Should I get a cat? Pros and cons of owning a cat

Should I get a cat? Pros and cons of owning a cat:

“I have felt cats rubbing their faces against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love.” – James Herriot

Pros Cons
Cats are great companions Cats need litter boxes, and they can be smelly
Cats are entertaining Cats are clean, but your apartment might not stay that way
Cats are independent Cats can be quite destructive
Cats can actually be trained Your cat may get sick
You don’t need a yard to keep a cat

Cats are not the cheapest pets

Should I Get a Cat?

Cats make amazing pets. They’re affectionate little fluff balls who perfectly fit into your lap and enjoy cuddling with their owners. They’re also hilarious and will keep you entertained with their quirky sleeping positions and natural instinct to hunt and play. What’s more, cats can live longer than a lot of other popular pets — 10 to 15 years on average, although the oldest cat we know of lived for an unbelievable 38 years — so you’ll get to enjoy your furry companion for a long time.  

Of course, there are upsides and downsides to everything. Cats are living beings with their own needs and feelings, so you owe it to yourself and your potential future cat to consider these factors carefully. To make things easier for you, we’ve put together a list of the biggest pros and cons of owning a cat below. Enjoy!

Pros of owning a cat

Cats are great companions

Cats have a reputation for being aloof little dickeads, especially when compared to dogs, who are generally portrayed as the more loving and loyal pet. And while it’s true that cats have a mind of their own and can be a little stand-offish, cats often make for very loyal and affectionate pets. An Austrian study conducted in 2003, for example, found that “having a cat in the house is the emotional equivalent of having a romantic partner. As well as initiating contact much of the time, studies have shown cats will remember kindness shown to them and return the favour later.”

When you own a cat, you essentially have a furry little snuggle buddy who will keep you warm and lull you to sleep with their purring. There’s a reason why Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory always asks for the Soft Kitty song when he’s unwell or has trouble falling asleep.

Cats are entertaining

Yes, cats spend a lot of time sleeping (an average of 15 hours per day, in fact). But even when your cat is just napping or dozing, watching them can be incredibly entertaining. Because they’re super flexible, they often fold themselves into the weirdest, most uncomfortable looking positions.

When they’re actually awake, cats are even funnier. They are natural predators and never really lose their drive to hunt, which means you’ll almost always be able to play with your cat. All you need is a laser pointer or some yarn, and off you go!

Chances are, you won’t be the only one who will find your cat entertaining. Cats are beloved distractors during Zoom calls with your colleagues or students. In times of home office (thanks, ‘rona), every little distraction is a good one, and cats are among people’s favorites. Once you own a cat, your Zoom calls likely won’t start with ‘Hi there, can you hear me okay?’ anymore, but rather ‘Where is your cat?!’

Cats are independent

“Really few people had the chance to be friends with a wild animal. Except those who have cats.” Even though cats have been domesticated, and cats who live in apartments are dependent on their owners, they are still relatively independent pets, especially when compared to dogs. Cats don’t generally see their owners as a focus of safety and security in the same way that dogs do, according to research.

Some people see this as a negative trait because they’re looking for a pet who will love them unconditionally. But a pet who is too attached to their owner can also have its downsides. Dogs can suffer from extreme separation anxiety, and some always follow their owners around as they walk through the house, which can become somewhat annoying over time. Cats are more independent, but they are still very social and absolutely capable of forming strong relationships with their owners. 

Cats can actually be trained

Yes, you can actually teach a cat many useful behaviors or even funny tricks. It’s not quite as easy as training a dog, because cats aren’t food-motivated as much as dogs are (although even among dogs, you’ll find some that aren’t motivated by treats). But with patience, lots of practice, and the right kind of positive reinforcement, you can teach your cat a lot of things, such as how to play dead, to come when called, or how to walk on a leash.  

You don’t need a yard to keep a cat

Owning a large outdoor space or being close to nature can be an important criterion if you’re considering certain types of pets, such as dogs, chicken or ponies. And while cats definitely enjoy being outside, it’s not considered cruel to keep a cat in an apartment. Just keep in mind that if your job or other duties require you to be away for a large part of the day, your cat will get lonely, so it’s a good idea to get more than one cat, so they can keep each other company.   

