Last year we adopted 2 shelter kittens and it completely changed our whole lives! It is absolutely a change in the best way possible, since we love them more than anything and they have brought a crazy amount of joy to our lives! We would definitely do it again, but I thought it would be helpful for people thinking about getting kittens/cats for the first time to be a bit more prepared mentally for exactly what they are signing up for! So without further ado, here’s the 10 things I wish I had known before we got our cats.
1. It will be like you instantly have 2 toddlers in your house. Not even like bringing home a new baby, but immediately skipping that phase and going to the “getting into everything at all times” phase.
We brought home our kitten Milo first, and adopted our 2nd kitten Chester about a month and a half later. We had placed a hold on Milo at the shelter to give us a day to make sure he was the right one, get some cat supplies and cat-proof our house. The funny thing is I thought we did a pretty good job cat-proofing, but when we brought him home we immediately saw that we had a lot more stuff to think about. He is a little explorer and loves to get into everything and he was brave enough to jump up on all our counter tops and things up high, including being able to jump onto our refrigerator and all the top shelves!
2. You should think about what you want to feed them.
This was something I honestly never though twice about for some reason. My family cats growing up were fed Science Hill Diet so that was something I was familiar with. And I had vaguely heard that the brand Blue Buffalo was grain-free, so I figured that’s what I would get since I knew grain-free would be better. But once we brought him home, I had an epiphany of “WaitI It’s super important to me that the hubs and I are eating as healthy as possible, so why wouldn’t I put as much effort into what my cats are eating?” Once I actually realized how important it was, I threw myself into researching the best natural cat foods with the least additives. It was completely overwhelming though, because I was starting from ground zero and I felt like I needed to figure it out asap for him to be as healthy as possible. Especially since he had an upper respiratory infection from the shelter. Thankfully, I found this amazing blog that broke down all the best natural cat foods and listed the pros and cons of each. It was INSANELY helpful, and I was able to pretty quickly weigh how high of a quality food I would be able to get him, while staying within a budget that was reasonable. At first I got him pretty much the best of the best, which was raw freeze-dried food. I got the brand Stella & Chewy’s in the flavor Chick Chick Chicken and he LOVED it! (It looks like this brand was removed from her top choices because of a new ingredient change, so it’s good to keep up on the changes!)
He had never been too excited to eat his normal dry food, but ever since introducing him to natural and higher quality food, he has been the most enthusiastic eater ever! That made my cat-mom heart so proud, that I had found a great food for my boy! However, it was extremely expensive and since kittens need so many calories while they are growing, and I knew we wanted to add another kitten to the family, it just wasn’t sustainable in the long run. The freeze dried raw was also quite complicated since you had to make sure they ate it within a certain amount of time or it would go bad, and we had concerns about the raw food getting all over the house and causing salmonella. It just became a little more complicated that we were able to deal with at the time, so then we settled for 2nd best which was a high quality canned wet food called Weruva and supplemented with an awesome dried food Orijen Cat & Kitten. The cats love both of these and have been eating it since and are very happy and healthy boys.
3. Be aware that any sudden changes in personality and behavior is probably a sign of something wrong.
This was probably the most important lesson we’ve learned since getting the cats, and that was to trust our instincts when we think something might be wrong with them. Both kittens came with Upper Respiratory Infections, because it is very common in shelters where animals are in close quarters with each other. So we were aware of this, and were already trying to get them better by using a lysine supplement paste from our vet. But one day Milo just stopped being his usual chipper and active self, and started sleeping a lot and just looking really sad. There was just something different, and he seemed withdrawn. We thought it might have been that he was just upset by all the change that had happened when we brought Chester home a few weeks before. But then one day he just seemed really off to me and it freaked me out. I just knew somehow. And then he started throwing up a few times. So we took him to the emergency vet (since it was a weekend, of course!) and they just thought he had a stomach issue which they gave him an IV for hydration and a painkiller to help him get through it. We were so relieved, and thought we were home free and he seemed better for a few days. Then a couple days later I noticed that we had these teeny rice shaped, tan colored little things all over our bedding in our room and also in our guest room where they sleep during the day. I googled it, and much to my horror, it turned out that those were a sign of tapeworms! We took them both to our vet, and they said it did sound like that and gave them each a pill to get rid of them. Once we took care of all that, Milo seemed SO much better and just snapped back into his old vibrant self! The vet ER should have known that was a possibility since parasites in cats is very common, especially when they come from a shelter. And all the symptoms actually made sense too, in retrospect! I am not saying that we don’t appreciate our vets, because we do, but I feel like that shows that if the diagnosis doesn’t make sense or you just feel like it is something else, listen to your fur-parent instincts! What if we had never figured it out? Our Milo would still be miserable, I shudder at that thought!
