News & Politics

Hello, Kitty

Who says cats can’t play fetch? There’s more to those feline friends than some people think.

Looking for a cat? According to the Washington Humane Society, cats make up half of its shelter animals.

Winston Churchill once said, “Dogs look up at us. Cats look down on us.”

That’s not true, says veterinarian Marcus Brown of Arlington’s Capital Cat Clinic. There’s more to cats than paw-licking and pretentiousness. We asked Dr. Brown, who’s treated about 50,000 felines and has four of his own, why cats make good pets—and what to look for when choosing.

What would people be surprised to know about cats?

Cats can be trained. They are very clever, and if you find something they like to do, you can work with that. I play fetch with one of my cats. I have another that knows how to turn the alarm clock on and off.

Are cats easier pets than dogs?

Cats don’t have to be walked on rainy or snowy days. Litter-training a cat is a lot easier than housetraining a dog. Cats tend to be less destructive, too. They’re good at entertaining themselves, but they do need affection and interaction.

How do you pick a cat?

Cats can be shy until they get to know you, so make sure you have plenty of time to look for a cat that you hit it off with.

Is it better to get a kitten or older cat?

A lot of people like kittens because they’re at their most trainable point in life. They’re cute, too. But if you don’t have a lot of time and energy, kittens might not be best. If you’re going to get a kitten, it’s good to get more than one so they can keep each other company. Adult cats tend to be calmer, and they tend to have more of an established personality, so you know what you’re getting.

What are popular breeds?

Most cats are mixed breed. Breeding is less of a big deal in the cat world than the dog world. Of the pure breeds, Persians are the most popular. They have round faces, big eyes, and mashed-in noses. The number-two breed is the Maine coon, big cats that can weigh up to 20 pounds.

What are people paying for cats?

Talking strictly about pure breeds, it depends on show quality. Show quality is about looks. Show cats can cost several thousand dollars. Pure breeds that aren’t fit for show can be $300 to $1,200. Mixed breeds are much cheaper.

Do cats have different personalities?

Persians tend to be lap cats and more sedentary. Abyssinians are high-energy. Siamese are very vocal. Maine coons are pretty passive.

Are cats good with kids?

For the most part, cats do well with kids. Sometimes kids will run up on cats and be a little too rough. Cats don’t like a lot of loud noise. They don’t like surprises. They find a place to hide. They will fight back if put in a stressful situation.

Do lots of people mix cats and dogs?

I’d say a third of my clients have both. This usually works better if the dog and cat are acclimated at an earlier age. My brother has four dogs, and one of them’s a terrier that likes killing small things, but the cat has worked out fine. They’re the best of friends. Some cats bond with dogs; others keep to themselves.