Should I adopt a cat to beat loneliness?
The festive season can be a lonely time for a lot of people. This year, more than any other, people are suffering from isolation over Christmas and through winter. For many cat owners, their furry friend is a real source of comfort when times get tough. But can a cat help feelings of isolation and loneliness? And what else do you need to consider when thinking of whether you should adopt a cat? Below, Cat in a Flat looks into the pros and cons of bringing a kitty into your life.
The pros of adopting a cat
- Cats are beneficial for your mental health. Studies have shown that being around a cat helps people stay calm, manage anxiety and helps alleviate feelings of isolation. The routine of cat care can also help with maintaining structure and motivation in one’s life.
- Being around a cat helps support your physical health. A 2019 study by Washington University found that the release of mood-enhancing hormones oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine when stroking a cat can reduce the chance of having a stroke or heart attack by up to 30 per cent.
- Cats are consistent. Kitties are creatures of habit; they don’t like change and prefer a steady routine. This consistency can be incredibly comforting in a chaotic and unpredictable world.
- Cats are straightforward. All kitties ask for is food, warmth, love and maybe a string to chase. This embrace of the simple life can be a great reminder to be grateful for one’s surroundings and situation.
- Cats are low maintenance. Kitties don’t require walking, bathing and don’t need attention all day every day. They also don’t take up much space or need a lot of equipment. Feline independence and self-sufficiency make cats an excellent pet for people who want to adopt an animal but lead busy lives. However, cats still do need company and attention and shouldn’t be left alone for very long periods; this is particularly true of younger and older cats.
- Cats are cute. This one speaks for itself! Kitties are beautiful to look at, and the sensation of stroking a cat is extremely pleasurable.
- Cats are entertaining – kitties are fun to play with, and their idiosyncratic behaviours make them a joy to watch. There is a reason why cat videos are some of the most popular on YouTube; cats are a hoot!
- Cats are affectionate creatures. Kitties might have a reputation for being reserved or aloof, but owners know that most cats are giant love bugs. Our furry friends like to give love on their terms, but few things beat the sensation of cuddling with a purring kitty.
- A cat’s love is unconditional and kitties are completely unjudgmental. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like and how much money you have – if you’re good to your cat, they will love you without reserve.
- Cats can help control pests. You might not want to find a dead mouse on the carpet, but just the presence of a kitty will deter mice from making your house their home. Mice fear the smell of cats, so will give any space they inhabit a wide berth.
The cons of adopting a cat
- Cats take a lot of responsibility. While not as time-intensive as other pets, caring for a kitty can still take a lot of attention and effort. Young, old and infirm cats especially need a lot of care. Plus you’ll need to arrange care for your cat every time you go away – although booking a cat sitter can help! Planning to adopt a cat and caring for it is a decision no one should take lightly.
- Cats are expensive. While kitties are likely to be less of an investment than some other pets, cats still cost a lot of money. Food, litter, vet bills and insurance payments can add up. If your kitty is unlucky enough to have health problems, then the cost of the vet can be financially crippling. Health conditions and the associated responsibility and expenses are one of the main reasons people abandon cats at shelters.
- Cats kill small animals. If your kitty is allowed outside then chances are at some point they will bring in a small animal. Of course, cats’ proficiency as hunters is one of the main reasons for their popularity as pets. But owners need to be prepared to manage this part of their kitties’ behaviour. Especially if they live in an area with an endangered or threatened prey species.
- Cat litter and food smells. Kitties are fastidious groomers and don’t usually smell, but their food and litter trays can be unpleasant on the nose. Strict hygiene practices should help manage this, but again it takes responsibility and time to keep everything clean and fresh.
- Cats wake you up during the night. While this is something many owners train their cats out of, many will complain that their kitty wakes them up pretty regularly during the night. Cats are crepuscular, meaning they are most awake at dusk and dawn. So until you have your cat trained, expect an early morning wake up call most days.
- Cats can restrict your housing options. This is true of any pet, but having a cat means your options for renting or buying could be limited.
- Cats scratch. It is in a kitty’s nature to sharpen its claws but with a lack of natural spots to do this, your furniture or carpet could become your cat’s new favourite scratching spot. Buying a scratching post and training your furry friend to use it will help manage this behaviour.
- Allergies – some people are allergic to cats and won’t want to be around your new companion.
Find out more about cat behaviour on the Cat in a Flat blog.
Adopt cats, don’t shop
When considering getting a cat, adoption is almost always the kindest and most ethical way forward. There are so many cats out there that need new homes and face an uncertain future without someone to take them home. Cat charities and adoption centres are dedicated to finding the right human for each cat. Charities will take your individual circumstances and experience into account. Factors such as whether you have children, other pets, live alone, your home environment and whether you’ve cared for cats before. This level of concern means adoption centres are one of the safest places to get a cat too.
However, some cats from adoption centres will come from difficult backgrounds and will need more time and care than others. Other cats could have health problems that owners will have to manage. Many cat charities will help people with vet bills to care for a kitty with health problems. But you will need the time, and emotional and physical wherewithal to be able to cope.
Please take these factors into account and be honest when discussing your experience and situation with an adoption centre. The worst thing for a cat would be to be adopted and then returned, or worse abandoned, so careful consideration is vital.
Of course, some people can’t adopt cats because they require a particular breed because of allergies. In this situation, always seek a recommended and ethical breeder. Cat breeding regulations change from country to country, but unfortunately laws and regulations are few and far between. A personal recommendation is usually the best way forward in this circumstance.
Remember that some cats are less likely to be adopted than others. Older and less abled cats are often overlooked, as are black kitties, so if you’re looking to adopt please be open minded.
A cat is for life
With the isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, shelters and breeders across the world have seen an increase in adoption and purchase enquiries. While news of people adopting cats should be a cause for celebration, there are also reasons to be concerned. Bringing a cat into one’s life and home is a commitment not to take lightly. Impulsive decisions to get a pet can often result in owners abandoning that animal if they haven’t adequately considered the responsibilities involved. Being lonely isn’t enough of a reason to want a cat. You need to be committed to the whole experience of caring for an animal. Which we can promise is absolutely worthwhile!
If you want the experience of caring for a cat, or the opportunity to meet kitties in your area, why not try cat sitting? Read our guide to the top five reasons to become a cat sitter on the Cat in a Flat blog and find out more in our section on how to register.