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Grad school and cat

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Any cat owners here? 

 

I have never had a cat before. My family had a poodle for 12 years, and we never got another pet after our dog passed away 5 years ago. Now that I'm away from home to go to school, I would really want a pet to keep me company. A cat seems like a good idea. 

 

So how much time does one need to devote to a cat in general? I know this depends on the cat's personality, but I am in lab 8+ hours a day and don't want the cat feeling lonely. And taking on two cats is a little too much as I've never had any experience with cats before. Any advice? Do you have just one cat or more than one? What do you look for when you go and adopt cats?

 

Thanks!

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Personally, I'd get a kitten. Less prior-owner issues you'll have to deal with, and in my opinion they bond to you far more easily. 

 

I've got two cats and a dog, and we've always had a mix of cats and dogs. 

 

I have noticed, at least in my city, that there are more apartments that won't rent for cats than won't rent for dogs, likely due to bad experiences with non-litter box trained cats. 

 

This may not be an issue for you, however. 

 

In general, while it depends on the cat, mine are pretty happy to sleep/look intently out the window all day while we're gone. They've been a mix of indoor and outdoor cats, depending on where we live- they were farm cats, the we moved to the city for grad school, and they became 100% indoor cats. It's gone back and forth a couple of times since, and they adjust well. 

 

They're definitely more needy with no outside to explore, however. They want attention as soon as we get home in the evening. 

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I have a cat and spend oodles of time in the lab. She seems okay with it. Sometimes she wants attention when I get home. Sometimes she acts annoyed because I woke her up. I find it quite relaxing to have her sitting/sleeping on my lap.

 

My suggestions - and feel free to disregard:

1. Get a cat from a shelter. The cost is much lower than a pet store and the cat will already be spayed/neutered.

2. If you get a cat that isn't spayed/neutered, have it spayed or neutered. Female cats are very very loud when they are in heat and will wake you up.

3. Keep the cat indoors. You won't have to worry about fleas/ticks/etc, it won't run away, and it won't get hurt or killed.

 

I was able to toilet train my cat so I don't have to deal with litter boxes. My cat isn't declawed and she's really good about using her scratching pad. It's one of those cheap $10 cardboardy ones that she can stand on. She really likes it. She scratches her claws a lot. Way more than other cats. I'm a little worried she's plotting to kill me.

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I fostered numberous cats (mom with kittens, 8 kittens, another group of kittens, and sick cats). I adopted 3 out of all the cats that fostered. For peopel that say cats are a solitary animal and you don't need to spend time with them are wrong. Obviously the cats wouldn't die if you just give it food and water and pay zero attention to it. But I can guaratee you that most cats love to bond with people and love attention. Working 8 hours is normal though and as long as you spend 15-30minutes quality with your cats everyday and maybe sleep with them :D then you will be fine. Most of the time you don't have to toliet train your cats because it's their instinct to go do their business on the litter (they love like digging and covering....except one of my cats and he's a dirty cat). To be honest, I've never seen a place that has cats without a litter box or a cat that poop at random places. Well one of my cats did poop outside of the litter box whenever he thinks the littler box is filthy from the other two cats that I have (he has an attitude and he poops outside of the litter box to protest LOL). He stopped after we gave him his own litter box.

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Personally, I'd get a kitten. Less prior-owner issues you'll have to deal with, and in my opinion they bond to you far more easily. 

 

I've got two cats and a dog, and we've always had a mix of cats and dogs. 

 

I have noticed, at least in my city, that there are more apartments that won't rent for cats than won't rent for dogs, likely due to bad experiences with non-litter box trained cats. 

 

This may not be an issue for you, however. 

 

In general, while it depends on the cat, mine are pretty happy to sleep/look intently out the window all day while we're gone. They've been a mix of indoor and outdoor cats, depending on where we live- they were farm cats, the we moved to the city for grad school, and they became 100% indoor cats. It's gone back and forth a couple of times since, and they adjust well. 

 

They're definitely more needy with no outside to explore, however. They want attention as soon as we get home in the evening. 

