spoken with any fostering agencies & are just going by what they have on their websites, I would make some calls and explain to them your situation. They might have some little kittens who just need a temporary roof over their heads & a box to hide in & not necessarily a whole empty room to themselves. Let them tell you no. If they don't say no then you'll have some real information about how it feels to have a cat both mentally and physically.
posted by bleep at 3:51 PM on April 7, 2021

Decide what is healthy to worry about and what isn't, and then channel your anxiety in healthy ways.

Spend endless hours "cat fishing" (eg toy on end of stick that you wave around) and clicker-training your cat. I knew someone whose cat could jump through hoops, play the piano, and more. I knew a cat who would happily hunt a cat-fishing toy all day, occasionally sprinting back and forth and doing marvelous leaps and twists through the air. Spend endless more hours making structures for your cat to climb. I knew some cats who effectively had an indoor jungle gym (they could climb non-trees and watch the world from on high). Etc.
posted by aniola at 3:52 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Our current cat has lately been leaving little turds around the house threaded together with my hair, which is long and graying. The hair gets into the cat because she licks the carpets to illustrate how much we are starving her (we feed her on approximately a newborn baby schedule). She has arthritis in her hips so bad she staggers when she walks and she can't jump over anything. She has no teeth left. We got her out of the back yard where she was begging for food.

Seriously, if we can own a cat, you can own a cat. You will be making a difference to the cat, and they do wonders for anxiety because when you sit petting a cat and they are purring and kneading, you realize that the universe is a marvelous place because it has cats in it.

I agree with the earlier commenter who suggested you stop reading discussions about cat ownership. People will make you frantic. It's like being the parent of a newborn baby and reading those discussions. Nightmare city.
posted by Peach at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

PS - Cats do pick up on the emotions of their humans.
posted by aniola at 3:53 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree that it is spending a lot of time on cat forums is not helpful! As people have pointed out, you're more likely to hear about the tough parts versus the good parts. And, in my experience, the tone of the places I've visited tend to make me feel like a horrible, neglectful cat owner no matter what decision I've made. If you happen to know a few people who own cats, you might check to see if they'd be willing to answer occasional cat questions as they come up, and you're likely to get good, reasonable, comforting advice that way. I know I'd be willing to answer questions from a new cat owner who was feeling nervous!

When I adopted my cat, I also really wanted a cat and was anxious about whether it was the right decision. One thing I was reminded of when you asked "Shouldn't it be something I feel uncomplicatedly excited about, as opposed to conflicted?" was that when I was visiting shelters, etc., a lot of people told me that I would "just know" which cat was the one or that a cat would choose me. While this may be the experience for some people (and maybe it will be the experience for you!), I never had a moment of beautiful, instant bonding with any cat. Expecting that I should feel that way only made me worry I was somehow not cut out to own a cat. I chose based on talking to the shelter volunteers, visiting with the cats, thinking about what age/temperament made sense for my life, and choosing a cat who let me pet her and seemed like a good match on paper. I think it is normal to feel unsure or conflicted throughout the whole process, so don't take it as a bad sign if you don't have a mystical cat adoption experience!

And, since you're asking about anxiety, for the first few days while my cat and I adjusted, I felt more anxious about whether I made a wrong decision than any sort of happiness or excitement. But, that initial "this was a bad choice" anxiety melted away and I would never want to change a thing about my decision. There are still anxieties crop up regularly ("Is she sick? What if she gets out? What if there's a fire?"), but I find having a cat is also very comforting and helpful for anxiety. On the whole, the good has far, far outweighed the negative.
posted by verity kindle at 3:58 PM on April 7, 2021

Could you work out an arrangement with the foster care people where you sleep in the living room and the cat gets your bedroom, just for the introduction period?
posted by aniola at 3:58 PM on April 7, 2021

I have had cats happily live in 400 square feet studio apartments, so don't worry about space. Remember space for cats also includes the vertical. Think about how you might add cat trees, cat climbing shelves, and other ways for your cat to expand their space for exploring!

You can manage the carpet and the cat. Get some Nature's Miracle for the occasional accident. Get some carpet cleaning foam. Invest in a good vacuum and it will all be good.

Best cat investment I ever made was in an automatic feeder. I never needed one until my current cat, who is very food insecure and cannot free-feed. It's great. If I go somewhere for a weekend, I don't have to worry (except for the scolding I will receive when I return).

Get an older cat. Hang out with the cat before deciding to make sure they have a personality that will mesh with yours.
posted by brookeb at 4:04 PM on April 7, 2021

I would say that if you want to adopt a cat, do so, but with one caveat: maybe look to adopt an older cat (18 months or older) and not a kitten. Kittens are a million mile an hour chaos agents with no focus and very little predictability - they're cute and awesome, for sure, but they require a level of rolling with the punches that you might not be willing to do (no judgment, just a fact - little energetic kittens can be a lot).

whether I will then be eaten alive by anxiety every time it barfs or pees in the wrong place or whatever.