4. Deciding to get a 2nd cat, so he would have a friend was the best decision we ever made!
This was something that we spent a while thinking through actually. At first the plan was always, always to get 2 kittens who would grow up together so they could be friends. We always thought it would be a sister and brother from the same litter, or at least a bonded pair from the same shelter. But since we didn’t seem to find that anywhere when we were looking, we ended up deciding just to get the cats that we felt drawn to, and then hopefully it would just work out when we introduced them. Since I fell in love with Milo first we got him by himself. And then when we brought him home, he and Chris formed this crazy strong bond too. It was all so happy and perfect, just the 3 of us, that we wondered if we should keep him as an “only child cat” and worried that adding another cat to the mix might ruin the dynamics. We ended up deciding that we did think he would be happiest if we could give him a cat friend, but worried a lot when they first met that it might not be a perfect match. But after a few weeks it all worked itself out and they became the very best of friends. Seeing our little buddy Milo run around and joyfully play with his brother makes our hearts so happy. And Chester won us over so quickly being his sweet, sassy, quirky little self and we fell head over heels in love with him too. It turns out your heart does have enough room for two, and it just expands and you love them both so much in different ways!
5. Introducing a new kitten to the mix will be very stressful, but it will all work out in the end so don’t worry too much.
Once Chris and I decided we did indeed, want to go ahead with our original plan to add a second kitten so Milo would have a best friend, we were very careful to find a cat whose personality seemed like it would work well with his. We didn’t want to bring just any cat into his territory, since that seemed unfair, especially one who might try to dominate and be the alpha. We also worried about getting one that was too sweet or timid since Milo was so playful, so we knew exactly what we were looking for. We finally found Chester, and we thought they seemed like a great fit. He was so super sweet, but also seemed strong enough to be able to be crazy boys with Milo. In general getting two cats together can be complicated, and sometimes impossible, depending on how they get along, but kittens are easier since they generally are social and like to play with friends. It turned out to be quite an emotional roller coaster the whole introduction process though, since we were new to this. Chester had an Upper Respiratory Infection when we got him and we had just gotten Milo over the worst of his, so we had to keep Chester separated for an entire week in order not to pass it to Milo. Since we couldn’t bear the thought of this poor new kitty being all alone in our office for a whole week, Chris slept in there with him at night and I stayed in our room with Milo. We had to be very careful when petting Chester, to always wash our hands before touching Milo. At the end of the week we gradually introduced them, first by smell, then by sight, and finally getting to meet. There was some scared hissing from Milo at first since he didn’t know what to think, but after a little while all he wanted to do was play which was great! But Chester didn’t seem overly happy about that at first and Milo seemed to be playing pretty rough (we thought, it was actually normal kitten playing though) so it felt a lot like poor Chester being chased around by Milo. Through various other little mishaps and concerns that happened, we just worried that maybe it wouldn’t work out and that made me so emotional. What in the world were we going to do if we had to give one up? Especially since each of us were so bonded with our cats? I was so stressed about it for a week or two. But as time went on, and we supervised their play, they seemed to come to a mutually happy relationship with each other. And then over time Chester genuinely seemed to love Milo and enjoy playing with him, instead of just tolerating it. Now they are seriously SO bonded and the very best of friends so it was SO worth just letting it play out. They just needed to find their groove!
6. Having one cat is a very different dynamic that having two. And it depends on your priorities and circumstances which is best for you and your cat.
I figured that it would be a little different going from 1 to 2 cats, and there were some growing pains along the way but in the end, we are so thankful that we chose to have 2. When it was just Milo, he was my little sidekick every day and would follow me around everywhere. It was soo darn cute! (He still does this, but not as much as back then.) He also would lay in our laps at night on the couch. When we got him a buddy though, he was much more interested in playing with him all day and we were much less interesting. Once the novelty wore off though, he was back to being more lovey to us. They go through phases. I think different people have different needs. I work from home, so I am around a lot but even the small amount of time I would leave the house I kind of had that “mom guilt” feeling of feeling bad if he was lonely, and I couldn’t always just be playing with him when I had other things to do. That’s why we felt like in the long run, he would do better growing up with another buddy and they would never be bored or lonely, since they have each other. But adding another cat does take some of he dependency on you away, so it’s something to keep in mind if you are looking for a very lovey cat who hangs out with you all the time and you have a lot of time to give. If you don’t, then sometimes 2 cats is nice so they can keep each other company while you are gone all day at work, etc.
7. Having an indoor cat is MUCH different than having an indoor/outdoor cat!
Both Chris and I were really surprised with a lot of things we ended up having to deal with with our cats, since they were never things that happened with our family cats growing up! Turns out that indoor only cats are pretty different than ones that get to freely go inside and outside as they please. First off, they get bored much more easily and they don’t get to go chase mice, climb trees, be crazy and get it all out of their system. Instead they have to do all those things inside your house or apartment! Which makes sense, obviously, but we didn’t know what we didn’t know! Things like climbing up the blinds, climbing up the bed canopy, scratching tons of different things in the house, running around like wild horses in the middle of the night were all things we had to figure out how to deal with. And living in an apartment or rental where you have to think about what damage they will cause and how loud they are in respect to downstairs neighbors makes it stressful until you can figure it out! We ended up finding the most amazing resource ever though, for lots of those issues and it was SO helpful. I found Jackson Galaxy on youtube, and we started watching his show: My Cat from Hell. He is kind of like a cat whisperer, and understands cat behaviors; why they do them and how to live with them peacefully. We implemented a lot of his methods, including: getting a cat condo, having structured playtime ending with treats (this is because cats have a natural hunting instinct where they need to stalk, catch and then eat their prey, so it imitates this and then they are satisfied) and lots of other helpful tips! Seriously, he is a life saver!
