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Helen Crofts RVN explains the importance of the right feline fit.

One of the most exciting parts of acquiring a new cat is the visit to your local animal adoption centre where you will have the chance to meet lots of lovely cats all looking for a home.

However, before you get completely bamboozled by the rows of cute, furry faces all begging for your attention, have a think about what sort of cat is really the best fit for you and your domestic situation before you leave the house.

The first step to starting a long and lasting relationship with a cat is choosing the cat that’s right for you.  This decision is hugely important because a cat is a living, breathing being who will need your care and attention for the next 10, 15 or even 20 years.  Get it wrong and it could lead to a long stretch of disappointment and unhappiness for you both. There are so many cats out there, and so many kinds of cats to choose from, it can be hard to know where to begin.

To start off with, think about your own lifestyle.  Are you a quiet person who wants a cat who will be content to sit on your lap all evening or are you looking for a cat that is more attuned to the outdoor life, only popping into the house for short visits now and again?  How much time and energy do you really have to spend on looking after a kitten? Would it be better to choose a cat who is already attuned to life in a busy family?  Once you start to ask yourself these questions, you will begin to realise that there is more to choosing a cat than it would first appear.  While pondering the answers to these questions, it may help to consider the following:

Kitten or adult?

kittenKittens are adorable, curious, playful, and full of energy and are often the ones that grab most people’s attention the moment they walk through the door.  Staring into their huge eyes it can be easy to forget that they can also be exasperating at times and demand lots of supervision and patience to keep them out of trouble.  An important fact that many people also fail to consider is that a kitten is an unknown entity – you really don’t know what kind of cat you’ll end up with once they outgrow their kitten personality.

Adult cats are usually calmer, less bouncy, and less mischievous.  With an adult, what you see is usually what you get, so if you are looking for specific qualities, consider cats that are at least a year old.  

Keep your family in mind.  Kittens and very young children usually don’t mix well, as kittens can be fragile and young children a little heavy-handed.  Babies and toddlers tend to grab the closest part of a cat, be it tail, ear, or fur, and they can’t resist giving the cat a great big hug.  This will most likely not be appreciated by the cat and it may give the child a warning swipe, or worse, a nasty bite.

Personality

Cats, like people, are individuals.  Some cats are very mellow and will tolerate any kind of handling.  These cats are perfect for young children or older people who want and appreciate this type of cat.

Many cats don’t like being picked up or held and will only interact with you when they feel like it.  For this reason, it is important to look past the looks of a cat and appreciate what sort of relationship it has to offer you.  It may be beautiful but may be uninterested in full immersion into a loud family home!  It’s a lesser-known fact that cats also have varying degrees of energy: some prefer to nap all day, while others are constantly on the go.  If you are looking for a mouser, you’ll need to pick the one who isn’t asleep all day! 

Medical conditions

Mylo - 3-legged catConsider offering a home to a cat with a disability.  Many cats with special needs make wonderful companions and these are often the ones that are most in need of a home.  They might be older, deaf, blind or have an illness that requires regular medication, but this doesn’t affect the amount of companionship and pleasure they have to give; it just means some extra commitment and understanding on your part to meet their needs for the rest of their lives.  It is worth enquiring about the cost of any medication a cat may be on so that this can be factored into your decision.

A cat with a disability is more likely to need to be an indoor-only cat to keep it safe and therefore would be a perfect candidate for adopters who do not have gardens or who prefer to have a cat who will be indoors all day.

Coat type

This is mainly a matter of preference and your willingness to devote time to regular grooming.  Long-haired cats require daily grooming sessions to prevent matting but not all cats enjoy being brushed and it may be necessary to factor in regular clipping sessions at the vets to keep the coat in good condition.  Short-haired cats don’t require as much brushing, but the occasional groom does help to remove loose fur, stimulate the skin, and distribute oils through the coat.  A cat who likes being groomed will come running when they see the brush.

 Existing pets

If you already have pets, you should consider their needs before bringing home a cat.  Cats are a solitary species and do not need ‘friends’.  While some cats live in harmony with other, this is not a given and there are many that would really prefer to live life as the only cat in the household.  Some cats are able to tolerate other cats if they are introduced into the home carefully, but sometimes it can be impossible to achieve harmony between the two. 

Some cats are perfectly happy as an only cat and could really resent a newcomer.  The more cats you have, the more potential problems you invite; the cats may become stressed and develop undesirable behaviours such as spraying urine, fighting or hiding.

If you bear all these factors in mind when choosing your next cat, the chances are you will find your perfect companion.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of The Cat magazine.  I am indebted to Francesca Watson, editor of The Cat magazine, for giving me permission to publish this on TDM.

  

The Very Best Toy for Cats

"Of all the [cat] toys available, none is better designed than the owner himself. A large multipurpose plaything, its parts can be made to move in almost any direction. It comes completely assembled, and it makes a noise when you jump on it."

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