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    Finding the Right Cat

    Finding the Right Cat

    There are no ordinary cats. ~Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

    As discussed in Breed Development and Characteristics, there are in total about eighty distinctive breeds recognized by the world's cat breed associations. That means there are a myriad of different kinds of cats with distinctive looks, characteristics, and personality traits from which to choose. It's important to carefully research their different individual qualities to ensure that you choose the perfect companion to match both your personality and your lifestyle.

    Start by reading over the breed profiles to learn about the specific qualities of the breed or breeds you're interested in; then expand your research by talking with your cat-owning family members and friends, breed clubs, and breeders. Next, visit breeders to meet individual cats or go to the local animal shelter and visit with all of the cats there. With all those different body shapes, sizes, and coats in a variety of colors and "styles" (shorthaired, longhaired, curly, and even, as in the Sphynx, hairless), somewhere out there is the perfect cat-or cats-for you.

    There are many different ways to acquire a cat. The 2013– 2014 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey listed the following sources where cats are obtained:

    • 32 percent obtain a cat from a friend or family member.
    • 26 percent obtain kittens and cats from an animal shelter or humane society.
    • 35 percent of all cats are strays who adopted their owners.
    • 8 percent obtained a kitten born to a cat they already own.
    • 8 percent obtain cats and kittens privately or from a newspaper advertisement.
    • 2 percent obtain from a variety of other sources, such as from their veterinarian or from a breeder.

    Many people obtain cats because a stray shows up at their door and decides to stay.

    Cats from a Breeder

    If you are looking to acquire a pedigreed kitten, it's best to purchase directly from a breeder. With a breeder, you can verify pedigree and know that if you're looking for, say, a Bengal, you will be getting a Bengal. A breeder will be able to confirm what you have learned from your research with regard to specific breed character traits, as well as the type of grooming routine you must be prepared to undertake. Breeders can also point out any inherent medical issues pertaining to that specific breed and how they may relate to their own breeding cats.

    Many cat breeders say that a kitten's father has the biggest influence on the kitten's personality and behavior even if he has had little or no contact with the litter. So be sure to ask about the kitten's parents and, if possible, ask to meet both the mother and the father so you can get an idea of what kind of cat your kitten might grow up to be in terms of both looks and personality. It will give you an idea whether the kitten you are interested in will grow up to be outwardly friendly or very shy. Remember to brush up your knowledge of general trait information from the breed profiles

    As a rule of thumb, longhaired breeds, such as the Persian, are mellower and less demanding than the shorthaired breeds.

    Generally speaking, longhaired or semi-longhaired cats are more placid and less vocal and demanding than shorthaired felines, which are often very energetic and lively. The following popular breeds are examples of different feline personalities:

  • Abyssinian: gentle and loyal, very active, and playful
  • American Shorthair: sociable and laid back
  • Asian Shorthair: curious, intelligent, and not very demanding
  • Birman: a sweet devoted personality, intelligent, and quiet
  • Bengal: very athletic and playful
  • British Shorthair: friendly and affectionate
  • Burmese: outgoing and energetic; enjoys lots of attention
  • Devon and Cornish Rex: playful and intelligent
  • Egyptian Mau: playful and loving
  • Exotic Shorthair: gentle and undemanding
  • Korat: quiet, sweet-natured, playful, and intelligent
  • Maine Coon: sweet, intelligent, and easy to train to do tricks
  • Norwegian Forest Cat: very gentle and loving
  • Persian: sweet, devoted, docile, affectionate, and laid-back
  • Ragdoll: gentle and affectionate; enjoys being handled by everyone
  • Russian Blue: affectionate, quiet, and gentle
  • Siamese: very vocal, intelligent, and demanding
  • Scottish Fold: mellow and sweet-tempered
  • Sphynx: lively, devoted, and loyal
  • Tonkinese: people-oriented and affectionate; loves to play
  • Toyger: highly intelligent, active, and friendly
  • Meeting the Breeds

    If you have decided on a pedigreed cat, it's very important to do your homework about the breed. It's also important to meet the breeds that appeal to you, and there's no better way to do that than to attend a cat show.

