What do we need to know about getting a cat?

(17 Posts)
TellBent Fri 15-Aug-14 13:38:56

Hello friendly cat MNers! DH and I have been talking about getting a cat for a while but there are a few things I'm not sure about - do you have any advice?

Firstly, we would like to rescue one and don't mind what he or she looks like. I'd prefer to bring home one who is shy or has been in the rescue centre for a long time.

Should we keep the cat inside, or let him/her outside? If outside, should we just let him in the garden or let him roam free? We are in a village, so there are cars and main roads near by but not directly by our house. I understand that the answer to this might depend on the cat and what they are used to.

Similarly, do we need a litter tray? Would he just go outside?

What equipment would he need to be happy?

What about pet insurance? How expensive is it, and does it cover everything?what doesn't it cover?

How often does he need to be wormed, flead, or have any other things done?

What do they like to eat? Wet pouches or tins? Dry food? What would you recommend?

<remember I'm a total cat novice> Do most cats scratch the furniture and ruin the carpet? How can I discourage this?

How long can they be left alone? All day while we work? Over night if we have to go away for one night?

I realise that the answer to many of these will be it depends and sorry if any of the questions are really ignorant - I'm new to cats and don't want to get it wrong or harm one or make one unhappy! TIA

chockbic Fri 15-Aug-14 13:43:17

Its best to have a litter tray in case of accidents. Plus some cats wont toilet outside. Some will!

Worms done every three months
Fleas once a month during warmer weather

Get a good quality scratch post or tree for them to play in

creamhearts Fri 15-Aug-14 13:59:40

When we got our rescue cat we kept her inside for about 4 months before letting her out. Once they go out you can't really control where they go, cats are pretty free spirited. That said my cat only really goes into the neighbours garden so not far at all.

We have a litter tray and our cat won't go outside (wish she would!) she always comes inside to go the toilet. We have a covered one like this

You will need a scratching post, and some little balls for it to bat around, but cats are happy enough with some scrunched up paper and chasing a bit of string.

We worm her every 3 months and use a spot on flea treatment every month, it costs us about £30 every 3 months.

We have pet insurance with PetPlan which costs £16 a month, it wasn't the cheapest but we wanted life time cover. It can be harder getting insurance for older cats so it is worth checking that before choosing a cat.

We feed a mix of wet and dry food, we use Iams but there are loads of brands out there to chose from.

My cat scratches the carpets but not the furniture. When we see her scratching we shout or make a noise at her, but I think some sort of household damage does come along with getting a cat, sorry!

We leave our cat alone all day when we are at work, if we go overnight we have a friend pop in and feed her.

All that said, I love my cat and she is worth it all.

MissHC Fri 15-Aug-14 14:03:00

First of all, if you're away at work the whole day it might be better to get 2 cats (that are used to each other). The rescue should be able to show you cats which suit your lifestyle. I'd go for one that can go outside (roam free) if you work full-time.

Equipment - brush, flee collar or drops, basket or something else he/she can sleep in, some toys are nice but not essential if the cat can go outside.

Mainly give dry food. Only giving wet food can cause teeth and gum problems. Supermarkets brands are not brilliant, however my cat lived on Felix and Whiskas and died when she was 18 so she did okay on that. Royal Canin, Hill's etc are very good.

Re insurance - Pet Plan is supposed to be pretty good.

Yes to litter tray.

A lot of cats scratch. You can get a scratch post and encourage them to use that. A great way to stop cats from doing things you don't want is a spray bottle - fill it with water and spray them if you catch them doing it! Doesn't hurt but they don't like it so after a while they'll get the message.

Cats are brilliant, good luck!

mumtosome61 Fri 15-Aug-14 14:15:03

'Allo!

Kudos rescuing - brilliant move. You'll normally be expected to give a donation if you are rehoming from a charity. Anything else is dependent on where you are rehoming from. Check with owner/fosterer about vaccines (when they were last done), whether he or she has been neutered (big big thing, especially if you have cats around the area) and micro-chipped.

Yes, it does depend on the cat in regards to outside/inside debate. Our kitty is an indoor one because we live by a main road, but she far prefers it; she has very little interest in outside other than staring out the window. If you do have him/her indoors, make sure there is plenty of places they can hide/sleep and that if you have lots of holes or open spaces, you barricade the ones that could cause harm. This sounds difficult but it isn't too bad - we are renovating our home so believe me, if we can do it, it can be done!

I'd always have a litter tray indoors, even if they are an outside cat. Bad weather, illness or plain apathy to go exploring may mean your cat needs to be indoors for a stretch of time and it's best to have one in that instance. I'd get a fairly big one; our cat is average size and she dwarfed her first tray!

Make sure her/his food is away from his litter tray though. It's tempting to put it all in the same area but don't - cat poop smells!

A scratching post, bed, bowls and toys are pretty good. To be honest, we bought our kitty lots of things and she turned her nose up at some. A lot of cats just prefer boxes and fleeces.

Pet insurance doesn't need to be much; if your cat is older or has health problems you can run into some issues but for a 4 year old cat, ours is about £11 a month and caters for pretty much everything you could imagine - we took out a premier package because she's a British Shorthair and they can be prone to respiratory issues.

