Given your circumstances and the current market conditions, I would seriously consider buying. Finding a rental that will accept 4 cats will not be easy. In addition, home affordability in this area is at an all-time high - between the low interest rates and low prices, you could even end up paying less per month with a mortgage than with a lease. As far as appreciation, depending on which town you move to, you might see the market value rise slightly in 2 years but I wouldn't count too much on that. However, the market value most likely won't go down in most towns in the area so there's a good chance you could at least sell for what you paid.
I work in the area surrounding New Brunswick and used to live in New Brunswick as well so I would be happy to give you some suggestions as to the best options for you in the area and also which commutes are the best/worst. Feel free to contact me.
Patric Santo Pietro
Prudential New Jersey Properties