27 Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Cat

Bringing a cat into your family is not a decision to take lightly. Despite their popularity as domestic pets, cats are often misunderstood. Ensure that you know as much as possible about cat ownership in advance.

Cats are not low-maintenance and happy to fend for themselves. Cats are complicated animals with unique care needs.

Ensure that your home is suitably equipped and learn the persona of the cat. This way, alongside appropriate training, your cat will quickly adapt to your home.

Things You Should Know Before Adopting a Cat

We’re going to look at the things to know about cats as pets. Familiarize yourself with these facts before committing to getting a feline companion. That way you will be better equipped to manage your cat’s needs.

Forget All Stereotypes About Cats

Popular culture perpetuates inaccurate and unhelpful stereotypes about cats. Forget everything you think you know if it stems from pop culture. It will likely be inaccurate.

Cats should not drink milk, as many are lactose intolerant. Cats should never play with a ball of wool or string as they may swallow it. Cats are not wholly independent and self-preserving. They need company and care throughout their lifespan, especially as they grow older.

Cats are fantastic pets, but they are living, breathing animals, not a selection of amusing clichés. It’s important to remember this before committing to adopting a cat. Also, cats are ideal pets for both men and women. There’s nothing weird about a man having a cat.

All Cats are Different

Cats may have almost identical faces, but every feline is unique. Cats are born with and develop their own personalities. This will lead to variances in affection, playfulness, energy levels, and hunting instincts.

Never assume how a cat will behave without meeting it. Particular breeds will share certain traits, but there are still variances between individuals. You certainly cannot make assumptions based on fur color. Claims like, “black cats are quieter” have no basis in reality.

Spend time with a cat and ensure that you make a good match. Learn a cat’s quirks and foibles and uncover as much of its past as you can. Formative experiences can mold a cat’s entire persona.

what to consider when getting a cat

Cats Take Time to Settle in a New Home

Adopting a cat or kitten is not as simple as bringing it home and leaving it to it. It can take a cat up to two weeks to feel comfortable in new surroundings. Expect the cat to be nervous and skittish during this adjustment period.

The best solution is to initially restrict your cat to a single room. The cat will declare this space as personal territory. Knowing that it has a safe space to retreat to will build the cat’s confidence. It will start exploring the rest of the home, eventually settling in.

Cats Depend on Reliable Routine

Cats are not free-spirited animals that love surprises. Cats need a regular, reliable, and unstinting routine to feel safe and comfortable.

This means that you will need to keep to a timetable if you have a cat. Set strict times for feeding and play – and stick to them. Failing to do so will make a cat increasingly anxious and insecure.

If you work erratic shift patterns, ask for help. Enlist a friend or neighbor to visit and feed your cat at expected periods. This way, your cat’s needs will still be met. The cat will still be excited to see you, but it will feel a little calmer.

Cats Need to Consistent Rules and Treatment

This routine also extends to consistency in house rules. Cats grow used to certain restrictions. They may not like them, but they’ll eventually accept them. This only works if you are constant and unswerving in your policies.

Take sleeping in your bed as an example. Learn the pros and cons of co-sleeping with a cat and decide if this is what you want. Once your decision is made, it must remain. You cannot let your cat sleep with you on some nights and not others.

Cats do not understand extenuating circumstances. They understand what they are allowed to do, and what they are not. For the sake of a harmonious relationship, maintain this binary thinking.

Cats Need Territory

As previously touched upon, cats need territory. If your cat has no assigned territory, it will never feel fully comfortable and relaxed. Territory is where a cat sleeps, grooms and relaxes.

If possible, make an entire room your cat’s territory. Spare bedrooms or laundry rooms are ideal, as you will rarely enter these areas. If this is not possible, assign your cat a quiet corner in the living room.

Territory does not need to be huge. It just needs to be accessible and respected. When your cat is in its personal territory, it should not be disturbed for any reason.

Cat Claws Need Regular Maintenance

Unlike dogs, cats do not need regular baths and trips to a grooming parlor. Claws, though, need to kept trim.

