Factors to Consider in Pet Selection - Cat

By Lynn Buzhardt, DVM

Behavior, Characteristics, Pet Services

You’ve probably heard lots of funny cat anecdotes; how you don’t own them…they own YOU. How they feel superior to everyone, especially dogs. How they expect to be treated like royalty. If you are considering a feline acquisition, first consider this: lots of those remarks are true!

Feline Variety

kittens-555822_1280With over 70 pure breeds and countless combinations of mixed breeds, there are lots of cats to choose from. That’s a good thing, because cats are the #1 pet in the United States. Of course, all cats consider themselves number one!

Despite the vast numbers of cats, felines fall into one of four categories:

  1.  Natural breeds. This group includes Persians, Maine Coons, and American Shorthairs. Able to withstand cold temperatures, these kitties have thick coats and are calmer than other felines.
  2. Semi-foreigns. Russian Blues and Abyssinians belong to this group of cats that are more muscular and leaner than the natural breeds. They are also more energetic.
  3. Orientals. Burmese and Siamese cats originated in warmer climates so they have less body fat and lighter coats than their cohorts. These long legged beauties are quite vocal and active.
  4. Mixed breed cats.Good old mixed breeds comprise 90% of the cat population. The variety of mixtures is amazing.

While considering which cat to choose, research specific breeds to learn more about their personalities, physical characteristics, and health issues. You may learn that one particular breed fits best in your family or you may opt for a mixed breed with her own distinct features.

Cat Considerations

So, if you are considering adding one (or more) of the numerous types of cats to your family, here are a few things to consider:

1. Length of commitment

A cat is a living being that will require your care and devotion for 10-20 years. Be prepared for a long term commitment.

2. Feline Age

Do you want a kitten or adult cat? Although they think they know it all, cats have a learning curve. The first 8-9 weeks of a kitten’s life are spent with mom and siblings learning how to “be a cat”. But you have to teach them a few things, too.

Kittens need to learn how to use the litter box, how to avoid clawing the furniture, how to stay off the kitchen countertops. And they may be more energetic and mischievous than adult cats.

Adult cats may already know the basics but still need time to orient themselves to a new home. Plus, they may come with imbedded habits that may be difficult to break. You’ll need a little time to help them adjust, too.

No matter the age, all cats need TLC.

3. Family Age

Cats are part of the family, so it’s best to consider each existing family member before adding another. Children love to play with cats but should be supervised to avoid inadvertent mishaps. Toddlers can hurt kittens if they “hug them too tightly”. And cats may react negatively to the abrupt movements of children. Both cats and kids can be hurt unintentionally.

All family members, young and old, should understand that cats occasionally invade personal space. They may jump on your bed or nap on your computer or steal your favorite toy.

4. Attitude

Cats all have different personalities but they do have a few things in common. If socialized well, kittens are curious, playful, and unafraid of people. Well-adjusted kittens should be inquisitive and brave enough to approach you right away. Mature cats are often well behaved and quieter than kittens. Many adult cats enjoy snuggling up to humans. Shy cats, regardless of age, prefer limited physical contact and do well in quiet, less active homes with other feline friends to provide moral support. They flourish in predictable, scheduled environments. Independent cats also avoid human contact, but not because they are shy. They are simply secure and don’t crave attention. Interactive cats are just the opposite. They love the company of other cats, humans, and even dogs.

Here’s a simple attitude test. Hold out your hand. A friendly cat will approach cautiously, but without fear, and curiously examine your hand. Once you can pet him, try to hold him in your arms. A happy, secure cat will purr when held and petted.

5. Appearance

It’s not all about personality. Looks DO matter, especially since appearance impacts upkeep! Do you want a long or short haired cat? Do you have time to brush your cat daily? Cats are good self-groomers, but they still need some assistance. Long haired cats require frequent brushing to distribute oils and keep the coat free of mats. Short haired cats don’t need as much care, but occasional brushing will decrease the amount of hair and dander shed in the house which is important in households with allergic people.

6. Space

Cats are pretty compact creatures. They don’t vary in size as much as dogs so space requirements are fairly conservative. Cats need a spot for food and water bowls that is separate from the litter box. Who likes to dine in the bathroom? They also need a place to play and a place to rest, but not all cats need a bed since they prefer to sleep on the couch, the window sill, or YOUR bed. Their predictable size and limited physical needs make cats great pets for people who live in small quarters.

7. Gender

Both male and female cats make great pets, but there are hormonal differences that impact behavior. Intact males tend to wander, mark their territory, and fight more. Intact females can be very vocal, especially when they are in season. Early spaying and neutering impact behaviors, keeps both sexes healthier, and aids in population control. Contrary to popular belief, male cats can be just as affectionate as females and females can be just as playful as males. Male cats do tend to be a bit bigger than females.

8. Health Care

Outdoor cats are exposed to more parasites and infectious diseases. But even indoor cats need routine vaccinations and parasite control. Outdoor cats get more fleas and ticks, but regardless of where they live, all cats are susceptible to heartworm infection. Routine veterinary care is advised for all cats so consider these expenses when budgeting for a cat.

Spend a little time learning about cats. After considering which cat you want, consider yourself fortunate to be accepted into the feline inner circle. It’s a nice place to be!

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