Well, now I have a cat-Please help!!

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Ellie Potts

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Hey everyone! I'm reaching out in need of some help in unfamiliar territory.

To sum up a complicated series of events quickly: I came home after my first year of college this summer and have been tending to my mom, who is in chemotherapy and generally unwell. I wasn't home for a week before I heard news that my grandfather's lung had collapsed and that he was stuck in the hospital. Being the only grandchild of 10 within an 8 hour driving range, I set off to take care of him and my grand mother who is mostly in his care (and very deep into dementia). I found a hotel once I got there and everything has been crazy since. I just got back home... but with one major change. My grandfather and grandmother rescued a cat a long time ago. The cat has been through hell, but my grandmother was his savior, his one and only. And he was the most incredible part of her life as she descended into dementia. He was one of the very last things she remembered. And now, he has no one to look after him. My grandfather's recovery may or may not happen, and even if I could get the cat to my distant family, they're all dog people.

So here I am, a teenager who has randomly and unexpectedly taken on a senior (~16 year old) cat. I've never had a cat--in fact right now he is living in a blocked off area of the house because who knows how our dogs will respond. I took his litter box and food back with me. Along with medicine, vet records, and food/water dishes. I went to the store to pick up some cat toys for him to play with when he's stuck alone. That's all I have, though. He will have to move into my dorm with me at the end of summer, which leads me to my questions.

I've been looking at these crazy $400+ litter boxes that are automated and self cleaning. I'm not sure if a splurge of that size is necessary, but should I invest in a cheaper one? Part of me thinks I'll likely foster more elderly cats after him if I get used to having him around and, if not, I'll just sell the lightly used box afterwards for half price. Does anyone have litter box recommendations? The one he has right now is fine, but old and low to the ground so litter gets everywhere.

Any other products you'd recommend to keep a cat happy in my dorm?
Do I have to buy him a bed? The cat is very dog-like. He sits and stands up on command, follows me around, and likes to sleep tucked into my arms. In college, he'll have full access to my bed and chairs and will likely sleep with me, so should I bother getting him one?
He was forcefully declawed as a kitten (prior to his abandonment and my grandparents later ownership), so a scratching pole seems mute and a waste of space in the already tight living quarters. Is it worth getting a mini-cat tree anyways?
 
You can get an enclosed litter box that prevents spills.

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They cost much less than $400.
Get the clumping litter. That's much easier to take care of. Scoop out the clumps every day and you're good to go.
He would appreciate a cat tree. Something with low step and easy to climb since he's older and declawed. He'd probably like a bed too for when you aren't around.
Cats get most of their hydration from the food they eat. So canned food is a good idea. But dry food is good too, so I like to feed them both. Contrary to popular belief, cats are actually lactose intolerant. So they might like milk, but it's not good for them. They make non dairy versions for cats though.
Most of all, they need attention. You don't have to give them the whole day. But some time spent petting them. You'll like it too. One of the highlights of my day used to be my old girl curled up in my lap while I played video games. I'd pause a lot to pet her.
 
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You can get an enclosed litter box that prevents spills.

View attachment 319679

They cost much less than $400.
Get the clumping litter. That's much easier to take care of. Scoop of the clumps every day and you're good to go.
He would appreciate a cat tree. Something with low step and easy to climb since he's older and declared. He's probably like a bed too for when you aren't around.
Cats get most of their hydration from the food they eat. So canned food is a good idea. But dry food is good too, so I like to feed them both. Contrary to popular belief, cats are actually lactose intolerant. So they might like milk, but it's not good for them. They make non dairy versions for cats though.
Most of all, they need attention. You don't have to give them the whole day. But some time spent petting them. You'll like it too.
Thank you! I keep going back and forth on the litter boxes. Right now, I'm looking at 4 different options at 4 incredibly different price ranges. My favorite one out of the 2 'cheaper' options is like what you've just sent. My favorite one out of the 'fancy' ones has an automated cleaner, attached app, scent control, et cetera, without being the most expensive option. With the current sale, about two weeks of work could cover the nicer one. Part of me feels like I should just splurge and pay it so that my dorm room (and my poor roommate) isn't exposed to a horrible smell all the time. Plus, the cat deserves two weeks of pay and it's more efficient for the space. But also, it seems stupid and overkill and I'm sure certain friends/family would roll their eyes at the effort.
I thankfully have lots of clumping litter that my grandfather had stockpiled from random coupons.

I'll try to shift him to wet food once I run out of his dry food. He drinks a lot of water throughout the day, so I think I'll get one of the water bowls that constantly replenishes.
I'll avoid giving him milk and will give him all of his favorite scratches. By the time I got to him, he had spent a couple days alone and was totally distraught (as a cat that hadn't been alone for more than a few hours for years now). Now I'm trying to overcompensate with affection and cuddles.

EDIT: I've found some of the fancy litter boxes on Ebay for a much reduced price. Still ridiculous for a litter box, though. Still making a decision
 
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I don't know much about cats; my kid @TheLavenderBadger is more the expert on that. But I am so sorry to hear about your grandparents and your mom. That has to be really hard. I hope the cat turns out to be a good thing, for both of you. :)
 
Does your college alllow cats in dorms? Mine didn't, but I still managed to do it. It's not a lot of space for a cat - but if he's old and not active maybe that won't be a problem.

