Just over a month ago, I made the decision to adopt a kitten. Timing-wise, it was a terrible decision because I am more busy this semester than I have ever been. However, I don't regret a thing because I love my new kitten Wesley.
During this first month of taking care of Wesley, I've learned a lot of lessons about balancing taking care of an animal, college, and jobs. So here are some of my best pieces of advice if you're a busy college student who wants to adopt a cat!
1. Make sure you 100% want a cat.
I know several people who thought they wanted a cat, but then found themselves unable to take care of it for long and had to find a new home for it. This is a horrible thing to do to yourself and to an animal. Before you start going to pet stores and shelters, make sure you are mentally and financially prepared to take care of a cat.
Once you've thought about it for a few days and still decide that you want to get a cat and can give it a good life, then you can start thinking about all the other details.
2. Don't be afraid to be picky.
Cats can live for over 16 years, so you need to make sure you are choosing the best cat for you since you're going to be stuck with it for so long.
Before I went looking for cats, I made a mental list of what I wanted in a cat: someone lively and cuddly, relatively young (a few months to two years), healthy, gets along with other cats, and who I had an instant connection with.
These seem like simple requirements, but in practice were a lot harder to achieve. Some cats would have all the requirements, but be 12 years old or have FIV (the feline version of HIV). Or it would seem like all the requirements were fulfilled, but then when I went to its cage, it would not want to interact with me.
I went to six different shelters and pet stores before I finally met Wesley. And the second I opened his cage and started petting him, I knew he was the one for me. I hadn't had that feeling with any of the other cats that I'd met, so I was glad I had waited for the perfect cat rather than settling for one of the other cats.
3. Don't feel constrained by your requirements.
If I had found the perfect cat and it was older than two years, I would have gotten it. Initially, I wanted to get a female cat because all my life, I have only had male cats. But when I saw Wesley, I decided that requirement didn't really matter after all.
You should be picky about some things that are non-negotiable, but if you're too picky, you might let a great one pass you by.
4. Cat-proof your room.
This is especially true for kittens. Kittens will chew on wires, papers, and anything remotely string-like. So if you don't want your cat destroying it, hide it in a drawer, because they are curious and will want to smell and chew on everything once you bring it home.
Also, make sure to keep anything that could harm a cat out of reach.
5. Set aside some time to spend with your cat.
Yes, cats are much more self-sufficient than dogs, but they still crave love and attention. If you know you have a crazy work and school schedule, make sure to set aside some time for playing and cuddling with your cat. It will feel lonely if you ignore it all day - especially if it's the only cat in the house.
6. Find a person who can take care of the cat when you're not home.
If you're working long hours or are going away for a few days, you need to have someone who can come over to feed the cat, clean its litter box, and play with it for a little while.
I'm lucky that I have a roommate who loves cats (and has her own cat) who can always pop in my room to check in on Wesley when I'm not home.
But if you don't have roommates or they don't want to help out with the cat, ask a friend or family member as soon as possible (and maybe even before adopting a cat) because if you have to go somewhere last-minute for some reason, you need to make sure your cat is taken care of while you're gone.
7. Don't worry so much!
When I first got Wesley, leaving him alone or with the other cat in my apartment gave me so much anxiety. But he's a cat and cats are largely self-sufficient. They do want human interaction, but leaving them alone for a few hours won't kill them. In fact, they are most likely just napping while you're gone. They will still love you when you come back.