Should I get a cat?
May 7, 2022 6:20 PM   Subscribe

I really want a cat, but my lizard brain is giving me a million and one things to worry about

I am living alone in a new state where I have few friends, though I'm really trying to meet people. I like it here but I miss my family and friends and it gets lonely. I'm thinking very seriously about adopting a bonded pair of cats. I'm a huge animal lover and am no stranger to having pets. I've always had dogs but I've been in multiple serious relationships with people who had cats.

But.... I have several concerns. The main one is probably financial. I make pretty decent money I think (maybe I shouldn't share this but whatever--I make 65k a year) but my rent is high right now and I'm really concerned about what will happen when my student loans come due. My payment would be around 500/month (though who knows what's happening with that? I just have to plan for it). I don't have a car payment now but my current car isn't going to run forever. I've lived on a tight budget for many years so being salaried is new to me. I'm used to feeling like I can't afford things so maybe this won't be as much of an issue as I'm anticipating? I'm just paranoid that I'll get these cats and suddenly something will come up that I'll struggle to pay for. I have money in savings and I continue to save more so if I adopted a cat tomorrow and something did happen I can afford to throw money at it, but I'm still concerned because I know I'm going to have less disposable income in the next few months/years.

Also, I live a few hours from my family and go to see them for multiple days at a time a few times a year and I'm worried about leaving the cats alone. I would hire a cat sitter! I would never just leave them to fend for themselves. But what if the cat sitter suddenly becomes unavailable or something else happens? I moved here alone and have the world's unfriendliest neighbors so they'd be no help. I guess I could have a couple back up cat sitters I could use? Realistically this would be fine but I'm still concerned about the time I'm away.

I also have SEVERAL houseplants. None are deadly toxic but they aren't great for pets. I'm honestly the least concerned about this though--I can lock the cats in the bedroom when I'm not home and I can put the plants up and/or use some kind of deterrent spray to keep them away from them. Worst case scenario I can get rid of some, though I really love my houseplant hobby and would hate to do that. Obviously the cats lives come first.

I'm also concerned because I expect that my life is going to change tremendously in the next 10-15 years... I want to get married and have a family someday! What if my future partner has pets and the cats don't get alone with them? I'd love a dog someday a few years down the line--I've always been a dog owner--so theoretically the cats would need to able to live with that. Etc etc. I just see so many cats at the shelter listed as needing a quiet home. My home is so quiet and peaceful and would be ideal for a timid cat to come out of its shell, but it's not going to be quiet forever. I want kids and god knows toddlers aren't quiet LOL. I don't want to accidentally traumatize the poor cats.

I'm used to adopting dogs and they're a LOT of work, time, energy, and money, so maybe this won't be as bad as I think? I don't have experience owning a cat to compare that to. My family dog is a rescue who had ~problems~ so that was an entire project (he's perfect now though).

The pros: I think I'd be a great cat owner. I have a peaceful, cozy apartment. I'd buy them the best cat tree and the most fun toys and play with them everyday. I think it would be really, really good for my mental health to have some form of company here--this apartment is just so empty and quiet. I'd love the hell out of them and would bend over backwards to meet their needs. I'm an experienced animal owner even if I've never owned my own cat and I really, really want this.

Are my concerns blown out of proportion or should I back off this for now?
posted by Amy93 to Pets & Animals (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is easy. You should foster cats. They come and stay with you until they are adopted. Their healthcare is covered by the shelter. You aren't making a 20+ year commitment, and if your living/housing situation changes, they can go to another foster home.
posted by Toddles at 6:29 PM on May 7, 2022 [31 favorites]

Most of your concerns are valid but also blown out of proportion, imo. Other cat owners deal with the various issues you've outlined, and in the end we do just fine. Your penultimate paragraph there kinda seals it for me. I think you should get the cats :)

On preview, I like Toddles' idea too
posted by Ryon at 6:31 PM on May 7, 2022 [15 favorites]

(The fact that you've thought through all of these things already instead of being surprised by them later is a great sign!)
posted by Ryon at 6:33 PM on May 7, 2022 [12 favorites]