Kudos to you for all the care and love you're giving out.
 
Thank you! I keep going back and forth on the litter boxes. Right now, I'm looking at 4 different options at 4 incredibly different price ranges. My favorite one out of the 2 'cheaper' options is like what you've just sent. My favorite one out of the 'fancy' ones has an automated cleaner, attached app, scent control, et cetera, without being the most expensive option. With the current sale, about two weeks of work could cover the nicer one. Part of me feels like I should just splurge and pay it so that my dorm room (and my poor roommate) isn't exposed to a horrible smell all the time. Plus, the cat deserves two weeks of pay and it's more efficient for the space. But also, it seems stupid and overkill and I'm sure certain friends/family would roll their eyes at the effort.
I thankfully have lots of clumping litter that my grandfather had stockpiled from random coupons.

I'll try to shift him to wet food once I run out of his dry food. He drinks a lot of water throughout the day, so I think I'll get one of the water bowls that constantly replenishes.
I'll avoid giving him milk and will give him all of his favorite scratches. By the time I got to him, he had spent a couple days alone and was totally distraught (as a cat that hadn't been alone for more than a few hours for years now). Now I'm trying to overcompensate with affection and cuddles.

EDIT: I've found some of the fancy litter boxes on Ebay for a much reduced price. Still ridiculous for a litter box, though. Still making a decision
I put 3 paper grocery sacks in the bottom of my litter box that looks like the pictured one, put about 1.5 inches of tidy cat regular cheap non-scoopable litter in it, and I change the box once a week and my house doesn't stink. And I have 3 cats.
 
The lovable cat is 16 years old which is considered old age for a cat. Unless you plan on keeping cats for many more years, perhaps the much less expensive enclosed liter box would be more practical.

But in the end it’s your money..
if you go with the expensive option, read reviews on Amazon first… especially the negative reviews.
 
Make sure you are giving him a schedule, and daily playtime with toys. Cats also love many climbing spots, so a cat tree and climbing shelves would be great. They need exercise even when they are old.

Honestly, I would recommend watching some "My Cat From Hell" videos. I've learned so much on what not to do and what to do. Even things you normally wouldn't think about like how you do playtime.
 
Make sure you are giving him a schedule, and daily playtime with toys. Cats also love many climbing spots, so a cat tree and climbing shelves would be great. They need exercise even when they are old.

Honestly, I would recommend watching some "My Cat From Hell" videos. I've learned so much on what not to do and what to do. Even things you normally wouldn't think about like how you do playtime.
I'll put on the show tn! I watched it as a kid but didn't pay much attention. I'm trying to find things I can put up for him to climb on without causing damage to the wall (so the college doesn't fine me). I've found some window attachments and free-standing stuff on Facebook Market place which I think I'll try. I'm doing my best to give him a schedule, but work has been completely thrown into a spin after I disappeared for a week, I'm trying to help my dad and his wife get ready to move and care for my mom and am still making emergent 6 hour trips for my grandmother, plus travel obligations I have for my more distant school. So right now he's just getting the best I can offer. Once I get to college he'll be on a very strict regiment

The lovable cat is 16 years old which is considered old age for a cat. Unless you plan on keeping cats for many more years, perhaps the much less expensive enclosed liter box would be more practical.

But in the end it’s your money..
if you go with the expensive option, read reviews on Amazon first… especially the negative reviews.
Part of me thinks it's not worth buying anything for this exact reason. With my luck, he'll kick the can right after I get him all set up at college and fall in love with his company. If I get used to him, I'll probably end up fostering more elderly cats in the area (I've done some volunteer work at the local shelter and I'm sure they would let me). The dilemma of his life span and if I might get a second complicates how much of an investment this is. Part of my concern is that he's actually in great shape for a 16 year old cat, and his sibling lived to 20. Which is a bigger commitment.
Does your college alllow cats in dorms? Mine didn't, but I still managed to do it. It's not a lot of space for a cat - but if he's old and not active maybe that won't be a problem.

Kudos to you for all the care and love you're giving out.
They typically don't. There's an application process that involves getting a roommate agreement signed and all of this paperwork with the pets healthcare and why you need to take the animal (whether it's a weird situation like mine or a service/support animal). Fortunately, I've worked enough with they school that they know what my home situation is and would know my request is coming from need. They're much looser with the rules in liberal-artsy schools. It is a small space, but he'll have my roommates space too and he's not too active since he's elderly.
I don't know much about cats; my kid @TheLavenderBadger is more the expert on that. But I am so sorry to hear about your grandparents and your mom. That has to be really hard. I hope the cat turns out to be a good thing, for both of you. :)
Thank you! It's all overwhelming and there's so much to do in keeping some people alive while dealing with the remains of those who passed, but it is nice to have another little buddy in grief. Just hope he doesn't decide to exit as soon as we find a routine
 
