Living with kittens: A guide
There is MUCH more to consider than you think
Kittens are great! They are super fun, really cute, really small, and they will give you cuddles. You can watch them grow up into adorable little fuzzy adults. What more is there to consider?
Lots, as it happens. There are things you need to consider before you get them, while you're getting them, when they arrive, and for the potentially 20 years you have them. Some marriages don't last that long, it's a *really* big commitment!
If you fancy yourself as a future cat parent, here is a list of the things you need to think about before you go installing a cat flap!
A kitten, in and of itself, doesn't occupy a great deal of space and, even fully grown, cats are quite small. It's the kit and caboodle they come with that you have to consider. There is a food dish, a water dish, a bed, a scratch post (the bigger the better here, they LOVE play), a toy box, and a litter tray. If you lay each of these things out on the floor, that's how much space you need to be prepared to sacrifice. What's more, you need to factor in the fact that you can't have their food and water too close to their toilet, for much the same reason we don't dine in the bathroom!
Also, this is for each cat. If you get 2 cats, you need double the stuff. Much as they may share a litter tray some days, it's important that they have their own to go to so there isn't a queue at one of them (potential mess!). It's also important they have space for themselves, they can be very private animals and having to use the same bathroom as a pal can stress them out.
The same is true of their food and drink.
If this is all the space you have, you do not have space for a cat
The thing we all forget to consider. You have the cost of buying the cats (big advocate of 'adopt don't shop' but even this costs), all the items we spoke about before, their food, the litter for the trays, vet bills (which can be a lot when they are babies for vaccinations and neutering), and insurance. It all, very much, adds up.
How much time you have
Cats are, largely, pretty independant animals. Of course, there are exceptions, but for the most part they will come to you for love and tell you to get lost otherwise. This makes them better than dogs for people who are busy or for people who can't be bothered with attention seeking behaviour (some cats are massive attention seekers but I believe this comes from being allowed to be as a baby).
That said, they absolutely do need you to have time. You can't put food out every day and forget they are a thing. You can't nip away for a weekend and put out an extra large serving of kibble to keep them going. It's not fair.
They need stimulation and, particularly if you if you only have one, they will get bored easily and tell you all about it. You'll have to make time to play with them and cuddle them and this needs you to be there.
I'm not saying you can't get a cat if you have a full time job but I am saying you need to make sure your cat isn't sitting about with nothing to do all day while you are out. They will get bored and they will get fat, unhealthy, and unhappy.
Where do you live?
This ties into the space question but it's also a safety thing. Most cats will want to go out at some point, particularly if they don't have a huge amount of space in the house. Of course, house cats are a thing, and that's perfectly ok, but remember they will need extra stimulation and lots and lots of exercise to stay fit and healthy. Some cats instinctively want to go out and from a few months old will shout at the door and try and squeeze past you as you come and go.
If you're happy for your mog to go out, you need to consider how safe the area you live in is for a wanderer. If you live on or near a main road, particularly one with a high speed limit, then it's not a great idea to have an outdoor cat because, as cunning as they are, there is a little chance they come off better than a speeding car.
Are there other cats in the area and are they friendly? Are all your neighbours cat people? Some who aren't can give you and/or the cat a really hard time. It's a very good idea to chat to your neighbours in advance to determine how they would feel about a cat coming and going.
It's also good to remember that if a front door is open, there is a good chance a cat will stroll straight through it for a nosey. Some people are not ok with this so speaking to neighbours ahead of time can give them a heads up.
Cats can live for 20 years, some even more. Most don't but, given that it's a possibility, you need to think ahead. Everything you have to consider before getting them will be a consideration for the whole time you have them.
If you're moving and have an outdoor cat, you need to make sure it's safe because an outdoor cat will not convert to being an indoor cat without an unwinnable fight. If you are moving to rented accomodation, there is a chance the landlord won't allow pets.
What job do you see yourself doing in that time? We all like to think we will hit the big time at some point but what if you do land a job that requires you to travel? Who will look after the cat?
Do you have a partner? If not, you should consider the fact that not everyone is a cat person and some people are allergic to cats so you can be limiting your options in this department too.
This old chap has made it to 30! [Image: Fox News]
One or two?
