Cats’ personalities depend more on nurture than on nature. While Persians are generally sedentary, Bengals tend to be active, and rag dolls often mix well with children, experts say prospective owners should pay closer attention to a cat’s environment and upbringing than to its pedigree.
“Some people pick a cat based solely on what breed they are, but that’s how they get in trouble,” says Lori Rolnick, co-owner of DC’s PetMAC Marketplace & Adoption Center.
Experts recommend rescuing a cat from an animal shelter, some of which offer personality tests to pair feline and family. Some groups perform home visits and background checks.
“They check how often a person is home, how active they are, and whether there are dogs or children in the household,” says Ellen Carozza, a veterinary technician at Capital Cat Clinic.
Most shelters carry purebred cats as well as mixed breeds, which are generally less expensive and have fewer health risks. If you’re buying from a breeder, experts say, take precautions when deciding if the cat is a good match.
“Go to the cattery, do research in person, and look at the health and cleanliness of the place,” says Cindy Skeen, president of the American Association of Cat Fanciers. “Ask for health certificates and records of shots, and see how the cat’s been handled and whether it’s stayed in cages its whole life. If you see how the cat has been brought up, you’ll get a better pet.”
If you get a cat that has never interacted with a child or dog, says Carozza, integrate it gradually: “It’s almost like introducing an older sibling to a new baby.”
Longer-haired cats require more grooming to prevent matting, while short-haired varieties need less maintenance and are better for those with allergies.
Kittens require extra attention, so an older cat might be more appropriate for someone who works long hours. Experts say it’s a good idea to bring home two kittens at once to help socialize them. “If you buy a kitten, always get him a friend,” Carozza says. “Cats come better in pairs.”