How Much Work Is a Cat?

Updated on November 22, 2010
M.K. asks from Wheaton, IL
21 answers

Hi Mamas! The pet question has come up in our house and, for now, we are a solid NO! But it got me much work is there with having a cat around? I have never had a pet in my entire life and have no idea how much time and work it takes to have a kitten/cat around. For instance, does every cat shed hair -- so the vaccumming will be significantly increased? Can a cat be trained to stay off the kitchen surfaces...and even to stay out of certain rooms (the dining room, etc.) Give it to me straight -- the honest truth!

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THANKS to everyone! This is wonderful, diverse information -- very helpful!

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answers from Spokane on

Cats are warm, snuggly critters that don't require a lot of attention or training. If you take care of them they can live 16+ years.

They also shed constantly (not just seasonally), cannot *really* be trained to do anything (like stay off counters or out of a room if something is there that they want to investigate). They like to cuddle with warm bodies at night, so you'll probably have to keep the bedroom doors closed unless you want cat hair in all the beds.

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answers from Pocatello on

Well it depends on the cat. Like I had a cat growing up and she shed really bad. We had to vacuum all the time. But she never jumped up on the kitchen counters or table. So that was a good thing. But after a few years of having her she stopped using her litter box and started peeing on the carpets. We had a very clean home and cleaned her litter box all the time (like scooped any poop everyday and changed all the litter once a week) My mom researched it and basically lots of cats are only good about a litter box for a while then they want to pee in other places. The bad thing is that you can't get that smell out! We had to recarpet! And then we had to keep her in the basement to keep her from peeing on the new carpet. Now my mother in law has 3 cats. (the cat hair is awful in her house) and they always jump up on the counters. But she swears up and down that they don't pee on the carpet. Then she redid one of the bedrooms and when they pulled up the carpet it was all stained with cat pee. Then when they got new bedding that first day one of the cats jumped up on the bed and pooped all over it. yeah pretty gross. So yeah cats are cute and in some ways easier than a dog but I have just seen far too many that pee where they shouldn't that I will never get one.

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answers from Washington DC on

If you are a neat freak and worried about cat hair and such I wouldn't get a cat.
We have three now, I have always had one or two. I dont' find them much work. THey are much less annoying than dogs, I have three of them too.
THey can be trained to stay off counters with a water bottle.
You would have to have it neutered and declawed, if you value your furniture. Although they can be trained to use the scratch pad.
Kitty litter stays in the laundry room for the most part but some does get on the rug right outside that room. I have a doormat in front of our kitty room for that reason.
If you are absolutely not in love with a type of animal don't get one just because. It isn't your kids or hubby's responsibility once it's in the house it will be yours and you will regret it.

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answers from Honolulu on

You need to take it to the Vet... for check-ups and shots.
You need cat litter
You need to spay/neuter them...
Cleaning up the litter box....
buy it toys...
they are independent... but each cat, like people, have their own personalities.... some laid-back, some prickly...
Yes, they shed hair.
Yes cat hair gets around and on things.

My cat did not go onto surfaces... but he was a smart laid-back cat... and did listen to us. Not all cats do....
Cats are smart. But again, they have their own personalities.
Our neighbor's cat... he is cute/nice.. but... will NOT listen to anyone. Just does what HE wants. And he will even scratch and hiss at them.. if they go to pick him up. For example.

I have had cats. Luckily... they were mellow cats.
I like cats.... they are nice pets.

all the best,

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answers from Seattle on

If you start them young and are willing to put the time and consistancy in, cats are quite trainable (you just have to find something that will motivate them, which is more difficult with cats than dogs). I am a kitty foster mom, and my cats are all trained to sit, lay down, jump off, jump on etc on command before I adopt them out. Some personality types are easier to train than others, and many owners are not willing to put in the time, plus it can be hard to locate a professional cat trainer if you are in a problem spot (where as dog trainers are easier to find and more numerous). However, training a cat is harder than training a dog, so be prepared for it to not come automatically.

That being said, you can train them to stay off of surfaces, keeping them out of certain rooms without the use of doors will be harder.

All cats shed unless they are a hairless breed, the short hair cats have less hair to shed and thus their shedding will be less noticable than that of a long hair cat.

Financially, you need to provide: spay/neuter, annual vet visits, vaccines, emergency vet care, food, water, litter, toys, boarding/pet sitter if you travel.

Time wise, each cat will vary in how much attention they need. Long hair cats frequently need grooming (by you or a professional) to prevent matting of the hair. The litter box will need to be cleaned daily, or you can invest in a automatic litter cleaner that will do it for you. And daily feeding/watering.

