When you tell someone that you have a cat, you can usually expect one of two reactions. Enthusiasm or revulsion.
When I was growing up, I never would’ve imagined that some day I’d end up liking cats. Never mind being a cat owner in a multi-cat household.
My parents had only ever shown any interest in dogs and, when I was seven or eight years old (to the best of my recollection) we adopted our first real family pet – a long-haired Chihuahua named Maisie, after the little girl from the 1980s John Hughes classic, Uncle Buck.
For 11 years, we loved her to pieces. Her whole life was a never-ending cycle of cuddles, cosy beds and walks. When my parents split in 2006, she became even more important; a small piece of our former life who seemed to cuddle even closer to us on difficult days.
I could never have imagined having any affection for a cat. Mostly because my encounters with them had always been less than fun.
If I was ever to visit friends or family as a child and there was a cat present, the encounter usually resulted in angry red scratches on my hands and/or arms as a result of trying to show affection to what is, essentially, a fluffy ball of knives.
I’ve always loved having pets in the house, so when I eventually managed to raise the subject again with Alex after living together for six years we debated long and hard about the right pet for us.
Too co-dependent. No respectable breeder or shelter would allow two people who spend eight hours a day out of the house, five days a week, to adopt one. Even if they did, the price of a dog walker meant it just wasn’t a viable option.
Cuddly and fun, but time consuming. I’d owned rats as a teenager and while they’re fantastic pets, they demand regular interaction and stimulation. There also wasn’t anywhere acceptable to put a cage of adequate size to keep them entertained.
“How about a cat?” Alex suggested. Admittedly under sufferance as I wouldn’t let the pet thing go.
Since bringing our cats (Lagertha and Ivar) home from Cats Protection, I’ve developed an appreciation for them that I never thought I’d have. There are so many things I didn’t know about these animals that I wish someone would’ve shared with me years before; which is why I’m choosing to impart this knowledge now in the form of 10 things you’ll learn if you bite the bullet and allow a cat to take you as its owner…
They can be just as affectionate as dogs
You probably find that hard to believe if you’ve only ever had dogs at home.
It’s a common misconception that cats only show they care when they’re being/about to be fed. However, there are signs that your cat has affection for you beyond this; like greeting you at the door when you come home from work, or following you from room to room with a chirrup (yes, they chirrup).
…but it can still take years for them to sit on your lap
Let’s be real here – cats have trust issues. You may be able to rely on a dog for loyalty from the moment you bring it home, but felines are a lot more easily spooked (scaredy cat, anyone?).
Lagertha has lived with us since December 2015; three months ago, she sat on my lap for the first time. It felt like a major breakthrough. So much so that I immediately went on the family WhatsApp group to share the news…
There’s nothing quite like the feeling you get when you know you’ve earned an animal’s trust. Except maybe when you manage to bag an extra packet of crisps from the vending machine.
They’re fussy eaters
Which basically means you don’t have to worry too much about leaving certain foodstuffs within easy reach; unless they’re toxic to cats, of course.
As obligate carnivores, most of them have little to no interest in what you’re eating (unless it’s meat, poultry, fish or dairy). Oh, and giving your cat milk? Turns out the majority are lactose intolerant, so keep an eye out for a delightful display in the litter tray should you decide to break out the Cravendale.
They’ll find fun in the simplest of things
If I were to estimate, I’d say we own approximately 3,745 cat toys, and Ivar would still rather grapple with the tear off strip of an Amazon parcel than play with something that has been expressly designed to bring him joy.
…which means watching them can provide gallons of entertainment
There’s a reason that cat videos account for some of the most viewed content on the internet.
They sleep ALL THE TIME
For around 16 hours a day, in fact. Lucky bastards.
They have three eyelids
Seriously, it’s a thing. Watch out for it when you see a cat dozing…
They have distinct personalities
Case in point, Lagertha loves being groomed. She also enjoys chewing blind cords, running past your legs into the cupboard for the express purpose of hiding in the shoe rack, and loudly rattling the blinds first thing in the morning if you haven’t yet come downstairs to open them.
Ivar can’t stand the feeling of being brushed. If you have visitors, he will climb on to the top of the fridge and roll around until attention is paid. He’ll run into other rooms and let out a long, weary meow so that you’ll follow him to check what’s going on. Oh, and if he hears you pouring cereal he’ll sit and watch you eat it until you offer him a sip of milk from the spoon (thankfully, he’s not lactose intolerant).
Punishments do absolutely nothing
Cats don’t understand punishment. They’re wilful creatures who want to do as they please so anything you do to deter unruly behaviour should be preventative rather than punitive. Don’t want a cat climbing on the work surface (then you probably shouldn’t have got a cat)? Laying foil down will put them off, as does making a loud noise to startle them away. Want to keep them away from a particular area? Spray something with a citrus scent.
Adopting a cat from a shelter is the most rewarding way to experience cat ownership for yourself (IMHO)
If you love animals and the idea of giving one a better life appeals to you, there’s no greater way to do your bit than by adopting from your local shelter. December marks five years since we brought Lagertha home and while it’s not always been easy – especially when it comes to getting them into crates for a trip to the vet – I wouldn’t change a thing.
Except maybe the smell of cat piss. I’d probably change that.