My soon to be 7 year old daughter wants a kitten for her birthday. After reading some of the medical stories here, I thought I’d ask if there are any particular breeds I should avoid? We had a Siamese/Persian mix before she was born but all I recall was that it was evil-evil instead of cat-evil. We plan on shopping this weekend.
ETA: I’ve never seen a place with so many cat lovers as this board
Calicos almost invariably seem to be trouble, in my experience. And just playing with them at the pound might not be enough indication: My sister still has scars from back when she was a girl and playing with our pet calico, who had always been the model of friendliness before.
If you don’t like cats with tempers, I’ll catch hell by repeating the old “avoid siamese” bit of doggeral. In general, I’t bullshit, but some siamese do have strong personalities - not usually bad, but some folks don’t lkike cats which are cats - and siamese are definately cats.
Another vote for the shelter.
I intend to take a look at the shelter first. I’m still debating whether to take my daughter with me. She’ll probably love any kitten and I’d like to avoid having her fall in love with the prettiest cat, which may be unsuitable. Or worse having to buy two.
Anecdotal, though it may be, eight years after owning a siamese mix I still remember waking to that evil b@$t@$d sitting on my chest stealing my soul. And biting. And scratching. And stalking.
Only a little girl could make me go through that again.
Don’t take her. Go to the shelter, though. Does it HAVE to be a kitten? I only ask because an adult cat has more character to be judged at the shelter, although they’re always totally different at home.
How about Himalayans? I once worked in a vet which had one as a regular customer, and my poor trusting soul once attempted to pet him thru the bars. Big mistake. Oh and his name was Genghis Khan. I wonder why…
The biggest 2 mistakes you can make are as follows:
Buying a kitten at a pet store;
Picking out a kitten because it is “pretty” or has “nice colors”. These are animals, not works of art.
Me and Mrs. Anger have spoken to a lot of cat rescue agencies, and 2009 has been a particularly tough year for litters, in terms of too many. You should have a wide selection, I would visit more than one shelter, and remember the kitten chooses you, not vice versa.
I also think considering a grown cat is a good thing too. There are THOUSANDS of good, lovable, grown cats in your area that have been abandoned and still deserve a good home. A quality no-kill shelter should be able to spin a truthful story as to why the cat was abandoned. Many times, the cat was an un-cute kitten that was passed over for the Calicos, Siamese and Tortoise-shells of the world and got too big before it was “adoptable”.
My test of a cat is if you pick it up, and cradle it like a baby, how soon it will bite you (most eventually do, the truth is, cats rarely like to be picked up). Immediately is not a good sign. 10-15 seconds is normal. More than 30 seconds you have a wonderful cat, I’d strongly consider it, especially if it curls up and then tries to snuggle with you on your shoulder.
There is some argument about the inherent personality of cats - nature versus nurture. But somethings do seem to hold true. Probably the most critical is how the kittern was socialised. Desmond Morris (of Manwatching fame) also wrote on cats. He observed that if a kitten was handled by more than five distinct people at an early age it became accepting of any new person. But if not, they rarely properly socialised, and whilst they may be happy with one owner, they didn’t cope with new people, and were never as playful. (My current evil great beast is of this ilk. He is a happy thing, but runs for cover if anyone visits. I took him from his previous owner, who adopted him as a stray. He was never really socilaised. He would make a terrible child’s cat.)
There is certainly a lot of support for the idea that siamese don’t socialise as well, being very focussed on their owner, and that any longhair is usually fairly bad tempered. So a siamese/persian cross does not sound a good start. Desmond Morris however claims that there is no real evidence for a genetic link, and he ascribes all behaviour to learnt behaviour. Mothers teach their kittens a great deal. But like I said, you can be guaranteed an argument over this.
So, when you pick a cat or kitten, you want to pick it on personality. The most fantastic cat we had in the family was a Tonkinese = Burmese/Siamese cross. My sister picked him as a kitten from a breeder. He was the active friendly one that crawled up her arm and purred madly on her shoulder. It makes me sad to remember how lovely he was. Since him we have had Tonkinese and Burmese, and they have mostly been lovely. But the personality as a kitten has been vindicated every time. And in picking a grown cat, you would expect the same.
