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Having a cat while in school

Discussion in 'Allopathic' started by Rumalum, Apr 28, 2012.

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  1. Rumalum

    Rumalum

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    SDN Members don't see this ad. (About Ads)
    I'm an incoming M1, and I am thinking about getting a cat. The desire undoubtedly comes from my childhood when my family had a cat creatively named "Kitty." Then we moved to America and it ran away at my grandma's house, presumably to locate me. The thought of having a cat again makes me melt with joy.

    Anyway, does anyone have experience with cat ownership? I will be living in a fairly large apartment in Urbana, IL, and I will be a traditional out-of-undergrad student living off of loans.

    Some questions I have: How much time does a typical student spend at school? After all, I want to be social and be involved in study groups and what not. Is it cruel to have a cat live inside most of the day? Finally, I've goggled the topic, but I would like to hear more first hand accounts of the monthly cost of owning a cat

    Thanks!
  2. amaprez

    amaprez

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  3. Lbgem

    Lbgem Junior Member

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    Get a cat. I would say get it 1-2 months before classes start because kittens are cute and you'll want to spend a lot of time with it in the beginning. They're great company. Though if you end up moving later, there is the extra hassle of finding places that allow pets. You'll be studying a lot, and chances are you may end up skipping class and watching vids at home, allowing you to spend more time with your pet.

    Pro tips I learned the hard way:

    1. Get a scratching post. This is mandatory unless you want him or her to scratch up your bed/couch/anything it can get its little claws on. They tend to prefer the scratching posts (get a medium-large size one, the ones with just a post tend to be wobbly and don't work well) anyways. Reward him for using it, poke/chide him for using anything else.

    2. Vacuum. Also essential.

    3. Furminator (google/amazon it). Seriously. It'll cut down on the shedding. Don't bother with a brush/etc. Those don't do much. I had a friend profusely thank me because I recommended this. They had tried everything and thought their pet was a hopeless case. I bought them one for Christmas and the pictures they have advertising their product with the loose hair it pulled out next to the dog/cat? No lie. Heh, word of caution. Don't go overboard. I once gave my kitty a bald spot because he was purring so much and liked this, that I didn't realize I had finished getting all the loose fur out. Overboard being 30 minutes.

    4. Indoor is great esp since you said your place was big. I liked it because it meant my kitty was basically in quarantine and no diseases/etc from the outside (unless of course I was sloppy and brought them in), and you can snuggle fluffy all you want without wondering if he's been hopping in dumpsters. Also, cats are crepuscular so they'll be sleeping most of the day. And if you keep him/her indoors, you don't need flea meds.

    5. If you're really ambitious, you can toilet train you cat and even train him to flush after himself. This will take patience. Google/youtube this. It took me a year (because I started when my cat was way older and I wasn't home all the time) to do this, but if you start early you may be able to get it in a few weeks tops. Pros of this = no having to clean up cat litter, and your cat won't smell like cat litter and track it every where either. This is also why I recommend getting him/her 1-2 months before school starts.

    6. Also, before you go overboard with the kitty toys, you may want to try the cheap stuff first. My guy doesn't seem to care for the expensive stuff, but give him shoelaces, my hairbands (there is a constant war with this one because he will open drawers to steal them. I've hidden them in between books, on top of cabinets, underneath papers, on top of my books in the bookshelf, and I have yet to find a place that is cat safe. He can also open doors that aren't locked), bottle caps, etc. he has a field day.

    7. Don't feed them according to the manufacturer's instructions. It's usually way too much. I didn't realize this til my cat was getting fat, then I cut back and he's a normal size. Kittens will eat a lot though, so I think it's fine to feed them a bit when they're a kitten. Adult cats, mine is on the bigger size and I only have to feed him 1 can of wet food a day.

    Get a cat. They help with stress (which you will have lots of), and when you want to take breaks they love to play with you. Mine has been extra work, but also has given me lots in return. I don't regret it at all. Also, may I recommend you take a peek at your local animal shelter? That's where I got mine and he is super awesome.

