It’s Not All Cuddles and Purrs – the Cons of Cat Ownership

Yes, cats are cute and we love it when they curl up on our laps or pounce on a toy. But having a cat comes with plenty of unpleasant things, too – messes, hazards, annoyances, and expenses – that you should be aware of if you’re thinking about adopting one soon.

Gray and white cat standing on top of the trashcan with his chin on the kitchen counter, eyeing some people food

This article is part of a series to help you make an informed decision about whether or not getting a cat is right for you.

We focus strictly on the disadvantages of having a cat in this article, but make sure you know about the many upsides of cat companionship as well.

1. Time Commitment

Having a cat requires that you make time for the chores and various responsibilities. It takes a minimum of 20 minutes per day to take care of the basic requirements of cat care.

2. Housing

Having a cat can make it harder to find a house or apartment to rent because many landlords unfortunately don’t allow cats or pets. I’ve experienced this challenge myself a few times, and it can be a real problem in competitive or hot rental markets.

3. Can Limit Time With Friends or Family With Cat Allergies

If you have friends or family members who are allergic to cat dander, they may not be able to hang out inside your house for very long.

I have one friend who is so allergic that he won’t spend any time inside my house, apart from using the bathroom. Sometimes, it bums me out that social gatherings at my home are limited in this way.

4. Travel Requires Additional Layer of Planning and Expense

When you have a cat, you may not be able to just spontaneously hit the road for the weekend. You need to arrange for someone to look in on your cat at least twice each day while you’re gone.

If you can’t find someone, you may need to board your cat, which can be stressful because cats don’t like sudden changes in scenery! And cat care arrangements often cost a minimum of $25-$30 per day.

5. General Expenses

Having a cat isn’t cheap. It typically takes at least $400 just to get started with a new cat. A typical monthly budget for one cat starts around $50 or $60, and can be much higher depending on what you buy and how much medical care your cat needs.

6. Shedding and Cat Hair Everywhere

Unless you have a hairless cat, you will have cat hair to deal with. This means you’ll probably be relying on your vacuum cleaner and broom more often than you otherwise might. You might also need to have a lint brush handy to remove the hair from your sweater.

7. Litter Box Maintenance

Perhaps most cat owners’ least favorite chore is scooping and cleaning the litter box. You are also likely to not enjoy this activity. But you must do it if you have a cat.

8. Unpleasant Odors

Although cats usually keep themselves quite clean, having one around does involve some stink factor.

This is mostly related to the litter box. This can be a problem when you don’t have a good place to keep it. For instance, some cat owners have no choice but to put the litter box in the bathroom, or near the kitchen.

Canned cat food also doesn’t smell great, in my opinion at least. But this is minor and usually only a brief daily experience.

Fun fact: feeding a raw diet often leads to practically odorless cat poop!

9. Scratching

Cats need to scratch something every day in order to maintain claw and paw health. This means they may scratch and damage things you don’t want them to scratch. Like your sofa or rug.

The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to help them scratch the right things (i.e., scratching posts). Plus, there are certain types of furniture material that cats are far less likely to scratch than others.

10. Cleaning and Chores

Having a cat means you will have extra cleaning and chores added to your life. Some of them are stinky or gross, like cleaning the litter box or wiping up hairballs.

11. Hairballs

Most cats cough up hairballs from time to time. And it can happen on pretty much any horizontal surface in your home. Some cats are more prone to hairballs than others. Regular brushing can help keep this to a minimum.

12. Vet expenses

Annual routine checkups are a predictable expense, but you never know when your cat might get injured or develop a health issue that requires medical attention. Vet bills can add up. For that reason, some people choose to insure their cats.

13. Noise

Cats are generally pretty quiet pets to have around. But they can be vocal when they want attention or food.

And some cats can be very vocal and very persistent. My sister’s cat is a good example of this – he can really be a lot when he’s hungry.

Also, some cats learn quickly that meowing (and pawing) endlessly at your bedroom door is a great way of making breakfast happen in their food dish. I avoid this by closing my cats in their own space each night, but that’s not an option for everyone.

14. Damaged Stuff

As previously mentioned, cats can damage furniture by scratching. They also tend to get the “zoomies” once or twice each day, and you never know what they might knock over or pull to the floor when that happens. This is usually a great source of entertainment, but it does occasionally lead to messes.

Other sources of wear and tear can be hairballs or barf on the carpets, and litter box accidents.

15. Problematic Behaviors

Cats often require some training and problem-solving. Cats with a history of trauma can develop some aggressive behaviors, like biting or scratching when they feel threatened.

Problems also sometimes occur around litter box use. Occasionally, a cat may reject using the litter box for some reason. If this occurs, prompt trouble-shooting is required.

Those are a couple of the most common examples of behavior issues cat owners may have to deal with.

16. Clutter

Having a cat usually means your space is going to be perhaps a bit more cluttered than it might be otherwise. The main culprits are toys, scratchers, and food and litter box areas.

17. Long-Term Commitment

Finally, having a cat means you’re obligated to provide necessary and proper care for the entirety of the cat’s life – typically 15-20 years. Caring for an elderly cat can be more intensive – and expensive – than what it took in its younger years.

And of course it will probably be tremendously sad when your cat reaches the end of life. But it’s all part of the deal.

Last Meows

Now you have an idea of the potential downsides of having a cat. To be sure, the possibilities don’t end there.

