Factors to Consider in Pet Selection - Cats

You’ve probably heard lots of funny cat anecdotes; about how you don’t own them…they own YOU; how they feel superior to everyone, especially dogs; that they expect to be treated like royalty. If you are considering a feline acquisition, first consider this: lots of those remarks are true! This handout explains the other factors to consider in selecting the cat most likely to choose your family, too.

Are you ready for the commitment?

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

Do you want a kitten or an adult cat?

Although they think they know it all, cats have a learning curve. The first eight to nine weeks of a kitten’s life are spent with mom and siblings, learning how to “be a cat”. But you need to teach them a few things, too. Kittens need to learn how to use the litter box, where they can and cannot scratch, which parts of the home are cat-friendly, and which are cat-free zones. Kittens 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 and with new people. Some adult cats will have established habits that you may wish to modify. You’ll need a little time to help them adjust, too.

No matter the age, all cats need positive reinforcement training, exercise, attention, grooming, veterinary care, and lots of TLC.

Is your whole family ready for a new cat?

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”. Some 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, nap on your computer, or steal your favorite toy.

"All family members, young and old, should understand that cats occasionally invade personal space."

Is personality important to you?

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 that they initiate it themselves. They tend to do better in quiet, less active homes. 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:
In a location that feels safe and familiar to the cat, hold out your hand with a finger outstretched. A friendly cat will approach cautiously, but without fear, and curiously examine your hand. If the cat chooses to stay near or rub on your hand, gently rub the cat’s cheeks or under the chin. If the cat chooses not to approach or approaches briefly and then walks away, do not pursue him. This cat may need more time to feel comfortable with new people or situations.

Which physical traits do you like most?

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 help, but occasional brushing will decrease the amount of hair and dander shed in the house, which is important in households with allergic people.

How much space do you have?

Cats are pretty compact creatures. They don’t vary in size as much as dogs, so space requirements are fairly conservative. Cats need spots for food and water that is separate from the litter box. Who likes to dine in the bathroom? They also need places to play and rest. Not all cats need a bed because some prefer to sleep on the couch, the windowsill, or YOUR bed. Cats often like vertical places to rest, play, and hide, such as shelves, wall-mounted perches, and tall cat trees. Their ability to make the most of both horizontal and vertical space means many cats can do great in small quarters.

"Cats often like vertical places to rest, play, and hide..."

Certain breeds or individuals may require a lot more space or exercise compared with other cats. For example, Bengals, Burmese, and Abyssinian cats are all known to be high-energy breeds who benefit from more space and exercise than some other cats.

Do you prefer a male or female cat?

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. Spaying and neutering can impact behaviors to keep 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.

Will you keep up with health care?

All cats need regular veterinary care, including checkups, vaccinations, parasite testing and prevention, lab work, and dental care. Outdoor cats are exposed to more parasites and infectious diseases as well as injuries from interactions with other animals, vehicles, etc. Outdoor cats are at higher risk from parasites, but regardless of where they live, all cats are susceptible to heartworm infection spread by mosquitoes and tapeworm infection spread by fleas. 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!