Deciding to get a new cat is so exciting, but it can also raise lots of questions. For example, what breed would you like? Can you handle the challenges of a cheeky kitten, or would a calmer senior cat suit your lifestyle more?
Why cats make the perfect companion
There's no doubt about it - cats make great pets. After all, what’s better to come home to at the end of a tough day than a contented purr from a loving bundle of fur?
Studies have shown that pet owners are generally healthier and happier than non-pet owners. But remember that getting a cat is a big responsibility and a lifetime commitment. When you are ready to make this commitment, there are several advantages of cat-ownership that you can look forward to:
- Owning a cat has been proven to reduce stress.
- Cat owners generally have lower blood pressure than non-pet owners.
- You can benefit from a stronger immune system and recover from illnesses faster than non-pet owners.
- Children growing up with cats generally have fewer days sick than those who don’t have pets.
- Cats are very loving and full of character, but also treasure their own independence, meaning they can be less high-maintenance than other pets.
- Cats can help people recover quicker from emotional traumas, such as bereavement.
There are lots of benefits to owning a cat, but it’s important to choose your cat carefully to make sure you’re well suited to your fluffy friend. The cat you choose will depend on your lifestyle and personal preference. For example, you might want a senior cat that can cuddle on your lap, or have a special breed in mind that you’d like to raise from a kitten.
Our Pet Care experts suggest some points to consider below before making the commitment to get a cat.
What breed of cat should I get?
- Pedigree cats
- Mixed feline breeds
There are over 60 different recognised breeds and colour varieties of pedigree domestic cats in the world, meaning that you have lots to choose from when buying a cat. Pedigree cats come in seven basic varieties:
The greatest advantage of buying a pedigree kitten or cat is that you should know something about what to expect from your pet. For example, a pure-bred Siamese is more likely to be vocal, mischievous and demanding of your attention. Buying a pedigree kitten should also give you an insight into how big the kitten will grow up to be, how long their coat will be and any breed-specific health problems that they might experience.
It’s important to remember that unfortunately inter-breeding sometimes occurs, which can mean that pedigree cats are more vulnerable to genetically inherited diseases or behavioural issues. This, and other information specific to a breed, should be considered carefully when getting a cat.
For more information about pedigree breeds and how to choose a cat, take a look at our breed selector: Cat breed library.
Crossbreeds have two pedigree, but different breed, parents. In fact, many new pedigree breeds have been created through careful crossbreed matches (for example, the Tonkinese was created by crossing the Siamese with the Burmese).
Whilst some crossbreeding happens on purpose to create a new breed, most cases today will be the result of an accidental mating, where a pedigree female has encountered a male from another breed instead of the 'mate' intended. In crossbreeds, it is sometimes possible to see some behavioural and physical traits from both breeds in the kitten it produces.
Otherwise known as moggies, these cats come from an entirely non-pedigree background. These cats are usually categorised as either 'domestic shorthairs' or 'domestic longhairs'.
If you’re thinking about getting a mixed breed cat, remember that you won’t know exactly what a mixed breed kitten will grow into, as you won’t know a lot about what breeds make up their DNA. For example, this could mean that they could have a more mischievous personality, or their coat markings may change. Luckily, unlike dogs, cats are not that significantly different in size or shape, so you won't be too surprised by how your kitten grows up!
Moggies are often generally healthier than pedigree cats, as they have a large gene pool to call on and fewer inherent genetic problems. They can also have more balanced and well-rounded feline personalities! Ultimately, mixed-breed kittens and cats are also generally less expensive, and easier to find.
Should I get a cat or a kitten?
Kittens can be hard to resist. They're cuddly, playful, and you also have the chance to nurture them into the pet you want them to be from the very beginning. At the same time, they demand a lot of attention and you need to be vigilant, especially if they’re feeling naughty! Are you prepared to invest the time and energy necessary to care for the needs of a kitten? If you are thinking of getting a kitten, these things will need to be taken into consideration.
When choosing a kitten from a litter, look for the kitten that responds positively, but not aggressively, to your touch or voice and to their brothers and sisters. A kitten that shies away from the group and is consistently unwilling to approach you is more likely to grow up to be timid and dislike handling. Getting a kitten that repeatedly bites and claws at your hands may mean that they play quite roughly as they grow.
When choosing your kitten, check that they appear to be healthy. Their eyes should be bright and clear, their ears clear of wax, their nails smooth and their coat shiny and thick (depending on breed) without any sign of fleas. If buying from a breeder, they may have already had the kitten examined by a vet to make sure they are healthy. If not, ask if you can take them for a check-up before making the final commitment to take them home.
If you already own at least one cat, then getting a kitten may cause less social conflict than another adult cat. If you don't have a cat now but hope to have several in the future, taking on one or two kittens will mean they will grow up together and therefore should get on! Read our guide on introducing your cat to other pets for more information.
Adult cats can also be playful and very loving, but bear in mind that they may come with a bit of emotional baggage, especially if they have been unfortunate enough to have had a tough start in life. Whatever influences have shaped them, their personality will already be more established before they come to you. You may be able to get information from the cat's previous owner or rescue shelter to help you know what to expect and how to help them settle in - including litter tray habits, food preferences and personality.
Problems such as inappropriate urination or aggression, especially towards other cats, are less likely in an older cat who has grown up! Senior cats also make great cuddle companions, as they’ll have less energy than kittens. So they will be happy just dozing on your lap
Should I get a male or female cat?
Both male and female cats make brilliant pets, and there are actually very few behavioural differences between them, as long as they have been neutered. Some may say that females are more loving and males are more independent, but you may find yourself with a cuddly mummy's boy, or a self-reliant female. When choosing a cat and picking their gender, bear these handy tips in mind:
- Generally, males are a little bigger than females.
- Un-neutered tomcats are more likely to wander away from home, which can increase their risk of fighting with other cats they come across or being involved in a traffic accident.
- Boys that are unneutered are also more likely to spray urine to mark their territory.
- Un-neutered females can be very vocal and difficult to keep indoors when they come into season. They can become pregnant from as young as five months old, meaning that your kitten could soon be having kittens herself!
- Cats from rescue homes should usually already be neutered, but check with the centre advisor beforehand. If you need more information on neutering, visit our FAQs page.
- Your choice of sex may also be determined by any existing cats you have. If you already have a sociable (neutered) male cat, a young (neutered) female may be the best choice for both him and you.
- The cost of sterilising a female is generally more than for neutering a male, and more still if she is already pregnant. Most re-homing charities will have already neutered their cats before they put them up for adoption.
Whatever decision you make when choosing a cat that’s a perfect fit for your family, you have an exciting time ahead of you making memories with your new four-legged friend! Read our guide on making your home cat-friendly for more information on how to make them feel as at home as possible.