So you're seriously thinking about getting your first cat, and you are sure you want a cat in your life. You may have some preconceived notions that you want a particular breed of cat, or that you want a kitten instead of an adult kitty. But before that important decision, do some homework. Like life itself, there are many factors involved in choosing a cat, some of which you may never have considered. Here's the help you need in making that decision. On the other hand, you may find yourself lucky enough to be chosen by the cat of your future.
Male vs. Female
Personality-wise, there really isn't a lot of difference between the sexes, as long as they are neutered. Cats that have not been neutered are called whole. Male cats who are whole will fight for territory if outdoors, and indoors will liberally spray their strong scent on walls and curtains to mark their territory. Whole females will also spray on occasion. Worse yet, they will make themselves and you miserable each time they go into season (heat) with loud yowls and bizarre body gyrations.
On the other hand, once spayed, their personalities will improve. Male cats can be loving and loyal. Other people swear by female cats as felicity "purrsonified." You'll want to look for personality first, then if you find several nice kitties, narrow it down to sex, if that's important to you.
Pedigreed Cat vs. Mixed Breed
You may have already been to a pet store (heaven forbid!) or a cat show, where you fell in love with a particular breed. One important factor with "purebred" cats is that, unless the breeders have years of experience with genetics, and carefully chooses their breeding stock with the cats' full pedigree background, undesirable traits will creep into the breed. Some breeds have inherent problems because of this, e.g. Persians with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) or nasal problems because of their foreshortened noses. Reputable breeders will screen their cats and offer guarantees against known physical problems in their breed.
"Moggies," which is the English term for domestic mixed breed cats, are of unknown parentage. The moggie you adopt from a shelter or rescue organization will most likely be a true orphan. Because their health and genetic history are unknown, it is important for shelter cats to be tested against certain diseases and to receive immunizations, preferably before you bring one home.
Adult Cat vs. Kitten
At a shelter. kittens can be appealing, but keep in mind that grown cats often are more "user-friendly", and will be happy to find a new home. These cats often come from a happy family setting and were given up because of illness of an owner, divorce, death, etc. The benefits to you in adopting an older cat are many:
- Older cats (other than ferals) are usually trained to a litter box.
- Kittens are rambunctious and lively. Your household will never again be peaceful with a crazy kitten running around. If "serenity" is your lifestyle, you'll be better off with an older cat.
- Grown cats may already have been neutered and had their shots.
- Older cats may make the transition to a new home easier than kittens, and often they are much more grateful. The benefit to the older cat is that most of these cats will not find homes because people naturally gravitate toward the kittens.
A final consideration is your own age. If you are 65 or older, it is always possible that you will not outlive your cat, so an older cat would be an excellent choice. You might even want to adopt a special needs cat, one that is blind, deaf, an amputee, or otherwise "disabled." These cats make wonderful companions and compensate for their restrictions with a wealth of love and devotion for their human savior.
If you are younger, with school-age children, a cat who is 1 or 2 years old would be a great choice, and the cat can grow up with your children.
One or More Cats?
You may have not even entertained the idea of adopting more than one cat, but it is not unusual for someone to go to a shelter to adopt one kitty and come home with two. You may fall in love with a beautiful, personable cat, only to find that she has a littermate or "best friend" and can only be adopted as part of a pair. My response to that scenario is that if you have space in your home and your heart and the resources to care for more than one, you'll be rewarded with much more than twice the amount of joy. This is particularly true when getting a kitten. Kittens are loads of fun, but for a number of reasons, two kittens are better than one, in many cases.