Hi, wishing the best for your family and you and your new furry friend! As for the cat’s accommodations… I’m sure he will tell you what used to be your bed will now be his and he will graciously share it with you as his new favorite person, who he likes to cuddle with. They like to be up high anyway. I don’t think he would use a cat bed unless he has been. If he actually slept in one before, I’d try to get that one for the familiar comforts of home. The replenishing water bowl is a great idea, especially if it has some kind of flow of fresh water, but he is apparently drinking well with your current set up so it’s a luxury and not a must have. As for the litterbox, the automated ones are the only ones that I can go to someone’s home and not even know they have a cat if I don’t see it. Litter boxes may not smell of what is in them but typically have a unique odor that those who live with them might get used to but still isn’t all lilacs and freesia. If I were living in a dorm with roommates who could complain, and their rights and dorm payments might take precedence over the cat’s rights, I would absolutely want the no odor, or as close as it gets, option. Then the roommates can fall in love with the cuddly sweetheart and no one has to see, smell, or scoop anything unpleasant. A family member cleans houses and comments on a house where they have 4 cats and 4 automated litter boxes and you can’t smell anything from them. That would be my priority, but others here disagree and you may also. The room it takes up could be a factor too. If someone trips on an open litter box and spills everything on the floor, tracking litter etc through the room, people might resent that. I would definitely get a covered box if I couldn’t afford automated and yes, the clumping litter. That’s my two cents worth.
 
Part of me thinks it's not worth buying anything for this exact reason. With my luck, he'll kick the can right after I get him all set up at college and fall in love with his company. If I get used to him, I'll probably end up fostering more elderly cats in the area (I've done some volunteer work at the local shelter and I'm sure they would let me). The dilemma of his life span and if I might get a second complicates how much of an investment this is. Part of my concern is that he's actually in great shape for a 16 year old cat, and his sibling lived to 20. Which is a bigger commitment.
That is a valid concern: 2 weeks’ pay and you just don’t know what the future holds. Bless you for all you’re doing to help everybody else. I think this cat will bring you some comfort, as will any future foster, and you deserve that. I’m glad you have understanding people around you for support at school as you balance all this.
 
We have 3 house cats and no smells (according to our non cat owning neighbours). Cheapie litter boxes are fine as long as they close. Best litter we have found is this - https://www.zooplus.co.uk/shop/cats/cat_litter/tigerino/tigerino_clumping/153208 its a Canadian brand so hopefully you can find it if we can get it in the UK. Be aware that some cats may be sensitive to having litter changed, just like to food so you may have to switch them gradually.
Make sure that your litter is deep enough to prevent the bottom of the litter tray getting wet - that way you don't need a liner and cleaning is much easier.
 
The enclosed litter boxes are very good however you have to keep in mind that the poor cat is over 16 years old and is used to what he already has. He may reject the new box and poop and pee literally anywhere else. His life has already been pretty disrupted, it may be kinder on him to leave his loo as it is. If you really are intent on changing it, do so but leave his old one available to him so that he can choose between them. If he takes to the new one, goodbye to the old one. I had a cat that would only use Catsan, I don't know if you get it where you are but it never smelled thankfully. If we tried to change it to something else, he refused to use the box 🙄
 
Thank you! I keep going back and forth on the litter boxes. Right now, I'm looking at 4 different options at 4 incredibly different price ranges. My favorite one out of the 2 'cheaper' options is like what you've just sent. My favorite one out of the 'fancy' ones has an automated cleaner, attached app, scent control, et cetera, without being the most expensive option. With the current sale, about two weeks of work could cover the nicer one. Part of me feels like I should just splurge and pay it so that my dorm room (and my poor roommate) isn't exposed to a horrible smell all the time. Plus, the cat deserves two weeks of pay and it's more efficient for the space. But also, it seems stupid and overkill and I'm sure certain friends/family would roll their eyes at the effort.
I don't think you need to spend extravagantly on the litter box. Diligently cleaning it and quality litter will do more to prevent odor than any technology.
Plus, you might need that money for a vet bill. So I'd put that aside for an emergency fund.
I thankfully have lots of clumping litter that my grandfather had stockpiled from random coupons.

I'll try to shift him to wet food once I run out of his dry food. He drinks a lot of water throughout the day, so I think I'll get one of the water bowls that constantly replenishes.
I'll avoid giving him milk and will give him all of his favorite scratches. By the time I got to him, he had spent a couple days alone and was totally distraught (as a cat that hadn't been alone for more than a few hours for years now). Now I'm trying to overcompensate with affection and cuddles.

EDIT: I've found some of the fancy litter boxes on Ebay for a much reduced price. Still ridiculous for a litter box, though. Still making a decision
It usually doesn't take much to get a cat to eat wet food. It's more savory than dry. Although you should still give him dry. I liked to give mine wet once a day and then have dry out for them to eat throughout the day. The water bowl is a good idea if you aren't going to be around to make sure fresh water is always available.
One thing about the wet food though. Cats each have their own personality and their own preferences. I've found they have different preferences for flavors. My last one liked seafood flavors best. I've had cats that liked chicken or beef better.
 

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