I don't have what could be considered anxiety, but I am overall very much one who likes an orderly home. I didn't grow up with pets in my house, so I'd had no experience with them until I was like 35. When I moved in with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, she had a cat, and it was made clear to me (and was fine with me!) that cats would always be a part of our life together.

The first time a cat vomited on the floor after we moved in together, it was super gross. Within a couple weeks, I barely even noticed when it happened (and it still doesn't happen all that often - maybe 1-2x a month) - I just clean it up and go on with the day. It's just part of the package, and most importantly, it's not a fatal-to-your-living-environment issue. It's just a thing that happens.

You'll find that a lot of what you are anxious about when you think of having a cat in your home are like that - you'll build it up in your head as a Really Big Thing, then you see the Thing in action and go "hey, this actually isn't a big deal". That is reinforced when the cat that an hour ago puked all over your favorite shoes jumps up in your lap, curls up, and wants nothing more than for you to pet them for hours while it purrs and keeps looking at you like YOU ARE THE BEST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO ME.

So yeah, get a cat.
posted by pdb at 4:05 PM on April 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

But I'd say 85% of cat ownership is a pure joy, 14% is a chore, and only 1% is actually stressful/sad.
I +1 this.

I've definitely had my share of the irritating 14% and sad/expensive/stressful 1% of pet ownership, but I am totally happy trading those for the 85% fuzzy joy love factor.
But then I also know that interacting with cats ... does make me actually feel calmer and better, so maybe getting a cat would be GOOD for my mental health? I don't know.
Nothing in life is certain and all love is risk, but I think pet ownership is a relatively safe bet for conscientious people -- which you certainly appear to be.
posted by Sauce Trough at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

Just please remember that your cat isn't capable of making your anxiety better. It is not a therapist, didn't consent to anything, and is not responsible for your feelings. It's not fair to them to commit to this living thing and then hope it will have some good effect on you and if not then they will be in limbo. Imagine an alien kidnapped you hoping that you would be able to cure it of an alien disease you have never heard of. And then of course you were not capable of any such thing. But you would be vulnerable to the effects of that untreated illness. You wouldn't think that was fair to you.
posted by bleep at 4:07 PM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

Before I got my cats I had a proper pre-commitment freakout. My biggest fears were: what if I forget to feed the cat and it dies? And more broadly, what if I fail in some way that means the cat suffers?

I live alone, so solitude was part of my freakout. What I didn't take into account was that once you have a cat, you are not alone, so you don't make these decisions in isolation. Cats don't let you forget to feed them. Cats have desires, likes and dislikes, which they will make sure you get.

Anxiety about your living space: do you rent or own? Are you anxious about the carpet being stained or marked because of the landlord's reaction? Or it it the cat's happiness that you worry about?

If it helps: assume the carpet is a loss. For one thing, the cat will claw it. Also, barfing happens. You can reduce barfing by getting a shorthaired cat and brushing often to get rid of extra fur, and there are anti-hairball treats you can give them, but barf is still going to occur from time to time. For me, the good parts of cat ownership outweigh the annoyance of cleaning up after the occasional incident; but if sacrificing your carpet is a dealbreaker for you, that's okay.

I, too, was worried about the disgusting parts. But I figured out a few tricks to make them less disgusting, and just got accustomed to the rest. If it helps, while cleaning up you can give the cat/s a serious lecture on what you put up with for their sake, and why they should reform their degenerate lives.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:14 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

So, another vote for "actually you might be eaten alive by anxiety about the cat once you have one." I loved my cat more than life itself but yea I am probably not ever doing that again.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:21 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

(While I generally agree that someone conscientious enough to put this much thought into pet-keeping will do a good job of pet-keeping, if your anxiety is the avoidant/procrastinating variety it actually very well might make you worse at pet-keeping. It certainly did for me, as it caused me to avoid or delay vet visits, grooming tasks, etc--thankfully, never with truly tragic results, but that is sheer luck.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:25 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I will preface what I'm saying by telling you I have one cat who just turned 18, and I previously had another cat, her brother, who died of cancer when they were 11.

I worry about her all the time, and I've seen some shit with regard to what can go wrong.

But. But still. I have laughed at their antics when they were younger and I've enjoyed the purring cuddles now that my cat is a super-senior. For every worry there has been joy, and then some. My cat is beside me on the couch now, which she chose to do, of all the places in this house for her to sleep. She chooses me. Coming from a cat I take that as the highest compliment you can get from a being that can't actually talk. She takes care of me and I take care of her, and as far as I'm concerned this is one of the purest relationships I may ever have in this life.