    Breeders love to share information with cat lovers and will happily chat if they are not grooming and getting ready for the show ring. It's a good idea to take a business card with their information and contact them afterward, when they have more time to talk. This is also an excellent opportunity to find breeders in your area so that you can visit them at home, too.

    Breed showcases and information workshops are a popular feature at many cat shows and are an excellent way to learn from the experts and educate yourself about personality and breed temperament. The best way to find out about cat shows in your area is to consult local newspapers or specialist magazines such as Catster. Notice boards in both pet stores and veterinary offices are another excellent source of information. Both the Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) and the International Cat Association (TICA) post events on their respective websites, and

    Apart from listing information about cat shows, magazines such as Catster also list bona fide breeders in every issue. Furthermore, CFA and TICA are willing to help first-time purebred cat buyers by giving them information about those certified breeders who are members of their respective organizations.

    It’s important to remember that responsible breeders do not over-breed, and you may find that you have to put your name on a waiting list. Depending on the breed, the wait could be a long one. But then, looking after a cat is a lifetime commitment and thus acquiring a cat should Biblenever be “an impulse buy.” If you’re not prepared to wait for what you want, then you may not really want a cat at all.

    Working with a Breeder

    Once you've found a breeder with whom you would like to work, it's important to build up a rapport, preferably in person, but if that's not possible, by telephone or e-mail. Many breeders have websites and post daily photographs to give you an inside look at life in their catteries if you are unable to visit.

    Often, breeders like to raise their kittens "underfoot," which means they have both the mom and the litter in their homes rather than in a cattery environment. This doesn't mean it's a backyard operation. In fact, kittens who are raised in the family home are usually very well socialized because they have so much contact with people. Nevertheless, it's still important to learn about the hygienic conditions of the home and make sure everything is well run and clean.

    Don't be afraid to ask questions about the environment, the breeder's background, the kittens, and so on. Breeders like it when prospective cat owners ask questions because it shows that these people are committed to raising a healthy pet in a healthy home.Ask how many litters they raise per year. A queen should not be bred more than once a year. Find out if the mother has been under veterinary care throughout the pregnancy, whether a veterinarian has examined the kittens since birth, and if they have subsequently received their first vaccinations.

    Ask if the cattery screens regularly for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline AIDS (FIV). It's important to have some knowledge of the breed you are interested in so that you can inquire about any health issues associated with the breed and find out whether the breeder screens for those specific issues. For example, Maine Coons are prone to hip dysplasia whereas breeds such as the Persian, Ragdoll, and Maine Coon have been known to suffer from a heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (see chapter 14, page 326-327), characterized by a thickening of the left ventricle of the heart, which pumps the blood to circulate it throughout the body. The condition can be mild to life-threatening. Be sure to inquire whether the breeder will give a written guarantee outlining any genetic or health problems.

    Attending a cat show is an excellent way to see a number of different breeds and learn about them up close.

    If you are considering a life in the show ring for your kitten, be sure to ask if the kitten has been registered and with which organizations, and be sure to confirm that such registrations do exist. All pedigreed kittens should be sold with their pedigree as well as their registration papers, even if the buyer is not planning to breed or show.If you are able to schedule a visit to the breeder, be sure (as mentioned earlier) to ask to see both the mother and the father. This will give you an excellent idea of what your kitten is going to grow up to look like. Often, breeders use a stud service, and the father isn't on the premises. If this is the case, ask to see a photograph.

    If a breeder is reluctant to answer your questions or allow you to tour his or her home or cattery, consider it a red flag and go elsewhere. Another red flag is a breeder who is keen to let kittens go too young. Kittens need to be with their mothers until they are at least twelve weeks old. Some breeders like to wait until the kitten is sixteen weeks old before allowing her to go to a new home. So beware of anyone who is keen to let kittens go at six to eight weeks of age. Extra time spent with the mother is vital to both kittens' physical development and the strengthening of their immune system, as well as to their socialization. Besides, there's a lot for their mothers to teach them, too.

