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Adopting a Cat

How does it change your life? Do cats make good companions?

By Alicia BrunskillPublished 5 years ago 7 min read
Our cat Nellie. Photo by Adrian Stuart.

When I adopted my cat Nellie, she was the first cat I had ever owned. I grew up with dogs, rabbits, guinea pigs, goldfish, hamsters, and whatever else we rescued from the wild. As a child, I considered myself a lover of animals, certainly, but very much in the camp of ‘dog lover.’

When I left home, I realised how restricting it could be to have a dog. Having to push things back on the side, never being able to leave the room with food on the table, having to book dog-friendly holidays (which meant never going abroad with my family), having to go straight home from school to let the dog out… I loved my dogs, but I hadn’t realised that these things I had always done took a lot of my energy. (I’m finding this out all over again now that we've just got a puppy!)

Like many people who grew up with dogs, I didn’t understand cats. They looked so cute but seemed moody and against cuddles. A lot of the people I knew in my twenties had cats, I began to befriend the feline species and realised they weren’t quite as snooty as I had thought. I began to crave the company of a pet but didn’t have the time to dedicate to a dog.

A cat seemed like the perfect option…

Adopt Versus Buy

I never thought about buying a kitten, although initially I did want to try and adopt a kitten. I felt that there were a lot of cats needing homes already and that I could do my bit by adopting one. I came around to the idea of adopting an adult cat as I had no experience of kitten-rearing and limited time to spend at home with my new feline. Just as I didn’t have the time for a puppy, I didn’t have the time to raise a kitten.

Other advantages are that it’s cheap, I made the suggested donation to the sanctuary, and your new pet has been checked over by a vet, and in Nellie’s case, vaccinated and spayed before I got her.


Nellie on her Daddy’s lap. Photo by Daddy (Adrian Stuart).

Over the last three and a half years, I’ve discovered how loyal, loving, and responsive cats can be. It’s true that you have to let them come to you and you can’t force them into cuddles, but if you cuddle them when they ask for it, they come back for more often!

I took it as a sign that Nellie had picked us in the sanctuary as she went and sussed my mum and brother out, sitting on them and investigating my mum’s handbag, before coming and landing herself in my lap. I had brought my mum and brother along to help choose, but it turns out you don’t choose the cat.

I still feel honoured every time she comes and sits on my lap, snuggles up close to me in bed or shoves her nose (or paw) in my face in the morning.

She follows me around outside, announces her presence when she returns after a few hours’ absence, asks for a tummy tickle when she’s lounging on our bed, and observes me doing all sorts of things.

She is my office companion, curling up under my desk, on the back of my chair, on the windowsill, on my desk, on the printer, on the sofa-bed behind me. She sits on the keyboard when she’s being most helpful.

Nellie knows when we’re feeling under the weather and we need her attention. When I’m ill in bed or on the sofa, she dutifully stays with me, snuggling and guarding. If someone cries, she comes to offer comfort.

When I’m in the garden, she finds me at regular intervals for belly tickles, to meow about her day, and to sit with me while I write, read, eat, or sit.

She could just turn up for meals, but she is a part of everything we do because she chooses to be, and it feels pretty special to have been picked by an animal for this kind of affection.

They go where and do what they want.

Nellie ‘helping’ with some marking. Photo by Adrian Stuart.

There is no such thing as an ‘off-limits’ place in your house to a cat. They do not like closed doors and will tell you so. They will also find a way to open said closed door, repeatedly, simply to have the door open. Because to a cat, the world is better with open doors.

I struggled with my cat’s independence once she started going outside. Having been a dog owner, I was used to my dogs only going out with me and where I allowed them to be. This was a very big adjustment for me and I still worry about her when she’s gone for more than a few hours.

The only times Nellie ‘doing what she wanted’ was a problem, was when she couldn’t go outside and we didn’t play with her enough. She went through a phase of eating paper, this included some post… We realised that she was bored, played with her more, and stepped up our search for a house where she could be outside again. She’s kicked the paper habit since she’s been back on the prowl!

Doing what they want also includes them bringing dead things… This bit is disgusting, but thankfully, Nellie only feels the need to bring her kills to us occasionally.

They wake you up for food.

And snuggles. Nellie either sits on my chest and paws my face, or gets so close that her nose is on my nose. She rarely does this anymore, more often she comes and sits on one of us and stares.

They expect you to understand their stares.

She stares at me from across the room, from across the garden, through the window, sat in a doorway, on a windowsill… Sometimes I am complicit, like when we are both looking at my new puppy having a tantrum and then we share a stare. We are both thinking, ‘idiot.’

At other times, I am less sure. Like when Nellie stares at me sitting in the doorway, cleaning herself and then staring, cleaning herself and then staring. But that’s part of the magic too. I just assume she’s gathering ‘data’ on the human.

The Black Cat Myth

Nellie snuggled in our bed. Photo by Adrian Stuart.

I could not believe that black cats are the least likely to get adopted. The sanctuary was delighted when I said I wanted a black cat. They said that they always get left. But why? They are gorgeous!

I can assure you that Nellie has brought nothing but positivity to my life, so I most definitely do not buy into the ‘black cats are bad luck’ myth.

Odd Behaviours

Nellie on a paper rampage. Photo by Alicia Brunskill.

I find her weird parts endearing, perhaps they make sense in cat logic but to a human, not so much.

I can only speak for my one cat, but she does lick a lot of things. Like, the floor, the printer, my desk, my face, my hair, blankets, trousers, sheets, work surfaces, cupboards, windows…

She also does this strange ‘mock chewing’ thing, it might be when she wants food but we’re not really sure. Her paper eating phase was also up there in the realms of weird.

And this one… if you happen to have earwax on your finger, and you put it in front of her, she WILL eat it! And lick you finger raw afterwards. Apparently, cats see this as a valid food source. Eww.

For an animal that hunts, kills, and eats wild animals, she is also a bit of a diva about meat when it comes from a human. We must chop it up into teeny, tiny bits, or she will stare at us… (I know what this stare means!)

So how does it change your life?

In a practical sense? Not that much to be honest.

You’ve probably already got the idea that I love my cat dearly and that I wouldn’t be without her. She’s a bit of a weirdo at times, but aren’t we all?

Adopting a cat has only made my life better. When I got Nellie it was just me and her against the world, then her daddy joined the pack. Nellie brought with her affection, humour, and enough independence that we were able to co-exist without me feeling like I was constantly missing doing something for her. (Now she judges me for getting a puppy who’s so needy!)

Going away for short breaks is not as difficult as with a dog, you can leave cats plenty of water and food in timed devices, they take care of the rest.

So, if you feel like you want to commit to something bigger than a hamster, but aren’t ready for a dog, adopting a cat might just be the right option.


About the Creator

Alicia Brunskill

Alicia writes about her experiences with anxiety and depression, teaching and learning languages, education and cats. She also shares her poetry and fiction from time to time.

Find her on Twitter: @aliciabrunskill

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