 

No offense, but getting a kitten if you have ZERO cat experience and not much time is terrible advice. Like any baby, kittens need lots of attention and care. You are much better served by getting an adult cat. Don't get a kitten. My friends work in rescue and fostering and kittens take a lot of work. Kittens are needy and want attention and some shelters insist upon adopting kittens in pairs because they NEED company and socialization. 

 

I strongly recommend adopting an adult cat. Two will keep each other entertained, especially if you look or ask for a "bonded pair" of cats who keep each other plenty of company. If you never want two, or think this is too much, look for one cat, or a cat who wants to live in a single cat household. They need food, water, attention, and love - cats aren't houseplants - but you can ask shelters for independent cats, cats who aren't highly needy, but perhaps older and calmer. Ask for a calm, independent, adult cat. 

 

Also if cats are kept indoors all their live they A.) live longer and B.) don't tend to be as needy about missing the outside. 

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We have fostered cats for a couple of years and worked with various pet shelters with cats of all ages (including a pregnant cat that gave birth under our care). I agree that kittens require a more care than adult cats. Maybe the shelter's recommendations are a little on the conservative side, but the people we worked with recommended that if a kitten is X months old, it should not be left alone for more than X hours per day. 

 

However, "kitten" can mean a cat from 0 to 12 months of age, so adopting a kitten > 6 months could probably be okay to leave alone for an average work day. 

 

I also know a lot of people who have very large ranges on how much attention they feel like they should give to a pet. What is "smothering" to some might be neglect to others! I won't put in an opinion either way but just give some comparisons:

 

1. Kittens need more time than adult cats, but Eigen is right that older cats might come with more issues that might be more difficult to handle.

2. Older cats are adopted less often--everyone wants kittens--so I think it's a good idea to consider them too if you can find a cat that will get along with your lifestyle. Good shelters will be able to tell you a little bit about each cat they have.

3. I agree that many shelters prefer their kittens go in pairs. The places we worked with did not enforce this but had an incentive so that adopting a second cat is only a tiny increase in adoption fees.

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Agree to disagree, I guess. I've spent years working with rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming animals of all kinds, and I would still say get a kitten. 

 

Should you leave them home for 8 hours straight? No. 

 

Can you generally make it a priority to break up your day so you can come home for lunch in grad school? Yes. Is it worth it long term? Definitely. 

 

A cat is going to be a pet that you will have for 15-25 years. It's worth taking the extra time early on to (a) get a young one that you will bond with, and ( B) take the time to make that bond. 

 

I find a lot of people that don't get a young cat, especially for a first one, don't end up bonding with it nearly as much, and it either becomes a quasi-forgotten "it's here" pet, or one that they end up trying to rehome when they move, etc. People are more likely, in general, to bond with and commit to a pet that they got young. 

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I had a stray, which is pretty much what you would get from a shelter, as my first pet. like Eigen said, we were tight, but he ran away. I'm not sure why, whether something happened to him, or he just chose thug life over me, but I decided to get two kittens. I found two on craigslist from a couple who couldn't take care of them, and they just gave them to me. because there were two of them, they could keep each other busy, and unleash all kinds of hell on each other, while I could just be sitting there minding my own business. It's been almost a year since I got them, and they're the best companions ever. Junior would wait for me as I enter the door everyday I come home from work. Oreo, who's having to live with my friend for a while due to this dumbass 1 pet policy at my current apartment, pretty much sees me as a parent. She's not adjusting very well, but I visit her 2-3 times a week, and it's nice. She'll respond every time I call out to her, when she's scared and hiding.

 

 

I didn't think taking care of kittens required too much attention. I would be gone for 9-10 hours/day, and they'd be fine. Just put in plenty of litter, have a scratch pad for them to play with so that they don't mess up your furniture, and make sure the place is suicide proof (eg, no rat poison laying around, low hanging wires or anything like that).

Edited by spectastic

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No offense, but getting a kitten if you have ZERO cat experience and not much time is terrible advice. Like any baby, kittens need lots of attention and care. You are much better served by getting an adult cat. Don't get a kitten. My friends work in rescue and fostering and kittens take a lot of work. Kittens are needy and want attention and some shelters insist upon adopting kittens in pairs because they NEED company and socialization. 

