5 min.

How to choose the cat that's right for you

It’s hard to resist the cute factor of a cat—and even harder when it’s a kitten. In fact, studies have shown that we’re genetically predisposed to find kittens cuter than most other animals. The symmetry of their faces and the size of their eyes in relation to their bodies are in large part responsible for making us fall so hard for them (something Japanese manga-style comics picked up on fast).

How not to choose the cat that’s right for you

This tendency leads a lot of people to lose their footing when the time rolls around to adopt a cat. They often choose a companion that will spend the next 15 to 20 years with them based on nothing more than his colour or looks. It should come as no surprise that that’s not the best way to go about choosing a pet. But what may be more surprising is the scientific proof that the colour of a cat’s fur has no bearing on his personality. There’s also very little difference between the personality of a male or a female cat once they’ve been sterilized. In short, colour and sex shouldn’t be the main criteria when choosing your cat.

Another common error is to pick the cat that comes to you first. A lot of people stand by this method by saying that the cat will naturally go to the person that he likes the best. Some even chalk it up to fate or destiny. Alas, an approach like this is far from foolproof. The cat in question could have a personality that is the polar opposite of what you’re really looking for in a cat. If that’s the case, you won’t be very happy with the outcome and neither will your new companion.

Personality types

Just like us, every cat has his own distinct personality. The tricky thing is, when you’re ready to take the leap, you don’t have the chance to sit down and talk to cats as you would with another person to get an idea of their tastes, their habits, and their tolerance levels when it comes to different life situations. Knowing those things would help you determine if their temperament matches your own. So, how can you judge compatibility without being able to talk it out?

To simplify things, we’ve separated cats into three distinct categories. Keep in mind that a cat’s personality is far too complex to reduce to three categories, but this should serve as a helpful overall guide. There is, of course, the adventurous type of cats: These cats are often the first of the litter to strike out on their own and explore, the first to give the scratching tree a go, the first to jump up onto the curtains… and pull them down with them. Then there are the curious cats. They usually follow in the adventurous cats’ footsteps, but proceed with a little more caution: they assess the situation before jumping in, but once they’re convinced that there’s no danger, they’re all in. Finally, there are the timid cats: these are the last cats to come out of hiding if something stressful happens. They’ll be a little more fearful and they’ll take their time when approaching a new situation or a person that they don’t know yet.

And the winner is…?

Once you have an understanding of these three different types—adventurous, curious and timid—it’s easier to pick the one that suits your lifestyle and environment. If you have a household with two kids, two dogs and a lot of hustle and bustle, an adventurous cat would no doubt be a great fit. He can expend some of his energy playing with the kids and will see the dogs as just one more interesting thing to discover. However, this same adventurous cat would quickly tire of life with a grandma type who lives alone and has a set routine. And the grandma would, in turn, quickly become exasperated by the cat’s curiosity and boundless energy. A timid cat would be a better fit for her: He would be calmer, seek out security, and be more inclined to curl up next to her and nap. Now picture that timid cat as part of a large and lively family. It would have a really hard time adjusting and would often retreat from all of the action. The result would be an unhappy cat and unhappy kids, who wouldn’t really get to see the cat or play with it. As for the more curious type of cat, he would be great for a couple leading a relaxed but active life.

Let’s circle back to one of the not-so-great ways of choosing a cat: Opting for the first one that comes to you. Chances are that this cat is probably on the adventurous side. Is that the personality type that’s best suited to your lifestyle? Maybe not. It’s usually pretty easy to identify the three different cat types when you first meet them, but be sure to give the cat a little time to get used to you before making a snap judgment: most cats need a minimum of 15 minutes alone with you before their true character starts to surface. If they’re in a stressful environment like an animal shelter, it’s even harder for the cat to show his true colours, especially if they haven’t been there for very long. If that’s the case, the person who works at the shelter or the breeder (if you go that route) should be able to tell you more about the cat’s personality.

One last thing: we recommend bringing a friend along when the time comes to pick out your cat. You’ll probably have talked to this person about the kind of cat you’re looking for, and it will be their job to bring you back to your senses if you fall for a beautiful cat whose temperament and needs don’t align with your own. Remember that the cat’s colour and looks aren’t what matters most: you need to pick a cat that you can live happily ever after with… or at least for the next 15 to 20 years.

Did you find the perfect match?

Here’s how to smoothly introduce him to his new environment.