When it comes to choosing a pet cat, most people will be looking at cats in residence at an animal rescue or shelter. If you are truly focussed on a specific breed of cat to have as a personal or family pet, then you will need to find a breeder or a breed specific rescue. Our focus here is to help you select a cat from a shelter or rescue.
Cat Adoption and Selection Resources
You’ll want to gather a few resources, in addition to this article, to help you choose a pet cat.
These resources can include:
Books and web resources on cat ownership and cat breeds
Shelters and Rescues in your area (view websites, make site visits)
Recommendations from veterinarians and friends/ family who are cat owners
You may also find it helpful to answer these questions and keep the answers in mind as you determine for yourself: “Why do I want a cat?”
Do you have the resources to purchase enrichment toys and scratch surfaces every few months or so, as a young, active cat needs?
Are you at home most of the day or do you work long hours away from home?
What is your energy level?
Are you an older person whose life obligations to work and family have slowed down?
Are you a busy person still in the workforce?
Do you have a vibrant young family and young children?
Cat Factors to Consider Before Adopting
As you are reading and visiting cats in rescues/shelters, there are several factors you will want to consider, including:
Age of the cat
Space and Family Considerations
Other Pets living in the home
In the video below, Dr Katherine Miller of the ASPCA explains how to choose the right cat with special emphasis on lifestyle and personality factors.
As you think about “cat selection factors,” the following tips may be of help to you:
Kitten or Adult Cat
Consider whether or not you want a kitten or an adult cat. Kittens will require more medical attention for vaccinations in the first year of life. Adult cats will have an established vaccination record. Kittens are high energy and will require a wider variety of enrichment activities compared to an adult cat.
Young Adult, Middle-aged or Older Adult Cat
Obviously, younger cats require more stimulating enrichment, scratch surfaces, and their higher energy level combined with an innately curious nature can get them into trouble around the house. A younger or even middle-aged cat will have a longer life with you and be less likely to have health problems (unless you are aware that a cat has a health issue at the time of purchase).
Older cats whose owners have died or that have been rescued from poor quality environments, need loving families, too. An older cat may be more aloof, somewhat less energetic. This doesn’t mean they have aged out of their curious nature and need for enrichment activities. It just means they will likely demand less of you.
That Cat Personality
In addition to their mysterious 9 lives, cats have all kinds of personalities. Some breeds have certain traits, such as being more social and playful, while others are more typically aloor and independent.
For example, Ragdolls are well known for their affectionate, people-centered personality. The large Maine Coon Cat is recognized as “America’s cat” and considered one of the most social breeds. Abyssinians are known to be more energetic and active. Persians tend to be more easy-going and relaxed. Siamese have a reputation for being extremely vocal. Mixed-breed cats or cats each have unique personalities due to the blend of breed traits they carry.
Regardless of breed, you’ll want to spend as much time as possible with any cat or kitten that you are considering for adoption. Observe how they:
Move toward or away from adults and children, if applicable
Interact with toys and objects in their environment
Interact around other cats at the shelter (or pets that you already own)
Home Size, Family, & Other Pets Considerations
The size of your living space and the energy level and size of the cat need to align. A big, frisky cat in a tiny apartment could result in many broken items and even endanger the cat. Likewise, in a larger dwelling, you still need to do a good amount of “cat-proofing” your home.
Cats and young kids can be a wonderful pairing, or a disaster waiting to happen. Make sure to educate your children about cat behavior. Encourage children to respect a cat’s space and not to toy with their tail and paws, lest they may be harmed by a cat trying to protect itself. Think carefully about the match between the age of your children and their readiness for a cat of any age. We are purr-fectly fond of this resource on acclimating a cat to a new home, provided by the Meow Foundation.
If you have other pets in the home, make sure the animals meet a few times before you bring the new cat home. Prepare your home space for the new pet, and proceed slowly and carefully with introducing pets to each other.
Got Cat Questions?
In addition to consulting with your veterinarian, our owners and friendly team of cat sitters may be able to assist you with some of the crazy cat situations your kitty gets into. We have experience caring for cats in homes of all sizes and cats of all breeds and personalities. If we don’t have suggestions for you, we most likely can point you in the direction of good resources to help you out of any kitty CAT-astrophe!