Cats VS Dogs
Before we decided to get our cats we did a lot of research into how to take care of cats. Growing up with dogs, we knew there was a ton of work that is needed with dogs. You need to take them for walks continuously, they need to be left with people when you go out of town for a night, they they are not typically good smelling. That's not to say that we don't love dogs. Prior to owning cats, I had 8 dogs (not all at the same time) and grew up with dogs. Dogs are very loyal, affectionate, and are generally pleasing. All of them had different personalities, and were trained in a variety of different ways.
Two of the dogos were police canines. Interesting story on that one. We had a full grown German Sheppard maybe three years old. He was all muscle and very smart. We got him from an owner who couldn't handle him anymore, due to opening up the front door and going for walks in the neighborhood. We decided to take him. After a few months, he learned how to open our front door. After learning that, he went on his walk around the neighborhood. He ended up running into a neighbor down the street who was canine handler for the local police department. The neighbor brought him back. We thanked him and put him in the backyard. Next day, same thing. Goes to the neighbor, neighbor brings him back. After the second time, we changed the doorknob from a lever handle to a knob. Don't ask me how the dog figured it out but, after a few days he was out again. After running into the neighbor for the third time, the officer was curious how the dog was getting out. He brought the dog inside his house and watched to see if the dog could get out. Instead of trying to get out, the Sheppard just sat on his couch and fell asleep. He didn't want to play the officers games. After a few hours the dog got up, went to the door, and stood on the handle. The door latch was unlocked, and the door opened. He used his nose to push open the door from a crack to wide enough for him to get through. The officer thought this was hilarious and brought him back to our house. He told us he was interested in taking the dog and seeing if the police could use him. We weren't sure about it at the time, and declined. Two weeks goes by and the dog is out of the house again. The officer brings him back and says that the police can give us one of their German Sheppard puppies that's not working out in exchange for this dog. We meet the puppy, fall in love, and exchange. The puppy, named Otto Vonhausdrache- house of dragons in German, fit in really well with the family. He was pre-trained, understood German (so we had to learn basic German commands) and was super affectionate with everyone- the reason why the police couldn't use him. The sad thing about German Sheppard are they have a lot of health problems and Otto didn't live very long (only 1.5 years).
We've had Labradors, German Shepards, dalmatians, mutts, and Tibetan Spaniels. A wide range of large to medium to small dogs. They were all great in their own way. But they definitely had drawbacks. The constant walking (even in the rain), the wet dog smell that follows, the trying to find care when we went on trips, and vet bills were a few of they many issues we had with the dogs.
Not to mention we also didn't have a backyard so:
This is where we decided to get our first cats!
How do you pick cats?
That one looks nice.
We weren't sure whether to get kittens or older cats. On the one hand, as a kitten they grow with you. On the other hand, they are small and might get stuck in a shoe and you can't find them.
With older cats, they are already litter trained, they know how to take care of themselves, and maybe they are a little more independent. The other major benefit is that their attitudes are pretty well developed by then. Meaning that if the cat likes to snuggle- they will continue to do this. If the cat likes to be outside/inside then it will continue to do this. There is less guess work with an older cat.
We started our search looking at older cats. We went to shelters, Petco, etc. We met some really affectionate cats, some small ones, some really large ones (20 lbs large- yeah this black cat was more puma than cat!) However what stopped us from getting the older cat was the puma experience.
The Puma Experience
While sitting in the play area in Petco we were playing with the biggest cat i've ever seen (that was still considered a "cat"). It was at least 20lbs, part Maine Coon part feral, but it was very affectionate. It wanted to sit in our laps, wanted to play with the string toys, and liked being held. This was all great! We were having fun with the cat and were considering adoption, when all of a sudden another cat gets too close and also wants to be pet. The puma turned into a...a...really mean cat, kinda like a puma but a less used metaphor. It started to hiss and you could see the devil in its' eyes! The foster mother who was taking care of the cats came over and picked the cat up by the back off the scruff (back of the neck with excess skin). We were told that this is the same technique that mother cats do to their kittens in order to calm them. The cat turned on the foster mother and swiped once. After a few seconds it calmed down and began to purr.
So this cat sits in laps, plays, and PURRS. uh SOLD! But after seeing how this catfressional (cat professional for those not in the know) was able to handle this large cat when it acted up, kind of proved to us that we needed to start small and make our way up to a large cat.
Kittens are cute, small, and can be accustomed to you. Do you like holding cats? Do you like having cats sit on you? Do you want to trim their nails without being scratched to hell? Well start them young and show them.
When we began looking for kittens we started with petfinder.com. We were able to see all the pet's available around us (which was helpful) and see their "personalities". When you adopt kittens you aren't allowed to get them as soon as they hatch.