I would also say that I would recommend you only get a cat if YOU really want one. The kids may REALLY want one now, and in a couple years have very little interest in the cat. That leaves you with an animal with a 20+ year lifespan that no one wants if you got it solely for the kids.

Good luck!!

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answers from Dallas on

Well kitten hood can be trying. They can get mean if not handled gentle and not using the hands as "toys". They can be quite active and if you choose to not declaw can be quite destructive on furnishings. Once they age and past kitten hood can be very easy pets since they have a tendency to be independent unlike a dog that craves your attention. You maintain a clean litter box, water and food and a vet check up at least once a year. Shedding tends to be in the 'favorite" spots where the cat lies down. Some people will say that one breed is better at shedding then the other but I think they all shed a fair amount unless they are a hairless breed and they can come with some health issues that you might not want to deal with. Long or short, they shed. but it's not like every where like a dog can be.
And yes you can teach a cat to stay off counters, but you have to be consistent with training and use scare tactics when you are not around to keep them off when they are learning. Not sure about the success you will have with keeping them out of certain rooms, unless you keep the doors shut.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to be gentle and not train in anger. Cats are wired different and are the most 'wild" of domestic pets and you being out of control will only encourage this behavior. I never had cats growing up and really never cared for them until I went to vet tech school and later worked at a feline only practice. After I figured them out, I loved them.
They are not so "needy" like a dog can be for affection but can be quite loving and an awesome family pet.
Best Regards,

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answers from Chicago on

I haven't read all your responses, so sorry if anything is repeated, but...

We got a kitty this summer. We picked the one that readily came up to us, was playful & friendly. I've heard you can look for "lap cats" @ shelters, ones who readily sit & stay in your lap.

Herman is very easy to care for. He requires some food, but demands water. Cats are big drinkers. He hasn't shed a lot so far, but I am sure when the weather gets warm he will. He is playful & just goes off on his own when he wants to be alone. He is being trained to stay off counters & tables, but seems to have a complete mind of his own on these matters.

We did have to pay about $200 to have him fixed. If you get a kitty/cat from a shelter, this cost would be included in the adoption fee.

We also have a dog & of the two, the cat is much "easier" to care for. If you've never had a pet, a cat wouldn't be one that would be a huge burden & require a swift in scheduling/time.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

I had cats throughout my child hood and I loved them! **BUT** when I got married and moved out I found out that they are just too much work. When I was living at home my mom would take care of the cats and train them. We've had two cats, the one we had in the beginning would not stop spraying! and it was a female! She was spayed and there was just no way of training her to stop (I tried everything). My mother in law loved her so I just let her take it. Then the other one we had was a short hair but was always shedding and leaving dandruff all over the place! :( I was so sad that we had to give him away. He too would spray and he was fixed. Our house smelt really bad and I am just so sad that I can't find the right one. Also all the cats that we had would scratch our couches. There are some nail covers that you can buy to stop this. Recently I was talking to my husband about how great it would be to have a kitty and he recommended fostering one and seeing how that went. I'm really looking forward to it and I hope I could learn to deal with them. I LOVE CATS!
Best of luck to you.

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answers from Portland on

Cats can be a lot of work, or a bit less, depending on their personality. Mine is staring at me right now, thinking his throne is on my lap. He likes to wake us up to feed him at 3 a.m., so now he sleeps in the basement, but you wouldn't want to hear the early morning arguments I had to have with my (sweet softie) husband to finally get my (sane) way on this.

Not to be a horror story, but we got our cat when he was 8 years old. (He's 14 now.) He'd been sick before we got him, but we didn't know it for a while. Then, it was like we had a kid. (I'm so glad it was before we had my son.) We spent nearly $3,000 in vet bills, had to leave him overnight for a while to be monitored, had to tube feed him for at least a month and he has special expensive food now, so he doesn't get sick again. Some families aren't willing to make this sort of financial commitment, or really can't afford it. We were fortunate to be able to do so.

And he thinks he's above a water dish so a favorite tumbler has been sacrificed. Yes, he drinks from a glass.

Add to this everything that Susan (SH) said below. I vacuum and sweep nearly daily because I have a preschool in my house. Sweeping, I do twice a day, before or after school. Get this-- the cat is kid-shy and stays downstairs during school. Yet after school, sweeping, I still get a bit of cat hair.

I love our Big Gus Kitty, but I also have no dreams of a black couch,either.
You can train cats to stay down off surfaces, but it does take a while. Using a spray water bottle helps. Just remember as they are scrambling to get away from the spray that they can knock things over. I have to disagree too, with the 'just pooping the hairballs out". Some cats do, some don't. Our is an upchucker, and there's nothing like a houseslipper with kitty puke on it to wake you up in the morning. Some cats spray, and this can destroy furniture. (My mom had a cat with a big spraying problem.) Just the honest truth here.

