A cat can be a wonderful addition to any household. But many novice cat owners assume this pet will be an aloof alternative to a dog, which is far from the truth. While they can stay indoors and do not have the exercise requirements of dogs, cats do require attention and stimulation.

Allene Tartaglia, director of the Cat Fanciers’ Association and Gail Buchwald, senior vice president of the adoption center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty in New York City, offer some advice before bringing home a feline (of the domestic variety, of course!).

Caring For a Cat

Although cats are usually thought of as a low-maintenance animal, they still need play time and care. Cats may not need to be taken out for a walk, but that does not mean they do not require a serious commitment.

“A small dog can live 15 years, but a cat can live 15 to 20 years,” said Buchwald. Cats also have varied personality depending on pedigree, so if you are looking for a particular quality, a purebred cat may be a consideration.

No matter whether it is a shorthaired American cat or Russian Blue, the decision to buy a cat should be a decision made by every single person in the household.

Choosing the Right Kitty

Baby animals, especially a wide-eyed kitten, can be almost impossible to pass up. Anyone looking for a kitten should consider that it is a tiny bundle of energy, very different from the composed demeanor of many adult cats.

“From a few weeks old till 8- or 9-months-old, they will wake you early in the morning, they tend to be active from 3 to 6 a.m.,” Buchwald said. “It takes a lot of care. We often say, if you don’t feel like being awakened in the middle of the night, then maybe opt for an adult cat.”

But even an adult cat needs care. All felines are natural scratchers, according to Tartaglia, so it is important to provide natural surfaces (such as a scratching post) so regular behavior does not turn destructive.

For people looking for a specific cat, they might want to consider a breeder. Tartaglia recommends that once you have done your research on different breeds, bring lots of questions to a responsible breeder. “Pedigrees have very specific temperaments and personality,” she said. “Persians are more laid back, but Orientals are much more active and more vocal.”

Purebred cats can have genetic disorders, so it is important to ask many questions of the breeder, including questions about screening for problems in the genetic line. Both Buchwald and Tartaglia agree that pet stores are not the ideal place to buy a cat because of those potential genetic complications, as well as the lack of socialization that most cats get in pet stores.

Can You Really Afford a Feline Friend?

Even if you are choosing the most laid-back cat you can find, there are annual costs to think about before purchasing the cat. “Plan for the purchase of a cat,” Tartaglia said. “People think cats are aloof and don’t need much care, but that’s not true.”

Purebreds can be as expensive as dogs, typically running $400 to $800. Adoption is a popular option, but an adoption still runs approximately $50 to $100. But those initial costs are minimal compared to the yearly cost of food, vet visits, grooming, toys and litter. Any discussion about bringing a cat into the home should consider the ongoing costs of owning a pet.

Click here to see the cost of owning a pet (Adobe Required)

Think Seasonally

For anyone living in the northern parts of the U.S., cats will breed during the spring and summer months, so Buchwald recommends late summer and fall as the perfect time to come adopt a cat, when shelters around the country are overflowing with animals that need a good home.

All shelters are different, and while the ASPCA is a first-come, first-serve shelter, some will take waiting lists for specific requests. Looking online is the perfect way to begin looking, but no animal should ever be purchased online.

Also, like all important life purchases, buying a cat will probably not happen on your first visit to a breeder or adoption center. It is important to be patient if you are truly looking for that special friend to bring into your home. If you are already thinking about getting a cat, try these resources to learn more about owning a cat, and being the search for the perfect feline friend.

Resources:

ASPCA

Cat Fanciers’ Association

PetFinder.com