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Choosing a cat can be difficult, but when careful consideration is made concerning breed, temperament and ease of care, the job becomes much easier. But, how does one go about finding that most wonderful feline? Well, first you have to decide if you want a purebred, a "mutt cat," and if you will look to a registered breeder, in the newspaper, or at the animal shelter.
If you decide to go the purebred route, which do you choose? A good thing to do would be to purchase a book detailing the most popular cat breeds. These are available in any bookstore. Look through the breeds, and determine what qualities you want in a cat. Some breeds are known for gentle temperaments, for instance, and others for their fierce one-person-cat mentality (such as a Siamese).
When you have listed a few of the breeds you want to think about, look first in the classified section of your local newspaper. The bigger your town, the more breeds that will be available. This will also help you to get over the "sticker shock" that often accompanies looking at purebreds. You can expect to pay $150 and up, depending on breed, for your little treasure. Remember--as in many things, you are paying for the name.
Also, you need to inquire whether your pet will be "show quality" or "pet quality." Pet quality ensures you have a purebred, but the cat, for whatever reason, does not conform in every way to the breed standard, which is a set of guidelines set forth by the American Cat Fanciers Association for each breed. Show quality means the cat may be shown at any ACFA event. Pedigree papers should be provided with the cat, and can be verified with any reputable veterinarian, or with the ACFA.
If you look in a cat breeder's magazine for a particular breed, make sure you know what you are getting. Don't buy from "kitten mills." The watchword here is "buyer beware."
But, what if you just want a cat? Just a "mutt cat?" Well, the options are open there, too. Again, a quick tour through the newspaper may reveal several ads with free kittens.
A phone call should include asking how old the kittens are, have they had any problems? Has the owner litter-trained them? Provided shots? This will help you know what you are getting. It is a good idea to visit several homes before you make a decision.
The last option for a "mutt cat" is the animal shelter. This can be risky, because you have no way of knowing what diseases the cat may have contracted, or its true physical condition. However, some shelters have "Adopt-A-Pet" days where they showcase the healthiest, most adoptable pets, and this may be a good option to pursue if you want to do a cat a favor and give it a great home. Some shelters, for a fee, will arrange to have the animal spayed or neutered. This is a good deal, and you should take advantage of it if offered. Also, if you want an adult cat, shelters are often a good place to look. Your first stop after the shelter, incidentally, should be to the vet.
But how do you spot a healthy cat? Look for bright, clear eyes for starters. Also check the condition of the coat. It should be unmatted, in shorthairs, anyway, and smooth. If the animal is in a shelter, allowances must be made if it was on the street for a while, but pass on a cat whose coat is in really bad shape. Look at the litterbox, and make sure that there is no diarrhea in the litter. Look for nasal discharge, also, which can indicate a respiratory infection. Carry a small bottle of waterless, antibacterial soap with you so you can handle several cats and not risk spreading disease. In a shelter, look for a cat who wants to be held or stroked and is active in its cage. A cat huddled in one corner could be frightened, but it could also be sick. Ask the shelter attendant if the cat you are looking at has been sick.
For cats from homes, look for the same things, and also ask if the cat has ever been sick. See which kittens seem to want to be held and petted.
If you get a kitten, do make sure you provide appropriate kitten food, a water dish and a litterbox. Same for adult cats. However, kittens are a lot like little kids and you need to kitten-proof your house with this in mind. Confine the animal to rooms that do not have plants to chew or furniture it can crawl under with no escape.
You also need to find a veterinarian right away. Ask people who own cats which vets they use. Do they like their vets? Why? A cat should have a checkup immediately, and the vet can advise about the proper ages for first shots. If the animal is old enough, expect to have it receive rabies, distemper, and the first round of feline leukemia shots. A word about feline leukemia: it is a terrible disease that destroys the animal's immune system. It is incurable, and only occasionally treatable. If you don't do anything else for your cat, get the distemper and feline leukemia shots. This is especially important if the cat will go outside. Some cats are not sick, but carry the disease.
One more bit about cats: do you choose longhair or shorthair? The answer is determined by how much time you want to spend grooming your cat. Shorthairs do not need more than a regular brushing. Longhairs, however, need brushing every day or every other day at the very least. Otherwise, their hair tends to mat and tangle. This is painful for the animal. However, longhair cats are gorgeous and worth the work. They all shed, though, regardless of how much grooming you do.
In conclusion, choose your cat carefully. Look at temperament, breed, condition and willingness to be handled. Use your common sense and you will have a wonderful pet that will bring you many hours of joy and love.