They can be adopted at about 8-12 weeks. The same amount of time the mother cat typically spends with them. So you are able to get them while they are little, just not as little as you might want/think. If you are interested in getting smaller kittens you do have the option of becoming a foster parent. This does however require you to bottle feed, clean up diarrhea, and constantly clean them since they don't do this yet.
Also another aspect of getting kittens is their color changes. When we first got our boy (Simon) he was platinum blonde almost white. As he grew his bright color soon turned into gold, and even dark in some spots. The girl (Phoebe) didn't change since she was only black and white.
One of the better aspects on petfinder.com was even though you are looking for kittens, the kittens that are available are typically picked up from the pound. From the pound, they get cleaned, microchipped, spayed/neutered, and looked after to see if they have any health issues. So when you pay for the kitten you are just back-paying for the prior services that the kitten received while it was not yours yet.
This is going to be your pet for a long time. Don't just show up at the adoption and choose.
When we were looking for new kittens the foster parents allowed us to go see the kittens in their homes. When we were in their homes we were able to see how the kittens acted in their environments. Here we were able to see which ones were shy and didn't want to be pet, which ones were curious and wanted to play, and which ones were mischievous. This is also a benefit because we got to see which litter and food they were used to.
On our first visit we met with a kitten called "Peek-A-Boo". He was very curious, liked to play, and let us pet him. The foster parent said he liked to be held also, but he didn't let us on our visit. We really liked him, and were wanting to move forward with the adoption process. The only issue was, the adoption agency only adopted two kittens at a time.
-Great, way to get our hopes up. Do you happen to have another kitten?
No, not here, but another foster parent might have one.
We really only wanted one kitten, being first time cat owners how could we handle two cats?!? Seemed like too much work, but we did some more research. When cats grow up together they play with each other and form bonds.
If the cats play and stimulate each other then they are less destructive with their environment. Less destructive also means you get to keep your leather couch. Hmm, maybe this two cat thing isn't that bad of an idea.
So we were back on the hunt to find another kitten to be a match with Peek-A-Boo. But that was harder than expected. When we were looking for the match for Peek-A-Boo none of the foster parents wanted have an odd amount of cats. So now the option was 3 cats? I can see how people easily become crazy cat people at a drop of the hat!
After awhile of getting nowhere with the second kitten, we decided we had to move onto a new litter with more than 1 kitten. This is where we met Phoebe and Simon. The litter was a variety of 7 kittens. There was Calico, Siamese, short hair, and long hair. Apparently a female cat can get pregnant from multiple different studs and this can cause a mix of genes in the same litter. Phoebe immediately came and played with us as soon as we got into the room. She brought toys, and didn't mind us holding her. Simon on the other hand recently went to get his nails trimmed and the manicurist cut his nails too short and hurt his paw. So he was skiddish when we first encountered him. After playing with Phoebe for 30 minutes we were sure we wanted to get her. We just didn't know which other kitten to choose. We ultimately didn't know until the actual adoption day. We picked Simon on the adoption day because he let us hold him then, and he looked cute, that's pretty much all knew about him going into it.
The adoption paperwork to get the kittens was utterly ridiculous. I guess they are there for a reason: to weed out the people who will be responsible and take care of the kittens, over those that will get them for a few months and then let them loose. The paperwork asked for everything! Things from how many rooms do you have at your house? Do you rent or own? Do you have a stable job? Can someone come over and inspect the house? The inspection question kind of got to us. We knew no one was actually going to come over, but even asking the question got under our skins.
We finally brought the kittens home and put them in a room to acclimate. When introducing new kittens(or even cats) to new locations start them off in one location. They are so small that they can easily hide in the worst locations (under the dishwasher and behind the fridge were two that we really didn't like). When you start them in one room, with their litter box, they find a safe space to scurry off to when they get scarred- and you don't have to look around the whole house to find them. The kittens were really smart, they knew how to use the litter box from the beginning and didn't make a mess. Eventually we moved the box from the office to a bathroom, and after a week and a half we started to open up the rest of the house for them to explore. After a month we allowed them to walk around the whole house without us home. During all this time we got them accustomed to us holding them, petting, and trimming their nails. We started them off young on what we were doing and they accept us for us- crazy cat people.
Owning cats has been great! They are cute, playful, and they like their own independence. We can leave for a weekend without wondering if the cats are going to be ok. They don't, typically, smell and taking out the litter box wasn't as bad as you might think. I will totally recommend getting a kitten for others that are in a similar situation.
Will we get a dog once we have a yard? Maybe, but the cats have to approve first!