Cats typically keep their claws sharp and manageable through scratching. Invest in a high-quality scratching post to help with this. Failure to do will result in your cat scratching furniture and carpet.

Cats Shed Fur

If you have a cat in your home, you will constantly encounter cat fur. This is something that you’ll need to prepare yourself for and accept. This will obviously have an impact on anybody in your home with a cat allergy.

Allergic reactions are caused by dander – small flakes of skin that shed alongside excess fur. Some cats shed less than others. There is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic cat, though. While immunity can be built through exposure, consider whether a cat is a safe companion.

Cats Need Regular Grooming

One way to keep this shedding under control is with regular grooming. If your brush your cat’s fur, you’ll manage to contain some of the loose fur.

Cats clean themselves – spending as much as half their day grooming – but appreciate the help. This is especially important in senior cats, who lack the energy and dexterity to self-groom.

Be prepared to make time for daily grooming of a cat, especially longhaired breeds. You can tie this in with petting if necessary.

Cats Like Company Some of the Time

Cats have a reputation as loners that hate company. This is not true at all. Cats can grow lonely and depressed if left alone for too long.

How you provide this company is a challenge. Many cats enjoy companionship, but time in solitude is equally important.

If you are away for long periods of time, ask somebody else to visit your cat. This short interruption in the cat’s isolation will be welcomed.

You could also consider adopting two cats, providing each other with company. Unless the two felines are littermates that grew up together, this can be difficult. Introducing cats to each other is a long, arduous process with no guarantee of success.

Do not attempt this unless you have the time and inclination to take on the challenge. The cats are likelier to fight than bond in the early stages. If you’re a novice cat owner, dedicate yourself to caring for one animal at a time.

Cats Can Be Antagonistic

Most cats are docile and friendly. Cats can turn in an instant, though. Accept the fact that scratches and bites will occur as a cat owner. This is not because cats are moody or unkind. It is usually a defense mechanism or an act of frustration.

Cats are governed almost entirely by survival instinct. If the cat feels it is in danger, it will enter, fight-or-flight mode. Most cats hide when afraid. If the cat stands its ground, though, it will fight tooth and claw. Always avoid intimidating a cat.

Some cats also bite and claw out of frustration if they feel ignored. Cats have a wide array of subtle vocal and physical cues. Take a crash course in feline body language before adopting a cat. It will lead to a superior relationship.

Cats Must Be Kept Entertained

Some mistakenly believe that cats can be left to their own devices and will amuse themselves. This could not be further from the truth. Cats without mental stimulation grow bored. In turn, bored cats often show destructive behaviors.

You must be prepared to play with your cat in a one-on-one capacity. Ideally, this will be twice a day, for twenty minutes each. You will also be expected to speak to your cat and provide petting on demand. This means that cats are ideal for retired people.

Your cat should be entertained while you are unavailable, too. Cat trees and scratching posts are ideal for this. These toys will sate a cat’s natural instincts and do not require human interaction. Purchase these items before your cat enters your home.

Cats Meow for Human Attention

If your cat is meowing, it is talking to you. Adult cats do not meow at each other. This form of communication has been engineered to appeal to humans.

A cat’s meow is an imitation of a human infant’s cry. Cats realized that this sound elicited a response from caregivers and began imitating it. Mother cats teach their kittens how to meow to express needs.

Do not ignore a meowing cat. The animal clearly wants your attention. Take the time to read up on the different meanings of a cat’s meow, too. Felines will vary the noise depending on their need and the urgency of it.

Cats Can Be Fussy Eaters

Feeding a cat is not as simple as bulk-buying tinned food from the supermarket. Cats can be notably picky and stubborn eaters. A cat will wait for something better over settling for a substandard meal.

It may take a little trial and error to find the perfect meal for a cat. If adopting from a shelter of existing home, stick with an established food. Sudden and unexpected changes in diet can upset feline digestion.

Also, be aware that a cat may still change its mind about food. A favored treat or meal may be rejected for seemingly no reason. Always have an alternative flavor on hand for such instances. Cats know their own mind, and they know what they want.