You don’t need to bathe your cat

Cats lick themselves. Like, a lot. They spend up to 50% of their waking hours grooming themselves, and there are multiple reasons for that. Among others, because keeping themselves clean means that potential predators can’t detect them as easily through their smell. But their licking also stimulates their own blood flow and distributes natural oils evenly around their coats. 

You might not care about any of these reasons, but you will benefit from their side effect, which is that you never really have to bathe your cat, unless it has been skunked, soiled itself, or is exceedingly filthy for some other reason. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that your cat doesn’t have any grooming needs at all. It very much depends on the cat, though. Long-haired cats do need to be brushed regularly so their fur doesn’t get tangled or matted. If your cat is kept inside an apartment and doesn’t have enough opportunity to scratch on trees and shed their nails that way, you might have to trim their nails yourself. Cats may also need a little assistance with keeping their ears clean. 

Cats don’t smell

Ever heard that something smells like ‘wet dog’? There’s a reason why even non-dog owners have adopted this expression. Dogs and plenty of other animals can have an intense and sometimes unpleasant smell, which gets worse when their fur gets wet. Cats, however, are incredibly clean animals by default and don’t emanate bad smells unless they’re sick or too old to properly take care of themselves. Plus, they have a natural aversion to water, so even if there is such a thing as ‘wet-cat smell’, you’ll probably never experience it. 

Cats are quiet pets

Cats make different sounds to communicate with humans and with one another. They meow, hiss, growl and purr, but in general, none of these sounds are particularly loud or annoying. So if you’re worried about disturbing your neighbors, or think that your own family may suffer from the noises a potential pet might make, a cat might be a safe choice for you.

Cats make great pets for kids

Cats make good pets for kids because they are big and strong enough to take care of themselves, unlike some smaller animals who are entirely at their mercy. A cat can help you teach your child how to respectfully and lovingly care for an animal. Children and cats can also form very strong bonds, and some cats have even been known to protect children from harm. 

Now, there are exceptions to this, of course. A very young child may simply not understand how to properly treat a cat or how to read the warning signs the cat may send prior to lashing out. For this reason, it’s definitely important to supervise your small child when it interacts with your cat. 

Additionally, women who are pregnant or plan to get pregnant should be careful around cats, as they play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis, which can be dangerous for unborn children. This does not mean, however, that you need to give up your cat just because you’re pregnant. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of exposing yourself to Toxoplasma.

Cons of owning a cat

Cats need litter boxes, and they can be smelly

Cats are living beings, and like pretty much all living beings, their body turns food into poop and pee. If your cat is able to go outdoors, for example through a cat door, you won’t have to worry much about their poop, because they will simply dig a little hole to do their business in and even cover it up when they’re done. However, if your cat is confined to an inside space, you’ll need at least one litter box for your cat, and you’ll need to keep it clean. 

Scooping poop is a chore, especially if you have to do it manually. Let’s not sugarcoat this. It’s a pretty nasty business, and you might have to do this on a daily basis. And don’t forget the smell. Even if you have an automatically scooping litter box or a covered box to help reduce odors, the pungent smell can turn off some discerning noses. Your own quality of life may suffer, and some friends who used to love hanging out at your place may not enjoy spending time there anymore if your apartment always smells a little icky.

Lastly, litter boxes are filled with … well … litter, and while there are many different types available, almost all of them tend to stick to your cat’s paws. The result is that the area around the litter box may get covered in little particles that somehow always find their way into the rest of your apartment. 

Cats are clean, but your apartment might not stay that way

Cats are very clean animals, but just like most pets, they will bring a certain amount of dirt into your home. Cat hair is the first thing that comes to mind, because it will cover your carpets, your furniture, and also your clothes. Cats also tend to drag litter from their litter box all over the place, and your own socks will ensure that the litter gets spread out even more. Be prepared to increase the frequency with which you vacuum your living space. 

Additionally, cats will sometimes throw up, and they won’t always do you the favor of throwing up on an easy-to-clean tiled floor. You might never look at your carpet the same way after it’s been covered in cat vomit, even if you get the stain out.