These are all things that responsible pet people think about!
You seem realistic and flexible and excited.
Go find your cats!
posted by bookmammal at 6:36 PM on May 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

Agree with Ryon, and the others. Cats are much lower maintenance than dogs. For what it's worth, I may not be the world's best cat dad and some of it depends on kitty personality, but when I was traveling for business, I'd frequently leave my kitty home alone with a recirculating water bowl and a gravity feeder and a clean litter box, and scooped the litter as soon as I got home. She was affectionate on Friday night but it never seemed to be a problem. Sure, some people would tell you I'm horrible cat dad, and they might be right, but kitty's still here (and just got done sitting on my lap). It seems like you've thought through most of this. You probably shouldn't adopt a cat with food issues (though even then, you can get an automatic feeder for not too much money!).
posted by Alterscape at 6:39 PM on May 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

Those are all real and sensible things to think about, none of us can know the future. But a few years ago I was in a somewhat similar boat as you and not in a great place emotionally (and got some good advice from AskMe at the time), none of these sound like dealbreakers and the TLDR is I think you would be really happy with cats and should go get some cat friends.

Some specific ways I've dealt with some of your concerns:
-Would you it help you feel more confident in your decision if you budgeted out likely costs for cat ownership and see how it looked against your bigger financial picture? This in particular might be where fostering is helpful, since you'll get a day to day sense of potential costs but won't fully be responsible for them. I do worry a little about a wildly expensive medical situation happening where I have to decide between financial security and trying to save my cat's life, but I think that's ownership, to me it's worth the day to day tradeoffs, I can just do my best to take care of her and be as prepared as I can.

-I did get rid of a lot of my many many toxic houseplants, and I miss living in a forest. But I've built back up over time with plants that are safe for my cat. It's not the same but I do still have plants to take care of, and my plants don't run to the door to sing and nuzzle me when I get home. (thank god. that would be very disturbing behavior from a boston fern.)

-I don't know your area but catsitters are a thing in a lot of places, they don't have to be your neighbor. I advertised and found a neighbor I use normally, and a different person who comes on holidays when my neighbor's doing holiday things.

-Family, kids....again, valid things to think about, but 10-15 years is a long time. Four or five years ago when I got my cat I thought I'd be married with kids soonish, but probably I won't be. Yes, sometimes situations have to change, but the risk of someday having to theoretically find a new loving home for a cat who doesn't get along with your theoretical family wouldn't be, for me, a dealbreaker for a cat I really wanted and was otherwise ready for now. If you're really worried about that timeline, then not to be morbid, but I bet there are older cats stuck in a shelter somewhere who would love to come live out their golden years with you.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:49 PM on May 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

Are you prepared to relinquish your heart and soul to your new tiny overlord? Sounds like it to me.

Seriously the main difference between dogs and cats I have loved is that my cats demand emotional and spiritual communion in strange ways for unknowable feline reasons. One of our cats insists on climbing into my husband and laying down on his chest so as to claw at his beard and breathe in his face until a finger is presented for the nightly suckling session. The cat does this every single night and he's fifteen now so it isn't a weird phase.

The other difference is that dogs are generally a lot easier to train if you're worried about behavior problems or incontinence. I'm aware that people have trained their cats and I bow to those people and their lovely obedient cats.

Get a cat and fall in love!
posted by RobinofFrocksley at 6:55 PM on May 7, 2022 [13 favorites]

It's hard to answer rationally from the perspective of someone who has had cats for the last 20 years of his life and cannot imagine that time without them. They are, to me, a great comfort in times of stress or loneliness and just as life-enriching in good times. They're honestly nothing more or less than friends, with some pluses and minuses that friends-who-are-people don't have. Every time I see my cats, I am happy at least for a second.

But I say this as someone who hasn't had huge conflicts in having them, financial or otherwise. I'm not much of a traveler, my partner was open to getting them and now loves them, I'm not a kid person so that was never going to be a conflict, and (knocking on all available wood) the worst health thing that happened so far was expensive but not enormously so. So a little grain of salt but my main answer is: get cats. Cats!