Aside from the cost, I think getting two is a great idea, particularly if they are kittens from the same litter or if they have lived together previously (otherwise gentle introductions need to made before they commit to tolerating each other and you need to be prepared for them to refuse to live together). Much as you can go out your way to provide stimulation for them, if they have a ready made friend in a sibling, they can also help keep each other occupied. It helps socialise them too so that they won't be totally alarmed the first time they come across another cat.
They can learn from each other too. Often one is bolder than the other and that one can blaze a trail for the shyer one to follow. Their fighting - and they will fight, helps them determine what's too much and this can result in them being less likely to maul you in the long run!
Getting two does mean they get each other going. You will have heard that most cats have a mandatory crazy half hour at about 3am, if you have two, this can go on for some time because they keep each other hyped. So prepare for some late night noises you aren't used to!
Gentle introductions are important for cats who don't know each other
You can train your cats till within an inch of their lives but they balance using their claws, particularly when they are kittens. This means that, regardless, there will be marks of furniture. Of course, left to their own devices without much else to scratch, they will scratch your furniture, and this is to be discouraged with toys and other designated places to scratch. You need to accept the fact that there will be some scratches on your things, including furniture, clothes, carpets, ARMS(!) etc.
If you're lucky, it won't happen, but if you're not ok with it, you really shouldn't get a cat. It's no human's place to get rid of a cat's claws, much as it's nobody's place to remove the end of your fingers. Don't even think about it. Those little covers you can get for their claws, also cruel, they're cats, they have claws, it's your job to adapt to them, not the other way round.
This is beautiful but what would you do if a scratch appeared on that sofa?
This is a constant thing that needs to be monitored and it's good to know what is normal so that anything out the ordinary is recognised in good time.
For the most part, cats' appetite is very variable. Some days they will wolf down everything you put in front of them and others they will just pick at things and not be too fussed. There are exceptions and I know cats that will eat every scrap you give them immediately and then start on their siblings'. This needs a lot of attention as it's very easy to let their weight get out of hand and you mustn't miss the fact that the sibling isn't eating enough, if this is the case. There are ways around it so be vigilant and it needn't become too much of a problem. It's also a good idea to know what their teeth and gums look like because if they stop eating, it may not be a tummy thing, they might have a sore mouth and if their gums are red and inflamed, you'll know that's the issue.
If you have a very cuddly cat and they are suddenly hiding and disconnected, it's worth checking them out. Also if they are really avoiding cats they live with and this is out the ordinary for them, you need to think about what's going on.
You will become a specialist at assessing poop. Something you may never have considered in the past, particularly if you don't have kids, but it's a fact of becoming a cat parent. Not to go into all the gory detail but it shouldn't be too soft or too hard and if they seem to be struggling, you need to get them checked out immediately. You should also note the frequency and any changes in this. Generally speaking, kittens poop a lot and this decreases as they get older to once a day, twice tops.
It's not uncommon for cat's to have skin problems too, particularly when the warmer months come in and they start to rid themselves of their winter coats. They can scratch the itch so much that it opens up and then they don't leave it alone and it can be difficult to find a solution for this, with each cat differing. Of course, this won't be for all cats, but it's very common and something to consider.
Behaviour, diet, toileting, skin. Things you need to watch out for and that can all cause vet fees to accumulate.
The look on this cat's face is broadly representative of how most cats feel at the vet. Keep them well and avoid this [Image: Vet street]
Adopt or shop
I'm a big advocate of adoption. There are so many wonderful cats out there that, through no fault of their own, have no home and no permanent humans to love them and it's heartbreaking. It's amazing to see cats getting another chance at a forever home and, for the most part, they are some of the most grateful and loving.
That said, only you know what you want and if that's a cat that's for sale, they do need a home too!
They are great fun! If, after considering everything, you find that you want to get cats, throw yourself in feet first! Be a silly big cat and let them love you, because they will! They get to know you as much as you get to know them and, over time, you will become the best of friends. They are some of the best companions you could wish for.
They seem to have an internal body clock or a little hidden watch that allows them to know when things are supposed to happen, after a while. This is great if you have a routine as they will fall into it with feeding and playing and you guys will be a match made in heaven!