As you can see, it’s not all purrs and snuggles. There are also plenty of annoyances and mishaps that are an inevitable part of having a cat.

The good news is, there are sooo many upsides of cat ownership that make it really great and totally worth it. Plus, there’s a lot you can do to prevent mishaps and address unwanted behaviors so that your journey in cat ownership has far more upside than down.

Bonus: Some Real-Life Examples of Mishaps and Misadventures of Cat Ownership

As a bonus, here is a non-exhaustive list of things that may or may not have happened with my own cats (ok, almost all of them happened with my own cats), and could happen with yours, too.

I share some of my own tales of cat ownership frustration and misfortune, not to scare you away from getting a cat, but so that you can go into it knowing the sorts of pitfalls you might experience along the way.

  • Tries to scoot past you and out the door when you enter or exit the house
  • Jumps up on the counter and steals a piece of food off your plate
  • Snags your favorite pair of jeans while curling up on your lap for some snuggling
  • Walks across your keyboard while you are working on your laptop
  • Curls up on your open laptop for the warmth, changing settings you didn’t even know existed
  • Jumps onto your dresser from a sprint, using her claws to come to a stop and knocking a glass photo frame onto the floor
  • Jumps up on the dining table during dinner with family
  • Jumps onto your shoulders during a zoom call
  • Wakes you up before your alarm goes off
  • Flicks turds and litter onto the floor during an overzealous digging session in the litterbox
  • Is a “high peer” and inadvertently pees onto the floor with aim that’s too high for the litter box walls
  • Refuses to eat the same food she seemed to love last week
  • Rips open a bag of food on the counter that you that thought he wouldn’t be interested in
  • Exits the litter box with poop hanging from his butt and proceeds to scoot across the kitchen trying to scrape it off, smearing poop on the floor as he goes
  • Eats your favorite houseplant
  • Hides behind the dryer whenever an unfamiliar person is in the house
  • Relentlessly shreds your fabric-covered armchair despite your strategic placement of not one but two scratching posts beside and behind it
  • Knocks over your houseplants while playing chase, breaking a pot and sending dirt everywhere across the floor
  • Curls up on your lap at an inopportune time, making you feel guilty for waking her up and disturbing the slumbering cuteness so that you can move on with your day
  • Chews on your plants to get your attention when she feels ignored or wants to remind you it’s past her dinner time
  • Barfs up a hairball on your favorite rug
  • Gets into a bag of almonds – toxic to cats, I now know – and proceeds to eat them, making her very sick
  • Barfs up dinner right on your shoes
  • Barfs up a hairball that you don’t notice until you step in it the next morning when you get out of bed
  • Pees outside the litter box because you felt lazy and decided to try and go one more day without cleaning out a dirty box
  • Tries to climb the curtains, pulling the whole curtain rod down
  • Tracks cat litter through the house and even up onto countertops and tables
  • Belts out a deranged chorus of yowls while you are on an important phone or zoom call
  • Insists on being on your lap as you write some emails before heading to work, leaving your black pants covered in cat hair
  • Leaps out of your arms when startled by the sound of a motorcycle going by the house, leaving bleeding scratch marks on your skin
  • Coughs up a hairball on the dining table
  • Climbs into and then behind the kitchen drawer you accidentally left open, making you worry your cat has gone missing
  • Plays with your trailing pothos plant, pulling the entire pot onto the floor from a high shelf
  • Curls up in your suitcase as you pack for a trip
  • Climbs the screen door trying to catch a bird on the other side
  • Has a food allergy that requires you to spend money on vet bills and more expensive food
  • Refuses to get into the cat carrier when you are late for your vet appointment
  • Yowls loudly in protest for the entire trip in the car to the vet’s office
  • Bites out of the blue in the middle of a belly rub she seemed to be thoroughly enjoying
  • Drools on your face while laying on your chest and enjoying some good cheek scratches
  • Somehow picks up fleas despite being an indoors-only cat
  • Gets his head stuck in an empty ice cream carton, causing him to scoot backwards and knock into walls and furniture
  • Tries to jump onto your shoulders even though you don’t have a shirt on
  • Mysteriously develops a severe limp one morning, leading to an expensive visit to the vet
  • Gets into a squabble with a neighborhood cat through the window screen, pushing the screen out of the window frame as it happens
  • Meows incessantly whenever he’s hungry
  • Causes you to miss out on renting an apartment you really wanted because the landlord doesn’t allow cats
  • Forces you to put expenses on a credit card because of an unexpected and expensive trip to the vet
  • Eats any rubberband you happen to leave out
  • Slowly pushes things off of your dresser and onto the floor, apparently just to watch them fall
  • Develops a digestive condition that makes him barf a lot until you figure out that he requires a special and expensive diet
  • Makes it so that a few of your friends can’t come into your house for more than a few minutes because they’re allergic to cats
  • Jumps up on your stove with digital touch controls and turns the oven on. Yes, turns the oven on!

Don’t say you weren’t warned about what can go wrong 🙂

Be sure to explore the entire Verve Cat series about deciding whether or not having a cat is right for you.

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The information provided here is not meant to replace professional guidance from your own veterinarian or cat behavior specialist.

About VerveCat launched in Fall 2023 and aims to grow into a comprehensive source of information, resources, and reviews for every part of feline companionship. Whether you’re an experienced cat owner or just getting started on your cat life journey, we’re glad you stopped by and hope you’ll find things here to help you along the way.

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