I guess my one actual reservation is this: if you're someone who would have kids and then consider the cats not important, don't get them. They are sentient beings and an actual responsibility and your obligation to them as a moral person is not contingent on being single and without kids.
posted by less-of-course at 7:41 PM on May 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

I had the same financial concerns you did, so I got pet insurance.

For pet sitting, I use a professional pet sitting service. If something comes up with my scheduled sitter, they have backup staff that can cover for them.

Lots of people have pet cat(s) first before getting married and having a family, and it's not a big deal.

If you're that concerned about your home one day not being so quiet, don't adopt one of the cats described as needing a quiet home. But 10-15 years is a long time. I don't think you should not get a cat just because you're worried your home won't be as quiet in 10-15 years. Cats can usually be pretty adaptable to family changes.

The houseplant thing is giving me pause/paws. If you're very concerned about the houseplants, you're going to want a better solution than locking the cats away every time you leave the house. And if a cat wants to get into your houseplants (and in my experience this totally depends on both the individual cat and the plants), they will try to do it when you're home, when you're not home, when you're sleeping, when they're bored, when they want to be fed, etc.
posted by wondermouse at 7:56 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I am a person who just came out of perhaps the worst possible outcome with two cats: one cat with expensive long-term health issues that we spent way too much money on before the end and a second cat who became angrily hostile toward the sick cat in the middle of covid lockdown...

I say, get the cats.

We can never know the future, but I do know that even in the middle of sadness and fear and pain my life has been better for them being in it. You can put some money aside for the financial pieces, and the rest you sound ready to deal with -if- it comes up. I wish you all the love (and cold noses) that your cat family can bring you.
posted by past unusual at 8:06 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

You should get a cat. You should get two cats.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:15 PM on May 7, 2022 [8 favorites]

I want to amplify Toddles' excellent suggestion to foster until you're super sure about it. Sooner or later (and my money is on sooner,) you'll want to adopt a couple of the fosters yourself—but in the meantime, you get the companionship and cohabitation experience with financial help and a time limit.
posted by D.Billy at 8:26 PM on May 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

Almost all of your worries strike me as waaaaay overblown.

1. Costs: Cats are generally, not expensive. If they are indoor (or only outdoor when you watch over them), way less likely to get into trouble. Yes, things can come up- I obviously cannot promise you future cat health - but I've never had a cat need any medical care (besides being neutered and standard stuff like that) before age 10. If you make 65k, you can definitely afford two cats - I have supported two cats with less than 1/2 that amount.

2. Travel: Cats can be left alone for a few days and be fine, especially if they have company. On the off chance a cat sitter canceled on you last minute, provided you left out lots of extra food and water, you'd have a couple days to drive the couple hours home- it's not like you'd have to leave instantly. It would be annoying, sure, but not a big deal.

3. Babies: So many people with cats have babies, obviously don't leave the baby and cat unattended, but truly, not a problem.

The only problems that seem real is that yes, you may need to adapt your houseplant hobby a bit (especially if you end up with a climbing fiend), and yes, it might narrow dating options if your pets don't mesh, and yes, it might make getting a dog harder...but it really sounds like you want some cats now, and those are all very hypothetical concerns.

So get some cats!
posted by coffeecat at 9:08 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:51 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

> I'm used to adopting dogs and they're a LOT of work, time, energy, and money, so maybe this won't be as bad as I think? I don't have experience owning a cat to compare that to.

Much less. Kittens are a bit of work - the best way to tire out a kitten is another feline.

Make sure to bank a bit away against vet bills when they're older.

If your place is currentlu too empty, I think it would be good for you and the fosters/rescues.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:16 PM on May 7, 2022

posted by thegirlwiththehat at 1:32 AM on May 8, 2022 [10 favorites]

Please get some cats! If you're worried about unexpected vet costs, you can get pet insurance. For cats, especially if you get it when they are young, it's not that expensive -- but I also never had it when I had a much lower income and fully indoor cats are usually pretty low-cost vet-wise.

I do only have one houseplant, hung from the ceiling, because one of my cats will eat anything green until he pukes. That might be your biggest issue, even if your plants aren't toxic. But even that could be figured out - maybe with a glass plant cabinet?

