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Discussion Starter #1
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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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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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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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 here..lol).
- 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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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
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!
 

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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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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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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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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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Agreed, let the kitty pick you. I did NOT come home with my first choice when I adopted MowMow and I'm thankful each and every day that he was a lot smarter than I was. He chose me and he was *NOT* taking no for an answer.
 

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Hello OP, I was in an almost exact situation as you. I grew up with at least one cat at the time, and was SO wishing to have a cat when I entered grad school (actually 2 grad schools as I got two MS degrees on different majors). I didn't do it eventually. Waited until I started working and felt stable (for at least a few years).

Money was not the major concern for me. I'm not sure how much you will get from grad school, but I possibly was getting more, or at least the same, as you do. Having a cat is not very expensive if you don't count in heavy vet bills. However, a grad student can be very unstable. I travelled quite a bit for different conferences; moved almost every semester because of my internships; and had NO idea where I will be working after graduation. Yeah I guess all those difficulities can be overcomed, but it's very hard. Trying to find a short-time living place that allows pet is near impossible. If I need to work or do intern at far distance city, I need to have my cat flyed with me. Also count in that finding a pet-friendly living place oversea (means you cannot check the place in person) is difficult. I don't even want to think about the stress that my cat will experience.

The time you can spend on a cat is also quite limited. I'm not sure what's your major and what's your academic goal. But mine kept me quite busy. I only want affectionate cat, but affectionate cat wants lots of attentions, which I won't be able to give. It's not fair for the cat.

So overall, I would NOT recommend you to get a cat during grad study. Saw too many cases where students try to rehome their cats because their new place doesn't allow cat; they are going to another country and don't want to take the cat; the cat is lonely, etc. etc. Granted, these could be merely excuses. But it is a lot more difficult to keep a cat as a student.
 

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I'm sure such a cat exists. Cats are independent creatures, unlike dogs. Though not usually left alone for that long, we have a lazy lap cat that doesn't seem to care if he's left alone for 8 hours. There is three other ctas with him, but he rarely interacts with them and I doubt he would care if he was alone.


Nathan
 

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Discussion Starter #14
It's definitely going to be hard to make a decision, especially after yingying's reply. Again, I am not going to get a purebred animal just to get a particular breed...I am looking for the right animal who will fit into my life, whether it is purebred or a mutt. I agree about letting the cat choose you as well...

I am pretty much right on the fence here...I am worried about how busy I will be in grad school and how much time I will have for a cat, etc. but I know a lot of people who do have cats in grad school, including my sister, and they all seem to be doing fine. I feel that if I plan ahead and put a little money aside each month for vet bills, etc. I should do okay in terms of finances, but I'm just not sure what to expect in terms of how busy I'll be and how much I will be in the field. I am looking at a museum studies program (my bachelor's is in Zoology and so my focus is Natural History) and the lab I want to join works in the field quite a bit but usually all of that is done locally and not abroad.

Gah, so much to think about! I think after I move to my new apartment in my current city (grad school won't be till next fall) this August I will go to a few cat shelters and look around. If I don't find the right cat or one that I fall in love with, then I'm not going to adopt one. Who knows what will happen?
 

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I am also a grad student. Their expenses aren't that bad and, as someone else said, thats with the fancy pants grain free foods. When I was working on my undergrad theses and would spend entire days glued to my computer, the cats only ever seemed to suffer if there was a tasty looking bug I wouldn't let them out to get. Other than that they stuck to knocking my research off the table and sleeping on my feet ( or attacking my hands when I got a brain surge and was typing a lot). As for leaving them alone, I have left my two for more than hours a few times recently as I am temporarily working two jobs which has required me to be away from home for 12-14 hours at a time. They are glad to see me but are none the worse for wear, definitely nothing a few rounds of 'kill mommy while she walks' and some cuddles can't cure :D Hope that helps!
 

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On your question about whether having a single cat would be good or not . . . many of us here on the forum have one cat, and many of us will sing you the praises of having one cat.

In my case, I've only ever wanted one cat. More power to people who have multiple cats, but I felt like having multiples would tap me out as far as having the energy to dote on them, as I am likely to do. :) When were adopting in 2008, we just made sure to adopt a cat from the shelter who had been labeled "must be an only." Then the decision is out of your hands!

I was kind of afraid of adopting a "must be an only," thinking that meant they were aggressive or hated people or something. To the contrary, what I found with Murphy is that he "must be an only" because he loves people so much that he wants all the attention to himself! He's the sweetest lovebug of a cat you've ever met.
 

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Why not wait a bit and see. Start grad school, get into the groove for a few months and then make the decision. You don't have to decide right NAO! :)

It's not just the cat but you. I know that some nights when I get home from work I'm just so tired I want to go to sleep as soon a I walk in the door and then want to cry when they start climbing on me for play, food, scratching, and clean litterboxes. None of those things are an option though so I up I have to get to deal with that before making myself dinner for that night as well as lunch AND breakfast for the next day. Then there is a final litterbox scoop and ANOTHER meal for them before I get flop for the night. Of course they make up for it, especially on the weekends when I finally DO get to sleep and we kitten pile it for an afternoon of movies and snoozing.

Just sayin' keep in mind how YOUR going to feel studying and doing field work and having someone who needs care and attention when you get home.
 

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I agree with October on the only-cat thing. I've said before that my heart's only so big - if I adopted another cat my partner would have to move out. ;)

Io was also listed as "must be the only cat in the home" and is the sweetest thing ever. She gets really agitated if I watch cat videos on youtube, though.

It sounds like your program might involve fieldwork abroad. In that case, I think it may be more prudent to wait until you're settled. Where I'm at now, I have a few family members and lots of friends that can come check on the cat when I'm gone (because I usually drag my partner to the really boring acoustic conferences with me). I don't do a lot of fieldwork, though (not that kind of linguist) and I'm situated pretty well so that I don't often have to travel too far.

Granted, I make it more expensive for myself because we refuse to board Io. Her "must be an only cat" tag makes me think she'd spend most of it locked up alone, and my partner has had terrible experiences with boarders/catteries (two family pets died - one "ran away" and the other "must have fallen" and broke a leg and had to be put down.). Paying someone to come to the house is more expensive, though not by much. Friends and family will usually do it for less and give your pet more love.
 

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Why not wait a bit and see. Start grad school, get into the groove for a few months and then make the decision. You don't have to decide right NAO! :)
I agree with MowMow. It's better to feel it out and see how it all plays out. You may decide you can handle it and make a better decision once you know for certain how some of the variables associated with having a cat and a full load of school work and other obligations pans out.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I agree with Valarie, the idea of adopting a senior had crossed my mind. I definitely want an adult cat with a set personality, and maybe a cat that only gets along with other cats would be best for me. I might like to get another cat someday, but I think having one is what I prefer for now.

I guess I just have to think on it some more and go visit some shelter kitties after I move and settle in to my new place in a month. Lately I have really been missing my little kitty despite his troubles, especially since three of my friends just got new kittens :( Still, I don't want to rush into a decision. I have some idea of what to expect in grad school since I got a BS and did two research projects while working part time, so if I can find a kitty that will be content to sleep on my bed and sit in my lap while I study that will be the best. I guess I'll just see if anyone at the shelter likes me enough to adopt me ;)
 
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