Agree with others as to worming/fleaing. Booster injections once a year too. Some people say indoor cats are less reliant on these things but I'd do it nevertheless.

Our kitty has a combination of wet and dry. She was eating just dry when she came to us but was pretty uninterested in it and it was the heatwave period so I worried about her getting enough water as she was a bit reluctant to drink (she was scared of her shadow). Depends on what your kitty has been used to - generally speaking you're supposed to carry on with what he or she has had and phase it out. Food doesn't need to be expensive - cats who do suffer from gut conditions may require special diets though.

Some cats will scratch. Ours doesn't much, but our house has lots of good scratching places that isn't ruining anything (think timber etc). You can get spray to deter cats from scratching though.

You'll probably never be able to use the toilet or bathroom again without your kitty coming to investigate. It's a morning ritual of ours to go to the toilet within five minutes of each other now, after having our morning greeting.

Cats are very, very independent. They don't need constant fuss and they don't need constant occupation. They will tell you when they're bored of you. Because of this they can be left for long periods of time, although they need feeding obviously. It's lovely to come home from work and have her meow and purr at you, and we adore her because she's very affectionate in her own way. Not all cats will want to lay on laps or be stroked for hours on end and some, perhaps more likely if they've had a bad home, will be nervous and scatty. If you are rehoming from a centre, they will ask questions about what kind of cat best fits your lifestyle and needs.

Hope that helps grin

CabbagePatchCheryl Fri 15-Aug-14 14:26:49

Good for you OP. DH and I rescued a little chap who the RSPCA described as the most timid cat of his age (when they're young they're usually more confident) they'd ever seen. When we met him, he was hiding behind a filing cabinet, just this big pair of scared eyes. But we knew he was going to be ok because, despite his fear, he desperately wanted his chin scratched and gradually came out to get a love from us. He's the light of my life and now the most relaxed kitty ever.

Re your questions (sorry - mega long answers to follow):

1. So long as you don't live too near to big roads, letting kitty roam is fine. Get a collar with a reflective strip on if poss. We didn't let our guy out at night as apparently that's when most RTAs happen (you will also get a lot less "presents" if they aren't out at dusk and dawn). Also, obviously, don't let him/her out for several weeks when you first get them - they might get lost. Then, don't force them - they'll get more confident with time. And don't panic when they first go out and disappear into bushes/up a tree - just believe they'll come back.

2. Following from 1, you'll need a litter tray as you'll have to keep them inside for several weeks at first. But as soon as my guy was able to go outside, he never used it again. That said, we still have it in the attic and some litter for the rare times he has had a tummy upset or UTI - if they are poorly they will often go in the house (which is good really, as you know to take them to the vets)

3. We have had every toy/scratching post/gadget/cat bed under the sun. He's not arsed - he just wants to sleep and occasionally go outside and chase a butterfly. But defo get a few bits and bobs to start cos yours might be different.

4. Insurance is complicated as there are different types. This is helpful to explain. www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/reviews-ns/pet-insurance/pet-insurance-types-of-policy/ At the mo we have a per condition cover (around £7k) - costs £6 a month. My rationale is that he's more likely to get injured or a one-off illness at the mo, as he's young-ish. As he gets older we'll move to lifetime cover in case he gets diabetes etc. Pet insurance won't cover routine jabs (under the excess) and dental work - we just paid £170 for a scale and polish shock but that's only been needed once in four years.

5. Worm every 3 months (more if they regularly catch prey as they carry parasites) and flea every month.

6. We feed 2/3 wet 1/3 dry. More dry than wet as a lot of cats are not good at drinking and can get UTIs (esp males) if they don't get enough hydration. We also had to move to (fairly pricey) dry food for sensitive tummies as he had a lot of upsets. Worth it though for not finding sloppy poos on the stairs in the morning - bork. Vet/RSPCA will be able to advise on your specific cat.

7. Yeah, ours scratches but has only ruined two things - carpet near doors that were shut (he did this when he first moved in - just wanted to be in every room!) and ANYTHING LEATHER. Seriously, they sort of "snick" their claws on everything but it only seems to really show on leather. I think there are sprays you can use to deter them but cats are really a law unto themselves. THey'll do something for a while and then randomly stop.

8. Cats sleep about 16 hours a day so they are usually fine to be left alone. My guy does prefer company but doesn't seem to have any ill effects if left for a while. Most we've ever left him is a week but had people come in a couple of times a day to feed and play with him/give him a fuss. When we had to go away for two weeks we got a housesitter so he wasn't alone.

Hope you take the plunge - cats are amazing, as others have said smile

CabbagePatchCheryl Fri 15-Aug-14 14:29:38

PS. OP - PM me if you have any more questions - I am a slightly obsessed kitty carer and I will probably have researched most things by now, I think!

TellBent Fri 15-Aug-14 15:12:54

This is incredibly helpful, thank you! flowers

How do they know what to do with the litter tray? Do you have to encourage them?