    It is also reasonable to ask for references and contact people to learn of their experiences with a particular breeder.

    Designer Breed Bans

    Designer Breed Bans

    In recent years, designer cat breeds, such as Bengals (a cross between a domestic feline and an Asian leopard cat), Savannahs (a cross between a domestic feline and a serval), Chausies (a cross between a domestic feline and a jungle cat), and Toygers (a cross between a striped domestic feline and a Bengal), carefully bred to resemble wild cats such as leopards, jungle cats, and tigers, have become increasingly popular.

    However, there are restrictions to owning a hybrid breed, and these laws vary across America. They are banned outright in Hawaii. States such as Connecticut and Massachusetts have laws that require breeders to register their cats with the Department of Agriculture since 1996. This means that the original parents of today's cats had to be officially registered, thus making their offspring legal. It also means that Bengals, Savannahs, and other domestic and wild-crossed hybrids cannot be legally brought into those states. Effectively, this means that no new crossbreeding programs are officially allowed in these states.

    These states also require owners of hybrid cats to register them with a cat registry such as TICA to prove that the cat has had no wild lineage for the past four generations. Hybrid cats such as Bengals, Chausies, Savannah, and Toygers are subject to a filial generation labeling system. The term filial is based on the Latin word filius, which means "son" and relates to the number of generations away the cat is from a nondomestic ancestor.

    • An F1 cat has a parent who is of a nondomestic species.
    • An F2 cat has a grandparent who of a nondomestic species.
    • An F3 cat has great-grandparent who is of a nondomestic species.
    • (All F1, F2, and F3 cats are also often referred to as early-generation or EG cats.)
    • An F4 cat has a great-great grandparent who is of a nondomestic species.

    All cats who are F4 or greater (F5, F6, and so on) are also referred to as stud book tradition (SBT) cats. This is based on a complicated coding system that guarantees that the cat in question has no cats of unknown, unregistered, or of another breed group in her genetic background within a standard three-generation pedigree.

    One of the main reasons why such an influential registry such as TICA recognizes hybrid cats as fully domesticated only starting with the fourth generation (F4) is because the first three generations of males are sterile, and the organization's rules require both males and females of any breed to be able to reproduce.

    Hybrid breeds are partially banned in some states like Georgia, Alaska, and New York. This means that early-generation cats (F1, F2, and F3) are banned but not later generation cats (F4, F5, and onward). However, some places, such as New York City, despite the state's partial ban, still uphold an outright ban in the city itself. Furthermore, although breed bans may officially still exist on some state or city law books, they are not enforced. And because the situation is constantly changing, it's important to check for up-to-date information on a website such as

    Research your breeder and breed thoroughly and don't be afraid to ask any questions you have before you commit to buying a cat.

    Answering a Breeder's Questions

    A responsible breeder wants to ensure that every one of her kittens goes to a good home, and you must expect to be quizzed about your home and lifestyle, too. Expect to be asked what will happen if you decide not to keep the kitten. Some breeders will insist on the kitten or the fully grown cat coming back to them.

    Expect questions about other animals and children in the home and your views on spaying, neutering, and declawing. They will want to know what arrangements you plan to make if you travel and whether the cat is going to be home alone for long periods of time. They may also want to know how much you know about the breed in general and what type of research you have done to ensure that you are making the right choice.

    Signing the Sales Contract

    There will always be a sales contract to sign when purchasing a kitten from a breeder. The contract will vary from breeder to breeder, but essentially they all cover the same ground, with clauses relating to the daily care of the cat, declawing, and spaying or neutering. Insistence on spaying or neutering is a common practice when owners simply want a cat as a pet because it gives the breeder the assurance that the cat will not be bred indiscriminately and add to the problem of pet overpopulation.

    There may be a clause ensuring that the breeder will be given the first option to buy the cat back and also clauses prohibiting the cat from being sold or given to a pet shop or to a research laboratory. All contracts are open to reasonable negotiation. Once signed, however, they are binding on both parties. So read the fine print!