    Oh, missed your cost question. Hm, I think it was around 50$ when I got him at the animal shelter and that included getting neutered/tapeworm meds/etc. Toys and things to me are a one time cost unless you splurge at Christmas. If we're talking bare minimum, I feed mine 1 can of wet food a day, which is about 0.50$, so 15$ a month for food costs. If you end up doing the litter route that's going to add a lot more. Start up cost for that toilet training, well I'm sure you can amazon it up :p. Your start up costs for everything probably will be 200 if you really want to splurge with the amazing cat towers/etc, catnip, litter box, cat litter, the cat, furminator. I always kept extra money in case something went wrong for vet reasons though.

    Good luck OP, hope that helps
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2012
  4. startswithb

    startswithb

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    I adopted a 2 year old cat a few years ago. Kittens are insane, so adopting a self-sufficient pet from the start was pretty easy.

    I am usually gone from 6-12 hours a day and when I come home, she wants my attention, but leaving her alone that long doesn't seem to be a problem. Cats sleep like 18 hours a day anyway.

    Maintenance involves feeding and watering when I am in the kitchen getting food for myself anyway. I clean the litter box once a week (she's pretty clean).

    Overall, she is nice to have because I love animals and having someone to sleep and play with is a good stress reliever. :) Cats are super low-maintenance. Food and litter costs are maybe $15 a month. Just find an apartment that has a low pet fee and you'll be good. Get a cat.
  5. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis SGU MS-4

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    Cats are cheap, until they get sick / hit by a car.

    Cats are fun too and at least their poop can easily be managed.

    I raised one from when it was a baby. Nicest cat you can imagine (as in, not a spoiled temperamental brat). Remember to neuter.
  6. armybound

    armybound future urologist. Moderator Emeritus

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    you have to try pretty hard to neglect a cat. You'll be fine.
  7. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    A+ post

    I had to learn a lot the hard way when my best friend showed up at my apartment and was like, "here, free cat"

    (he'd had a cat give birth in back yard and was trying to find good homes for the kittens - joke was on him!!)

    Anyway, I'd never had a cat before. Be we got along great - they don't need a ton of maintenance and I found myself quite attached. I think they are great for medical school. I'd say I'm still probably more of a dog guy, but have no regrets about my cat.
  8. tiedyeddog

    tiedyeddog

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    I am a dog person but I knew dogs would be too much to handle with school. So, I ended up getting one cat I found on the street and then another one when I thought the first was getting lonely.

    I never had cats growing up and owning them has totally changed my perspective on them. They're pretty awesome to own and actually can be affectionate. I have three cat boxes, probably scoop them out every two-three days, and I totally change the litter in each box maybe every two-three months.

    From a financial perspective, I try to get them a yearly check-up with the vet, which runs me about $100-200 a cat with shots and everything.
    I usually buy anti-flew meds in bulk, maybe 200 hundred bucks for a year of it?
    Food runs me maybe 15 bucks every two months.
    Litter is about twenty bucks a month, maybe?

    I did have a problem with one of my cats, it had a huge hematoma form in it's ear and had to have surgery to correct it, ran about $500 bucks so that was pricey and unexpected.

    With all that said, I really enjoy owning cats and they aren't a problem even during weeks when I am only at home to sleep and never come back for dinner or whatever. Go for it. :thumbup:
  9. Frazier

    Frazier turtle in a rabbit race Lifetime Donor

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    geez, man, just dig the hole yourself - no need to outsource labor.

    ;)
  10. amaprez

    amaprez

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    How do you know it wasn't a Ford or Chevrolet?
  11. realmeaning

    realmeaning

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    I love cats, so I feel you. I have a 12 year old, Monty. Gush.

    So, I have to say that, even though cats are much less high maintenance than dogs, they still do require significant attention and affection, and it's not hard to neglect them (unlike a previous poster said). Getting a kitten is not a good idea, they need a lot of time and attention to be properly trained and just cared for. I'd say if anything, get an older cat.

    It's true that practically speaking, financially and timewise, you can get BY with minimal investment, but is that really the best for the cat? If you're only going to be awake and at home 3 hours a night, that's not adequate.

