Adopting a cat can be an amazing experience. There is nothing quite like waking up in the morning to a dose of purrs and snuggles. The soft coat, the crazy antics, the graceful movements, the unconditional love - it is heaven. The house never feels empty, you always have someone to snuggle up with, play with, talk to and come home to - not to mention what they can do for your blood pressure and stress level.
That said, there are a few things that can help you find just the right kitty for you. After all, this is a companion who will hopefully be with you a long, long time - someone who will live with you, day in and day out. Just like you would interview potential room mates, and date potential life partners to find out who they are and if you are compatible, there are a few things to check out and consider before committing to a new furry companion in your life - for both your and their sake.
First off, have you thought about the practical side of things? This kitty could be with you as long as 20 years. How will they factor into your life? While cats are flexible and adaptive and will gladly adjust to any life changes you decide to make, you will have to at times compromise to fit them comfortably into your life - or find them a better suited home.
You’ll of course have to get some cat supplies - food bowls, cat trees, scratching pads, litter trays, food, litter and so on. Then there is picking out a veterinarian you feel comfortable with for their yearly check up and if - God forbid - something happens. So have a look as to which veterinarians there are nearby. And what about when you go on holiday? You could ask your neighbour, a friend or a family member, if they live nearby. Otherwise, it might be an idea to check out the cat sitters available in your area.
Lastly, cats have the reputation of being the ‘cheap and easy pet’. However, certain costs will be unavoidable while others might be unexpected and steep, so check them out to see what the damage could be. It wouldn’t be fair to you or to your kitty if their maintenance would bankrupt you.
Indoor or outdoor?
Next, you’ll need to evaluate if your cat will be one that can go outdoors or if they’ll be a strictly indoors kitty. Think about where you live right now and what the options are. There is a pretty big debate going on on what is better for your cat - indoors or outdoors, but only you can decide what is best for your circumstances. Keep in mind that you’re best off adopting a cat who is already used to being either indoors or outdoors, to make it easier for them to adjust to their new home. Confining a cat who was used to having the run of the neighbourhood is going to increase the risk of triggering problem behaviour in the long run - meaning neither you or your cat will be happy.
Kitten or adult?
Also, consider adopting an adult cat. Most people automatically think of adopting a kitten when they decide to get themselves a cat. Give yourself a moment of pause to consider if a kitten is truly something you have time for. Adult cats have much to offer. Their personality has already been established so you know what to expect from them and most of them have already trained properly so you won’t have to teach them each house rule anymore. Also, they are sick less frequently. Depending on your lifestyle and situation at home, even a senior cat could be a better fit than a kitten. Many would be never expect to find their perfect cat amongst those seniors.
Purebred or stray?
Then there is the question on whether to adopt a purebred or a stray. Purebreds can be a bit pricey, but given the right breeder, you do get bang for your buck. Most breeders sell only kittens - although there are certainly adult purebreds available for adoption out there as well.
On the other hand, many ‘designer’ breeds come with their genetic issues, so make sure you research your selected breed thoroughly to know what the risks are, and do your homework on the breeder you’ve picked. Having a quick look at the history of the general breeding practices within your preferred breed might be worth your time as you’ll be able to figure out what the priorities were in selecting the next generation. Often, it is to create or perpetuate specific visually pleasing traits - which can unfortunately lead to common health issues. Demeanour or personality are rarely prioritised or near the top of the list This does not necessarily have to be a bad thing, but it is something to keep in mind.
Meanwhile, the shelters and rescues are bursting at the seams with beautiful kitties that need a home and a second chance. Strays come in all shapes, sizes, colours and demeanours, so chances are you’ll find someone compatible. Certainly, there are concerns with regards to their health and past baggage so there too it pays to look into their background nd get to know your kitty before you take them home.
Male or female?
What about whether to get a female or a male cat? Queens are known for being fussy but graceful and independent while tom cats tend to be big snuggle babies with less of a concern for hygiene or subtlety. While this might be a smaller concern, there are certain traits to each gender that may just help you in your decision. Chances are, in fact, that you already have a preference. Also, if you are planning on a multi-cat household, this is an issue worth looking into in order to optimise the group dynamic.
What is it exactly you expect from your cat? Every cat is an individual and comes with their pros and cons, so knowing which traits you value and appreciate in a companion is essential in picking the right one. If you’re a person who likes their peace and quiet, then a talkative Siamese is likely going to drive you batty - while someone else might just appreciate the liveliness they bring to the place. There are certain things you can do to test your kitty candidates for the traits you would prefer. Also, remember that if you do decide to adopt kittens, you won’t know what their personality will be for sure for the first year of their life.
Now, don't forget to evaluate your own family. What are you offering this cat? Do you have kids? A dog? Bunny rabbits? Dogs are natural rivals to cats so how is your dog going to respond to a cat? And kids are kind of like little aliens to cats: they scream, they jump around and make very erratic and quick movements like prey but are larger and often less aware of the discomfort of the animal when handling it. To a cat that was not socialised with kids, this is beyond terrifying and stressful. And if the outdoor cat you selected happens to have been taught by mommy how to kill rabbits, you're taking a serious risk.
So, consider these things before selecting a cat and if possible, go for an animal that has actually been socialised properly with this kind of family member. If you do select a cat which has had no prior socialisation to some of the members of your family, take it slow and go at their pace. And whichever one you do adopt, make sure you introduce them properly to your dog, and other family members so they can start out on the right foot.
Putting together a glaring of cats can be a bit of a challenge - but exciting. Kittens will be easier to integrate though you have no way of knowing if there will be clashing personalities later down the road. Adults can be integrated fine as well - especially if given the proper guidance - but may take a bit longer. It would be beneficial to pick a cat who has experience with other cats. You may also want to consider their gender and personality before bringing them home to your resident cat(s).
Take your time to look into each point. That way, you'll have all the information you need to make the right decision for both you and your future companion. Don't ever apologise for your preferences either or let yourself be guilt-tripped into taking home a companion who ultimately won't be a good fit. Enjoy your kitty-hunt!