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Thinking about getting a cat? Cats tend to be unpredictable, which can make it a challenge to choose the best cat personality for your home and lifestyle. Although even purebred cat temperaments are harder to predict than those of dog breeds, cat breed personalities are nevertheless helpful in selecting the right cat to bring home. Follow these guidelines to reduce the chances of unpleasant surprises and help make sure you find the right kitty personality match.
Kitten or Adult Cat?
Let's face it–it doesn't get much cuter than a tiny kitten, and the temptation to bring one home is hard to resist. Whether you should cave to that temptation depends on your level of patience and tolerance. While they can be a lot of fun, kittens are also extremely challenging as they discover the world around them and develop their personalities. If you don't have the patience to deal for months, or even the first couple of years, with the rambunctiousness and mischievousness of a kitten, consider adopting an adult cat. Adults tend to be calmer and are in abundant supply. By about two years of age, a cat's personality is fully developed, and it's easier to be sure what you're getting.
When considering what type of cat personality to look for, it's important to consider your family makeup. If you have young children, for example, a kitten probably isn't the best match, unless you have both tons of patience and time to provide constant supervision to protect a fragile kitten from exuberant little hands. Also, some adult cats have an aversion to small children. It's important to look for a cat that will get along with your kids and won't be jealous of the attention you give them. If you do have small children it is probably a good idea to take them to the shelter with you and let them play and interact with the cat or kitten to see how both parties get along. This will help you decide whether a particular cat is right for your children.
If you already have pets, they should also factor into your decision. Some cats prefer to be an only pet, while others get along fine with other animals. It's also important to consider how your current pets may react. The Humane Society of the United States warns that if you have a large dog with a strong prey drive, it might not be safe to bring a new cat into the home. Additionally, if you already have a cat, she might enjoy a new feline companion, but she also might become resentful and react poorly by picking fights, hiding, or urinating outside of the litter box. And of course, small pets such as birds, rodents, or reptiles will need to be kept safe from the introduction of a potential new predator into the mix.
Lifestyle and Living Arrangement
Think long and hard about your lifestyle, and the type of cat personality that will best fit in. If you're gone from home a lot, you'll want a cat that is more independent and doesn't mind being left alone for long stretches. On the other hand, if you're a homebody you might enjoy a lap kitty that loves to cuddle and follow you around. Would you enjoy a vocal cat that constantly tells you how she feels? Do you entertain a lot? If so, a sociable cat would probably thrive in your home more than a shy kitty that becomes anxious around strangers.
Your living accommodations should also play a factor. Some cats adapt well to small spaces and to being strictly indoor cats, while others do better with plenty of space to explore, stave off boredom, and burn off energy inside a larger home.
Long-haired vs. Short-haired
While long-haired cats, such as Himalayans or Maine Coons, are beautiful to look at and luxurious to pet, their coats require a lot of upkeep. If you have neither the time for daily brushing nor the budget for the occasional trip to the groomer, it would probably be best to opt for a short-haired cat. But before you dismiss long-haired breeds, take note that daily brushing can be an enjoyable bonding activity between you and your kitty.
Cat Breed Personalities
Once you've identified what sort of cat personality you're looking for, it's time to research cat breeds. There's plenty of cat breed information online as well as at your local shelter to get you started. Keep in mind that there are significantly fewer purebred cat breeds than there are dog breeds, and there are also fewer personality differences between each breed. That said, cat breeds do have certain traits that can help you make your decision. For example, Bengals and other exotic breeds, such as Abyssinians, are known to be highly energetic and active, whereas Persians tend to be more easy-going and relaxed. Likewise, American Shorthairs don't tend to meow a lot, while Siamese have a reputation for being extremely vocal.
Once you've narrowed down your selection, it's a good idea to talk to people who have experience with the breeds you're interested in. If you don't know anyone personally, you can search online for forums and social media groups centered around certain breeds. It's also a good idea to discuss the breed with your veterinarian, who can advise you on any genetic predispositions toward health issues that sometimes result from overbreeding.
Breeder vs. Shelter
Many purebred cats can be found in shelters–including kittens, if that's what you've got your heart set on. Check with your local shelter to see what cats they have available. But, if you're planning to get your new kitty from a breeder, be diligent to carefully research potential breeders and look for one who is reputable. Your vet might also be able to point you in the direction of a good breeder.
Purebred vs. Mixed Breed
Your local pet shelters are certain to have a wide variety of mixed-breed cats available to adopt. Mixed-breed cats, also known as domestic cats or "moggies," include many varieties that people tend to think of as specific cat breeds, including tuxedos, calicoes and tabby cats, all of which get their classification from their coat patterns rather than their parentage. If you don't have your heart set on a particular breed, a mixed-breed cat might have just the personality and temperament you're looking for. While mixed-breeds can be harder to predict, it's not difficult to learn what to expect from a mixed-breed cat simply by talking to the shelter workers who have spent time getting to know her. An adoption counselor should be able to help you select a cat that possesses the traits you're looking for. Most shelters will also allow you to visit the cat you're interested in and get to know her before deciding whether to adopt. Another advantage of mixed-breed cats is that they tend to be hardier than purebreds thanks to their diverse gene pool.
Following these guidelines won't guarantee a complete lack of surprises. Cats are, after all, masters at keeping us on our toes, which is part of their charm. But if you go into the adoption process armed with the knowledge of what to look for in a cat, you're far more likely to end up with a happy feline companion and a happy home.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent and freelance pet blogger who wrote this article under the watchful eyes of two lap kitties who insist on getting cuddles at all times. Even when she's typing.