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Adding to what others said, I purchased the book Think Like a Cat when I adopted my first cat and found it to be an invaluable resource.
I recommend getting a cat tree - it will likely become your cat's favorite scratching post and sleeping spot. And I will always recommend brushing your cat, even if it has short hair. It will cut down on the chance of hairballs, help with shedding, and make their coat look great.
On the subject of food, I'm a big believer in feeding cats wet food at least once a day. Cats can easily get dehydrated or form crystals in their urine, and wet food drastically reduces the chances of this. Plus many cats love wet food! When choosing wet and dry foods, I recommend getting grain-free foods that list meats as their first ingredients.
May I recommend some reading? Check out <em>Think Like A Cat</em> by Pam Johnson-Bennett. She's considered the top expert in cat behavior, and recommends that owners use distractions to prevent and break up cats fighting, as the fighting can be dangerous and harmful both to the physical and mental health of the cats.
There a lot of good advice in this book. Everything is well titled so you can skip around to find what your looking for.
Another thing I forgot about is litter box size. Most boxes are too small.
Some cats take a long while to get used to their new person. Who knows what life was like for that kitty before you adopted them? It's going to take a lot of patience to get them to trust you but the reward is worth the effort.
Honestly? Try ignoring the cat and see if it will start to come to you on its own. Don't stare at it or go after it (staring can be seen as threatening to cats), look at it indirectly while busy with something else. Have it's food bowl in the same room as you but far away so it starts to associate you with food time. Make sure you have lots of hiding places for your new cat so it can feel secure all throughout the house.
Have you read Think Like A Cat? It's a great insight into why our fuzzy felines act the way they do and how to best live with them. It might have some tips for making a skittish kitty feel more comfortable with you.
Not quite, its common to try and treat your cat like a dog and get frustrated when it doesn't respond the same. Cats have different motivations/ drives than dogs so when training you need to appeal to those. I recommend this book Think like a cat. It really helped explain the cat mindset and drive. I am sure other books are available but there's really not a lot on reddit about the topic.
Taking care of any pet is hard.
Similarly to dogs, cats need training and stimulation. If not, you may end up scratched and bitten, just because the poor kitty doesn't know any better, just like a dog may bite if not trained not to. It's a bit easier to handle an older cat that is chill and already trained, but they will still need playing with for 1 hour a day, plus cuddling, feeding, and scooping up the litter box daily. You have to monitor how much they eat and drink, and make sure they poo and pee enough, otherwise take them to the vet.
If you will be away for so long, it may be a good idea to get 2 cats, so they don't feel lonely. This is critical if you have kittens and want to keep your sanity, but recommended even with adults.
Please read up on it before getting a cat. There are a ton of things you should know, so you don't end up with a bitey scratchy kitty that ruins your apartment and pees everywhere. I usually recommend this book, as it really helped me understand cats better. Cats don't do anything without a good reason, and if you understand that, then you can understand how to correct unwanted behavior, or redirect it towards something more appropriate.
Also, keep in mind that a cat is a long-term commitment. Cats nowadays can live 20+ years. Don't be the person that adopts a cat while actually wanting a dog and then decides to abandon it in a few months.
If you really want a dog, there are people who hold 9-5 jobs and still have dogs. Some of them hire someone to walk their dog once a day at lunch, but not all. Rescue a dog from the shelter. You will give them a better life, even if you are away for most of the day.
If you want a cat that is social and affectionate, I have two recommendations. One is to get another cat, and the other is to read this book. It's really, really good at explaining what makes a cat do all the weird things they do and how to respond correctly.
When you take a cat on a walk the cat walks <em>you</em> not the other way around like with dogs. Cats mostly just want to stroll around where they want to go and sniff things when leashed, they have little to no interest in following you, so you’re not going to be able to use this as an exercise session for either of you. The whole point is really just to provide mental stimulation for your cat. If you want to provide your cat with exercise then stimulate their hunting instincts through play with a fishing pole cat toy.
For new cat owners I would also recommend the book Think Like A Cat, it’s a great introduction to cat ownership that covers everything: behavior, training, cat body language (which is NOT the same as dog body language so brush up to avoid miscommunication), and care.
This book is an incredible resource for figuring out why your cat is doing different things (and how to change its behavior):
Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat, Not a Sour Puss by Pam Johnson-Bennett
As someone else suggested, using a Feliway plug-in can help cats feel less stressed overall. You might also consider using Feliway spray on the clean bedding itself, since Feliway is a synthetic version of cat facial pheromones (which they use to mark territory by rubbing their cheeks on furniture, walls, etc.). Cats often refuse to urinate where they rub their faces (duh), so if he senses he's already marked the bedding that way, it may work as a deterrent to keep him from peeing there again.
If you think that this has more to do with your cat being uncomfortable with the "intruders" in his home, you might want to buy an interactive cat toy -- those fishing pole-type ones, for example -- and see if your foster child can engage with him that way. Not only will it help them bond, interactive play can help relieve stress and provide adequate mental stimulation for your cat. The book I recommended above has a great explanation of how best to do that.
I highly recommend you read Think Like a Cat by Pam Johnson-Bennet. I’m basically parroting her info. Link is here...
You need this book, How To Raise A Well Adjusted Cat Not A Sour Puss. Fantastic book about forming a relationship with your cat and dealing with behavior problems. I agree in that if the kitten has not been correctly socialized it will never enjoy being around humans, kittens have to be handled by 3-4 weeks old, this is why its so difficult to turn ferals into pets/house cats. Make sure its a kitten that has had exposure to humans from a very young age and you also have to spend a lot of time with it when you bring it home. If you want a cat this is going to be more social look for the kitten that is not scared and comes to you, a timid kitten is going to be more reserved.
The problem with using puppy pads the way you suggested is that they teach your puppy that peeing is always ok inside the house. It can make potty training really difficult, especially for smaller dogs with their tiny bladders. A better solution (that’s less confusing for potty training) would be to have a dog walker come over a few times during the day with a puppy. Many dogs walking companies have a reduced price “puppy package” for multiple quick pee breaks throughout the work day. As the dog gets older you might be able to make one mid-day walk with the dog walker work. Since you’re planning on getting a cat though you don’t need to worry about it.
I think getting a cat (or two) is a great idea with your current lifestyle. As someone who also grew up with dogs but got their first cat as an adult my advice to you is this: Keep in mind that cats aren’t dogs. Don’t expect them to have the same wants, play style, reactions, socializations, or body language as dogs. It’s a bit of an adjustment at first but cats are wonderful and affectionate in their own special quiet, unique way. I’d recommend watching Jackson Galaxy’s videos, as well as reading the book ‘Think Like A Cat’, for some great resources on on cat behavior and training. As long as you appreciate your cat(s) for the amazing feline that they are you guys will have a great time together!
Read this book: [link]
These two are general guides on cats. Both are very good:
This is a book on clicker training, I haven't tried the techniques, but the book seems good:
This book has great reviews
For the litter box issue, I would get him a bigger litter box. Even if he's not that big, it'll be more comfortable for him to use. Also, it is a covered litter box? Many cats refuse to use litter boxes with a covered lid because it traps the smell.
For his aggressive playing, I think this article is a good read. I also recommend the book Think Like a Cat (Amazon link) which discusses any issues you might have, including litter box problems and aggressiveness.
I highly suggest getting the book Think Like a Cat. It will answer every question you could have.