Having a cat can mean different things to different people. Some want a cat to cuddle and sit on their laps; others are happy to live with a very independent cat which spends most of its time outside and doesn’t want too much human interaction.
What is important is that you try to find a cat that will interact with you if you want it to. All cats are not the same and how each individual cat behaves with you can depend on its inherent personality and early experiences (or lack of experiences), which can make it fearful or confident with people and life in general.
The environment in which you keep a cat is also extremely significant – for example if it lives with many other cats which do not get on, then it will be stressed and will react differently than if it was on its own.
While there is no guaranteed way to choose the perfect cat for you and your lifestyle, understanding your expectations as well as what makes cats tick will help you to bring home a cat that should be able to cope with its new environment and be the pet that you want too.
To care for a cat you will need to:
Provide plenty of human companionship
Provide regular, suitable meals with a constant supply of fresh water
Provide a clean and comfortable bed
Provide the cat with outdoor access or be prepared to empty and clean a litter tray on a daily basis
Provide it with a stimulating and safe environment
Groom it regularly. Longhaired cats require daily grooming
Have it neutered between 4 and 6 months old
Vaccinate against the major feline diseases regularly
Worm regularly and provide treatment for fleas
Take the cat to the vet when it shows any sign of illness
Insure your cat or make sure you can afford the cost of any veterinary treatment it may need
How much care and attention does a cat need?
As pets go, cats are relatively low maintenance compared to dogs which need companionship, walking, training etc. However, like any pet, they do need care, and some cats need more care than others. Do you want to spend a lot of time with your cat, do you want it to be demanding, or do you have limited time? Cats can fit into busy, modern lifestyles more easily than dogs, as they are pretty independent, can be left alone much more easily and are more suitable for smaller flats or houses. Cats are often chosen by people who have busy and stressful lifestyles and who want some companionship when they go home to relax.
What do you want from your relationship with a cat? If you’re the kind of person who really needs to have a close relationship with your cat and to be able to handle it and have it interact with you, then you’ll be disappointed if you take on a nervous cat that hides every time you come into the room. You may want to think about one of the pedigree breeds which can be more interactive and perhaps more needy of human company than some moggies. This may however become a problem for the cat if you are out at work all day and only available to give attention on evenings or weekends.
Some cats need to know exactly what’s going to happen when, in order to feel relaxed. Such cats would be quite happy living with an old lady who rarely has visitors and leads a very quiet life, but would probably find it quite stressful living in a home full of kids and other animals with lots of visitors and activity. Other cats, however, might thrive on different interactions with lots of people and fit in perfectly well in a busy household
If you’re not likely to have the time or inclination to groom a cat on a daily basis, don’t even think of getting a Persian or a cat with a long coat. In pedigree jargon, any cat with a longer coat, aside from a Persian, is called semi-longhaired because the coat is not as full as the Persian’s and does not have such a thick undercoat; however, it is still long and requires grooming. In addition, if you are extremely house-proud, you may not want lots of hair everywhere.
A shorthaired cat is a much easier option, as most cats are fanatical about their coats and keep them in immaculate condition. That’s not to say that they don’t leave hairs around – bear this in mind if you’re thinking of getting a white cat but have dark furniture, or vice versa. Likewise, a cat is quite likely to sharpen its claws indoors, often on the stair carpet, sometimes on the furniture or even on the wallpaper. Whether your cat does this can depend on the cat itself and also the environment you provide for it; however there are things you can do to try and deal with this, but it is best to acknowledge from the outset that your cat is an animal with free will and natural behaviour that may not suit someone who needs to have an immaculate house.