I don't know how I would have made it through the first two years of the pandemic without my pets. You sound like you are in exactly the right place for a couple of kitties and it would do you and the cats a world of good.
posted by misskaz at 5:21 AM on May 8, 2022 [3 favorites]

If you foster or adopt from your local Humane Society, the cat/s will be up-to-date on all vaccinations, spayed, and microchipped. And if they’re over a year old, they won’t be as expensive to adopt as a weaned kitten (at least that’s how it as at my local H.S.) And a bonded pair are not hard to find at the Humane Society! The local website will feature photos and little biographies of the kitties, and the folks there will welcome you warmly and let you take your time meeting the candidates and seeing if there’s an emotional connection. (And there WILL be.)
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

Absolutely, get cats, and start with fostering or with foster-to-adopt, which basically means adoption is the default but you can return the cats to the shelter with a clear conscience if it's not working out within a certain window. I doubt you'll need to, but it's reassuring to know one can.

The one part of your plan that gives me pause is this:
I can lock the cats in the bedroom when I'm not home and I can put the plants up and/or use some kind of deterrent spray to keep them away from them.

So, what, you're going to watch them like a hawk every single minute you're home? Because when a cat is determined to eat something, that is what it takes. I've never had much luck with deterrent sprays either. The best way to get a cat not to do something, IME, is to give the cat an easier, more satisfying option, and reward them when they use it. Cat treats are good rewards but for plant-eating I just use praise, which they swivel their ears around to listen to as they chomp.

Putting your cherished plants out of reach is smart. Along with hoping the cats aren't interested. The cat on my arm as I type this has a thing for the toxic plant in the corridor outside the apartment, but has never touched the basil that lives on the kitchen counter. Right now his hobby is a vase of wilted blossoming peach twigs. Eventually he'll finish it and then I'll have to go buy him more wheat grass. It's available growing in little tubs at PetCo. Some people grow it at home from seed, for health food purposes. So you could become a wheatgrass farmer.
posted by feral_goldfish at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2022

I do not understand the (somewhat recent in the grand scheme of things) idea that cats can't be around mildly toxic houseplants without doom. I grew up with indoor/outdoor cats, with many toxic plants around inside and outside (including dreaded lilies) and the cats never ate them. I won't have lilies in my house, but I have several houseplants that are in the "mildly toxic" categorization (usually described as "if the cat chews on them it will irritate them) and none of the cats I have had have ever hurt themselves on the plants. I just think this fear is extremely overblown, but you will see pretty quickly how dumb your cats are. Mine chew on the non-toxic plants sometimes (which annoys me) and ignore the mildly toxic ones. I'm much more worried about them eating string than plants!
And yes, I agree with everyone else: get a cat (or even better, two!). I've had cats through moves, travel, life uncertainty, kids, and I don't regret it for a second.
posted by ch1x0r at 12:24 PM on May 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

Get a cat! Get a cat! Get a cat!

(If you are worried about expenses, it is ok to get a single cat. Some cats do not do well with other animals and you can give that cat a good home.)
posted by kingdead at 3:11 PM on May 8, 2022

Your future cats. They are meowing for you.
posted by Seboshin at 3:17 PM on May 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm just paranoid that I'll get these cats and suddenly something will come up that I'll struggle to pay for.

No one here knows your budget, but $65k seems more than enough to put aside some money just in case your cats have an expensive medical problem. Many people own pets and take good care of them on much less money.

Also, to be honest, once you start talking about spending thousands of dollars on veterinary care, it's likely that you're talking about a condition involving seriously diminished quality of life (cancer, etc) - unless it's something like acute care for an accident. Most people will ask themselves at what point it's worth prolonging things. As much as we love them, they don't understand what they're going through and it's a very different situation than if a human needs that kind of intensive medical care.

But what if the cat sitter suddenly becomes unavailable or something else happens?

Most cities/towns have more than one cat sitter. The worst case scenario is that you have to cancel your trip because you can't find one, but it's far more likely that you'll just have to go through the hassle of finding an alternative.