    Cats from a Breed Rescue Group

    If you are not planning a career in the show ring for your cat but are intent on bringing a certain breed of cat into your home, consider adopting from a breed rescue group. It's a sad reality that pedigreed cats also lose their homes for a variety of reasons. Breed rescues groups are usually run by volunteers who are familiar with a particular cat breed (many of them breeders themselves) and collectively they work to re-home pedigreed cats.

    The cats are usually kept in foster care in a home environment, although they may also be housed at a specific group rescue shelter. There are breed rescue groups for almost all pedigreed cats. Although cats of all ages can be found through a breed rescue group, most are fully grown, not kittens. Very often these cats have all their pedigree and registry papers, too. Purchasing a cat directly from a breeder can be quite expensive, and breed rescue is definitely a much cheaper option because you will ultimately only be paying an adoption fee that includes the cost of spaying or neutering if it hasn't already been done. Adopting from a breed shelter, however, is more expensive than obtaining a cat from a standard shelter because the costs of keeping these pets in a home environment are greater.

    Most breeders, even if they are not personally involved in a rescue group, have knowledge of such groups in their area and are a good source of information. Very often, breed rescue groups take booths at regular cat shows to try to find their charges new forever homes. Local cat organizations are another good source of information. If you are planning to adopt from a breed rescue group, be prepared to be asked a lot of questions similar to those asked by a breeder because rescue group volunteers work hard to re-home their charges and ensure that each cat goes to a loving and a forever home. Be prepared for a home inspection visit, too.

    Cats from an Animal Shelter

    The majority of cats in the world are nonpedigreed animals, born of mixed parentage, and thus are generally referred to as mixed-breed. Over the years, they've had a variety of nicknames from "pavement specials" (being born to feral cats) to "moggies." The latter is derived from name Maggie, short for Margaret, reputed to have been a common name for cows and calves in eighteenth-century England and later applied to housecats during the Victorian era. In the United States, a nonpedigreed cat is also sometimes referred to as a "barn cat" or "alley cat," even if it is not a stray.

    Very often litters of nonpedigreed kittens are born to domestic cats, and the owners, unable to raise the kittens, take them to a nonprofit rescue shelter or municipal pound. Because so many city-run shelters still euthanize the animals in their care, nonprofit animal rescue groups will often rescue cats and kittens from these places and undertake to care for them until they find them homes. The staff at a shelter or an adoption event should be forthcoming with answers to your questions. You are entitled to whatever information they have to offer about the background of any kitten or cat in their care, her age, and her state of health. Also try to ascertain whether she was a stray or a cat who was relinquished by a previous owner and how long she's been in the shelter. Finally, it's important to find out about the shelter's return policy in case the adoption does not work out.

    Whether you're adopting from a city shelter or a rescue organization, all cats and kittens will be spayed or neutered before being allowed to go to a new home. Consequently, as with a specific breed rescue group, you will also be charged an adoption fee, which varies from shelter to shelter. You can also expect to fill out comprehensive paperwork. If you are dealing with an animal rescue group, more than Biblelikely they will insist on a home inspection before the animal is released into your care.

    Rescue groups often have an arrangement with pet boutiques and supermarkets to hold in-store adoption events. Some even have a permanent in-store arrangement and rotate the cats and kittens between the store and their off-site shelter to give the animals a better chance of being adopted. This is a very acceptable manner in which to adopt a cat or a kitten and should not be confused with pet stores that sell cats and kittens that they have obtained from a kitten mill. But be sure to ask!It's important to bear in mind that whether you are adopting from an animal shelter or from an adoption clinic run by a volunteer organization within a pet store, any animal in this environment may appear timid. Ask if there is safe area where you can possibly have some one-on-one interaction with the kitten or cat you are interested in adopting. A store situation is stressful for a small animal. Often, a kitten or cat will only really begin to blossom once she is in a home environment-with you.

