Predicting Feline Purr-sonality

June is the perfect time to celebrate all-things-cats. It’s Adopt-A-Cat Month (sponsored by the American Humane Association) and National Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month (sponsored by the ASPCA). But how do you choose the right cat? Or does the cat choose you?

That’s what happened with Serendipity. Fourteen years ago, my friend returned from vacation to find a tiny Siamese wannabe asleep in the empty flower pot on her back porch. A quick phone call later, and I was there. Amy to the rescue? Maybe. Love at first sight? Definitely. When Seren sank her claws into my pant leg and climbed her way to my shoulders, she wrapped her paws around my neck—and my heart. Seren has become my in-house editor. Nothing leaves my office without her paw-stamp of approval.

Shy vs. Confident

While kittens can be non-stop fun, they’re also works-in-progress—and you cannot accurately predict adult temperament. Shy kittens that hide are more affected by stress, which could potentially lead to behavior and/or health challenges as they become adults. Kittens who are confident and eager to explore usually grow into more emotionally healthy pets. That’s Seren—the Border Collie of cats. Unless she’s given a job, she will empty my sock drawer or take great delight in terrorizing my 85 lb. German Shepherd, Magic.

To judge kitten confidence, sit on the floor and see which babies approach you. Are they eager to engage in a game? Do they recover quickly if gently startled? Remember that most kittens love to sit in laps, but quickly outgrow this behavior. If you want a lifelong lap-snuggler, choose an adult cat with an established personality, so you know what you’re getting. You’ll also know whether the cat likes or dislikes dogs, other cats, or children, and whether it is playful or shy.

Fluffy of Smooth? Boy or Girl?

Short fur sheds just as much as the long fluffy kind, but won’t tangle or require as much care on your part. Longhaired beauties like Persians need combing every single day.

Boy cats tend to grow bigger than girl cats, but as long as the cat is spayed or neutered, behavior tends to be similar. Intact males want to baptize everything with sprays of urine, and intact girls bring more furry babies into this world (after yowling and pestering owners to death).

Age matters. While space concerns force shelters to allow kittens to be adopted as early as possible, a cat will have far fewer behavior problems if he or she stays with mom and siblings until at least twelve weeks old. If you choose to adopt a kitten younger than this, you should either have a friendly adult cat in the house prepared to teach the newborn how to be a proper cat, or you must become Cat Mom and try to teach these lessons on your own. Cats learn from watching other cats groom themselves, use the litter box, scratch the right objects, and restrain from clawing and biting during play. Humans usually fall short as teachers. We just can’t get the hang of the litter box.

Mature Cats Rock!

Lovely adult cats are often overlooked, but they’ve already learned basic lessons and make outstanding pets. Older cats tend to be more sedate than kittens, and are less inclined to climb curtains, attack toes, or conduct gravity experiments by knocking breakables off of high spots. I’ve had to make the mantel off limits to Seren—and will talk about how to do that in future blogs.

At the shelter, don’t expect adult cats to “sell themselves” the way a kitten would. They’ve likely just lost their home, are scared and sad, and wondering what they did to make a beloved human go away. They deserve a second look! Give an adult cat a chance; a healthy five-year-old cat could easily share your heart—and your pillow—for another decade or longer.

While abundant-kitten months are a great time to adopt, you don’t need to wait for any specific time of the year… you can adopt a cat and save a life any day. Wonderful candidates of all shapes, ages, and sizes—and even some pedigree kitties—are waiting for you at area shelters all year long.

Or, one just might find you while it’s waiting in your backyard flower pot.