Overall, cats can be like adding a half-person to the family. I am not a dog person, and love my cat dearly. He's a snuggly cuddly guy at night, when we're hanging out. But heavens, he is work!

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answers from Chicago on

My 4 year old son begged us for a cat for months up until his birthday, and after daily pleas and convincing us that was all he really wanted, we broke down a got the best cat ever. At the shelter, he literally hopped right in our stroller basket where my infant son was sleeping, so we knew he was the one to take home! My son loved him for several weeks until the novely wore off. We tried to encourage him by having him feed him (and our dog), brush him, and hold him when we read or watch tv. Now he wants nothing to do with the cat (or dog), even yelling at them to get away and leave him alone! The cat is now my best friend and responsibility, and while not as much work as a dog, still an extra living thing to clean up after and take care of.

My advice: take your kids to the zoo, farm, pet store, volunteer at an animal shelter, care for animals for friends on vacation, and see if that satisfied your children's needs for a pet. You didn't mention how old they are, but I got my first dog in junior high, and it was great timing. She was a forever friend during the tumultous teen years. I never was a cat person, but now I know from experience that there are cats that are even more loving and sweet than dogs!

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answers from Detroit on

I have not read any of the other responses but I have had cats for along time. They shed (and I am not talking the long hair, in a cat show cat, I mean short hairs shed...alot!), and they have hairballs, some everyday! I was in love with my cat's before kids, then my twins came along and when I would see fur stuck to their clothing, cheeks, etc....ick!! Then, when our older cat started having hairballs everyday...ugh!!! What if the boys touched it when they were younger??? Filthy! Now they just tell me when peanut has thrown up...again, filthy...they are now 3 and know not to touch!
Oh, by the way, they jump everywhere! You can try and train them, but if you really look at your counter tops or table top when the sun is shining, you will see that when you leave they are all over everything!!
That is about as honest as I can get...oh, I forgot, the dingleberries that drop off a few feet from the kitty litter...Oh, and that they drag kitty litter every where as they try and cover their potty, so it get between their paws and drops off ALL OVER the house!!

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answers from Allentown on

Love our cats -- we have 4 -- and we don't find them too much work BUT that's relative. We are used to pets and the compromises that come with them. There are litter boxes to clean, litter does trail out on the floor, cat hair on my clothes, etc. Brushing doesn't take long and helps keep the hair under control. I haven't been able to train mine to stay off furniture and if I don't want them in a room I have to close the door. They may be trainable as someone said, but it's not easy and more work than you'd likely want to put in.

I like the idea of two pets, as they are company for each other. Or check out shelter cats, as they will have a history and you can choose one that has a temperament you'd enjoy. All in all, I couldn't imagine not having pets but wouldn't encourage anyone who is not wholeheartedly keen to get one, as I firmly believe it's a lifetime commitment.

DECLAWING -- Please do NOT declaw a cat. it is very cruel -- like amputating fingers. Search this site for other useful discussions on cats as pets.

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answers from Rochester on

I cannot imagine life without cats, and it feels weird to me that we only have one cat. I grew up with several at a time.

I do not know how often one vacuums without a cat, but I find that I need to vacuum much more often because of my children (ages 2 and almost 4) than because of my cat. He does shed, but I also do not brush him, and I should once in a while.

He sometimes wanders lap to lap for stroking and loving, but that does not take "time" as far as I'm concerned. You need to take a few minutes every day or two to scoop the litter box and a little less often it takes a little longer to empty it and put in fresh litter. We use a refillable feeder since our cat does not overeat and he will only drink cold water from a toilet, so we keep the toilet clean and open (he will dump water out of a dish onto the floor and drink out of the toilet anyway).

Once a year, he gets a check-up and whatever vaccines he needs. I think this usually runs about $65 or so tops each year. We had to pay for a leukemia test a few years ago when we lost our kitten to that, so I do recommend making sure your cat or kitten has had blood work (or the mom has) before adopting. Obviously, the spay or neuter and initial shots are more expensive, but those are one-time expenses.

I don't think my cat has ever gone on the table. He used to use one side of the counter to jump to the top of the kitchen cupboards to nap, so we just used to make sure to wash it before using it. He hasn't done that in years. I have never heard of keeping a cat out of a room unless you shut the door. You do need to be careful if you have a lot of potted plants. I lost my fern and if you have a lot down low with a lot of dirt a cat might be tempted to play. If you keep plants up it isn't usually a problem (my mom always had plants AND cats).