    Not a Mill Kitty

    In recent years, a number of pet stores around the country have been prosecuted for selling unhealthy kittens and cats who have been bred in illegal kitten mill operations. Furthermore, dishonest storeowners have lied to prospective purchasers about the backgrounds of such cats in their stores. If you are looking to purchase a purebred cat, it's best to make such a purchase directly with a registered breeder. Genuine cat breeders who love and support their breed never sell their kittens to a store. They have a very responsible attitude when it comes to placing one of their kittens in a new home, and many are keen to meet prospective owners and question them to ensure that the kitten is going to a loving home.

    Most breeders will ask a prospective buyer questions, such whether he or she plans on letting the cat go outside.

    Cats from Other Sources

    There are other sources to tap when you go looking for your cat, including online sources (check these out carefully), family or friends, and even your back doorstep, when the cat who has been hanging around-and who you have been kind-heartedly giving food and water-decides to adopt you permanently.


    In 1995, two computer-savvy animal lovers named Betsy and Jared Saul launched a website called that has become a leading platform for pet adoptions in the United States. The site posts information about pets for adoption from more than 13,966 shelters and, with a simple click of a computer mouse, links them with millions of people around the country looking to adopt at any given time. It's a free service for shelters and rescue groups to use, as well as for potential adopters. Since its inception, has helped to find homes for more than 13 million pets, and the numbers continue to grow daily.

    In 2006, Discovery Channel bought the website. This takeover gave the company the opportunity to use its network of TV stations to further promote the site and the concept of pet adoptions. In the past decade, the idea of looking online for an animal companion has spawned numerous competitive sites and also prompted small rescue groups to maintain their own websites that are updated daily. Collectively, it's all for the greater good of finding unwanted pets homes. In July 2013, the site was bought by Nestle Purina PetCare. It's important to verify that any website you visit is bone fide and not a smokescreen for a kitten mill.

    Adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue group is a wonderful way to give a second chance to a homeless kitty.

    Many people adopt a cat after a friend's or neighbor's cat has kittens.

    Family and Friends

    Cat lovers who have not had their cats spayed or neutered often find themselves with unwanted litters and are willing to offer the kittens to family and friends for free. This is a good option because you can usually get to see the kittens interacting with their mother and check out the hygienic state of their environment. According to the 2013–2014 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, more than 32 percent of Americans find a cat this way.

    Cats Who Adopt People

    It's a sad fact that, all too often, people who don't take the responsibility of pet ownership seriously simply move to a new location and leave their cats behind to fend for themselves. To survive, these cats turn feral. If given a chance, however, they still gravitate to people in the neighborhood, and, if given the opportunity, will adopt a new caregiver for themselves. Because such cats are in need of human affection, they usually make great companions. I have been adopted twice!

    Assessing the Prospects

    No matter how you are planning to adopt, whether it's directly from a shelter, at an organized adoption event, or from a private home, take your time. This is an important decision that's going to affect your life and the lives of those around you for many years to come.

    When confronted by numerous bouncing kittens, it can be difficult to choose. They are all cute. Obviously, if you have a penchant for a particular coloring, that may help to narrow the field.

    Here are some pointers to help with your assessment:

    Picking up a Cat

    The best way to pick up a cat so that she feels secure is to lift her from the front, with one arm under her front legs and the other gently supporting her back legs. Never take young children with you to an animal shelter or an adoption event. They can unnerve a kitten or cat and distract you, too!]

    We Choose Her!

    Lori Van Hove knows exactly what it's like to be adopted by a cat-in triplicate.

    During a November rainstorm, I came home to find two wet cats, a small black female with white marking on her face and a pink nose and a teeny black kitten, sheltering under the overhang of my front door. I saw them, they saw me-it was mutual adoption at first sight, and they immediately moved into the house. I named the cat Mamma Starr because the white on her face resembled a star and the kitten Midnight.

    The third cat to adopt me, a tabby named Tigre, had been an outside cat in the neighborhood and a buddy for years. Until Mamma Starr and Midnight's arrival, Tigre had come and gone, in and out of my house pretty much as he pleased. Now with two cats permanently at home, I couldn't let him just wander in, so I tried to keep him outside. When he finally begged to be allowed back in one day, I told him to be careful what he asked for . . . but he darted through the open door the second it was wide enough. Fortunately, he fit right in with Mamma Starr and Midnight. The three of them had been strangers (as far as I knew), yet they all got along well and were sharing a litter box from the first day.

