Choosing a cat is very much an affair that requires a match and an affinity between the cat and the potential owner's personality and preference. That is why buying a cat (or any other pet) for others as a gift or surprise is never a good idea.
The personality of cats do not vary tremendously from breed to breed. If you ever consider breed differences, they are mainly about the care and physical differences. The main considerations in choosing a cat are listed below.
Male Or Female?
Typically, most sterilised male and female cats do not have alot of differences in behaviour and personality But if you are having an unsterilised male cat, he will be very territorial and spray their strong scent on walls, furniture and curtains to mark their space.
Unsterilised female cats also spray on occasion, but the more problematic behaviour is when they make loud noises (caterwaul) when they go into season. Sterilised cats, whether male or female, usually have improved personalities and such problems with unsterilised cats are seldom encountered. The gender of your cat really should be one of the least important factors in choosing a cat due to the very few differences between the sexes.
No two cats are exactly the same in terms of personality. This aspect of choosing a cat needs to be experienced by the potential owner by means of interaction with the cat.
Does the cat appear happy to see you? Does the cat display signs of affection readily? Does the cat like being handled and petted by you? Does the cat play with you when you dangle a toy or string in front of him? If you have the time, try to look up the cat on two separate occasions as some cats may display different characteristics at different times depending on their mood and the environment.
Some people like cats who are affectionate, while others like cats who are lofty-looking. It's all your personal choice.
Adult Or Kitten?
Whenever people walk into a pet shop or animal shelter, they usually gravitate towards the puppies or the kittens. The "cute" factor is a powerful emotional pull that may influence potential pet owners into getting a kitten without first considering if they are suited for them.
Kittens are very energetic. They are also more likely to disrupt the peace in your home running around, exploring and possibly destroying stuff. If you have the time and energy to keep up with a kitten and ensure its safety and well-being, then it is fine to get one.
Most young children are better off with cats above 6 months of age as young children may not have the maturity to handle young kittens responsibly. If you are a senior citizen, it may be wiser to get an adult cat so as to prevent a situation whereby the cat outlives you and has to go through the stresses of re-homing or abandonment.
If you already have a cat or a dog at home, and are thinking of getting another cat, it may not be wise to get a kitten because resident cats usually resent the playfulness and intrusiveness of a new kitten, while dogs may play too rough with them.
A kitten less than three months old should remain with its mother as this is the period where the kitten learns to wean from its mother and learn proper behaviour such as socialising with other cats and humans. So if you suspect a kitten is less than three months old, tell the pet shop your concern and do not buy the kitten or if it is a stray, do not take it from its mother yet.
Pedigree Or Street Bred
You may have a particular breed of cat in mind before you go out to choose. However, unless the ethical breeder has years of experience in cat breeding and genetics and is very careful in choosing the breeding stock for his cats, undesirable traits will creep into the breed.
Therefore, if you are looking for a pedigree (also known as a purebred) cat, it is very important that you thoroughly research about the breed and know as much as possible how to identify the traits.
Singapore has many stray cats. Most of these strays are of mixed breeds of unknown origins. Street cats like these are usually alert and hardy. These cats have inherited a mix of genes from their mixed parentage, and some vets even find that street cats are more robust in their immunity and are less susceptible to genetic diseases. These traits make them excellent healthy companions at home.
Once adopted, street cats usually treasure their new homes and new-found luxuries. However, if you do adopt a street cat, ensure that you have him thoroughly checked by a vet, sterilised and given the necessary vaccinations.
Adult street cats that are accustomed to roaming will usually try to find ways to sneak out of the house or apartment, or they may "meow" at the door wanting to go out. Cat owners should ensure they cat-proof their homes and do not allow cats to roam outdoors. After some time, these street cats will usually stop or reduce their desire to roam and be as happy staying indoors.
Short Or Long Hair?
Some breeds have long, fluffy coats while others have short, dense fur. Deciding on your cat's fur length is important as it is one of the few things you need to take care of other than your cat's litter box, food/water and playtime.
Long hair cats require frequent brushing to be matt-free. Shorthair cats also require regular brushing but not as often as longhair cats. If you plan to get a longhair cat, be prepared to make time to brush him daily.
More Than One
Sometimes, potential pet owners may be tempted to get or adopt two cats at one go. This is something you can consider only if you have the time, energy and love to devote to the two cats. You will also need to ensure that the two cats are already getting along well with each other.
That is why most pet owners who adopt two cats at one time usually do it for sibling cats who are already used to each other. Some cat owners find that having two kittens help to alleviate some of the behavioural problems that may surface with just one kitten. Nevertheless, be prepared for more work if this is what you want to do.
*This article was updated on 7 Sept 2020. It first appeared in PetsMagazine.com.sg on 2 Oct 2015.