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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 12:17 AM Thread Starter
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Question Thinking about adopting but I need some advice

Recently I had to have my cat put down and it's left a bit of a hole in my life. I found him as a feral kitten (only 4 weeks old) outside my old apartment and I only had him for about a year. He was pretty sickly from the start (he had pretty severe UR infection when I found him and he always had a trace of it during his life) and never was quite right in the head...he would fling himself at the door and howl and he would lunge for my hands if I tried to pet him. Eventually his behavior got so bizarre (he was licking himself raw in some spots despite having no fleas, mites, or detectable allergies and was constantly running around and having some seizures) that the vet recommended he be let go since there was nothing that could be done. That said, it was a very difficult decision to let him go but I'm glad he's finally at peace.

Now it's about 2 months later and I am missing him quite a bit despite his problems, so I am considering getting another cat. However, I'm a bit on the fence as to whether or not this would be a good idea. So, here I am asking for some advice.

The main reason I am on the fence is because I am applying for graduate school in a few months and if I get in I will be moving next summer to a new location, probably a few states away. I would be living on a limited salary (not unlivable, but budgeted) and would be working pretty intensively for a couple of years. I think I would do very well with a lazy lap cat like a ragdoll or persian who would just want to sit with me while I work, but I would be spending at least 8 hours per day away from home and the cat would be by itself for that time. I know 2 cats are best in that situation but I wouldn't be able to afford food and vet bills for 2 cats and I will probably be living in a small apartment so I wouldn't have adequate space for them either. I am slightly concerned about the cost of upkeep for 1 cat on a graduate salary, but I think this would be pretty doable if I stay on a budget.

Right now I work full time and I am moving in another 2 months to another small 1 bedroom. I am thinking about adopting a cat after that, but again, I would be gone for 9 hours per day and I would probably be spending some time outside of that with coworkers and friends as well.

So, any thoughts on this situation? I would really like to have a sweet, loving, laid back cat as a companion, especially after the very stressful experience of my first cat, but I am concerned about leaving it alone for so long. Does anyone out there have loving cats that like attention but who are fine with being alone during the day? (does this animal even exist?) Has anyone cared for a cat while in college or grad school and what was your experience? I am interested to hear any thoughts or advice.
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 01:16 AM
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I'm currently in grad school in a 1BR apartment and I have a cat. Even with her fancy grain-free food her costs (food, litter, registration, vet nest egg) is only about $80 a month, tops. Your funding structure may be different from mine, but our family of 2+kitty is able to live, if not luxuriously, quite comfortably on $20k/year if we had to. My sister is also in grad school, and struggles a bit financially caring for her cat, but he's a geriatric case that has quite a few medical expenses attached. (And, tbh, she has a higher cost of living than I do, with car payments and old loans and etc). Many of old-cat's current problems were/are preventable with appropriate care during their younger years, but hindsight is always 20/20, right?

In terms of expenses, honestly, the biggest unexpected one that I've run into is arranging for her care when I have to go to conferences. $25-$40/day for someone to come feed her really adds up - but compared to the actual costs of attending/presenting/printing it's not too bad. I just mention it because it's something a bit unique to the grad experience.

However, I'm not sure I can comment on the time commitment. My partner works from home so there's almost always a human companion around to keep Io company, though even when we're both home (on weekends) she spends most of her time amusing herself. A younger cat would need more of a time commitment from you. I also don't go out more than 2-3/week, and am an old person so I like to be home by midnight (don't want to turn into a pumpkin and all that).

Would you consider not getting a pure breed? I'm sure there are many many many adult/middle-aged cats in shelters near you that are laid back and would love to have you in their life.

Others here would say not to get a pet if you're not in a very stable and comfortable financial situation. While it's a valid point, personally, I think the benefits to pet ownership outweigh the $80/month, and you're giving another living creature love and companionship and getting it in return.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 08:55 AM
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The only thing you need to worry about or think about is whether you can afford a cat on whatever income you will have...and that includes being prepared for the unexpected costs (i.e., high vet bill) or obtaining pet insurance to cover such unexpected costs. If you can afford the financial costs, then I wouldn't worry about the fact that you'll be away for 8 or more hours a day. Many cat owners are away from home for at least that amount of time, whether for school, work, etc. Besides, while you're away, the cat will likely just be sleeping in any event.