I am really not sure if it's the right thing to do, in case the cat causes a lot of mess/poos everywhere/is sick everywhere/damages lots of things (not that I am so precious about the furniture but I don't know how bad it could be) and feel really guilty about that. Also, once we bought one home, that would be it - we certainly wouldn't be expecting a 'perfect' cat but I could never return one to the rescue place if it wasn't behaving as we were hoping (the thought breaks my heart!). I suppose, as several of you have said, the rescue staff would know them and be able to advise.

Did you rescue your cat? How did you decide which one? What are the best and most challenging bits? There must be a 'pics of our cats' thread somewhere off to search

CabbagePatchCheryl Fri 15-Aug-14 15:59:23

TellBent

If they are a kitten, they need training on the litter tray (lots of picking them up when they poop and wee and putting them in it) but if you rescue an adult cat, they'll be able to find you one that is litter trained. They'd always rather go somewhere they can bury it so litter tray would be their first choice in a home, generally. Although I'd echo the person who said keep it away from their food. Cats adhere to "don't shit where you eat" very strictly wink

I was a bit worried about mess/damage/having cat hair on clothes etc. But we had only just moved into a house that needed redecorating anyway so I figured what the heck. Truthfully only you can decide how much you are worried - you need to look around your house and think, what am I really really attached to and how upset would I be if it was damaged? My guy has never consistently damaged anything - he might just have a little phase of scratting at a bit of carpet or snicking a leather bed frame but then he'll stop again. He's only ever poo'd or pee'd and been sick when he has been ill and that's cleanable-upable. Hard to be cross with him for being poorly.

All I'd say from our experience is that every second we've had him has been worth any little inconveniences. He had a sad life before us and I feel very proud we've given him a happy one and he's repaid us tenfold.

You sound very responsible and I am sure you'll come to the right decision - keep mulling it over. If only every pet owner thought this carefully before getting their pet, there wouldn't be so many to be rescued!

Pics of cat attached (I never need much encouragement):

I'm a non cat-person who adopted two rescue sisters at a year old last October, they have settled in really well with us. Rescues will come to your house to give them an idea of what sort of cat will suit your hone and family, then get you to come to the centre and view some suitable cats, then you choose.

Mostlyjustaluker Fri 15-Aug-14 16:10:13

Lots of vets are part of a scheme called healthy pet plan. They are a separate organisation to the vets but for 9.99 a month it covers vaccinations, worming and flea meds and a whole host of other stuff you probably won't need.

Be prepared for unexpected expenses. My cat ate tin foil about 6 months ago and the vet fee £600. Most of which we got back from insurers but you need to pay the vets up front. He injured his tail this week and that was £50 for meds and appointment. We can't claim this back as it is pointless due to excess.

I love my cat but they can hard work. Ours decided to come and see us last night because he felt ill and promptly threw up over the duvet. (Yes, I have the sickest and most accident prone cat in the world!) Before we moved house he was a regularly hunter and would bring voles, mices, birds, live frog and even a rat home or eat on our bedroom. Not the most pleasant thing to be woken up by.

creamhearts Fri 15-Aug-14 16:23:49

My cat was 3 when we adopted her and she knew exactly what to do in her litter tray without any input from us. Cats are naturally quite clean and will want to go the toilet somewhere peaceful where they can bury it.

She does eat grass and sick it up sometimes which is irritating but she has never brought us any dead/live presents. The carpet is a bit scratched in some places but the walls and furniture are fine.

We got our cat from the RSPCA and really it was like she chose us. We were walking through the cattery and our cat was the only one who was showing that she wanted a fuss by rubbing her head on the door. We gave her a stroke and she let out the loudest purr and we knew we had to have her. When we talked about her to the RSPCA home checker she told us a bit about her personality and it just seemed like a perfect fit. She is still the friendliest cat I have ever met.

The worst bit is probably paying the cattery when we go away! Oh and she really likes to lick our hands which is not very nice.

Fluffycloudland77 Fri 15-Aug-14 16:45:12

They do damage things but you love them so you don't mind.

We looked at several single cats in the rescue before choosing our two (we had been dithering between one and two). They seemed very relaxed together in their run, were draped over each other and when we went in one of the came straight over for a snuzzle while the other one just gazed at us and purred. That turned out to be an exact prediction of their personalities, one is confident and more affectionate, the other is a little more shy and aloof, but very gentle.

TellBent Sat 16-Aug-14 08:37:39

This is all very encouraging! Thank you for sharing your cat pics grin they are really lovely.

kittyvet Sun 17-Aug-14 16:31:26

Take a look at www.icatcare.org for lots of really useful advice about caring for cats.

thatwouldbeanecumenicalmatter Sun 17-Aug-14 16:53:21

If it's your first cat I'd be inclined to get an adult cat (around a year old +) rather than a kitten (easier).

Everyone's covered all the other bases - in regards to food - I'd ask the rescue centre what food they're eating already as a sudden change in brand might give them an upset stomach.

We got two rescue cats (sisters), the cats we wanted were really shy and they couldn't catch them at the fosterer's home. So a volunteer brought us a couple they had just picked up from someone who's circumstances had changed - we didn't even know what they were going to look like or their temperament! Fortunately we fell for them straight away and are now very much part of the family smile

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