 

I strongly recommend adopting an adult cat. Two will keep each other entertained, especially if you look or ask for a "bonded pair" of cats who keep each other plenty of company. If you never want two, or think this is too much, look for one cat, or a cat who wants to live in a single cat household. They need food, water, attention, and love - cats aren't houseplants - but you can ask shelters for independent cats, cats who aren't highly needy, but perhaps older and calmer. Ask for a calm, independent, adult cat. 

 

Also if cats are kept indoors all their live they A.) live longer and B.) don't tend to be as needy about missing the outside. 

I was a first time pet owner when I got my kitten. The person who gave her to me told me she was 8 weeks and weaned.  She turned out to be 2-3 weeks (vet's estimate), still on milk and infested with fleas (left me paranoid for well over 5 months). The first month with her was stressful. I had to go home during lunch to feed her ( kitten milk replacement is EXPENSIVE), "stimulate" her so she could go to the restroom, litter train her when she was old enough, pay out of pocket for her spay, vaccinations, deworming, etc (I go to a bourgeois vet though, so this will vary). She is 8 months now and a well adjusted kitty for the most part (I do think she suffers from single cat syndrome at times).

 

It is possible if you are willing to put in the time, effort and research. Make sure you get the cat from a reputable person/shelter. And while my cat is an indoor cat, I do take her outside occasionally on her kitty leash/harness.

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Cats sleep a lot.  Some estimates are 18 hours a day.  My cats probably sleep most of the day while I'm at work.  I assume this because a.) not much of their food is gone and b.) they are always stretching and just getting up when I come in the door from work.

 

Adult or kitten?  Depends, as folks have said, how much time you want to devote in the beginning.  Kittens should not be left alone all day.  Kittens are more social (for obvious evolutionary reasons that have to do with survival).  However, it is true that adopted adult cats may have some issues.  But you could get a crazy neurotic kitten also.  Temperament is likely genetic as much as it is environmental. 

 

Keeping your cat indoors is less expensive and less dangerous for the cat.  If you let your cat outdoors, you must get them flea treatment and keep their shots current to keep them healthy.  If you keep your cat indoors, then you don't need to worry about flea treatment or exposure to feline leukemia (or getthing in fights with other cats, or getting hit by a car, etc.)

 

One of my cats will scratch on any wood that is unpainted.  He also uses his cardboard scratching box.  He scratches a lot.  My other cat eats metal.  He chewed off the antenna from my little CD player boom box.  He will pull apart paper clips.  He also chews paper.  Maybe he has pica.  Oh, and he unplugs cords from outlets.  Anyway, just be prepared for some.....um...quirks.  It makes life interesting and usually it's things you can live with, or adapt to.  But you will have to adapt!  People think cats are low maintenance and compared to dogs, maybe they are - but they are definitely a measurable amount of maintenance.  Getting a cat means you will be living with another sentient being who has their own idea of how things should be - and their own idea of what a good time looks like.  (That exam you have at nine the next morning?  Well, they scheduled it on the wrong day becuase tonight is run-around-the-house-like-a-crazed-hellbeast-for-no-reason night between 3am and 5am, according to your cat.)

Edited by Bren2014

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FYI, even completely indoor cats should be vaccinated. If you have an FLV positive cat in the neighborhood, your indoor cat can, and likely will, catch it eventually. I've seen it more than once when I was working in a vet's office. 

 

Generally, you should probably also keep up with flea medicine, as well as heartworm medicine now that feline heartworms are becoming more of a worry in some parts of the country.

 

Granted, you are completely right in that you can get a neurotic kitten. I generally prefer genetic neuroses than those that may have been implanted by past (bad) owners that are more likely to crop up when you least expect them. 

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Wow, this is a lively thread! Thanks everyone. 

 

I am looking for young adult cats (between 6 mo-2 year olds) from our local shelters. Hopefully there will be some availabilities. How much is the general expense like for a cat per year? Do you ever have to deal with emergency vet bills?

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I'm only planning to get mine vaccinated. Veterinary clinics aren't exactly the money making kind of business, and I find that a lot of them try to sell you more than you really need. You can't really blame them.

 

I think the FLV vaccine is permanent, and rabies, along with a few other vaccines are one each year. As for heartworm, I wouldn't really worry about it if it's an all indoor cat. I believe most of these things are transmitted through mosquitoes, maybe fleas? Im not too worried about it

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A few things from a former vet tech.

