Becoming a Cat Mom: What I Wish I Knew

As a freshman in college who’s living on her own for the first time, and as someone who has always wanted a cat, it didn’t take me long after settling in to start my adoption hunt. Pretty soon I had met my perfect match, and I was suddenly the mother of a two-year-old shelter cat: Harvey (but his friends call him Steve). Now, almost two months and plenty of ups and downs later, here are some things I wish I had known when I first got him.

They take ALL of your money!

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, and obviously, animals are expensive. From the adoption fee, all of the initial supplies (a cat condo, litter and litter box, food, treats, toys, etc.) and the vet bills, they are no doubt a financial commitment! Personally, Harvey and I got a little unlucky, and within the first two weeks of bringing him home, we had already made two vet visits, had three medications, and began a new (expensive) prescription diet. Obviously, this isn’t the case for every new feline, and I was fortunate enough to have the funds saved to keep him healthy. However, it definitely taught me that unexpected expenses can and will come at any point, and I need to continue to be financially prepared for when my cat needs it.

Their personalities will take a while to show!

A cat laying in front of throw pillows Original photo by Erin Krum

When I decided to adopt Harvey, I took a bit of a chance on him. When I met him, he was very sleepy and timid, but the adoption staff assured me he had previously been very sweet to visitors, so I took their word for it. Once he came home, he hid under my bed for a couple of days, only daring to come out when I was out of the room. Doing my best to keep him comfortable, I let him get acclimated at his own pace with his food, water, litter and toys all under the bed in his comfort zone. By the end of the first few weeks, he was a totally new cat; he was finally completely comfortable with me and his new surroundings, we had a routine down and his playful and clingy sides became pretty well established. So, don’t give up hope if your new feline isn’t too comfortable with you in the beginning, just give them some time to get accustomed to their new life and they’ll get there!

They take over all of your space!

Like most college students living in an apartment, space is pretty limited. Something I noticed pretty quickly after bringing Harvey home was how much space cats take up! From their litter boxes to their beds, food, water, scratching posts and cat condos, you should be prepared to dedicate quite a bit of floor space to your new buddy. Cats can also be very picky about where their items are situated; for example, they might not like their food and water next to their litter, so be prepared to have to move things around if they don’t like the current set-up. Also, don’t forget to account for the actual storage of their items; pet carriers, food and litter all take up a decent amount of storage space as well.  making sure you have adequate space to hold everything and allow your cat to still have room to play and explore is definitely something to consider.

They don’t understand “No”!

Cats have a total mind of their own, and unlike dogs, they are very difficult to train. Although it is possible through positive reinforcement (not through using fear as a weapon against them!), it can still take a very long time for them to finally learn or listen to you — if they ever do. They won’t always understand that their way of playing is actually tearing up your skin, that 3 a.m. is not play-time or that they can’t just open their food cabinet when they decide they want more food — but all of that just adds charm.

Okay, okay — you caught me, that’s a lie. Those behaviors are pretty annoying (especially when they interrupt your beauty sleep), but it is all their little quirks and stunts that make cats adorable, special and more unique than any other pet. Even with everything that I’ve mentioned, I don’t regret a single thing about adopting Harvey, and I can’t wait to make even more memories and start this new chapter of my life with my favorite furry friend by my side. So, if you were waiting on a sign from the universe, this is it: get a cat!

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