Again, I am a cat lover and cannot imagine life without my cat. If you take care of things like the litter box (ours is in the basement with a cat door) your home should not smell. My goldfish is sometimes more annoying than my cat (he mopes even more when we're away for a few days) but they are a more contained pet. Animals are very rewarding but definitely a long-term committment. Good luck whatever you decide!

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answers from Anchorage on

It can be very hard to train a cat, they have minds of there own and are not afraid of your disapproval like a dog is. They do shed, and sharpen their claws so you will need a post for that or it will be your couch. You will want to clean the litter box every day or it can start to smell. So yes, there is some work involved.

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answers from State College on

Cats are trainable. All of ours sit when asked. They do prefer to make sure they are getting something out of the deal. Our younger two that we have had since they were kittens do not get on the counters when I am cooking. Our oldest is bad about counters, she will stay off if you are there and try and sneak up when you aren't looking. She knows "go to your room" though and gets a treat for going so I don't have to watch carefully every time I cook. I can leave her loose and just watch and she will not jump up. We have been working on this more recently though and she is doing better.

Medium-long haired cats are going to need brushing usually. All cats will shed if they have hair. I try and vacuum about once a week with 3 cats and one dog and that keeps up with it pretty well. I can fill the dyson that way once, sometimes twice if it has been a little longer.

Some cats love attention, others not as much. It really depends on the cats, in our house the males tend to be a little more affectionate. We have one male and two females right now. The male is very much like a dog and follows me around in the house, the girls are a little more stand offish, but they do love my husband. All three will sleep in your lap, but the male is the only one that really likes to be picked up and held. The other two just prefer to be scratched, but that is really individual with each cat.

Cat will get the "night crazies" as you will sometimes hear them called where they just start running around like mad and usually at night. Again not all cats do this. Playing with them regular can help and most cats also love a good game.

Litter boxes of course will have to be done. That really isn't too bad, just a few minutes here and there. Also yearly vet visits, spay/neuter, and kittens will need several rounds of shots and any new cat that has not been tested should be tested for feline leukemia and FIV. Of course food and water. I would recommend one of the premium foods, better quality. You also have to decide if your cat is going to be allowed outdoors. If they do they will need extra vaccines and can be exposed to more things and injuries. You can microchip, gives the pet a form of identification that they cannot remove. If you put a collar on a cat, make sure it is a cat safe break away one so if they get caught somewhere, they loose the collar but kitty is fine.

Some cats like to scratch, some don't as much. You may need to do nail trims, very easy to learn and will keep their nails shorter and also limit the scratching. Also a vertical and a horizontal scratcher are good to have, some like one better than the other. I use soft paws on one of our cats, since she has a thing for carpet at 5am. Soft paws are just little caps that go over the nail so she doesn't do any damage and can scratch away. She uses the cardboard scratchers most of the time.

All in all I love our cats and couldn't imagine not having one or three. There are plenty of kitties out there waiting for a forever home. Make sure to meet a few before you pick one and talk to the person or group where it is coming from to try and best understand the individual and their personality. Cats can be real individuals and all be very different and lovable in their own way.

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answers from Boise on

I have always had pets and am definitely more of a cat person than a dog. There is of course the feeding and watering of them. We have a water fountain, that only has to be filled once a week or so, and a big bowl of food that only has to be filled once every few days or so. You do have to clip their nails, and clean their litter box. For a short hair, brushing is optional (IMO), and they get pet enough that it isn't needed so much. Yes there is hair, but depending how much you vacuum, you may not see a huge difference. Training will depend on how much time you devote to it., but whatever you don't want them to do, they most likely will do when you aren't around anyway. (spray bottles are great for the no's). My cats are trained to not go onto the counters, but I'm not naive enough to believe that they never actually go up there.

Cats are wonderful pets. I don't know how old your kids are, but my 2.5 yo loves our cats and they are so patient with him.

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answers from Chicago on

We rescued a cat from local shelter. The cat is VERY friendly. But, be careful. Some are not. Its a short-haired domestic. Black hair, sheds alot. I lint brush and vacuum alot. Frequently change the litter. If you don't, they will go on your bed. We found that out the hard way. Feed them daily. Cats are very easy to take care of. We also have a Yorkie. The dog is alot more work than the cat. I'm not sure about training them. I never really looked into it much. I don't really know anyone who has trained a cat. My cat jumps on anything and everything. He follows me everywhere.
If you do decide to get one, I would suggest rescuing one from a shelter. I see you are in the area by me. If you are interested in finding a rescued animal, let me know, I have a friend who runs a non-profit shelter and who is always looking for homes for animals!

