I've been a cat owner for most of my life and have learned many tips and tricks for keeping cats happy and healthy.
Choosing a cat is something you’ll always remember. It’s a fun decision, but also an important one. Your new feline friend will be a part of your life for many years to come, so here are eight tips to assist you in finding your purr-fect match.
1. Narrow Down Your Search
Before you start looking for a cat, consider any 'must-haves' for your new pet. This might be age, breed, color, or where you’d like to get a cat.
Things to Think About When Picking a Cat
- Do you want to adopt from a shelter or rescue group?
- Do you want a certain breed?
- Does it need to be good with children or other pets?
- Do you want a kitten or an adult cat?
If you have specifics in mind, save time by searching pet locator websites in your area. These will show you available cats with the characteristics you’re looking for.
2. Look for a Healthy Cat
No matter where you get your cat, choosing one that’s in good health can save you lots of trouble and vet bills. A cat’s overall appearance and behavior can give a general picture of its health. Healthy cats have clear eyes, a groomed coat, and are appropriately active for their age.
Since you can’t always depend on looks or behavior to determine health, find out when the cat has been examined by a vet. If he or she hasn’t, this is worth having done before adopting.
What You’ll Need to Know
- As much as possible about a cat’s medical history, last veterinary exam and list of vaccinations or other treatments given
- When the next vaccinations are due
- Whether there are any medical conditions or special needs
About Special Needs Cats
- Some adoptable cats have a medical condition that requires medication or other type of special care. These cats can be in otherwise in good health and make just as loving of companions as any other cat, but needs an adopter who’s willing to make sure they get this extra care.
Is There a Health Guarantee?
- If you’re adopting from a shelter or rescue group, ask if there’s a health guarantee. If there is, it should specify in writing who covers any vet costs if a cat becomes ill within a certain amount of time after you take it home. This is also sometimes stated in an adoption contract.
3. Ask About the Cat’s Background
Not only is it interesting to know about the background of a cat you might want to adopt, but it can also help you know how well he or she will adjust to your family and lifestyle. Many cats up for adoption are strays or their history is unknown, but if it is, it’s beneficial to learn about.
Questions to Ask (If Applicable)
- What is the cat’s history?
- Is it known if he or she gets along with other cats?
- Does the cat get along with dogs?
- Is the cat afraid of dogs?
- Is the cat good with children?
The more compatible your new pet is with the current residents of your household (including other cats or dogs), the easier the adjustment period will be. Most cats are pretty adaptable, but avoiding potential conflicts is always best. For example, if you have a few dogs, it’s better to choose a cat that has been around dogs and isn’t afraid of them.
The person who has been caring for the cat might be able to offer insight on whether they'll be compatible with other pets or children in your home.
4. Choose a Cat With a Personality You Like
Just like people, cats have distinct and dynamic personalities. While observing and interacting with any cats you might want to adopt, notice how they are with you and other cats they’re around. Are they timid, bold, playful, shy, energetic, or calm?
Certain personalities may appeal to you more than others, and this can help in making your decision.
There are a couple of cat personality types you may notice.
- Some cats are known as "greeters." Felines with this personality will approach anyone, stranger or not, to say hello and get some attention. They’re social and confident, and will probably be like this in your home too. This kind of cat won’t be hiding under your bed when guests visit.
Shy at First
- Other cats are a little harder to get to know at first. They may be very sweet, loving, and friendly cats, but their protective instincts are strong, so they’re more reserved with anyone they don’t know. Once they’re settled in a home and feel comfortable, they come out of their shell and are social with people in the household.
I’ve had both of these types of cats, and they make equally great pets.
Personality is a personal choice. Whether your ideal cat is a cuddly lap cat or a very energetic one, there's a cat that’s a match for everyone.
5. Get to Know the Cat
If you see a cat you like, ask if you can visit with it outside its cage. Some adoption centers have rooms where you can get acquainted.
What to Expect
If this is your first cat, keep in mind that being up for adoption can be scary for them, especially shy ones. They’re in an environment they’re not used to, and this can make even the calmest cats behave differently than they would in a home.
As you spend time with a cat, you should be able to tell if there’s a connection and if you can picture him or her in your life.
If you’re not sure, keep searching until you find one you’re certain is right.
6. Use Your Intuition to Choose a Cat
Sometimes you come across a certain cat and just have a feeling it’s the one you’re meant to adopt. It might be one that’s completely different from what you were looking for, but something tells you that this is your new best friend.
If everything else seems right, trust your instincts.
7. Let the Cat Choose You
If you're looking for a cat someplace where there are several to choose from, and a certain cat really likes you, your decision will be much easier. You can't go wrong with a cat that likes you from the start.
8. Be Open to Cats of All Ages
Cats of every age make wonderful pets. With proper care, they can live long, healthy lives. Whether you choose a kitten, adult or senior cat, you’ll have years of love and companionship ahead.
Benefits of Each Age Group
Kittens (Under a year old)
- They’re cute, fun and playful
- You have a chance to shape his or her habits from the beginning
Adult Cats (One year and older)
- You’ll know the feline’s full size and personality
- It will likely already be spayed and neutered
Senior Cats (Seven years and up)
- Generally calmer and more laid back
- Grateful that they’re given a second chance with a new pet parent
Choosing a Cat: Reader Poll
I hope these tips have been helpful to you in choosing a cat. Cats have added so much to my life, and I’m sure they will to yours as well.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 carolynkaye