    People told me that trying to change Tigre from an outdoor cat to an indoor-only cat wouldn't work. They said he would be trying to get out every chance he could. They even said I was cruel not to let him be free. Tigre, of course, didn't care what anybody said. He accepted indoor life from the first and never seemed to want to go out again. He knew a good thing when he saw it.

    Special-Needs Cats

    Often, among the bouncier kittens there may be one who is smaller and weaker than the rest, and she may possibly even have some kind of deformity. Such kittens are known as the runts of the litter. Adopting a special-needs kitten can be a very rewarding experience. But before you consider such an undertaking, it's important to get an opinion detailing exactly what the kitten's special needs may be. Very often, shelter personnel are not trained to give the answers you need, and you are going to have to seek an expert veterinary opinion and, furthermore, inquire what kind of ongoing medical treatment may be needed and a guesstimate of the costs involved.

    Older Cats

    Sadly, adult cats often lose their homes for a variety of reasons and find themselves in shelter situations. It's very stressful for a cat to suddenly lose her family and familiar surroundings, and these cats often cower at the rear of a cage, shy and unable to project their true personalities.Most shelters have a visitor's room where you can spend some quality time together with a prospective adoptee and try to get to know each other. Be sure to ask. It is often a good idea to visit several times, to give the cat an opportunity to warm to your attention.

    You are quite entitled to ask questions relating to a cat's background, and shelter personnel are obliged to tell you what they know. They are usually very helpful in this regard because they want to place a cat in the best possible home. It's important to try to ascertain whether a fully grown cat who is up for adoption is comfortable around children and other pets. Often, if a cat lived with a single person, this would be the best possible situation for the cat a second time around. Young adult and senior cats are always less likely to get adopted than a fluffy kitten. So, by making such a choice you are definitely giving an older cat a second chance. You will be paid back beyond your wildest dreams in love and wonderful companionship.

    Adult cats are less likely to be adopted than kittens, so you may want to consider opening your heart to an older feline companion.

    Lemon Laws Relating to Breeders

    The sale of cats is subject to consumer protection, known as the Pet Lemon Law. This law applies after the fact-after a buyer gets home and learns that he or she has purchased a "poor-quality, unhealthy" pet from a commercial pet store or breeder. The law entitles them to a refund, an exchange, or reimbursement of veterinary costs within 14 days of the sale or receipt of the written consumer rights notice from the seller, whichever occurs later. Sixteen states (Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, and Virginia) have enacted lemon laws offering consumer protection measures solely geared to provide specific recourse to members of the public who purchase sick or diseased animals from pet shops.

    In states where there is no lemon law, the state attorney general's office, the state department of consumer affairs, or the Better Business Bureau may have jurisdiction to address consumer disputes with a particular pet shop. These states also require pet shops to disclose particular information to purchasers and prospective purchasers; this may include the name and contact information of the breeder, any veterinary care provided to the animal prior to sale, a guarantee of good health, the animal's vaccination history, recommendations for spay/neuter, and/or species-specific care guidelines. The following states have lemon laws relating to breeders: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont. These laws allow a buyer to recover damages from a breeder who sells unhealthy animals. Usually, a breeder is considered to be an individual who sells more than nine animals a year. If your cat comes down with a contagious or life-threatening disease within the first 14 days in your home, the breeder will be responsible for paying any expenses you incur. Additionally, if the pet dies within this period, the breeder can be required to reimburse you for any vet bills and the original cost of the animal.

    It is important to check that there is a clause relating to lemon laws in any contract you intend signing because often purchasers buy cats from breeders who live and operate in another state. Animal law professionals and cat registries are excellent resources for advice relating to such relevant clauses. The Humane Society of the United States has created a database to allow pet owners to see if pet lemon laws have been proposed or are currently under consideration in their state.

    From The Cat Bible, Copyright by Sandy Robins, licensed through ContentOro, Inc and used by arrangement with I-5 Press

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