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answers from Raleigh on

When we had cats, they shed everywhere! Unless you buy a hairless kind, there is zero chance of your cat not shedding. You can decrease the shedding with regular brushing, but it still won't get it all. As for keeping it off things...ha! Our two cats were ridiculously bad about being on everything! We asked the vet what to do and their response was to spray them with water. Of course, we had two cats that actually liked being sprayed, so there wasn't much else to do. I'm sure there are people who successfully "train" them, but my experience is that cats are much more finicky about that stuff than dogs are!

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answers from Houston on

I have had 1 cat for 10 years . . . for the past 5 years we've had 3.

In terms of work, you don't have to walk a cat like a dog. You do have to feed that cat at least once a day, and put fresh water out. You also have to clean a litter box daily / multiple times a week (though for ~200 you can get an automated self-cleaning box at PetSmart/PetCo). After the first year, you should take the cat to the vet for a checkup. In terms of maintenance, that's it.

If you go out of town, cats do much better than dogs. You can have a friend come by every day or two to leave food, etc., and the cat will be fine. Dogs pine.

In terms of shedding . . . it really depends on the breed of cat.
--Long-haired (Persians)--usually these are pure-bred--have to be brushed daily (or their fur mats) and they shed a lot.
--"Medium hair" (they look long, but their fur doesn't mat)--Maine coons, for example. They love brushing but don't require it. They do, however, shed. I love my Maine--well-behaved, classy cat--but his undercoat is like fine pieces of cotton ball and gets everywhere. I had no idea when I adopted him--he looked really fluffy.
--Short-hair. These guys have the really short fur, and they shed minimally (most of the year no, but in spring, some). This is what you want.

To know what you're getting, either take a knowledgeable friend with you, or get a cat breed book and look through it before you do. I would recommend a cat breed book anyway. Even though I believe in getting shelter cats, understanding the breeds can help you as you're looking at them (to see the longer fur, etc.) and can help you understand them later. For example, Maine coons typically bond with 1 person closely, plus a general bond with the rest of the family. There are other breeds that tend to bond closer with kids. Some breeds prefer to live in groups, others prefer to be the lone kitty.

An advantage to adopting a shelter cat (or one from a rescue group) is they tend to be more loving and less prima donna-ish. Some of the rescue groups foster them for a while, so you can find out a cat's personality (and if it likes / is used to / can tolerate kids).

One important consideration is who you want the cat to bond with. If you want the cat to look up at you as the Queen of the pack, source of all good things, etc., get a male. If you don't want it bonding to you as much, try a female.

In terms of training, yes, cats can be trained. You can do reward training with a clicker (like dogs). You can do aversion training with putting noisy/sticky things where you don't want them to go--or do what I did, and just involuntarily scream when they try to climb your legs with sharp claws (now none of my cats ever use their claws on anyone indoors). Of the 3 cats I have, the best behaved is the one I trained from a kitten when I was home all the time. The one who was a kitten when I worked will misbehave when I'm gone now. The one we adopted when he was older, has been a bit slower to adapt our rules.

In terms of keeping them out of a certain room . . . if it has a door, yes. Just keep them out. If it has no door, I don't know how you'd keep them out.

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answers from Houston on

cats are EASY, feed them once or twice a day, empty the litter box once a day. After they are spayed or neutered they pretty much take care of themselves. They clean themselves and even swallow their own hair and they poop that out. easy peasy.

Its when you realize having a cat IS so easy and you decide to get more than one that it can get tasking, they dont like sharing a litter box, or food or love, so pooping and spraying all over the house is possible. My brother has over 20 of them, its something that can get out of control fast. My advice, get one, get it shots, a collar, spay it, get a scratching post, litter box and food and food/water bowls.

They can eat mostly hard food, but like soft food too, once every 2 days or once a day soft food is fine.. If you want them to go outside, get flea powder.

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answers from Chicago on

We have two cats. I find it really easy. We got very lucky with 2 of the most well behaved and friendly cats. As for extra housework, you may have to vaccuum a little extra dependin gon how much the cat sheds, and how much you already vaccuum. The litter box will need to be cleaned often and you'll need to make sure it gets fed, and regular vet visits, etc. Obviously its going to be some work, but its not too much, and in my opinion very worth it. It also helps to teach the kids some responsibility, my kids help to make sure that they have food in their dish and are well played with :) They can definitely be trained, I used a spray bottle (and still do with my kitten, but he ahs learned quickly...still has those curious kitten moments though lol) and they get sprayed if they are to jump on the table, or counter, or any other place where I don't want them. It works very well...and fast, they hate it. Good luck in whatever you decide!!

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