    I realize that my opinion differs from a lot of people on this thread, but all I'm saying is that cats, even though they may seem lazy and like they lay around all day, still do need human interaction-- and more of it than we think.
  12. AMH0505

    AMH0505

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    I got a cat about a month and a half into first year and it was a great choice. I initially wanted to bring my childhood cat with me to med school but decided that she'd be extremely upset with having to go from an indoor/outdoor cat to an indoors only cat in a small apartment. To be honest I kind of felt like I was cheating on her when I adopted my med school kitty. :)

    Just a few things to add to Lbgem's advice:
    1. Take into account the age of the cat you're getting. Kittens are cute but they're also very high energy. I live in a tiny studio so I decided to with an adult. He's still playful and feels the need to run laps around the apartment periodically, but he doesn't get into things the same way a kitten can.

    2. Personality at the animal shelter/breeder/whatever doesn't necessarily reflect personality once Kitty has settled in. The cat my parents and I adopted the childhood cat referenced in my opening paragraph, we were warned that she might be "too quiet" for a house with a kid and another cat. She went on to be an extremely in-you-face alpha cat. She just celebrated her fourteenth birthday by killing some sort of large rodent and proudly consuming it on the back deck in front of my parents.

    3. Cost. The day-to-day expenses generated by a cat usually isn't that bad. I spent probably about $8 a month on litter and $25 every two months on food (note: food expenses vary a lot--I buy a relatively expensive dry food and a mid-priced wet food).

    4. Medical expenses. The only thing is medical bills. If you adopt a young cat, you have a good chance of not having too many expensive health problems until after you've graduated and have a job. Even so do not adopt a pet unless you have a contingency plan for unexpected medical expenses. For me, said contingency plan consists of my parents + my loans. Regrettably, my cat is proof that you need to expect the unexpected. His medical records from the shelter indicated he was in perfect health, but my vet very quickly diagnosed him with cardiomyopathy so now he's on beta blockers.

    4. Most cats do well with being alone most of the day, as long as you provide them with toys and such and pay attention to them when you're home. I was initially worried about this, too, because my family's cats have always been indoor/outdoor cats (we live in the country) with at least one of my parents working at home. Anyway, the point is so far it hasn't been a problem.

    5. Consider getting a leash and harness. This may seem eccentric, but it is relatively common in urban settings. Periodic supervised outside time can be good enrichment, but that aside having your cat used to a leash can be very helpful if you need to travel or something.

    Getting a cat was probably the best decision I made since starting medical school. He's been great for my stress levels and overall emotional well-being.
  13. Rumalum

    Rumalum

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    Is pet insurance worth looking into? I think I can handle the food, litter, toys, etc but I'm not entirely sure if I could handle a cardiomyopathy and beta blockers lol
  14. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    :rolleyes:

    cat people . . .
  15. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    that's when you let fluffy go to kitty heaven
  16. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

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    :thumbup: if only there were such a place. I'm pretty sure cats qualify as "soulless" by any definition

    Several of my classmates have both dogs and cats. it is manageable. Cats are also easier than dogs. Just a bowl for food, and a box for poop and they will be fine for weeks on end.
  17. realmeaning

    realmeaning

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    and i iz praud
  18. realmeaning

    realmeaning

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    I'd never want to be your cat.
  19. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    any animal that can go feral and survive on it's own, doesn't need you

    humans are like a novelty and luxury item for a cat
  20. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

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    as a dog person, neither would my cat ;)
  21. jcu

    jcu should have been dr. who

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    What about a cat during residency?
  22. realmeaning

    realmeaning

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    The very definition of a feral cat is one that's descended from a domesticated cat that's most likely been abandoned, so first of all they've been conditioned differently from birth and you can't compare them to your average household kitty. Second, it's true that cats can survive on their own, as many stray dogs do, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't want a home or human companionship.

    Obviously cats are more hands off than dogs but they still need attention. My cat is constantly by my side and, I'm biased, but I think I'm more than a novelty to him.

    Why am I even writing this on a med student forum... I need to get off my laptop. Now.
  23. realmeaning

    realmeaning

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    B4 I go, 1 last post...

    [​IMG]

    Plz tell me this will never happen to us
  24. AMH0505

    AMH0505

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    Not usually, because the rates tend to be high so it's likely to cost more in the long run than paying out of pocket (or so I've heard...my parents looked into it maybe ten or fifteen years ago and that's what they concluded).

