Being privileged enough to share your life with a cat is one of the best blessings that life has to offer. Cats are great companion, smart, funny and very independent. A well cared for cat is one of the best pets you can have.
While they can be really cute, it’s very important to consider thoroughly if they are the right pet for you. Cats are definitely not dogs, they live life at their own pace and a lot of cats end up being surrendered to shelters because of being highly misunderstood. Some simple considerations can make for a long lasting friendship.
First of all, the most important thing is to try and see life through the eyes of your cat. Some cats like to be held, some cats don’t. Most cats like to have a hidden tall comfortable place to enjoy their surrounding without being disturbed. Most behavioral issues that are not due to a health concern, can be fixed by adapting the environment.
For example, a huge concern I see among cat-parents is that cats tend to scratch surfaces. And this is true; cats sharpen their claws (and PLEASE don’t even think about de-clawing, if the idea ever crosses your mind, a cat is most definitely NOT the right pet for you), they scratch to release endorphins, they scratch to release stress, they scratch to stretch. It’s a natural behavior for them and shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, it can be redirected with for example, an ample variety of scratching posts. And don’t give up easily, some cats are very picky: some of them like twine posts, some others like cardboard. Try and see what works for them. Another trick: you can trim their nails. In general, it’s not necessary, but if you want, it can be done, and although it sounds like a very hard task, with patience and confidence it can be done easily!
A second concern is spraying. This is a great reason to spay/neuter your cat (not that the high kill shelters forced to euthanize thousands of cats a day is not enough reason!). Spaying/Neutering your cat reduces their interest in going other but the litter box. Cats are very private and they don’t like others smelling their stuff, so they will even try to bury and hide it; they only display their urine when marking territory or trying to mate. A healthy cat would keep the bathroom etiquete down to the litter box. Another problem might be the amount of litter boxes and how clean they are. Cats are naturally very clean animals, contrary to popular belief. They spend hours a day cleaning themselves. If the litter box is not clean enough for their standards, the won’t sink their paws on it, and instead they will go look for a more suitable place. Location can be another issue. For a shy cat, for instance, it is not a good idea to place the litter box in a high traffic area. For an old cat is not good to use a little box with tall walls or even place it too high because they will struggle to use it and end up going anywhere.
Boredom is one of the main reasons for troubles in the household. Cats are very active and very curious animals. They need to play and exercise daily. Cats are natural hunters, so they enjoy chasing toys or even having what we like to call “Cat TV”: ideally a big window with a nice view. Cats also love to climb, so cat trees or cat condos can be a great addition. In regards to companionship, usually cats like to have company and play, specially when they are younger, but some cats are more territorial and prefer to be alone. If this is the case, give them the space they need and don’t force them to mingle. It’s not in the cat’s nature to try to please the owner, but they can be trained to be pretty obedient. The myth that they are distant and aloof is only a myth: some cats like to have some space, but if the cat can trust you, they would hang around often. The best rule of thumb with a cat is to play hard to get.
A lot of people make the mistake to treat a cat like they would treat a dog, or even another human being. If you are new to cats (or even if you are not, but you feel you haven’t been successful at having a nice relationship with them), it’s worth taking the time to get informed, be patient, and work with them.
Oh and before I forget, cats are crepuscular, which means they are active at night, specially younger cats. If you want a calm quiet and tranquil cat, I suggest you give an adult cat a chance. Adult cats can go unnoticed at shelters, lacking that ultra cuteness look kittens exude. However they can be easier to care for and very sweet companions, and they also deserve a loving family.
Remember, you chose to care for your kitty. It is your responsibility to assure their happiness. This can only be achieve by patiently trying to find what might be causing a problem (instead of blaming it on the cat!). If you do so, you will find a very loving and loyal (yes, I said loyal!) friend for life.