Take a chance. The worst thing that can happen is that you surrender the cat back to the shelter; the best thing is that your life, and the life of a cat that needs a home, can be changed for the better. The upsides outweigh, IMO.
posted by Medieval Maven at 4:35 PM on April 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I was a prior cat owner who was not at all ready to take care of another animal. The wounds of having to part with my friends were still too great, even years later. My anxiety had become a major problem in those intervening years, and I feared being inadequate to the responsibility. I was not in a good place for a new cat.

Maisey, a leggy tuxedo Manx, had been stalking around our backyard, potentially abandoned but surviving for some number of years mostly in the shadows. She took a bit of interest in me when I was out there, so I elected to feed her. Eventually she would come visit me and sit on my lap in the morning, often settling into a comfortable sleep. Sometimes I would crack the back door at night and let her in if it was cold or rainy out, or on a particularly nice day, and she would settle again on my lap on the couch. A few times she even slept on the foot of the bed. Being stray, she'd dart out the door in fear if the unexpected happened, like a sneeze.

When we made plans to move, I became resolute: it was clear she had been abandoned once, and I would not stand for it to happen again. We let her in, sealed the door, and wrangled her into a cat carrier. She was not happy on the trip to our new home and was very afraid. At first she was confined to the bathroom, then the bath and the bedroom, and after a couple of weeks she was given carte blanche to the house. It took a while, but this process transitioned her entirely and completely into a satisfied housecat.

Since doing so, she has demonstrated a keen ability to sense my moods and needs, and has offered her quiet affection at the times I needed it most. There have been some difficult moments with her health and behavior, some of which have been quite anxiety-provoking, but there have been many more moments when she offered relief and companionship that I think may have saved my life.

We've saved each other, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope you get to tell a similar story soon.

In case it was unclear, this was my way of saying "get the cat."
posted by majick at 5:05 PM on April 7, 2021 [7 favorites]

What will happen is that you will start getting a string of achievements under your belt that will give you more confidence that you can take care of a cat.

Day 1: fed cat twice! Played with cat! Scooped box!
Day 2: fed cat twice! Played with cat! Scooped box! Cat purred!
Day 10: fed cat twice! Cat puked but it looked like only cat food and I learned how to clean it up. Made note to see if cat puked again tomorrow.
Day 11: fed cat twice! No puke! Lots of purrs. Scooped box which sucked because I forgot to do it yesterday. It was stinky but no harm no foul. Daily is best.
Day 732: worst smelling poop in months, but last time cat did this it was because she was a jerk and drank my leftover cereal bowl milk when I went to the bathroom. I did have some milk in a glass today which she could have gotten into. Will see what happens tomorrow.

I’ve found that the joy of a pet outweighs the stress and sorrows 20x1. And I’ve also learned to let my vet be the expert on how to treat my pets’ maladies...not the internet. In other words, stop reading cat forums.
posted by kimberussell at 5:58 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think you're more anxious about the idea of having a cat than you would be if you actually went ahead and got a cat.

As has already been mentioned, there are cat adoption agencies who would be willing to take the cat back if you decide having a cat was not the right decision.

I think you want the cat so much that you should try just having a cat.

Has a cat
posted by wondermouse at 6:02 PM on April 7, 2021 [4 favorites]

getthekitty getthekitty getthekitty

You can be the best thing that every happened to them, and vice versa.
posted by cyndigo at 6:28 PM on April 7, 2021

It sounds like you’re already doing a ton of research and looking at fostering as an option but I’ve never heard of restrictions on folks in small apartments before or a requirement for the cat to have its own space. Near me, this is right about the time for kitten season to start and a time when fostering organizations can be desperate for folks to help house kittens (which can be a little anxiety provoking to care for as they often pick up minor colds and health issues in shelters).

In my experience with fostering for 4 different organizations over the years in the US it’s often recommended to keep a new foster cat or kittens in the bathroom for at least a day or two as the smaller space is easier for them to acclimate to and also easier to clean up.

If you are in the US you may want to check out a different fostering organization that may not have that restriction. I love fostering and am happy answer any questions you might have.
posted by forkisbetter at 6:29 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

You're taking permanent responsibility for a sentient creature's well-being!

The thing is that for the vast majority of a typical cat's day, it will be pretty happy taking care of itself. For the most part, you just need to think about what goes in (food) and what comes out (i.e., scooping that litterbox regularly).
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 6:59 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

The first time my kitten ate a bunch of plastic I freaked out. Then I called my vet and he said "ok, is she acting sick? Vomiting? Eating? How long has it been? ... Well, look, call us if she starts acting sick but otherwise just wait and see if she passes it."