Getting a younger cat is fine but under 2-3 months and you may need to feed more often (more time involved).

But if you get a kitten you will need to have multiple sets of booster vaccines - with an adult cat it is only once a year and may have already been done (less $)

If you decide to get a cat/kitten get one from a shelter (spayed or neutered usually - at least initial vaccines done - felv/fiv tested)

Getting two is a really good idea because they keep each other company and having one can lead to boredom and possible behavioral issues (but certainly not always).

Even if you keep a cat indoors they will need vaccines and probably flea medication (warmer months) because even if they don't go outside, you do. Fleas can come in on your shoes, clothing, etc.

Finally remember that once you get a pet you are obligated to provide reasonable care and they are a lifetime (their lifetime) obligation. Only get one if you really want to make the commitment.

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I think a young adult is a great idea. I got one of my cats as a kitten, and he was a little hell-raiser. Can't even tell you how many times I woke up at night because he decided to play-fight with my feet and sunk his teeth into my toe. I adopted my other kitty at 6 months from a shelter. She's deaf and a little deranged, but extremely affectionate and bonded to me easily, as well as my now-fiance whom she met when she was about 2. Both cats are now 5 years old, and I've had one emergency vet bill that I think only amounted to about $80 because they took it easy on me and gave me discounts. The visit was just for an upper respiratory infection that had my kitty wheezing on a Sunday. Other than that, I just brought the same cat in to get his large but firm belly checked out in case of worms or GI illness (turns out he's just fat) and they only charged me for the rabies vaccine he had done at the same time: $38. Bottom line, indoor-only cats are very inexpensive to care for when they're younger, but old age might be a whole different story (that you wouldn't have to worry about for at least a decade). I imagine an outdoor cat might incur way more vet and vaccine bills. 

 

Food costs me $30 per month for canned, and probably $15 per month for the kibble. 

 

And I'm one of those unlucky people who managed to adopt 3 animals that alternate between indifference and dislike toward each other, but I think they still keep each other company and it works out just fine. I do feel like getting a second cat helped my first kitty tolerate my long work days. 

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Wow, this is a lively thread! Thanks everyone. 

 

I am looking for young adult cats (between 6 mo-2 year olds) from our local shelters. Hopefully there will be some availabilities. How much is the general expense like for a cat per year? Do you ever have to deal with emergency vet bills?

I got an 8 month old cat a little while ago, but I grew up with tons of cats. They're so cute! Start up can be pricy. Getting a litter box, litter, food, bowls, a collar, a carrier, a bed, and tons of toys ran a little over $100. But after that is fine. He goes through a $15 bag of food a month and litter ($18) every 3-4 weeks or so. Sirius also came from a local shelter with all his shots. He gets a vet visit once a year and that's it. He has not had any emergency visit (crossing fingers) but some of my other cats have. They can be stupid and eat things that are really bad for then. Lastly, I would suggest not getting a cat on your first visit. You may instantly fall in love with one, but don't forget you'll be staying with the cat for 15 years. Go back a few times and play with it. It's like a boyfriend/girlfriend! You don't marry the first one you see and think is cute (most of the time). Post pictures when you decide!!

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I recently adopted a cat from a shelter, which I highly recommend for all the reasons that have been stated before. I really appreciate that shelters cover the cost to spay/neuter, update vaccinations, microchip, etc. My cat was brought to the shelter after falling off a telephone pole and the shelter also covered all the costs of an amputation and recovery. Thus, I was able to adopt a three-legged cat that was on the mend for only $20. That's a good deal.

 

He's 2 years old and was previously an outdoor cat, so he's a bit needy as he adjusts to being indoor only. I work fairly long hours and late into the night, but right now I only work five minutes from home so I can run home when I have some down time and socialize with him for 15 minutes or so. I'll be moving and starting a PhD program in August and I'm a bit worried that I won't be able to run home as often so I'm already considering getting a second cat after I move to keep him company (one step closer to crazy cat lady status - it sets in fast!).

 

Does anyone have pet insurance? The shelter gave me two free months of pet insurance and I am trying to decide if I am going to stay enrolled after the free trial period expires.

