Choosing Your New Cat
Are you looking for a cat that loves adventure or a quiet companion who will while away the days with you?
There’s a reason that cat videos are such a staple of the internet; their huge range of personalities, from the aloof to the downright goofy, paired with their beautiful variety of colours and sizes, make them pets that never fail to make us smile.
Read more about choosing a cat
This huge range of personalities is great for us too! Whether you’re looking for a chilled companion, an at-heel fluff-ball or just someone to keep the mice at bay, there are cats for all types. That means that so long as you have enough time and space, and are comfortable with the financial responsibility, there’s a cat for you.
If you are considering getting a cat, it’s important to think about how much time you can give to them, both for their care and to interact with them, be that active play or just relaxed companionship. You also need to think about if you are comfortable letting a cat outside in your area, and how a new cat might get on with any current household member. This handy guide can help you with these questions, look at the pros and cons of a kitten or an adult, explore where you might get your new cat from, and provide help on asking the right questions.
When you have made the big decision to bring a new cat into your home, one of the first decisions to make is if you want to get a new kitten, or if you would consider rehoming an adult cat.
While there are pro and cons to both options, it is worth considering taking a look at some of the adult cats up for rehoming. There are many wonderful cats up for adoption, and you get the amazing feeling of giving a cat a second chance at a loving home!
There is no doubt that kittens are adorable – those big eyes, and the chance to watch them find their feet and develop those lightning-fast pouncing skills are things you might feel you don’t want to miss out on. There is also something to be said from watching your newest household member develop from the outset – knowing that the bundle of fluff in your lap is yours to nurture for their whole life is a wonderful feeling.
It is worth considering, however, that kittens are a big commitment – there is a lot to teach them (like when they can and can’t use those claws!) and it can be difficult to tell what their adult personality will be like while they are still young. Despite the personality of kittens being difficult for us to assess while they are still babies, kittens generally have a relatively fixed view of the world by nine weeks old and new owners often have little influence on their final personality. If you know exactly what ‘type’ of cat you want, a kitten might not be the best option for you – don’t forget, if you get an independent kitten when you wanted a cuddle-companion, you may have two decades of frustration to go!
An adult cat is generally a more ‘finished’ product – they often already know the score where litter trays, cat flaps and ‘claws-in’ play are concerned, although change can be difficult for cats and you may find some gentle re-training is required when you bring a new cat into your home. Adult cats also already have developed personalities which are easier to see, meaning it is much easier to pick a cat that suits you. Are you looking for a lap-cat? Or a fiercely independent ranger? By spending some time with an adult cat you can quickly get a feel for their personality, and see how well they fit with you and your family.
Your family situation is an important consideration when you are deciding between an adult cat and a kitten. Do you have young children or elderly family members? Kittens can bite and scratch while they are learning the rules, and can also appear underfoot in the blink of an eye! This means that there may be more injury risk, both to the family and to your kitten. Your working situation is also important. Adult cats are often happy to spend much longer periods alone than a kitten would be – if you don’t have much time or energy, an adult cat might be more suitable.
Finally, what about pedigree cats? Even if you want a pedigree cat, this doesn’t rule out getting an adult cat. Many of the cats that come into shelters are pedigree, and there are also breed-specific rescue charities. Breeders may also look to rehome adult cats that are later in their life, or they may have slightly older kittens returned to them from other homes or still available.
If you are considering an adult cat there are some points to remember:
- There will be unknowns. An adult cat, especially one with no prior history, can be a mystery. This means there may be situations or triggers that they struggle with that you won’t know about ahead of time.
- Change can be difficult. Cats love routine. This can make big changes, like a new home, difficult for them and you may see some challenging behaviours as your new family member gets used to their new schedule.
- Stress can muddy the waters. While it is unlikely that the loving cat in the shelter will become a raging hiss-ball at home, you may find the opposite is true. Don’t overlook the quiet rescue cat – they may just be feeling very intimidated, and a new home could be exactly what they need to come out of their shell.
- Honesty is the best policy. Knowing what you can offer a cat, and being honest about that with the rescue centre, organisation or prior owner is really important. If they say that a cat needs more than you can give them, it’s best to listen, else you could find yourself in a sticky situation further down the line.
- Current members of the household. If you already have a cat, it is important to consider if getting a second is in their best interest. Having a multi-cat household can be difficult, and introducing cats to each other is generally a slow process with no guarantee of success. If you already have other pets, such as a dog, think about how they and your cat would get along. Has the cat you are thinking about lived with a dog before?
- Happiness. Nothing beats the happiness of a rescue cat in their new, safe and loving home – don’t underestimate the value of being able to give a rescue cat a second chance.
If you do decide you definitely want a kitten, the next consideration is where you might get your kitten from. Cats are good at reproducing, so although kittens are not as common in rescue centres as adult cats, they are also arrive with reasonable frequency. Even if your local rescue centres don’t currently have any kittens in, they may have a waiting list you can be put on, or be able to make a note to contact you if any kittens arrive. They may also have a young cat that matches your needs – a visit can’t hurt!
