Choosing the right cat for you
You’ve probably imagined all the cuddles you’ll have and the games you’ll play with your new fluffy friend, but remember that your cat will be a big part of your life for a long time to come, so it’s important you do your homework before you fall in love with the first cat you see.
You’ll need to make some decisions such as whether you want a cat or a kitten, whether they’ll be an indoor or outdoor cat, who will have what responsibilities for them and what type of cat will fit in with your lifestyle.
Should I get a pedigree, crossbreed or mixed breed?
Around 90% of the cats in the UK are moggies, or mixed breed cats, while the rest are pedigree breeds. Did you know there are over 60 different recognised breeds and colour varieties of pedigree domestic cat? They fall into seven basic categories: Persians, British, Semi-Longhair, Burmese, Oriental, Siamese and Foreign.
The main advantage of buying a pedigree kitten or cat is that you know fairly well what type of pet you'll be getting. Although their breed temperament is less predictable than in pedigree dogs, you’ll have a pretty good idea from the breed profile what they will look like and how their personality is likely to develop. For example, a pure-bred Siamese will often be vocal, mischievous and a bit of an attention seeker! Another aspect of buying a pedigree cat is that you’re more likely to know what size the kitten will grow to, how long their coat will be and any breed-specific health problems they might develop.
However, in some breeds generations of in-breeding have led to a greater vulnerability to genetically inherited disease and perhaps an increased tendency towards some behavioural issues, so keep this in mind if you’re considering a pedigree cat.
For more information about pedigree breeds and the types of cat available, take a look at a good feline encyclopaedia or consult our Cat Breed Library. The website of the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy features a comprehensive list of cat breeds recognised in the UK and details of GCCF Member cat clubs. Further information is also available on the International Cat Care website. You could also read a specialist cat magazine such as Your Cat.
Crossbreeds cats have two pedigree parents, but from different breeds. These are less common than in the dog world, but some feline crosses are available. 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). Most crossbreeds available today will be the result of an accidental mating, where a pedigree cat has encountered one of the opposite sex from another breed.
In crosses, it is usually possible to see some behavioural and physical traits from both breeds. For example, a Siamese cross may have a similar physical structure to a Siamese, but might not have the pointed markings. The Siamese nature may also be present, although the traits will be diluted – so the cat may be talkative, assertive and quite headstrong, but perhaps not as demanding as a purebred Siamese.
Otherwise known as moggies, this type of cat comes from an entirely non-pedigree background. Given the amount of parental variations possible, they are simply categorised as either 'domestic shorthairs' or 'domestic longhairs'.
If you choose a moggie you can’t be exactly sure what kind of cat they’ll grow into. You won’t know quite what their adult size and coat will be and you’ll have to wait to see what character traits they have as they grow. Not knowing can be half the fun as you see your pet develop, and luckily unlike dogs, cats are not significantly different in size or shape, so you won’t get any big surprises!
Two big advantages of choosing a mixed breed cat are their health and personality. Moggies are generally healthier than their pedigree peers, as they have a large gene pool to call on and fewer inherent genetic problems.
There’s also the issue of cost - mixed-breed kittens and cats are comparatively inexpensive, while purebred kittens can be very costly to purchase.
Should I get my cat from a breeder or rescue shelter?
If you’d rather be more sure of your new cat’s personality, why not consider an adult mixed breed cat from an animal shelter? With past experience of home life, these cats usually adjust and fit in with you and your family very quickly. To find out how you could give one of these beautiful cats a second chance, contact Cats Protection, Blue Cross, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home or the Dublin SPCA.
If you decide to get a kitten from a breeder, make sure you check out the environment where they’ll spend their first few weeks, which is a vital time in their brain development. They’ll need a rich environment with lots of things to challenge them, such as children, other pets and an environment that extends past floor level as they grow. A variety of social interactions and physical opportunities will help them cope better with life as an adult – kittens that come from very quiet or unstimulating environments may grow into nervous, antisocial cats when they’re older.
Should I get a cat or kitten?