Adopting a cat - the guide
Thinking about adopting a cat? Dr. Mélanie Mireault, veterinary doctor, gives you professional advice.
Adopting a cat
Cats have a reputation for being very independent. You’ll also hear people say that cats can stay alone in the house for days at a time. In fact, there are a lot of things people say about cats: “They don’t need to be trained”, “They train and clean themselves”, and “They don’t need to be on a leash”, among others. It’s clear that cats fascinate us. They are beautiful, graceful and can be very endearing. However, they are also complex beings, and we should remember that not all cats are the same. Needs and behaviour differ according to breed and environment. Before adopting a cat, it’s important to know what to expect.
Dr. Mélanie Mireault, from the Hôpital Vétérinaire St-Jean, points out that our shelters are full of adult cats. So it’s certainly a good thing to adopt one. In addition, an adult cat is usually less expensive because it has already been operated on. But if you do choose a kitten, you will have the pleasure of seeing it grow up. And just like a puppy, a kitten will more easily adapt to a new environment… quickly learning to recognize the familiar sounds of your home, getting to know family members, visitors… the usual comings and goings. And make no mistake, cats take in everything… and “take notes”.
“Many people absolutely want to have purebred cats,” says Dr. Mireault, “But this is something you should consider carefully before making your decision. Oriental breeds need a lot of attention. They take up a position, watching and studying all day. They know how to get what they want and how to attract attention.” And what does she think of large cats like the Bengal or Savannah? “These are large predators. They need hunting games to stay satisfied. Otherwise, they might start attacking people’s calves or they could develop anxiety.”
In fact, because they are relatively wild, all cats are predators. Their brain is wired to hunt eight hours a day. Watch a cat when it’s outside: you’ll start to notice that it uses strategy to capture a squirrel or a bird. It scans its prey from a distance, quietly approaches… calculating its chances all the while. Then it will seem to fly or jump on a branch. It is “programmed” to hunt. It is in a cat’s DNA. “We keep cats in the house, with food and water bowls, and a litter box,” says Dr. Mireault, “But this is simply not enough. Cats need to prowl. If we deprive them of that, they will develop anxiety. For example, your cat may start to excessively clean itself … or it could even start tearing out its fur or pee all over the house. It does this because releasing the odour pacifies it somewhat.” As owners, we need to stimulate their needs.
Indoors or outdoors?
Will the pet you adopt be an indoor or outdoor cat? Getting outside goes a long way toward minimizing anxiety in cats because the great outdoors contains all sorts of stimulation. “Once it’s outside, a cat really starts to get happy!” says Dr. Mireault. Then, when your cat is back home and indoors, it can bask in the affection and calm of the household. However, an outdoor cat is exposed to several risks that you have to consider: cars in the street, fights with other cats, picking up infections, etc. This can all be prevented. But there’s a cost attached.
However, if you must keep your cat indoors, you should provide some nutritional toys. Increasingly, experts in feline behaviour recommend eliminating a traditional food bowl and replacing it with a toy that releases food with play and interaction. That said, your cat will quickly tire of the same games, so you should think about providing some variety. You might try rotating different toys that you can find in specialty stores. You can even try your hand at creating a few yourself! Why not? Keep in mind that your cat loves to play and hunt. Use your imagination.
“You might be tempted to think that your cat will be just fine with a roof over its head, enough food, a water bowl, a litter box, and that’s it. But you must also remember that throughout your cat’s life, it will need stimulation for the brain… and yes, the hunt.” states Dr. Mireault.
On the AMVQ site, in the Public section, at the bottom on the home page, you’ll find different charts showing the maintenance costs for dogs, cats and other types of pets.