I'm honestly the least concerned about this though--I can lock the cats in the bedroom when I'm not home

I don't know the layout of your place, but this seems like a bad idea. You will have to keep the cats' necessaries in the bedroom - litterboxes, food, water. (Cats using the litterbox do make noise and smell.) When you let them out, you'll still have to keep an eye on them.

Just speaking as someone who's had to keep cats shut up for some reason or another before, it's a huge pain in the ass and the cats don't like it. I would really not want to do it every day for the cat's whole life.

I can put the plants up and/or use some kind of deterrent spray to keep them away from them.

I've never had luck with deterrent sprays.

I have cats and a houseplant hobby and my general practice is: If it will potentially kill my cats if they eat it, I don't keep it at all because it's just not worth the risk. If it will potentially make them sick, I keep it, but I put it out of reach - shelves, hanging planters, etc. If it's non-toxic, I still keep it out of reach just for the sake of the plant.

(Story time: I had a cat that never bothered my plants for years. Then one day, she knocked over one of my plants and just chowed down. So even if your cat leaves your plants alone now, you can't rely on that meaning they NEVER will.)

It is possible to have a houseplant hobby and cats! You just have to think slightly differently about which plants you keep and where you'll keep them.

What if my future partner has pets and the cats don't get alone with them?

I mean, I can't relate to this because I'm not looking for a partner, but this is something that you take into consideration when you're looking for a partner, I think? You probably don't want to date someone who is allergic to cats or hates cats or has a dog that will kill your cat, unless you're willing to rehome the cat.

I think you should get a cat. It sounds like you'd give it a good home.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:18 PM on May 8, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think you need a cat. I woke up my two snoozing cats to ask their opinions. They both think you would be a great cat parent.
posted by kathrynm at 4:21 PM on May 8, 2022 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hi friends, thank you for the replies! I applied for two young bonded cats I found online and have ordered several supplies. Hopefully I can meet them this week!

You have also made me think more carefully about the houseplant thing--I'm thinking the plants need to be high? I can mount them on the wall (or something) if need be. I only mentioned the deterrent because I used a completely non-toxic deterrent once to keep my neighbor's outdoor cat out of the flower garden and it worked wonderfully.

Thank you again! If I get these cats they'll need new names so I'll be back asking for suggestions.
posted by Amy93 at 5:36 PM on May 8, 2022 [15 favorites]

A neighbor had luck with sentry bots
motion detecting hissing noisemakers that would keep cats off the forbidden furniture.

Worked for him. Should work for you.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:15 PM on May 8, 2022

Get some cats! Foster first if you're not sure, but you sound like a perfect cat person. :D 2 cats is a great number, as they will entertain each other. Ask around at shelters for "bonded pairs" of cats.

I have 3 cats and multiple houseplants; as you have suggested, putting them (the plants) up high is a great way to keep greenery in your home without it turning into a feline salad experiment. My partner and I built a cool hanging shelf (suspended from a couple of stout ceiling hooks) in front of a window that has turned out to be excellent for both our houseplants (a fern, some succulents, etc.) and our vegetable starts.

The one thing I will give as a caveat & a general point of information to someone who hasn't lived with indoor cats (or has never been the primary responsible person for cats) is: be scrupulous about the litter box, and be prepared to get the box your cat wants, vs the one you might find most aesthetically appealing. E.g., many cats dislike covered/hooded boxes; my cats and I have actually had the best luck with repurposed large plastic storage bins. I also recommend clumping litter, preferably unscented (I really like the grass-seed-based litter; it's clumpy and much lighter & less dusty than clay), and you want to scoop the clumps and poops out every day without fail.
posted by aecorwin at 12:22 PM on May 9, 2022

Response by poster: Dear metafilter,

Thank you sooooooooooooooooooooo much for telling our new human to come get us from that big loud scary place! After weeks of waiting we didn't think we were ever going to leave but we are finally somewhere quiet and warm. And she leaves us food all the time! How exciting!

Winnie and Raven
posted by Amy93 at 5:01 PM on May 11, 2022 [10 favorites]

YAY! Sooooooo happy for all THREE of you!
posted by bookmammal at 6:49 PM on May 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

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