How to Choose the Right Cat to Adopt

Updated on August 6, 2019
NicoleEnglish profile image

I love owning and writing about cats, they are such cute and fascinating creatures.

Congratulations on your decision of bringing a new pet into your life! Not only will you be giving a deserving cat or kitten a new home, but you will also get the various health benefits associated with it! Studies have proved that owning a cat reduces blood pressure, improve immune function, and most of all; a cat creates a loving relationship that will last a lifetime. But before you can fulfill your career of becoming a pet parent, you must decide what type of cat is best for your lifestyle.

Where to Find the Right Cat

While many people think that the only way to get a beautiful, sociable, intelligent cat is through professional breeders, this couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, not only is it far cheaper and easier to adopt from a shelter, but you will also be reducing the ever-growing pet overpopulation problem.

The best place to adopt your new cat is through a local, reputable animal shelter or humane society. You may have considered adopting a stray or feral cat off the streets, however, the cat's health and temperament are completely questionable. Shelters will have a wide variety of cats, most of which, are spayed or neutered and up to date on their vaccines. Many shelters have websites of their own where you can see the cats up for adoption, or you can check out websites like that show all adoptable cats in your area. When finding the right shelter, the most important thing to consider is whether the shelter spays and neuters, provides necessary vaccinations, and offers veterinary checks to ensure the cat is free from diseases.

What Age Should the Cat Be?

Even though they're adorable, amusing, and just plain entertaining, you should reconsider adopting a kitten. Older cats can be just as playful as kittens and are in a more desperate need of a good home. Also, many shelters tend to have lower adoption fees for older cats.


  • Advantages: Very active and playful, easier to adjust to a new life, more tolerant around children and other pets, longer life, and lower food costs.
  • Disadvantages: May not be litter trained, more easily injured, more susceptible to diseases, more training required, and more frequent vaccinations

Older Cats

  • Advantages: Calmer and mellower, already trained, lower adoption fee, hardier, and less maintenance
  • Disadvantages: Not as playful, less tolerant around other pets, harder to adjust, and higher veterinary care when a senior.

What Age Did You Adopt Your Cat at?

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Longhair or Shorthair?

The most important thing to contemplate when deciding the cat's coat length is how much time you can spend grooming your cat. A longhaired cat will need to be combed and brushed at least 10 minutes a day, 3–4 days a week to prevent mats from forming. On the other hand, a shorthair only requires grooming 10 minutes a day 1–2 days a week. Also, longhaired cats tend to have calmer, laid-back personalities, while shorthaired cats are usually more active and playful.

Purebred or Mixed?

Unfortunately, cats do not have as many distinct breeds as dogs do. Most cats found in shelters are mixed-breed, however, this does not mean that shelter cats are inferior. Many non-pedigree cats are just as beautiful and smart as their purebred counterparts, if not more. If you were to look at the cats up for adoption, most of the cats would be Domestic Shorthair (mixed breed shorthair.) Some others may be Domestic Longhair as well. It is unlikely that you will find a cat with a pedigree proving its breed, but you may be able to recognize characteristics that indicate the cat's personality.

For example, these two breeds are the most recognizable without a pedigree.

  • Siamese: Long, slender body with big ears, triangular face, and color points. This may indicate that the cat is part Siamese and has a talkative, active, curious personality.
  • Persian: Cobby, heavy body with a longhaired coat, short, round face, and small, triangular ears. This may imply the cat is part Persian and therefore has a docile and calm personality.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
PersianSiameseMaine CoonBirmanAmerican Curl
Maine Coon
Maine Coon
American Curl
American Curl

What Kind of Personality?

It is important to consider how much time you are willing to spend with your cat before you can determine what personality you are looking for. If you can't spend a lot of time exercising and playing with your cat, you may want to find a calmer, mellower cat. On the other hand, if you think you want to spend a lot of time with your cat, you may consider adopting a cat that is playful and energetic. No matter which kind of cat you prefer, when visiting the shelters, ask yourself these questions.

For Playful and Active Cats

  • Is the cat or kitten playing with any toys?
  • What are their ages? (Kittens will be more playful)
  • Do they immediately notice you?
  • Do they enjoy attention or want to be let out of their cage?

For Calmer Cats

  • Where in the cage is the cat? (Laying towards the back indicates a relaxed disposition)
  • What is their age? (Older cats will be calmer)
  • If there are other cats near it, how do they react?
  • What is the coat type? (Longhairs will be mellower)
  • When the cat sees you, do they come to the front of the cage or stay where they are?

What Condition Is the Cat In?

Perhaps one of the most important aspects of adopting a cat is determining whether it is in good health. Most shelters and humane societies will provide veterinary checks to determine if the cat is in good condition, but you should still analyze these health factors.

Part of Cat or Kitten
What to look for
Third eyelid not visible, clear, no discharge or inflammation
Clean, unmatted, soft, and glossy
No waxy discharge, black dirt, or signs of parasites
No indication of ingrown nails or sores or cuts on the feet
No bumps or sctratches, no fleas, ticks, or lice

Some Things to Consider

Even though you may only be hours away from adopting a cat, asses your current lifestyle to make sure you can care for a cat or kitten. Most felines live 14–18 years, and you should plan to care for your cat through its entire life. This should include: feeding them a high-quality diet, grooming, exercising, veterinary checkups, litter box cleaning, and providing plenty of attention. If you are willing to put in this effort, then you can look forward to a long, happy life with your new cat or kitten. So good luck on finding the pet of your dreams and most of all, congratulations on giving a deserving animal a new chance at life!

© 2013 NicoleEnglish


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