8. Be prepared to do a LOT more cleaning!
I always say that getting cats made our lives 10 times harder, but 100 times better and it is true! They have added a lot more complexity to our lives, but it is 100% worth it! One thing that is much more time consuming now is cleaning our apartment. We have dark faux wood floors and the cats shed all over it like crazy so I am constantly sweeping and right after it is perfectly clean, it will be dirty again the next day. Ways that I have dealt with that (as a crazy neat freak) was lowering my expectation of perfection all the time and just dealing with a little bit of dirt, litter and hair. That is hard for me, but necessary for sanity since it is impossible to keep it up all the time to my level of desired perfection. On the someday list is getting some sort of Roomba vacuum, that can go around all the time and sweep up all the daily stuff. That would be a real time saver! Besides shedding, I found myself constantly cleaning up cat poop, throw-up, and occasionally blood from little scrapes they would get themselves into. I felt like a Mom! My life was constantly cleaning up poop and puke, haha! I was not prepared for that, and I thought that stuff would gross me out as a germaphobe, but the funny thing is when it’s your little baby and you love them so much, it doesn’t bother you at all. You become very practical and it actually starts to be kind of funny. I never thought I would be the person who would talk about poop, but hey, that ended up being the reality of my life!
9. Co-owning an animal with your spouse brings up a lot of “parenting” style differences!
This was so fascinating to me, and I feel like it was great preparation for what it must be like to raise a child with your spouse. Basically when you have two different people, you will have two different opinions on how to deal with certain cat behaviors. One will worry more about certain things, one will feel like they need to learn discipline, etc. My husband and I are usually always on the same page about most things, and have pretty similar personalities but we still had a few disagreements about how to handle things with our cats sometimes. And you have to figure out how to compromise! It is an interesting journey.
10. Owning a pet ends the absolute freedom to be able to pick up and travel or do spontaneous trips whenever you want to.
This is something that we didn’t realize would change our lives quite to the extent that it did. We don’t regret it at all, but it is something that we need to figure out now. It is something people should keep in mind before getting a pet! Because we don’t have kids yet, we used to be able to just be crazy and decide to do spontaneous weekend trips different places and that was super fun. Most people assume you can just leave cats for a few days and they will be fine, and that it is easier than having dogs, who need to be walked regularly, and let outside to use the bathroom, etc. We kind of thought that too at first, but when we actually had the cats we felt differently about just leaving them by themselves. That’s because we feel extremely protective of them, and extremely bonded. We are very close to our boys and they are pretty co-dependent on us. It’s easier said than done when you feel that way to just leave your cats for a few days and not worry about them, especially since we are worriers. And if someone watches them for us, it’s important to us that they have the same priorities in how they treat our cats as we would. So.. even though we have more ability and freedom in other ways than ever before to travel, it’s not something that we would enjoy doing at this point since it would be hard to not worry about our cats at home. I think we will figure out how to do this eventually, first for short periods of time, and then extending it, but it will take time to work up to that!
Oh yeah, and I’ll leave you with a bonus!
11. You WILL end up baby-talking to your cats!
The biggest thing I swore I would never do with pets, babies, etc. is baby talk to them. I hated it, thought it was dumb and annoying and promised left and right I would NEVER be that person. Well, guess what?! Here I am baby-talking to my cats every day, and it just is so natural I swear to you! It’s impossible not to, at least for me and my hubs. And they love it when we do, I can tell. 😉 Funny thing is, I absolutely do not care at all what anyone thinks of that anymore, and I will be happily labelled as a crazy cat lady all day, any day. I love my babies and they bring me immeasurable joy, and if the world thinks I’m weird for that, that is just fine by me. 🙂 #cantstopwontstop
In conclusion, we would still have gotten our sweet cats a thousand times over, and we are so insanely in love with them that it’s crazy. They are our whole world and bring us joy and laughter and cuddles every day! Also, it definitely gets easier as time goes on and you fall into a comfortable routine, they get on your schedule, you figure out ways to handle little issues, and they grow up and a little bit out of the baby kitten phase. I’ve learned to love all the crazy moments along the way, since I know one day they will be sleepy, lazy adult cats who just want to veg all day. Cat life is filled with sweet moments and hard moments, but through it all it is so rewarding to work on building a beautiful relationship with your cats! I highly recommend it! 🙂
Cat owners: Anything you learned that you didn’t know before you got your cats?? I’d love to hear in the comments!