Cats Need To Be Encouraged to Drink Water

Cats are descended from desert-swelling animals. Many cats are also naturally opposed to getting water. This conspires to prevent cats from drinking enough. You’ll need to encourage your cat to stay hydrated.

A running water source will help with this. Many cats distrust still water in a bowl. Invest in a water fountain. This will ensure that your cat regularly drinks and remains healthy.

Litter Box Training is a Must

If your cat is going to roam outside, you may think it does not need a litter box. This is inadvisable. You should always be ready to toilet train a cat.

Your cat may not want to go outside in the rain. The cat may become afraid of the outside world. Neighbors may grow fed up of a cat soiling their lawn. You may need to lock the door and cat flap. There are countless reasons why cats need the option of eliminating indoors.

You should also be aware that this litter box must be kept clean. A dirty, unsanitary litter box will cause a cat stress. If regularly scooping used litter is unappealing, you may need to reconsider your choice of pet.

Cats Need Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Everything about taking a cat to the vet will be traumatic. Just getting a cat into a carrier to transport it can be hard work. Your cat will also be a nervous wreck while at the veterinary surgery.

All the same, regular appointments are a necessary evil. Do not only see a vet in the event of a medical emergency. Take your cat for an annual check-up, especially if it is older.

Cats will rarely let on if they are sick or in pain. This means that serious conditions can go undiagnosed unless professional tests are run. This is why check-ups are so important. If your cat needs medication, it will be prescribed in a timely manner.

Of course, this does all have a financial impact, though. If you’re considering a cat, ensure you budget for regular veterinary appointments. An insurance policy is not compulsory but will keep bills down if something untoward occurs.

Cats Like To Wander

You’ll need to decide if you want an indoor or outdoor cat. All cats have a natural wanderlust, but this can be tamed if you keep your cat inside. You’ll just need to ensure the cat has plenty of stimulation.

Even indoor cats are fascinated by the outside world, though. Be aware of this and set up appropriate protective boundaries. An indoor cat will bolt toward an open door given half a chance. The opportunity to explore new territory is too tempting.

If you’re happy for your cat to go outdoors, be prepared for some sleepless nights. Cats can roam far from home and may visit neighboring houses. Outdoor cats can go missing for hours or even days at a time.

Cats Do Not Always Want To Be Petted

If your cat wants to be petted and fussed over, it will come to you. If you handle your cat unnecessarily, forcing it into social interaction, your bond will be harmed.

Learn a cat’s preferences before bringing it into your home. Some cats reject any kind of handling. This may be disappointing if you’re hoping for a cuddly pet.

Cats Hate Loud Noise

There are many things that upset and traumatize cats. The biggest trigger of all will always be loud noise. This must be considered before your cat comes home.

Think carefully about where to place a cat’s bed and territory. This should not be close to the television, radio or a window. Loud noises from outside, such as car horns, can frighten cats out of their wits.

If you live with children, ask them to be mindful of a cat too. Shouting will upset a cat, especially if it is already of a nervous disposition. Ensure that everybody in your home understands the needs of a feline housemate.

Not All Cats Catch Mice

If you have a mouse problem in your home, a cat may not resolve it. Some cats are afraid of mice, while others may befriend your rodent intruders.

Some breeds of cats make more natural mousers than others. That is certainly something to take under advisement. Overall though, you’ll need to check that the cat in question is a natural hunter.

Cats Are Noisy At Night

By day, cats are silent, elegant hunters that creep undetected around the home. When you’re trying to sleep, cat footsteps sound comparable to those of a baby elephant.

This is something to consider, both for you and any neighbors. If you live in an apartment block, your cat may not only keep you awake. Some kind of noise proofing is advisable.

You could lay carpet throughout your home, muffling your cat’s movements. Alternatively, just train your cat to stick to a human schedule. Cats are crepuscular, not nocturnal, so this is achievable.

The easiest way to get a cat to doze through the night is a later dinner. After cats eat, they like to groom and sleep off their meal. The earlier you feed a cat, the earlier it will fall into a deep sleep. This means the cat will have energy to burn in the small hours of the night.

