It can happen to the best of us. You see a cute tiger-striped kitten with white paws and green eyes, just begging for your attention.

You take one look and the next thing you know your walking down the pet aisle at the local supermarket.

If you are like most of us, falling in love with a cat is easy. And no wonder, sharing your home with a cat can be one of life's greatest joys. Pets give unconditional loyalty and acceptance; provide constant companionship and even help to relieve stress after a hard day's work.

Adopting any pet is a big decision. Cats are living beings that require time, money and commitment-15 year's worth in many cases. Pet ownership can be rewarding but only if you think things through first.

Things To Consider

The fact that you are thinking about adopting a cat from a shelter means you are a responsible and caring person. But before you make the final decision to bring a furry friend into your life, take a moment to think about these questions:

Why do you want a cat? It is amazing how many people fail to ask this simple question before they get a cat. Adopting a cat just because it is the thing to do or because the kids have been nagging for one usually ends up being a big mistake. Never forget that a cat may be with you for 10, 15 or even 20 years.

Do you have the time for a cat? Cats cannot be ignored because you are tired or busy. They require food, water, exercise, care and companionship every day of every year. Many animals end up in shelters because their owners did not realize how much time it took to properly care for them.

Can you afford a cat? The monetary costs of cat ownership can be high. Veterinary care and vaccinations, grooming, toys, kitty litter, and other expenses add up very quickly.

Are you prepared to deal with special problems that only a pet can cause? Flea infestations, scratched-up furniture, accidents from animals that are not yet housebroken and unexpected medical emergencies are unfortunate but common aspects of pet ownership.

Can you have a cat where you live? Many rental communities don't allow pets and most of the rest have other restrictions. Make sure that you know what they are before you bring a cat home.

Is it a good time for you to adopt a cat? If you have children under six, for instance, you might consider waiting a few years before you adopt a companion. Problem-free pet ownership requires children who are mature enough to be responsible. If you are a student, in the military, or travel frequently as part of your work, waiting until your life settles down is a wise choice.

Are your living arrangements suitable for a pet? Adopting a very energetic cat to share your small apartment is not a good idea-he won't have enough space to exercise and explore. Choose an animal that will be comfortable in your surroundings.

Do you know who will care for your cat when you are away on vacation? You will need either reliable friends and neighbors or money to pay for a kennel or pet-sitting services.

Will you be a responsible pet owner? Giving your cat the love, attention, companionship, a healthy diet and regular veterinary care are essential.

Are you prepared to keep and care for the pet for his or her entire lifetime? When you adopt a cat, you are making a lifetime commitment.

Adopt An Animal For Life

Sure it is a long list of questions, but a quick stroll through any animal shelter will help you understand why answering them before you adopt a pet is so important.

Many homeless animals are victims of irresponsible people who allowed their pets to breed. But there are many cats at the shelter that are more than a year old-cats who were first obtained by people who didn't think through the responsibilities of pet ownership before they decided to adopt.

Please don't make the same mistake. Think before you adopt. Sharing your life with a companion animal can bring incredible rewards, but only if you are willing to make the necessary commitments of time, money, responsibility and love, for the life of your cat.

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