Your New Cat - Keeping A Cat

Picture: Happiness to two kittens is a paper basket

There’s more to deciding to share your home with a cat than simply looking up the local breeders in the telephone book. Are you fit to be a cat companion?

Questions to ask include: what other animals live in the house and how might they interact with a new arrival? Will the cat have to be permanently confined indoors because you live in a one-room high-rise apartment? If the cat is to be allowed outdoors, can arrangements be made to have a gat-flap fitted to a door or window? Have you the time and patience to give certain kinds of cat the grooming they regularly require? What arrangements can you make for the pet’s welfare during your vacations? Can you afford the basic equipment needed, daily supplies of high-quality cat food and the cost of both preventive medicine and any unexpected course of medical treatment?

What Kind of Cat?
Careful thought and preparation must precede the acquisition of a cat. You must first decide what kind of cat would be mutually suitable. If you are planning to show and/or breed cats, obviously only a pedigree animal will fit the bill. But if you simple want a cat friend, a cat-about-the-house, there are the humane society clinics and reception centres stuffed with abandoned, unwanted cats – most of them on Death Row with dates of execution set if they are not given a good home by that time. Should you be new to cats, don’t get the idea that there’s such a thing as a “best” cat. All cats are individuals. All are aristocrats.

Now, more decisions to be made. Do you prefer a kitten or an adult cat? Kittens, like kids, have their problem periods as they grow up. Are you able and prepared to cope? Tom or queen? Entire toms can make marvelous companions, but they remain essentially a mixture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Don Juan – regularly off to war or obsessed with the latest amorous encounter. And some toms do leave their strong characteristic odours around, marking your house as their territory or attracting rival males to leave droplets of smelly urine on the doorstep. Queens, of course, tend to bring forth kittens with monotonous regularity, and crossbred kittens are not easy to find homes for. Again, are you prepared for all this?

One humane and effective solution to some of the problems posed above is neutering.

Choices must also be carefully made, and not purely on grounds of aesthetics of you want a pedigree cat. Longhairs need regular grooming and will take far more of your time than do shorthaired breeds. Russian Blues or Longhairs generally make better indoor cats than most shorthaired breeds. By contrast, Abyssinians and Somalis adore their freedom and aren’t suited to life in an apartment. Some, like the Siamese, demand lots of attention and fuss. A few, such as the Sphynx, need special care and handling. All pedigree cats, particularly the more glamorous breeds, can attract the attention of cat thieves.

Buying a cat
When choosing your cat, pedigree or crossbred, it is best to avoid pet shops. Deal instead with a recommended breeder, a humane society, a friend or neighbor. How do you pick the right cat or kitten? Some folk believe that the cat of your life might be found in the stars. If you know the date of a particular animal’s birth, there are astrologers willing to draw up its personal horoscope. By matching it up with your own, they say, you can increase the chances of a perfect relationship. For example Virgo cats (24th August to 23rd September) are predicted to be excellent, conscientious, dedicated, down-to-earth cats especially suited to Capricorn and Taurus owners. For most of us, more mundane considerations must influence our selection. In essence the difficulties about choosing one’s cat are similar to those involved in buying a second-hand cat. How do you spot the faults? Is it really in good running order? Although it is unlikely to be an expensive mistake if you acquire a crossbred cat with, metaphorically speaking, its gear-box full of sawdust or its mileage clock wound back, if you are buying pedigree stock you must ger expert advice before parting with large sums of money for potential show champions.

For all cats, pedigree or not, the following list of points should be checked by the prospective owner. Just as if you were buying a gleaming new car, do not meekly accept the salesman’s word, but look at the cat’s condition and state of health carefully and critically. Any responsible vendor will not object to your making a thorough examination of a prospective new pet. If all is well, buy the cat – if possible on approval – and then have the animal overhauled buy the veterinarian as soon as possible. Never buy a cat from a back-street pet shop or from a “cat farm”, as young cats are very susceptible to disease and infection, and these can spread easily. It is never sensible to buy a kitten younger than ten-weeks old.

Choosing a pedigree animal demands more than just fitness checks. The quality, points, and prize-winning potential of any individual can only be gauged by an expert eye. You should therefore take along somebody who is knowledgeable about the breed you want to buy, and who knows what you are hoping for in the cat.

Pedigrees are expensive but, if you can’t quite afford the full price, you may be able to obtain a “bargain” by buying a pet-quality cat, or by making a breeding agreement. “Pet-quality” cats are ones that do not reach the standards required for showing, but that nevertheless make perfectly good pets. Under a breeding agreement, you buy a show-quality cat, and return it to the breeder at pre-arranged times for breeding. You must agree who will own any subsequent kittens, and put whatever is agreed in writing.

All pedigree animals should be registered under an individual name, with details of their color and parentage, when they are about five-weeks old. Unless this is done, they won’t be permitted to enter a cat show in pedigree class.

When selecting a cat always look for one that is playful, alert, and willing to be handled. With kittens, go for the bolder, quick-to-come-forward individual, rather than the most retiring one, as it may be a weaker or more sickly specimen.

Check that a kitten has been vaccinated against Feline Enteritis and Feline Influenza at least one week before purchase, and that adults were vaccinated as youngsters and regularly boosted thereafter. Vaccination certificates signed by a veterinarian should be provided as proof. If you have other cats and are anxious to keep them free from Feline Leukemia, ask a vet to carry out a simple blood test on the new animal and to provide a certificate stating that the test result was negative.

After a few moments of uncertainty a firm friendship is in the making. Such introductions will almost always be successful but require careful "refereeing" by the owner.

The New Arrival
Only when you have prepared yourself, by obtaining all the basic equipment, should you bring a new cat to your home. Transport your cat in a proper carrying container. These come in various designs and materials – stout cardboard ones can be purchased cheaply from pet stores, humane societies, and veterinarians.

If you are obtaining an adult cat from a friend, try to bring with it some familiar piece of cat furniture such as its bed or litter tray. Once at your house, allow the cat to explore thoroughly on its own, introducing it to one room at a time without interference from children or other pets. Keep other animals away until the new arrival has had a chance to roam around the place. Then, allow the “resident” animals into a room where you are holding the latest addition to the family. Supervise the initial encounters carefully and give both sides equal amounts of affection and attention. There is bound to be some antipathy between the animals as cats are so territorial; this may last hours or weeks, but it will gradually fade to become a reasonable accommodation on both sides and a generally good friendship. Kittens are accepted more readily than adult cats by other pets.

The First Week
Spoil and fuss over the cat during its first week with you, and be ready to play with it. Find out from the previous owner what its feeding routine and particular dietary fancies are and try to obligate them. Keep it indoors for about one week, and make sure you accompany the animal when you allow it to make its first outdoor exploration. Never allow a newly arrived cat, even if it is an adult, to stay our at night.

Things You Should Alert When Choosing A Cat or Kitten
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