Cats Often Choose a Favorite Person

Many cats imprint upon one person over others. Be prepared – despite being the cat’s primary caregiver, this may not be you. Cats often gravitate to people that are largely indifferent to them.

This is because the cat feels more in control of such a dynamic. Cats like to call the shots as to when they receive attention. Somebody that is not a natural, “cat person” is likelier to allow this. Such an individual will not go out of their way to pet or handle the cat.

If your cat is imprinting on somebody else, do not take it personally. It doesn’t mean the cat dislikes you. In fact, it could be considered a compliment. As explained by Current Biology, cats with secure attachments to owners appear disinterested much of the time.

This suggests that the cat knows that you love it and will always meet its needs. The attention of somebody else is more of a novelty. The cat will always return to you eventually.

Cats Imitate Human Behavior

People often say in jest that pets start to resemble their owners. While you may not be able to influence a cat’s physical appearance, it will imitate your behavior.

This is something to bear in mind before bringing a cat home. If you live a sedentary lifestyle, your cat will become lazy. If you are an active and chatty person, your cat will respond in kind. If you are nervous and anxious, your cat will likely become jittery.

Ensure that you are physically and mentally equipped to care for a cat. Once this is confirmed, ensure you choose a cat with the right energy and temperament. This will prevent any significant personality changes.

what to buy before getting a cat

Spaying and Neutering is Advisable

A cat adopted from a shelter has likely already been spayed or neutered. If you are purchasing a kitten, schedule the procedure as early as possible.

Clinical Techniques in Small Animal Practice explains that kittens can be fixed as young as 6 weeks. Some vets prefer to wait until six months, but this thinking is being increasingly unpopular. The sooner a cat is spayed or neutered, the calmer it will be.

This will make the cat more attentive while training. Unfixed male cats become increasingly territorial and dominant as they age. Unspayed females can experience health issues in middle age and beyond, including mammary cancer.

There is already a surplus cat population in the world, with countless cats looking for homes. Adding more kittens is part of the problem, not the solution. Consider the health benefits too and you’ll see that spaying and neutering is the best choice.

Many Human Foods Are Toxic to Cats

Cats can be curious about human food, so be vigilant at mealtimes. You may find a cat licking your plate or lapping from your wine glass. This is not just unhygienic, it could also be lethal. Several human foods are toxic to cats. These include:

  • Onions and garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol (artificial sweetener)
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

Many other human foods are unhealthy for cats, even if not outright toxic. Fats will make a cat gain weight, while excessive sodium will impact a cat’s heart. As discussed previously, many cats are lactose intolerant so dairy will cause stomach upsets.

It’s safest to immediately train a cat out of expecting human food. Prepare yourself for this. You will need to steel yourself for some classic manipulation tactics.

You Are Not Your Cat’s Master

You must understand the human-feline dynamic. Never adopt a cat expecting a subservient court jester that hangs on your every word. You will be sorely disappointed.

Cats and owners are equals in the cat’s mind. This doesn’t mean that your cat will not love you. Just do not expect the cat to immediately respond to commands and do your bidding. Cats work to their own schedule, dependent on their own moods.

Once you have forged a secure bond with a cat, you will get along. Don’t lose sight of your place in the pecking order. Your cat is your companion, not your inferior.

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Richard Parker

I'm Richard, the lead writer for Senior Cat Wellness. I'm experienced in all cat health-related matters, behavioral issues, grooming techniques, and general pet care. I'm a proud owner of 5 adult cats (all adopted strays), including a senior cat who is now 20.

2 thoughts on “27 Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Cat”

  1. Nice article, very helpful. But I have a question. I’m a senior in a HUD apartment, disabled and I’m wondering if it is humane to keep a cat exclusively indoors?

    • Whether it is humane to keep a cat exclusively indoors depends on the individual cat and the effort the owner puts into ensuring their pet’s needs are fully met. The key is to provide a safe, stimulating environment that caters to a cat’s physical and psychological health.


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