We have no cats that wouldn’t purr and sweet on you if you picked them up. That’s because there are a hell of a lot of cats in the world and we have no interest in asshole cats, only sweet ones. We have two we picked out in the shelter, one as an adult who approached us and was sweet when we picked him up and one who was an active, lively kitten who was sweet and purring when we picked him up (and we liked the orange one). The third is a special case, as he’s a recovered feral - he’s also an incredibly sweet cat, he just vanishes around anybody but us. We’d never tolerate a cat we couldn’t pick up, and not for some time limit, either. None of our cats has ever tried to bite us, 'cause there is no shortage of cats to replace them.
This is probably my main criteria for picking a cat. It has to let you pick it up and carry it. Maybe not for a really long time but you need to be able to grab it for vet visits and emergencies without worrying about having your skin flayed off. Ideally it shouldn’t put up too much of a fight to go into a pet carrier either, it sucks to have every vet visit turn into a wrestling match before you even leave the house. Plus if it’s for your 7 year old daughter I’m sure she’d be disappointed if she could never pick up her own cat.
Kittens can be fun and they’re certainly cute, but in my experience the way a kitten behaves is a poor indication of how it will act once it’s a full grown cat. Active, friendly kittens can turn into sedentary, loner cats. Aloof kittens can turn into attention whore lap cats. Maybe consider a cat in the 2 year old range? It will be young enough that you’ll have it for a long time but its personality should be mostly set by then so you can be fairly certain that the cat you’re getting now is the cat you’ll have a few years down the road.
Wha? I’m not sure I agree with either one of these. Seriously these are the two BIGGEST mistakes? First of all, I realize you won’t get your best deal at a pet store, but I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say it’s a big mistake. There’s plenty of reputable pet stores where you can get a good healthy pet.
As far as number 2… Once I’ve decided for the right reasons to get a pet, what’s wrong with finding one that is pretty or had nice colors? What should I do, just ask for one at random?
Two purebred Balinese were abandoned by their owner in my house, and sort of became my problem when I moved in. They were very sweet cats, so I was okay with keeping them, but I’ve had all kinds of health problems with them. The female died from mammary tumors, and the male has ongoing digestive issues. I would stay away from purebreds and save a little mutt kitty from the shelter.
As far as the Siamese-type cat personality goes, Misty really only liked me and would hide from anyone else who tried to pet her. She loved to sit on the top of the refrigerator and look down at me like some sort of gargoyle. Teddy, on the other hand, is the most needy and lovey cat I’ve ever known. Any visitor is automatically his new best friend.
Cat’s live a long time these days - 15-20 years is not uncommon. So there is an AWFUL lot of wiggle room between just-weaned kitten and one paw in the grave.
An ACTIVE 7 year might not do so well with a 8 week old kitten. Kittens can get squashed, misplaced, choked by hugs, poisoned by things etc. Not to say she would do any of this intentionally but tiny kittens are wee delicate animals.
a 5-8 month old half-grown cat could be just the ticket - their personality is more formed, and they’re a lot more sturdy than a just-weaned kitty. They are usually very playful and spazzy at this age, and still look kittenish to some degree.
Cat “breeds” are not really as distinctive personality wise as dog breeds. Well some are but truthfully purebred cats are pretty rare, in terms of pets in people’s homes. So aside from some breeds generally considered difficult, like Siamese, they’re just cats. Most cats in people’s homes are “DSH” = Domestic Short Hair = “a regular cat.”
I’m not saying ALL pet store cats are “bad” cats. Keep in mind however the purpose of a pet store is to make money, and sell the cat. A no-kill shelter is more interested in finding a good kitty a good home. I’m also biased: I have 5 cats + one rescue we are trying to find a home for. 4 are rescues/adoptions, 2 are pet store cats, and the 2 slave cats are the least friendly of the 6.
As for looks, Im not saying ALL “cute” kittens or pretty cats are bad cats. And if looks are important to you, that’s fine. But the OP is trying to find the right cat for her 7 year old, and I think putting disposition over appearance is the right way to go. Hey, if they can find an exotic breed that is a loving cat, then all the better.
Another vote for picking a cat by friendliness; I’ve never gone wrong with an animal that immediately comes over and purrs up a storm and likes to be handled. Temper should be a big deciding factor.
I don’t have enough experience to say that Breed X is good or bad, however one of the most mellow cats I’ve ever known was my aunt’s Maine Coon. Great big fluffy dude, totally relaxed. I’ve had to pill several cats and unlike the others (where it was a struggle and you were thankful you kept all your fingers) he just looked a little sad and confused and took his meds. His reaction to stress was generally to go to sleep.
From a housekeeping perspective, long haired cats will need frequent grooming (most cats seem to love getting brushed) and you’ll probably have more general fur to vacuum up.