    In my case, I live in an expensive city, and my cat's beta blockers are $60 for two months. I should add also that I chose the more expensive option (liquid as opposed to pills) because I'm allergic to cats so putting liquid on my cat's dinner is a lot easier for me than shoving a pill in his mouth (cat saliva + any breaks in the skin = reaction).
  25. jcu

    jcu should have been dr. who

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    [​IMG]
  26. AMH0505

    AMH0505

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    Sorry to post twice in a row, but I would also like to second those pointing out that cats do actually need attention. Cats who are constantly ignored are likely to get into things, develop personality issues, run away, and/or get fat and lazy.

    The good news is that paying attention to a cat often doesn't require much effort. My cat hangs out around my desk when I study and sleeps on the bed with me at night. True, I have to reach over and pet him (oh god! the effort!) and take the odd break to dangle a toy in front of him, but it's hardly a drain on my time. It's not like having to wake up at 5am to walk him rain or shine...
  27. AMH0505

    AMH0505

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    I had cats before I had allergies to cats. Call it a habit. And this time around, I was able to find a cat to whom I'm barely allergic (it really does vary cat to cat). And because I'm allergic to dust mites and common household molds as well, cat or no cat, I rely on a steady supply of antihistamines.
  28. member 20

    member 20 namaste

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    i love having cats and they are great study buddies! here is mine helping me study for the MCAT 2 years ago... ;)

    [​IMG]

    i highly recommend getting a cat if you are thinking about it :)
  29. tigerdude

    tigerdude

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    GET A CAT! I had a cat before med school. Easy to take care of an makes great company!
  30. Rumalum

    Rumalum

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    Ok, I've been convinced to get a cat. Already ordered "cats for dummies." I'll be taking LBgem's advice and finding one in early July, preferably a 1-2 year old from a shelter or a kitten from someone giving them away
  31. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

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    cats are not terribly expensive. While I would not want to dissuade someone from adopting from a shelter, the kitten "years" are pretty awesome
  32. BigRedDeal

    BigRedDeal

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    Kittens can be a handful but are so darn cute! I got a kitten in UG as a med school acceptance gift to myself and another in the summer between 1st and 2nd year of med school. By the time 2nd year started, 2nd kitty had learned the rules of the house. I'm always afraid older cats come with baggage; and since I'm not the most cat savvy, kittens are easier for me. Plus I like to get them used to having their faces kissed off, and being held like a baby at an early age.

    You could always get two kittens. That is what one of my roommates did 1st year of med school. They played with each other and tired each other out, but were still incredibly affectionate with people.

    Feeding tip - get the grain free cat food. Cats are obligate carnivores and just poop out the grain in other foods. I feed Blue Wilderness and Wellness Core.

    Get a cat tower. My cats and my roommates cats love them! And it helps cut down on the scratching of furniture.
  33. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

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    I did this with dogs. Having a friend to play with keeps them out of my hair when i need to study. this is good advice :thumbup:
  34. Lbgem

    Lbgem Junior Member

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    I know there are benefits to older cats, but you can find TONS of kittens at the shelter. I'm very biased towards kittens b/c of the baggage thing with older cats. And if you're getting it in July? You'll have lots of time to play with him/her. The kitten years were the best just because they're so funny and cute. Not being able to successfully jump on bed? Check. Sliding across the dresser because they underestimated how slippery it was? Check.

    One of my biggest arguments for kittens would be you can train them early on/they get VERY attached to you if you're always with them from the earliest point possible (mine became a literal battering ram if I closed the door to the room I was in and he was not in there with me...shocked the hell out of me the first time he did that). Examples for you:

    1. A long time ago I bottle fed a litter of kittens because their mother had got eaten by a coyote. The one I was allowed to keep walked me to and from school every day without fail.

    2. An older cat I had, or rather had been away from for a while and came back to, had a lot of baggage. He was nasty and would bite/scratch people and was a lot more wild than any of the other cats I had.