Edited by lasercats11

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3 vaccines a year- FLV, Rabies, and "4-in-1" that's got Rhino and a few other viruses thrown in. Some vets use 3in1 or 5/6/in1 vaccines, depending on where you live and what they feel is important. Depends on the part of the country, but I wouldn't pay more than $50 for a years vaccinations. I do usually just pick mine up at the vet and give them myself though. 

 

Flea medicine during the warm months, as mentioned, and if they haven't been fixed, a spay/neuter. 

 

Heartworm medicine if feline heartworms are a worry in your part of the country, but this isn't as common. 

 

Occasional intestinal worming, as needed. 

 

For emergency costs, it just depends. I'm pretty comfortable self-diagnosing most things based on experience, and have vets that I can call for favors when needed. 

 

But you do have emergencies with any animal- one of ours pounced on and swallowed quite a large needle when my wife was sewing one day. She passed it OK, but X-rays and an exam were definitely needed. My bills have always been higher for outdoor cats with emergencies- had 1 that cost over $3k in one year.... 4 different broken limbs, and a fight that resulted in a tendon being pulled out of her tail. 

 

I think a young adult is a great age to get- you'll have a better idea of what their personality is like, but they should still be young and maleable enough to bond well with you. 

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Hi everyone. I have visited the cat at the shelter (also all of the cats who are currently there). The orange boy I was really interested in getting to know turns out to be a very energetic cat, in another words he will need a lot of attention and I'm not sure if I am able to provide being in lab 8+ hours a day. I really loved the cat though! Being too active is reason he was surrendered by his previous owner. 

 

Looks like I'll have to keep visiting to see which one bonded with me! At this point, shedding is one thing that I'm not sure how to deal with. I know all cats shed, some shed more and some shed less (even I shed lots too!). Hopefully there's a cat out there for me!

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Hi everyone. I have visited the cat at the shelter (also all of the cats who are currently there). The orange boy I was really interested in getting to know turns out to be a very energetic cat, in another words he will need a lot of attention and I'm not sure if I am able to provide being in lab 8+ hours a day. I really loved the cat though! Being too active is reason he was surrendered by his previous owner. 

 

Looks like I'll have to keep visiting to see which one bonded with me! At this point, shedding is one thing that I'm not sure how to deal with. I know all cats shed, some shed more and some shed less (even I shed lots too!). Hopefully there's a cat out there for me!

Furminator brush will be your best friend!!! Expensive but absolutely worth the price

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Yes, best to know your limits, despite the emotional appeal of this cat. My cat is somewhere between generally mellow, but likes to be around people and still plays like a kitten (she's 7). At any rate, I had a rare day of being gone 6a - 10p a couple days ago, AND roomie is out of town...my cat was ABSOLUTELY WILD until about 1am after I got home!

Most of the time, though, a cat is such a great complement to grad school...mine is a great companion for times I'm reading/studying/chilling at home or sleeping in. She had to stay with my family for my first two years back in school, and this year I finally had an apt conducive to her being with me full-time. It is great and I'm excited for you! I think the advice you've already received is great, esp. on visiting a shelter, going for a non-kitten, and being careful in selection of one you can bond with yet has a mellow temperment.

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Yes, best to know your limits, despite the emotional appeal of this cat. My cat is somewhere between generally mellow, but likes to be around people and still plays like a kitten (she's 7). At any rate, I had a rare day of being gone 6a - 10p a couple days ago, AND roomie is out of town...my cat was ABSOLUTELY WILD until about 1am after I got home!

Most of the time, though, a cat is such a great complement to grad school...mine is a great companion for times I'm reading/studying/chilling at home or sleeping in. She had to stay with my family for my first two years back in school, and this year I finally had an apt conducive to her being with me full-time. It is great and I'm excited for you! I think the advice you've already received is great, esp. on visiting a shelter, going for a non-kitten, and being careful in selection of one you can bond with yet has a mellow temperment.

 

Yes a young adult, mellow kitty sounds purrfect ;) Some cats take awhile to warm up, but often times it's because they've been overwhelmed by the shelter. Give it time and ask the folks who work at the shelter and spend the most time with the cats. 

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