Lastly, let’s not forget all the dead things a cat may drag into your house if it has access to the outside world. Dead mice, rats, or even fish from near-by ponds can end up on your carpet, your sofa, or even in your bed, and you can’t even be mad at your cat for these gory gifts. After all, they’re probably just trying to teach you how to hunt for food. 

Cats can be quite destructive

Cats have very sharp nails and a natural instinct to scratch things, such as trees. In the absence of trees, they will use just about anything to help them shed their nails, such as tables, beds, and sofas. You can mitigate the risks of your cat destroying your furniture by providing them with scratching posts and trimming their nails regularly, but even a well trimmed and trained cat may still cause a little destruction with its nails. That expensive wool jumper you love so much? Better not wear that at home anymore. That crocheted tablecloth your grandma made for you? Probably safer to keep it in the closet. 

Plus, cats simply love to push things off of surfaces. They’ll even look you dead in the eye while they slowly push a glass off the table. 

Your cat may get sick

Just like humans, cats can get sick or injured, and if they do, you will have to take care of your cat. A trip to the vet can be very stressful and emotional, for both you and your beloved friend, and can even result in surgery or long-term treatment plans. This can not only be expensive, but also mean a lot of work for you. You may have to coax your cat to take medicines it doesn’t like; carry it around when it can’t walk; clean it if it’s unable to care for itself, and many other things. This is not optional. If you get a cat, you take responsibility for its well-being, no matter what happens. 

Cats are not the cheapest pets

To be fair, they’re not the most expensive pets, either. Owning a dog or a horse can certainly put an even bigger strain on your budget, but that doesn’t mean that owning a cat doesn’t come with any costs. Food, litter, vaccinations and regular check-ups at the vet will create ongoing costs for you. In addition to that, you’ll need to purchase food and water bowls, one or multiple litter boxes, toys, a scratching post and special grooming equipment such as a brush or nail clipper. Keep in mind that you may also need to spay or neuter your cat, and that additional expensive vet bills may occur if your cat gets sick or injured. Lastly, you’ll also need to find a pet sitter whenever you want to go on a trip, and while you may have a lot of friends or family members who are all too eager to play with your new kitten, they may not always be available to care for your cat for free. 

Free roaming cats are always in danger

If you own a yard or live in the countryside, you may let your cat roam around outside. And while this is beneficial for multiple reasons (they’ll poop outside, so you won’t need a litter box, and they’ll find plenty of prey to hunt and keep them busy), free roaming cats are always in danger. They can get hit by cars, kidnapped (yes, some people actually steal other people’s pets), injured through fights with dogs or other cats, and they can contract contagious diseases, fleas or worms. 

Single cats can get lonely and bored

While cats are generally quite independent and can even come across as aloof, that doesn’t mean they don’t get lonely or bored. If you want to get a cat for your apartment, and especially if you spend a lot of time away from your home during the day, you should probably get at least two cats to keep each other company. While this isn’t a bad thing in itself (two cats means twice as many cuddles!), this also means having twice as much dirt and double the costs for food, vet bills, and so on. 

Many people are allergic to cats

One in seven children between the ages of 6 and 19 are allergic to cats. In general, an estimated 10% of people are allergic to cats (twice as many as are allergic to dogs). If you’re not sure whether you’re allergic, you definitely need to make sure that you aren’t before getting a cat. And even if you’re not, you need to consider other people who are in your life, or those who may come into your life later on. What if you find the love of your life, and they’re absolutely perfect, except they’re allergic to your cat? What if you have a child down the road and they turn out to be allergic? 

Of course, you can’t plan for all eventualities in life; but it’s definitely something to consider before getting a cat — or any pet, for that matter.

Lastly, a severe illness or injury may also lead to your cat dying or having to be put down. The loss of a beloved companion is not easy to deal with, and you shouldn’t underestimate the bond you can form with a cat. Death, of course, is a natural part of life, but if you’re not sure you’re equipped to deal with the emotional trauma of losing a friend, you might want to abstain from getting a pet. 

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