    3. The ones I have now (I have two...I had only intended to get one but they were the last two in the litter at the shelter and I felt bad for separating them) I got them when they were 8 weeks old. I spent a massive amount of time with them in the beginning, and every day when I got back from work. They play/fight with each other all the time, but both of them are very attached to me (and vice versa). They follow me everywhere. If I go to the kitchen to cook, they have me in their line of sight. If I move to another room to study, they wake up and pad on over to the other room, usually sleeping next to me or on me. When I was sick one slept at my feet and the other one on my chest.

    And people say that you can't train cats to come to you like you can with dogs. I did (without making food sounds tyVm) and I doubt I would have been able to do that had they been older.

    You get the idea :p.

    Cats that are mainly outdoor cats imo never get as attached to their owners. Ditto with older cats (in my experience). Get a kitten. Your personality and the way you raise him will have much more of an influence on a younger cat than an older one.

    Also, I've tried lots of different cat foods and cat liters. You'll figure out for yourself what your cat likes best. I started out with 'kitten food' in the beginning, Whiskas kitten pouches is what they liked the best. Grain free, yes and no. I tried the expensive stuff and yes they did eat less of it than the cheap stuff because there were no fillers in it. We're talking top of the line chicken breast or salmon fillet #1 ingredient in there organic cranberries/etc, better quality stuff than I'm currently eating in med school. Neither of them liked it and neither did their stomachs if you get what I'm saying. Maybe it's because I didn't try it when they were little. Up to you, but like I said you'll figure out what your cat likes/budget allows/etc.

    Are you going to try the toilet training? Pros and cons to that too, but I think it's worth it.
  35. ineed2stpsmurfn

    ineed2stpsmurfn

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  36. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis SGU MS-4

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    Not all cats are smart enough to survive outside :(
  37. LaEsponja

    LaEsponja

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    I didn't read through all of the replies, but I didn't see anyone stressing the importance of spaying/neutering if you get a kitten. Felines don't reach reproductive maturity until the age of six months, so while you may enjoy your fuzz ball until that point if your cat hasn't been neutered you will almost definitely encounter problems. Males may start "marking" their territory, or spraying a horrible smelling secretion all over your house. Females have a complete change of disposition and become quite annoying howling and meowing at all hours, not to mention if you toss her outside she then will birth a litter of kittens on your doorstep.

    I currently live with my mother who works in animal rescue and has 12 cats, lol. While that number is a bit extreme I can assure you the cats have no problem being "locked inside all day" and are never allowed out of the house. It is part of the contract with the organization she works with that anyone who adopts keeps the pet inside for their safety and well-being.

    Good luck and enjoy! I also recommend getting a cat that is about a year or two old from an organization. Then you can ask for a cat with a specific temperament as opposed to luck of the draw with kittens. But whatever you do, please be sure to spay/neuter your pet. :)
  38. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    those animals die like they should

    evolution!
  39. tiedyeddog

    tiedyeddog

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    Maybe we should throw out into the wilderness in Alaska with nothing but your fur....

    Evolution!
  40. centraldogma

    centraldogma The Young Wolf

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    U trollin bro?
  41. NickNaylor

    NickNaylor Daisy the Dog

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    My girlfriend and I got a cat from a shelter about a month ago. She works full-time and is home less than I am, so my situation is probably similar to what yours would be. Since cats are pretty low maintenance and relatively anti-social, you'd have plenty of time to care for a cat. If you feel bad about them being alone all day, you could get two and they can keep each other company for essentially no more work.

    As far as time involved for school, it'll depend very much on your goals and expectations. I'm at a P/F school and have no problems learning just what's in the board review books, so I don't do as well on exams but also don't study as much as some of my classmates. I also don't set foot in a classroom unless required, which again sets aside more free time. If you're going to go to lecture and try and score 90+ on your exams you're probably not going to have that much free time (unless you're a genius).

