Saturday, December 22, 2012

On the Fourth Day Of Christmas, my True Love Gave to Me, Four Mewling Kittens: How to Help Your Cat Avoid the Animal Shelter this Holiday (pt. 4)


Orange cat in Christmas decorations
While this part of the holiday hazard series is not about emergencies, it does address another serious holiday pet topic. As pet ownership is a huge commitment, giving a kitten as a gift should be considered with great caution.  For one thing, cost is a huge consideration – not of the cat itself (depending on the breed), but of the financial commitment that is involved in the cat’s day-to-day care in addition to veterinary costs. If you Google “yearly cost of owning a cat” you’ll get hundreds of results, ranging from $100/month to over $1000/month for food, litter, veterinary care and toys. These estimates do not take into account medical emergencies (hopefully no holiday-related problems, since you’ve read this blog!) or chronic health issues. The first year of life also tends to be quite a bit more expensive because kittens receive a series of vaccines, and will need to be spayed or neutered (this will cut down on medical costs later in life by preventing unwanted pregnancies, reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, and prevents unwanted behavioral problems for which many cats end up unwanted in shelters). 

Whatever the cost per month, you should be certain that the recipient of the cat is aware of the ongoing cost and prepared to give the cat the financial investment to keep it healthy. Often, especially in this time economic slump, many pets end up in shelters or on the streets because people are no longer able to provide care and shelter for their pets. 
Also, consider the effect on other pets and people in the household. Are you giving a kitten to a teenager who will be going off to college in a few months and possibly be unable to house the cat in the dorm with them? Is anyone in the household allergic to cats? Do you own a large, hostile dog or a boa constrictor that might find a tiny kitten to be a great snack?
Kittens are hard to come by at Christmas time because cats tend to breed during the summer months, so also consider that, if a feline friend is welcome as a gift, maybe an older cat would be a good choice. It may be best to plan to visit the shelter or rescue* together to pick out the new cat, to make sure that the person receiving the cat is getting a cat that they feel a connection with.
If forethought is put into the decision to make a gift of a cat, then the gift can be up to 20 years or more of valuable companionship, but it is not a gift to be given lightly.
*While many people choose purebred cats, remember that only about 20-30% of shelter cats ever get adopted. Consider adopting a rescued pet. Petfinder.com can even help you locate purebred cats that need adoption at local shelters and rescues, if only a purebred will do.