Breeders will generally be a reliable source of kittens, although you can expect to pay a premium for your pedigree! If you do go with a breeder, make sure to check them out thoroughly, and be prepared to wait for the right breeder to have a litter. Cats frequently live fifteen or more years, so getting the right cat for you is really important! There is more information on what to ask your breeder below.
Choosing your cat or kitten is a really exciting time, and part of this will be deciding if you want a purebred cat or a domestic shorthair (more commonly called ‘moggies’). There are advantages and disadvantages of both pedigrees and moggies, and the choice will come down to who will fit best with you and your family!
Pedigree cats, while all individuals, are more likely to show the traits associated with their breed – for example Siamese cats are likely to enjoy play, and also be quite vocal! Purchasing a pedigree kitten allows you a little more certainty regarding personality, which might be important as kittens fix their world view very young but don’t demonstrate their adult personality until they are a little older. You are also more likely to be able to spend relaxed, quality time with mum at a breeders – in a rescue centre mum is likely to be at least a little stressed, and this can have a huge impact on cats. Kittens, just like us, are likely to take after their parents so if you can see that mum has the sort of personality you are looking for, you have a higher chance of her kittens taking after her. That being said, where personality is concerned, there are never any guarantees!
Cost is also an important consideration. Pedigree cats are expensive with many kittens selling for many hundreds of pounds. The higher risk of inherited disease in some pedigree cats, such as polycystic kidney disease which is common in Persians, also means they are generally more expensive to insure, as they have larger vet bills on average compared to moggies. Pedigree cats may also be more at risk of theft, although many cats are wary of strangers.
Moggies, or mixed breed cats, are exactly that – a melting pot of genetics. This gives them some great advantages, especially in the disease stakes, as mixed breeds tend to have fewer inherited medical conditions. This mix of breeds, however, makes it a little less set what you will be getting. The personality traits of multiple breeds are buried in there, and it can be impossible to predict what traits will come out on top! That said, many of the traits are a little less extreme than in pedigree cats, so you can find you get a nice mix.
Cost is also a consideration. Fees for purchasing moggies are usually much cheaper than for pedigree cats, and this is worth considering, although it should be noted that there will still be all the costs associated with a new cat, which includes vaccinations, flea and worm treatments and neutering, if these haven’t already been done. The reduced risk of inherited diseases, however, does mean you may be less likely to find yourself shelling out for long term conditions later in their life, although even moggies are prone to long-term conditions such as chronic kidney disease and hyperthyroidism. Because of this reduced disease risk, it can be cheaper to insure moggies too – cheaper and healthier are two very good reasons to consider getting a non-pedigree pet!
Regardless of whether you choose a pedigree cat or a moggie, if you get a kitten ask the breeder to give you a contract of sale for them – you can read more about these on this page.
Although all kittens should have a vet check-up before you bring them home, you can also have a check over of your potential kitten to make sure you can’t spot any warning signs of being unhealthy:
- Kittens should be plump, but not have a pot belly as this can indicate that they have worms.
- Have a look around their bellybutton area. If there is a swelling here, it could be an umbilical hernia.
- Kittens should be responsive to sudden noises like claps and whistles – if they don’t respond at all, this could indicate hearing problems. White cats are prone to deafness, so it is worth checking in these cats especially.
- Eyes should be bright and fully open, not clouded, red or mucky and with no squinting.
- Ears should be clean and not visibly red, sore or itchy.
- Kittens should not be itching, or have sore or bald spots on their skin. There should be no evidence of
- Nose should be clear, with no sneezing or discharge around the nostrils.
Once you are satisfied with wherever or whoever you are getting your kitten, and are happy that the kittens are healthy, it is time for the fun part – choosing which of the kittens is going to be a part of your family! This is a huge decision; don’t forget, cats live on average 15-17 years, and some have been reported to go well beyond this!
You’ll want to spend at least an hour observing and interacting with the kittens – this will give them time to get used to you, and you’ll get more chance to see all the aspects of their behaviour and interactions. While things like colour might endear you to a specific kitten, don’t forget you have a long time to live together and personality match is by far the most important thing! Don’t let colour put you off either – black cats for example are often found in greater numbers in shelters, and can find it harder to get a home.
Here are some things to keep an eye out for:
- Let the kittens come to you rather than picking up the kittens or approaching them. That way you can see how interested they are in you, and who is the bravest!
- Inquisitive kittens are good. Shy kittens may seem cute, but if they are afraid of human interactions this can be a sign of poor social skills which they will likely take into adulthood.
- Got down! Getting down on the floor can be a good test – confident kittens will likely come and take a look. Hissing or hiding might show poor socialisation.
- Think about your home situation. If you have a busy household, a more confident kitten might thrive better than a shyer individual.
- Play. Using a toy, play with the kittens. Kittens should take an interest in play, and be interested in what you have to offer.
Wherever you get your new cat from, it should be an enjoyable experience. Choosing your new cat and introducing them to your loving home is a wonderful time, whether you have a tiny bundle of fluff or a new adult cat ready to settle in.
For more information on setting up for your new cat, check out our bringing home your new kitten page here.
Don’t forget to get your newest family member registered at your local Vets4Pets surgery.