New Mexico's Pet Resource SUMMER 2003


CAT CHAT

THE RIGHT CAT

by Nancy Marano

Is there such a thing as the right cat?

There are plenty of cats who need homes, so finding one is no problem. But that isnít the same thing as finding the ďrightĒ cat for you. Thatís trickier and means you need to answer a lot of questions for yourself first.

Male or female? Longhair or shorthair? Kitten or adult? Particular breed or rescue cat? One cat or more than one? Energy level? What is your lifestyle? Can you afford it?

That looks like a long list of things to consider when all you really want to do is cuddle a cute ball of fluff. But precaution before you take your cat home is better than disappointment. A cat deserves to have a home with you for the rest of its life, and indoor cats can live 15-20 years. Weíre talking long-term commitment to a living being, not an item like a blouse to be returned if it doesnít work out.

GENDER

As long as you spay or neuter your new cat, either a male or female will make a wonderful pet. Spaying and neutering is healthy for your cat, limits any marking activity or roaming tendency, and helps end the pet overpopulation crisis.

KITTEN OR ADULT

The answer to this depends in part on your lifestyle and commitment level. Kittens are adorable. Itís hard to resist their antics. However, when you get one home you learn there are sharp teeth and claws under that fluff. Kittens are curious, clumsy, and can be destructive. A kitten requires a lot of time and interaction with you to learn how to live in a family. Introducing a kitten into a home with other animals might be easier because kittens are so adaptable.

If a high octane kitten seems too demanding, what about an adolescent cat? Adolescents are one to three years old. They still have lots of curiosity, adaptability and playfulness. You can see how heíll look, heís already neutered, his temperament is determined, and you know his daily requirements.

A mature cat might be your perfect choice. He already knows how to live with people and how to snooze on your lap. Adult cats often end up at shelters because their owners became sick or died. Sometimes these cats are overlooked by prospective adopters because they donít put on a show. But the love an older cat returns to you as his thanks for your perceptiveness in choosing him is beautiful to experience.

LONGHAIR OR SHORTHAIR

This question is partly aesthetic, but it also relates to your lifestyle and how much time you can spend with your cat. A longhaired cat is high maintenance. He requires daily brushing to keep his coat healthy and free of mats, and to lessen the number of hairballs heíll get from grooming himself. Shorthaired cats donít require much time to groom, but they still need to be brushed regularly. Grooming your cat is necessary, but it is also a wonderful way to bond with him.

PEDIGREE OR RESCUE

Is it important that you get a particular breed of cat or is one who looks like a certain breed acceptable? If you have your heart set on a certain breed - say a Maine Coon - locate a reputable breeder who can tell you all about the temperament, grooming requirements, activity level, and health of your new cat.

Unless you plan to register and show your cat, you might be able to find a Maine Coon or a look-alike at your local shelter or cat rescue group. Not only do shelter cats need homes, they are often healthier than pedigreed cats, who may have genetic problems associated with their breed.

ENERGY LEVEL

This may not be the determining factor when you decide on which cat to take home, but it does make a difference. Shelter cats who resemble established breeds usually share some of the breedís characteristics.

Do you prefer an easygoing, friendly cat who will get along with children and visitors? You might consider a Maine Coon or American Shorthair. If you want an active, people-oriented cat who is a little more demanding, think about some of the Oriental breeds such as a Siamese or Tonkinese. Looking for a lap cat who isnít overly demanding but enjoys your company? Think about a Russian Blue or Scottish Fold. Are you athletic and want your cat to be, too? An Abyssinian or Bengal will fit right into your household. If you want to spend a lot of time grooming your cat, a Persian should be your first choice.

HOW MANY

Do you spend the day away from home? If so, you should consider getting two cats. Cats are curious, social animals who enjoy the company of other cats. You might be able to adopt two kittens from the same litter or pick two cats who already get along. The shelter staff watches the cats interact and can help you with this selection. Not only will you make two cats very happy, but youíll double your own pleasure.

Once youíve decided what traits you want most in a cat, go to your shelter and find your new forever friend.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who lives in Albuquerque and is owned by two cats, Sammy and Rocky, and a Westie named Maggie May.

When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not more of a pastime to her than she is to me? -Montaigne

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