Once you have decided that you are ready for the responsibility of being a cat owner, your search for the ideal pet begins. There are plenty of options, but you need to choose carefully to be sure of a happy outcome.
Where to look for a cat
Registered breeders are the most reliable people to approach if you are looking for a pedigree cat (see pp.14–15) For a non-pedigree cat, try rescue centers, your vet, or friends and neighbors that you know well. Be wary of buying a kitten or cat through a classified advertisement, especially one that also advertises a selection of other pets. The reality behind these offers may be animals that are reared in substandard conditions that leave them unprotected against diseases. For the same reason, it is best not to buy kittens from a pet shop. Although many pet shops are highly reputable, some may acquire their stock from dubious sources.
Visiting a breeder
Make an appointment with your chosen breeder to view a litter, and arrive armed with a list of points to look out for and questions to ask. If you are a first-time owner, do some homework in anticipation of the visit—both on the particular breed you have come to look at and on cat care in general. Good breeders want their kittens to go to responsible owners, so expect to have to answer questions as well as ask them. You should be satisfied that the kittens are being kept in a clean, uncrowded, homely environment. It is also important to see them with their mother and siblings. Apart from being poor practice to remove young kittens from their family, you cannot judge their behavior well if they are presented to you separately.
you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to make up for lost time once you get your kitten home.
Your chosen kitten should appear alert and active, with a healthy coat, bright eyes with no signs of discharge, and clean ears. Do not allow yourself to fall for a kitten simply because it looks in need of extra love. A kitten that is lagging behind its siblings may have health problems.
Ask if the kitten has been screened for any genetic disorders common to the breed, and check that it has been vaccinated and wormed, or that it will have been by the time you take it home. Also enquire if the breeder is prepared to provide any afterpurchase support or will take back the kitten should serious defects or problems arise.
Pedigrees are expensive, but breeders sometimes offer kittens at a lower price because they are not “show quality.” However, even without symmetrical markings or perfect conformation (breed characteristics), these usually make beautiful and lovable pets.
Cat shelters, or rescue centers, are packed with kittens and adult cats of all types and ages in need of rehousing. Most of the cats offered for adoption are random bred, but the occasional pedigree can be found too. Not all rescue cats have been abandoned or ill-treated and have subsequent behavioral problems: sometimes a previous owner had to part with a pet because of personal circumstances, such as a bereavement or a relocation abroad, and a cat that has already had one loving home is likely to settle well into another. The first step toward adoption is a home visit from a member of the shelter’s staff (see box below).
Once the shelter introduces you to some cats, they will tell you as much as possible about each cat’s background and personality, and whether there are any health issues to consider. They can also give advice on cat care, including neutering, and offer back-up support following an adoption. All cats taken into shelters are routinely given a health check, vaccinated, and treated for fleas Having an assessment Adopting a cat from a shelter is a two-way process. You not only hope to find the “right” cat, but you have to be right for him, too.
The center will assess your potential as a cat owner by asking questions about your circumstances and commitment to cat care, and will arrange a home visit to see what type of and internal parasites. If an adoption is agreed, you will be asked to pay a fee to help cover these expenses.
Adopting a stray
Some people are chosen by their cat. A stray that hangs around can easily work its way into family affections, but before offering your visitor a permanent home, make sure that it really is a stray: many cats lead double lives. Make every effort to trace a possible owner by looking for local “cat missing” notices, posting notices yourself, speaking to neighbors, or asking a vet to check whether the cat is microchipped