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Choosing a Cat: Making a Good Match

To some people, cats may all appear to be the same compared to the vast differences in dogs when it comes to size, shape and looks. The truth is though that cats, although they all tend to fall within a smaller range when it comes to weight and size, can be very different, not only physically but in personality. If you’re thinking about adding a cat to the family, take time now to figure out what type of cat might be a better match for you.

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Purebred or Mixed Breed Cat?

What are the reasons for choosing one over the other? If you have specific features and traits in mind then a purebred cat may be what you’re looking for. If not, then you’ll surely be able to find the type of cat you want by searching for a mixed breed. Some purebreds that are bred for specific traits (such as the short noses in the Persians) may have some accompanying medical issues. With Persians (not to pick on the beautiful Persians) for example, their snub noses can cause breathing difficulties. Mixed breeds can certainly have medical issues but they haven’t been bred with man-made modifications that could create secondary health concerns.

Keep in mind that if you’re thinking of a purebred it will cost you more money unless you adopt through a purebred rescue organization.

The need to find homes for the huge number of mixed breed cats is staggering. Choosing a mixed breed cat (whether from a shelter or through rescue) has minimal, if any, cost and you will  be saving a life. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have empty cages in shelters around the world?

How Much Cat Grooming Do You Want to Do?

Longhaired cats are gorgeous but they also require more maintenance. Most longhaired cats have coats that mat so daily grooming is required. With some longhair cats you may also have to do occasional bathing. If you’re interested in the Sphynx cat (the almost hairless breed) then frequent bathing will be needed. With a longhaired cat, be prepared to acclimate the kitty to daily grooming. Shorthaired cats benefit from brushing as well but they don’t require the same amount of grooming.

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Male or Female Cat?

Once neutered or spayed, the sex of the cat won’t matter. Left unneutered, you will almost definitely end up dealing with a male cat who sprays. Unspayed females become vocal and make it their mission to get out of the house to find a mate. Spaying or neutering your cat will help you avoid lots of behavior problems and will reduce the chances of cancer in the cat later on.

Some people believe that if you already have a cat and are considering getting a second one that it should be of the opposite sex. I have never followed that. I believe it’s the cat’s personality that is most important when choosing a companion for your current cat.

Do You Want a Kitten or Adult Cat?

With an adult cat you can, for the most part, see the personality that has already developed so if you’re looking for very specific personality traits then an adult would be a better choice. If you choose a kitten then you do have a good opportunity to shape the personality but you’ll also have a greater time commitment. Kittens need more supervision and training as they’re just learning about their physical abilities and don’t yet know the rules of the house.  Kittens will also need more frequent veterinary visits initially to get their scheduled vaccinations and dewormings. With a kitten you’ll also have the upcoming needed neuter or spay surgery. If you choose an adult cat from the shelter then vaccinations will have been done and you stand an excellent chance of selecting one that has already been spayed or neutered.

Are There Young Children in the Home?

This is a huge factor when determining which cat would be right for your family. If you choose a purebred cat, some are better with children than others. If choosing an adult cat who has never been around young children, he may be very fearful. If you’re going to the shelter to select a cat, it’s a good idea to ask about ones who have a known history of having been around children.  With kittens, you have the opportunity to have them exposed to children at a very young age so they get used to it, but kittens can easily be injured or roughly handled by children.

Make your choice based on your family environment, including the ages and personalities of your children. Take the time to make a good match so that the addition of a cat becomes a safe and wonderful thing for everyone – human and feline.

Do You Already Have Pets at Home?

If you already have a cat at home and want to add to the feline family, try to match complementary personalities. If your current cat is extremely assertive then you wouldn’t want to bring in a second cat who is very timid. Try not to go to either extremes of the personality scale. Additionally, be prepared to take the time to do a gradual and positive introduction of the two cats. The new cat will have to be kept in a separate room and then gradually introduced to the resident cat in order to not overwhelm both kitties. Be prepared to do a proper introduction if you’re considering adding a cat to the pet family.

If you currently have a dog, is he already cat-friendly? Has he been allowed to chase cats in the neighborhood? The safety of both animals is extremely important so carefully think about how your dog will handle the addition of a cat. Also, if choosing an adult cat, try to pick one who already has a positive history with dogs.

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What Kind of Relationship do You Want With Your Cat?

I’ve come across many people who make a decision about a cat based on looks and then they’re disappointed when they realize the cat doesn’t have the personality they were expecting. For example, I have many clients who purchased Bengal cats because they loved that “wild look” but didn’t take the time to learn about the personality so the cats didn’t receive the necessary environmental enrichment needed to be healthy. Take time to think about what kind of relationship you want. Are you looking for a quiet lap cat or one who will be athletic and active? Do you want a talkative cat? If not, then a Siamese or Abyssinian wouldn’t be right for you.

Have You Done Your Research About Cats?

A cat will be a member of the family and will hopefully be a part of your life for many, many years. Read about cat care and training so you’ll be ready right from the beginning to start your kitten or adult cat off on the right foot. Too many people choose cats instead of dogs because they’re under the false impression that cats are low maintenance and don’t require any training. That attitude will result in an unhappy life for the cat and frustration for you. Take time to learn what your new cat needs to live a happy, healthy life.

Need More Information?

For more specifics on how to choose the right cat for you, how to cat-proof your home and how to begin an effective training program with your new kitty, refer to the book CatWise by best-selling author Pam Johnson-Bennett. Pam’s books are available here on our website, in bookstores everywhere and through your favorite online book retail site.

Pam's books are referred to as the cat bibles by behavior experts, veterinarians and cat parents worldwideWe’re sorry but Pam is unable to respond to comments. If you have questions about cat behavior you can find many answers in the books written by Pam Johnson-Bennett as well as in the articles on our site. If your cat is displaying a change in behavior, contact your veterinarian because there may be an underlying medical cause. This article is not intended as a replacement for your cat’s veterinary care.

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