You can also repeat that sentence with plastic replaced by hair, string, elastic, and garlic. Cat is FINE. We are more careful than basically any other household I have ever seen about keeping plastic and rubber bands and face masks and those mesh bags avocados come in all out of reach of the cat, but occasionally she gets in to something and I find bits of headphone cable all over the house and go "aaaah what about intestinal damage" and then I remember this has happened before and it was FINE and the cat is cheerfully chasing a moth in the corner somewhere or curled up in her favorite chair completely unbothered.

Won't lie, I still follow the cat around sometimes feeling guilty that I am not keeping her Safe Enough. But also she's soft and sweet and stands up next to my chair and taps me on the arm when she wants attention. And she would not be better in the wild, at all.
posted by Lady Li at 7:05 PM on April 7, 2021 [1 favorite]

1 - Don't compare yourself or your living situation to an ideal; compare it to the probable alternative for a cat who is not adopted.

2 - I think carpet is actually better for cats in a lot of ways: less slippage when they run, which is easier on them and their knees and lets them run faster; holds allergens more in place between vacuumings; keeps litter from being tracked as much (I'll actually get a piece of carpet to put in front of a litter box for this reason).

There are small wet-cleaning machines you can use just in case there is an accident.

It may be easier on your knees, too - just a hunch on my part, I don't know any studies on this.

If you're interested in being on top of things and giving your cat a much, much better-than-average life, please check out "Clicker Training for Cats". Cats can be far more bonded and far LESS BORED if they have this avenue of stimulation and communication.
posted by amtho at 7:28 PM on April 7, 2021 [3 favorites]

So much excellent advice here, I just wanted to add. I'm very similar to how you describe yourself in terms of anxiety about pets.
I have found it helpful to realise that the story I tell myself about how I will react if something goes wrong with my pet, is not an accurate prediction of what really happens. My story is that I will have an intense anxiety spiral that will debilitate me, and won't ease, and will prevent me from doing whatever I need to do. But in reality, when something actually goes wrong with my pet, I just deal with it. And there are people to help me deal with it and who will tell me what to do, like my vet. So I'm not alone. Sure, I do feel stressed, the experience is not pleasant, but I can handle it.
Maybe you are telling yourself a similar story. Be aware of that narrative. It's rarely based on reality. You are capable, and if things do go wrong you are not alone, there are people who can help you.
posted by Zumbador at 2:04 AM on April 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Other people have given really good advice about managing your anxiety. I'll just suggest that you revisit the idea of fostering--I've done cat rescue for a while and have never encountered an organization that banned people from fostering if they didn't have a spare room. So it is possible you encountered an especially strict rescue group (I would actually say they are thoughtless jerks more than strict, as having a spare room is a luxury most people can't afford). See if there are other rescue groups, or if your area's animal control does fostering. They usually have lower barriers because they run kill shelters by necessity and are desperate for homes so the animals do not die. Suggesting fostering because you probably want to make sure your allergies are manageable before you go whole-hog with adoption.
posted by Anonymous at 4:44 AM on April 8, 2021

Nthing to stop reading the forums. It's not an accurate representation of what it's like to have a cat, since folks really only post when they have something unusual to deal with. It's not as everyone logs on regularly to report "welp, cat is just doing regular cat things again today."

Also nthing to skip the kitten stage and adopt a young adult cat. Yes yes, kittens are a special kind of cute, but they also are nerve-wracking in ways that make them not a great choice for an anxious first-time cat owner.
posted by desuetude at 9:56 AM on April 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

We bought an area rug for our cat because we have hardwood floors. It's the only place where she'll play with her toys, because she's not at risk for falling down.
posted by Peach at 11:19 AM on April 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

You know what’s hysterical about cats barfing? They typically do not get sad and scared like I do! They don’t google cat diseases. They don’t want a big fuss. They don’t care. They might look at you like “lol good luck cleaning,” then go nap and then start begging for their next meal at the regular time. Watching how my cat rolls with the punches actually taught me a lot about my own anxieties!
posted by kapers at 7:44 PM on April 8, 2021

Slightly different perspective. Outside of active malice there is nothing worse for pet ownership than avoidant anxiety, imo. I grew up in an entirely avoidant anxious household with two cats, one older and one younger. I never got over how gross cleaning up after them was--I would almost barf about their barf every time I had to clean it, cat litter smelled hideous to me even when there was no excreta in it, and forgetting to clean the litterbox once resulted in PEE EVERYWHERE that never came out of the carpet even after steam cleaning and still stinks to this day. We were also dirt poor, and though I was still a kid at the time I still feel guilty for not having the money to treat the congestive heart failure that killed the younger one because mom was always feeding it CAKE, of all things, and not insisting to the adults in my avoidant family that they look at her and admit that she needed a vet. Like literally still think about her painful death all the time, how scared she sounded, etc. They were cute and loving and wonderful and I will never ever do it again.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 8:54 PM on April 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

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