If you decide to adopt, given your lifestyle and income, I suggest you go with a cat older than a year who has already been spayed/neutered, rather than a kitten, since the vet bills will be lower (kittens require frequent vet visits, shots, spay/neuter, etc.).

I chuckled about your lap cat comments re ragdolls and persians. I have two cats: Muffs is a purebred ragdoll and Abby is a ragdoll/persian mix. Muffs is NOT a lap cat and hates to be handled. Abby likes to cuddle now and again, but after 5 minutes she's had enough. Meanwhile, my daughter (who is a grad student) has a DSH, and he (Neko) is the biggest lap cat and cuddlebug you could ever meet. So, if you decide to get a cat, don't select on the basis of breed...just select a cat that likes laps and like to cuddle. As a grad student, my daughter is away at least 8 hours a day, often more, and she only has the one cat, but none of that bothers Neko.
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:10 AM
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I'm sorry for the loss of your little one. It sounds like you gave him a great life despite all of his problems.

I had a couple of thoughts when reading your post
- if you are looking for a lap cat perhaps you might think about an adult since thier personalities are mostly set. An adult might also be more content to spend longer periods alone without getting into trouble (no guarantee there, however, just read some of the stories around
- a cat might help to reduce some of the stresses of grad school. There is nothing better than talking to a furry who listens and loves you.

Good luck to you.

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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:45 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice everyone! It's good to know that the costs aren't too bad on a grad salary. With my former cat it seemed a lot more expensive since I was buying new things for him frequently (waterer, brushes, etc) but I have saved most of those things in case I decided to get another cat. I also fed my cat fancy grain free food (wellness) and it really wasn't that hard to manage the expense. I just wasn't sure what to expect with a grad school salary. I think I would still feel guilty leaving a cat home alone all day but I guess the right animal would learn to adapt to it. I guess it's me that would have to get used to it and get over feeling bad

I had definitely planned on getting an adult cat at least 2 or 3 years old since I know I don't have the time or energy for a kitten 's needs nor would I feel right leaving it home alone all day. I might even look for a cat that's a little older like 5 or 6 since those animals have a harder time getting adopted (sadly).

Also, I don't have my heart set on any particular breed, I just mentioned ragdolls and persians since they have a reputation for being lap cats (even though they are all individuals!) There are many cat rescues in my area and I was planning on visiting a few to see if there is a cat out there that would catch my eye. Hopefully I can find one that doesn't mind moving or being in the car or being alone all day but who wants to cuddle and sit in my lap!

Last edited by gesneriad; 06-24-2012 at 09:48 AM.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:46 AM
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As I understand it, cats hate disruption, so the only advice I have to give is to wait until you're in grad school before adopting a cat.

Oh, yes! For the most compatible cat, try to find one that chooses you and is not too big.

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 09:47 AM
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The major concern here is the finances...if you can afford to feed it decent food (not necessarily the best, but not grocery store brand either), a few toys, litter and have the means to deal with a large vet bill if something happens...then I wouldn't worry about the time you are away. Many people get cats because they do deal well with being left alone for long periods. Most sleep 18-20 hours a day whether their person is home or not.

Go to shelter and pick out a young adult snuggle bug, don't worry about breed...just look for the right personality.

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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 12:45 PM
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Yes, shelter kitties rock!!!
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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-24-2012, 01:57 PM
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When you get settled, go to a shelter or a rescue and get picked. Someone will find you attractive; afterall, you are a cat person! I have always loved letting the cat pick me.
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 06-25-2012, 01:50 PM
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I wholeheartedly agree (intellectually) with going somewhere you can just sit down and be with the cats and let one choose you. I have a persian right now ... NOT cuddly. She was a year old when I got her and is quite entertaining and I'm hoping she'll become a bit more affectionate as she gets older (she's around a year and a half old now and loves stalking the humans and galloping through the house).

I would love to have another cat to cuddle and keep getting stuck on the whole letting a cat choose you as compared to picking a breed you love. For me it's Siamese. I've had them ever since I was a child, with my last Siamese passing away last year at the age of 16. It's a quandary.

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