Getting a Cat: Before or After the Baby?
Filed in Cats, Getting a New Kitten/Cat
If you're thinking of adding a kitten or a cat to your family mix -- along with a new baby -- it's important to understand that there are many responsibilities in getting a new cat besides just buying it food and giving it affection.
The decision to get a cat in the first place is an important one. But equally important is the decision about when you should get a cat.
This is an issue that many young couples face. The choice is ultimately up to you, but take this into consideration: any parent will tell you that once a baby is born, it becomes your whole life. Babies take up nearly all your time with feedings, sleeping, potty training, and more. Add a four-legged family member into the mix with the same problems, and odds are someone is going to be neglected (hint: it's usually the furry one).
Cats and kittens don't require as much time as a new puppy, but it isn't fair to them if you don't have the time to spare. Unlike your new baby, who will (hopefully) leave home by the time she is 18, cats will be with you for life. Cats depend on you for nourishment, education, shelter, protection and healthcare. If your time is going to be swallowed up by a new baby, then perhaps getting a cat should wait until more time becomes available.
Another factor to consider is the cost it takes to have a cat: vaccinations, litter box, kitty litter, toys, collar, tags, and food. Though it won't cost too much, the initial cost can go up to several hundred dollars, depending on how much you want to spend.
If you do decide to add a cat to your growing family, follow some of these tips to help with your new addition:
- Speak with other cat owners who went through similar circumstances and who will give you honest opinions on the advantages and disadvantages of cat ownership.
- Become a foster parent to a cat from a shelter or take care of your neighbor's cat while they are away. There's nothing like a little first-hand experience.
- Prepare a mock budget by making a list of items you'll need as a new cat owner. Then create a working list of "running costs," such as food, kitty litter, yearly shots, replacement toys and the ever important birthday presents.
Health Tips For the Mom-to-Be
- If you're gardening where there might be cat feces, wear rubber gloves, and wash your hands well after touching the soil.
- Because of the hormonal changes your body is going through, make sure you're not suddenly allergic to cats by visiting with a neighbor or relative who has cats. This way you can take a test ride to see if any symptoms crop up. Check with your doctor first before getting a cat.
- If you're pregnant, you must leave the litter box duties to someone else. Cat feces can carry a parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that isn't serious for you but can pose a hazard to your developing baby. Toxoplasmosis causes severe injury to the fetus if a woman comes down with it in her first trimester. Happily, the odds of contracting toxoplasmosis during pregnancy are slim -- only about one in 1,000 women do so. Studies also show that about one-third of American women are immune to toxoplasmosis altogether. And if you live with cats the probability is even higher that you've already contracted the disease and have developed an immunity to it.
- As for your cat, keep him inside if possible, to prevent him from hunting mice, since they can carry the parasite. If you can't keep your cat from roaming the neighborhood, don't hold him close to your face, or share your bed, sheets, pillows, or blankets with him. Always wash your hands thoroughly after playing with him.
- If you must empty the litter box, make sure to use gloves when emptying the litter and wash your hands when you're finished. If you're still worried, you can have your cat tested by a veterinarian to see if he has an infection.
When you do decide to get a kitten or a cat, make sure that you have the time (and patience) to give him the proper attention that he deserves. Remember, a happy kitty makes a happy owner!