    As far as cost, cats are very cheap (assuming no medical problems). The initial "setup" cost us about $150 total, and now we probably spend no more than $40-50/mo for food (we buy Science Diet and other more "premium" brands), snacks, and random toys for her. You should be able to spend anywhere from $500-1000 if something should happen, though. I think the cost is pretty much nothing considering what you get out of it.
  42. Cinclus

    Cinclus =^..^= Moderator Emeritus

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    Is your cat a shelter cat? If so, how were you able to select the cat? I wish to adopt a shelter cat (I adopted 2 in the past), but my boyfriend is allergic. He has met several cats to which he did not feel very allergic, and I was wondering about how he could go about selecting a less-allergenic shelter cat. I worry that once he is exposed to a cat to whom he is allergic, setting off the allergic responses, he won't be able to tell if the next cat he examines is less-allergenic.
  43. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    Only the strong survive :thumbup:
  44. dr zaius

    dr zaius Lowly Intern

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    A few months ago I had to take in my family cat. My parents were moving and were stuck in an apartment with a dog until they sold the old house/found a new one and thought it would be too crowded. Cats are generally low maintenance. Many of my classmates have cats and never complain about them. My cat is a bit clingy and is very vocal, which can get annoying at times. He's almost 18 though so I humor him as if he were an elderly relative. Bless his Siamese heart.
  45. BeastInfection

    BeastInfection

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    I'd make sure of a couple of things first:

    1) Does your school offer on-campus housing? If so, are you going to use it? Chances are if they do, they don't allow pets. That said, I've noticed a few cats in the windows of my neighbors even though they're not allowed. They're pretty quiet so it's unlikely anyone would notice, but you could get into some trouble/kicked out if they did.

    2) I've only ever had cats while living in a house out in the 'burbs with a backyard, so I'm not sure how the whole indoor/outdoor thing works if living in an apartment. I'd imagine it could be pretty tough having an outdoor cat if you are living in an apt, so you might look in shelters for cats that will be happy being indoors (I'm sure they can point some out that they believe come from homes, etc.).

    3) If you do live in an apartment with an indoor-only cat, try to find one with plenty of windows, windowsills, and trees (birds) outside to keep the cat happy.
  46. Tatiana3325

    Tatiana3325 Removed

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    For the love of god do not get a pet right now!!!

    If that thing gets sick, it's going to run you at least $ 250. Your cat will get sick at the time you can least afford it, and it will probably be on the weekend. So then you'll have to go to the urgent care vet who is literally going to rob you blind by charging you about $750 for "diagnostics."

    You might think that your young cat won't get sick. This is sound. But what your cat WILL do is eat random crap causing obstructions that your vet will, again, rob you blind to fix by charging you $3000 for the surgery.

    If your cat gets really sick-- thousands of dollars sick-- and you can't pay, you're looking at euthanasia. I'm dead serious. Vets do not mess around when it comes to getting paid.

    Then there's the barfing and the hair and the fact that they live for 20 years. Oh my god don't do it.
  47. SpecterGT260

    SpecterGT260 Catdoucheus

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    wait till after anatomy so you can do the surgery yourself :thumbup:
  48. BeastInfection

    BeastInfection

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    LOL, I have to agree with this. In general, I feel that students getting pets is a pretty terrible idea. There are some scenarios I can think of where it would be less risky (e.g., if the student is married so more stable, with household income, twice the number of people to care for the animal...), but it can otherwise potentially cause some serious problems.

    However, OP, do you have parents/siblings/someone who would be willing and able to bail you out when you're faced with a vet bill that would otherwise suck up several months of your living expenses? Are you responsible enough that, no matter how busy, you will be sure you make time to care for your pet, give them attention, food, a clean litter box, etc.? Are you responsible enough that, when you're faced with a change in your life (e.g., having to move, wanting to go away for summer, etc.) you'll figure out a way to make it work for your pet instead of tossing it back in a shelter (yes, unfortunately I've seen this happen)?
  49. jdh71

    jdh71 si vis pacem, para bellum

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    $3000 for a cat surgery?

    :lame:

    Find how much it costs to put the animal down and call a mulligan.
  50. AMH0505

    AMH0505

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    This is a wee bit of an overstatement. It's true that you need to have a contingency plan if your cat gets sick, but many cats live into old age before needing any expensive medical treatment. It's a risk analysis--if you get a young cat without any preexisting health condition you have reasonable odds that during your tenure as a med student, there won't be too many expensive crises.

    As to vet bills, it probably does make sense to get a sense of the going rate in your area before getting a pet, and also which vets (if any) offer payment plans. The one time I remember in my family's 20+ years of life with cats one of our cats got "thousands of dollars sick," a payment plan was available.

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