Cat Owner's Guide

Why get a cat

Getting a cat, whether as your first pet or not, is an exciting venture. In fact it's not surprising if one were to jump into getting a cat without first considering the implications it has on their lifestyle, their personal finances, their family, their living environment and their time.

Cats are terrific companions and there are loads of good reasons why a cat is an ideal pet for you, but having a cat is not like a bed of roses. Here, we will list down some important considerations that every potential cat owner should think about.

Although we are listing down all the possible considerations we know of, we also understand that everyone's personal circumstances and living environment differs, so some of the considerations may affect you more than others. But none of the following considerations is to be overlooked altogether.

A pet is for life

Cats can live more than 15 years, if they receive loving care, quality veterinary attention and good quality diet. Therefore, it is imperative that you have some kind of a provision for taking care of your cat for his entire life. It is always a traumatising and troublesome experience for any pet to change their owner during its lifetime. Some future events in your own life that may affect the life of your pet in one way or another include:

  • change in marital status
  • change in place of residence
  • change in employment status
  • pregnancy in the family *
  • addition of children in the family
  • overseas posting due to work or other reasons

* Please read the page on Debunking Cat Myths regarding the myth involving pregnant women and cats here.

Some of the above events in your life, such as changing your place of residence, may not actually have a big impact on your cat or your ability to have a cat. However, planning for them in advance of getting a cat helps in ensuring the change occurs smoothly for you and your cat.

Budgetary concerns

Just like a child, a pet requires you to fork out money for its various needs. For a cat, the expenses required are usually not large individually. But it does add up over the years, and that's more than 15 years if your cat lives that long. Furthermore, your cat may fall ill and veterinary fees are unavoidable. Some of the recurring expenses for your cat include:

  • Cat food (dry or canned)
  • Supplements (if necessary)
  • Cat litter
  • Cat grooming services & grooming products (mainly for long-haired breeds)
  • Veterinary fees and medication
  • Cat toys and treats

If you have never had a pet before, it is advisable that you take a walk around a reputable pet shop in your neighbourhood just to check out the prices of your future pet's necessities so that you will be prepared financially when you have your pet.

Time management

Cats are undoubtedly easier to take care of than dogs, but they still need their owners to give them love and time. Cats neither require daily walks nor weekly baths, but they do need the attention from their owners in the form of interaction and playtime. Cats, although often perceived as independent, actually loves social interaction with their humans. Playtime is also critical as an outlet for their predator instincts as they often love to chase moving objects such as balls and strings.

If you do not have even an hour to play with your cat everyday, then a cat may not be suitable for you. Having mentioned that, we would just like to make it clear that cats often play whenever they are interested to do so. If you wake your cat up in the middle of his sleep and try to play, he may not respond positively. So with that in mind, the one hour of playtime is your cat's playtime, not yours.

Young children & toddlers

Cats are generally great with kids. But during your kid's interaction with your pet, they are often unaware of whether they have crossed the tolerance threshold of your pet. Some kids may also handle cats in a violent manner, albeit unknowingly. Such instances will often aggravate a cat to scratch or bite. Therefore, if you have young children, consider if you are able to supervise them whenever they interact with your cat, or if you can successfully teach your kid the right and safe way of treating a cat.

Allergic to cats

Some people are naturally allergic to cats. The fact is that the allergic component of cats is actually not the fur itself but the dander, or more specifically the protein that is found in the cat's shedded skin cells and saliva. In this aspect, a well-groomed cat usually has less exposed dander on his body than an unkempt cat.

If you or any one of your family member is allergic to cats, it may still be possible for you to have a cat at home. However, there is a process of acclimatisation, which the allergic person has to go through in order to reduce the severity of the cat allergy. It involves gradually increasing the exposure to cats over a period of time. An alternative would be to go through a series of immunotherapy shots. For more information, please consult with your doctor.

There are certain breeds of cats that are supposed to be less allergenic such as the Rex and Sphinx breeds.

Prized furniture & fittings

Cats need to scratch. It serves two purposes: as a way of asserting their territory and to help renew their claws so that they remain sharp. Cat owners who do not teach their cat to use the scratching post may have their furniture scratched by their cat. If you have any prized furniture or fittings at home that are at risk of being scratch by a new cat, you will need to prepare a scratching post in advance and teach your new cat to use it right from the beginning. When no one is at home, covering your furniture with plastic drapes will prevent them from being damaged by scratches. There are also sprays available at pet shops that you can spray onto furniture. These sprays have an odour that cats and dogs dislike, and it helps keep them away from the furniture. Finally, by simply clipping the tip of your cat's claws, they will be less damaging to the furniture when they do scratch.

Nevertheless, things happen and if your cat does damage your furniture, you need to keep your frustration in control and know that your cat didn't mean to damage your furniture. Even though you have scolded them before, they are not being stubborn or disobedient; this is just how cats are. If you think you'll kick your cat out because he scratched your furniture, then it's better not to have a cat in the first place.

We strongly object to declawing as it is an inhumane practice. It is the surgical removal of the first knuckles (including the entire claws) of the cat. Not only is it a painful procedure, it also often results in overly aggressive cats or cats that spray indiscriminately. This is because cats without claws often feel extremely vulnerable and develop related behavourial problems.

Readiness for indoor cat

Cats are territorial animals and so as long as they can define their own territory, they are pretty much satisfied. With indoor cats, they already have their own territory (which is the house or apartment they live in), and can live happily indoors. Cats that stray outdoors usually intrude into other cats' territories (such as stray cats) and may end up in cat fights, with wounds that causes infection and blood-borne diseases. Another risk of outdoor cats is the fact that there are many urban dangers just beyond the doorstep, especially in a place like Singapore, such as roads and high-rise buildings. The disadvantages of letting a cat roam outdoors definitely far outweighs any perceived benefits of doing so. Therefore, before you get a cat, you would need to consider if you are able to confine your cat indoors safely while giving him enough space to roam around. Also note that cats are not supposed to be leashed indoors.