Many people prefer to adopt an adult cat. Pedigree varieties can be acquired from a breeder, whilst moggies and the occasional pedigree are available from one of the many rescue centres across the country. Such centres will usually request a donation towards the costs incurred in caring for the animals they have taken in. Animal welfare is of paramount importance and most centres like to neuter, vaccinate and microchip cats for identification before they are made available. If not, they are likely to ask you to undertake to do so as a condition of adoption.
An older cat may be the best option for your circumstances, but remember that many cats end up at animal welfare and rescue centres for a variety of reasons and the cat’s life experiences may affect their behaviour. For some cats the centre will have a good idea of the cat’s background, others are strays and their previous lifestyle is unknown. Most good centres will assess a cat’s behaviour and reactions to other pets and children before re-homing. This will help you judge which is the right cat for you. Before taking on any cat, you also need to consider your lifestyle and the environment in which you expect the cat to live.
What do you want from a cat?
Cats can provide love, companionship, emotional support and a feeling of being needed, especially for people living alone. Children can feel they have a loyal friend with whom they can share their secrets, whilst having certain responsibilities towards looking after another living being. Living with pets is usually very good for our own physical health and emotional wellbeing.
If you have a strong desire to nurture your new pet, try to choose a cat that will enjoy nothing more than sitting on your knee for a fuss: an older cat, one needing medical attention, or maybe a long-haired breed that requires regular grooming. An independent ex-feral cat, likely to prefer being out and about hunting rodents and only coming home at meal times, would be unlikely to fulfill your needs.
What type of environment do you live in?
Do you live on a main road or in a block of flats? If so, an indoor cat would be suitable. Or do you live in a rural location, which may be more appropriate for a free-ranging cat, or even a tamed ex-feral? Cats that are used to patrolling the great outdoors would hate to be imprisoned in a flat for the rest of their lives. At the same time, cats used to living indoors may hate the insecurity of an unlocked cat flap and will never venture out voluntarily, even if offered an open door to the outside.
How much time do you have?
Our busy lifestyles mean that we are often spending longer hours away from home. Cats are considered independent but it is important to remember they need a lot of care and attention and are not the easy option pet-wise. It is your legal obligation to provide comfort and stimulation as well as food and shelter. Some cats appreciate the company of another cat to play with while you are away, so why not think about adopting two cats at the same time - ideally two that already know and like each other? Indoor cats may appreciate company and if kept alone need a lot of mental and physical stimulation. Do not assume cats are happier in pairs; they have complex personalities and may be happier alone.
Do you have other pets at home?
The domestic cat is a solitary hunter and has therefore often been referred to as a solitary species. However, this is not always the case. Many cats can - and do - form strong social relationships with other cats as well as people (and even often with dogs). Cats that have had a bad experience with a dog, or none at all, are unlikely to be very happy if you have a dog at home. If you already have a dog, or intend to get one, choose a cat that has already lived happily with one. Discuss your existing pets with the rescue centre or breeder as they know the cat’s personality and suitability to your household.
Can you afford a cat?
Make sure that you consider the full costs of feeding a cat, as well as the cost of routine veterinary treatment such as vaccinations, worming and annual check-ups, not to mention insurance. Without insurance veterinary fees can be high in the event of illness. Boarding cattery fees also need to be taken into account if you want to go away. You will also need to buy food bowls, a bed, a litter tray and cat litter, grooming equipment and toys - items that may need to be replaced regularly.
Consider your decision carefully; adult cats make great pets but need time, love and attention just like any other species!