Felines have become so fashionable, it seems everyone wants to get a cat these days. And who could blame them? Cats are pretty cool. But sometimes cat owners get it wrong when it comes to choosing the right personality of cat for their home environment or lifestyle.
As a cat behaviourist, I see time and time again the wrong breed matched with the wrong household, and this can cause unwanted behavioural issues in the future. Like placing a highly intelligent cat such as the Bengal, who are known for their energetic and lively behaviour, into a one bedroom high-rise apartment, or a moggy who used to be be an outdoor cat suddenly being confined indoors.
My own story.
15 years ago a friend of mine committed suicide. In terrible grief I started to research getting 2 kittens to cheer myself up. I stepped into the world of breed cats and the whole indoor only cats – ‘cats that are specifically bred to be indoors’. Breeders make you sign a contract to state you will not let your cats out and so, in ignorance, I purchased two tiny kittens that were soon to grow into huge adult cats, living in a tiny flat in Central London with no outside space. I watched them become frustrated, bored and then, when they reached adulthood, Kiki started to show signs of stress, pulling her hair out and overgrooming.
We tried to do right by them so we started to take them for walk on a harness and lead. Our area of Ladbroke Grove was busy so we found a local cemetery that didn’t mind us walking them there .. St Mary’s cemetery, Harrow Road. We would take time out of our days to drive them there and we enjoyed watching them climbing trees and playing in the leaves.
When we moved, the trip to the cemetery was not practical anymore. Kiki and Zaza found themselves in another small basement urban flat. We tried everything possible to make the space stimulating for them, practically changing our home into a cattery with climbers, scratchers and wall shelving everywhere. But, nothing could take the place of the great outdoors or a large secure garden. I had two massive Norwegian Forest cats that broke my heart everyday.
I had a 360 degrees turnaround with how I felt about indoor only cats. To me, there’s no such things as cats bred to be indoor only. It depends on so many factors:
- What the cat wants?
- Where the home is?
- How large is the home and does it have a garden that can be secured?
- How the cats are with other neighbouring cats if they want to roam?
- Any disabilities?
I moved recently to the coast and managed to give my cats, at the age of 15, a huge 100 foot x 50 foot garden and they can now enjoy the great outdoors, which was denied them previously. In my home before I couldn’t let them out due to fear of them being stolen plus I lived on a busy road.
Recently a friend was offered two completely unsuitable cats to be in door only in a tiny flat. The two cats were of the breed Bengal and Burmese. Two high maintenance adult cats. I was horrified and advised her not to do this. The cats also came from a large home where sadly their previous owner died. Two adult cats of this breed in a tiny flat! It would have been disastrous.
What happened to my friend was the catalyst for me writing this article.
how to choose the right cat for your home
Below are some of my best tips to help prospective cat owners choose the right breed. I will start with specific breeds.
PERSIANS / RAGAMUFFINS / RAGDOLLS / EXOTIC SHORTHAIRS
These breeds are known for their laid-back personalities and do well around children or kept solely as indoor cats but any indoor only cats should have plenty of space in the home. Having said this, it is still down to the individual cat’s personality. The grooming for the Ragdolls, Ragamuffins and Persians however, shouldn’t be underestimated. These cats need regular coat maintenance so always check the correct grooming regime from the breeder or a local holistic cat groomer.
BENGALS / SIAMESE / SPHYNX / BURMESE
These cats are usually extremely energetic, intelligent, vocal and playful. They need plenty of brain and physical activity stimulation. They do not do well being left for long hours on their own, so if you are set on one of these breeds I would encourage obtaining two kittens from the same litter for companionship. These cats need spacious homes and many thrive on secure outside space to run around in, preferably a secure garden. They are low maintenance cats when it comes to their grooming regime. The Sphynx cannot be allowed out in the sun as they will burn. Many Sphynx owners have little outfits for them.
MAINE COONS / NORWEGIAN FOREST CATS
These are larger breeds that will need plenty of high up spaces for climbing and space for running around in general. They do not do well in tiny urban apartments, but many can thrive within secure gardens or country settings and with the opportunity to climb trees or walk on a lead. Their grooming regime is high- maintenance and needs to be considered before buying. Most Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest cats (as well as Persians) are not lap cats but ‘beside the lap’ cats. This is because of their thick fur. Our body heat combined with theirs makes lap-sitting uncomfortable for them and they feel too hot.
ABYSSINIANS / CORNISH REX / SINGAPURAS / SOMALIS
These breeds are extremely playful and social cats, so again need a lot of stimulation to thrive. The Abyssinian especially loves company and learns very quickly too. They do well kept solely indoors as long as the right amount of stimulation and company is provided. However, any indoor only cats should have plenty of space in the home. Having said this, it is still down to the individual cat’s personality as to whether they show signs of wanting to go outside..
The trusted old moggie should never be overlooked, especially ones awaiting a second chance in our numerous rescue centres. Most of them are lap cats, extremely affectionate, love the outdoors and can establish very deep bonds with their owners. Of course every cat’s personality and background is different, so owners of the moggy should bear this in mind when deciding which cat to get and whether to allow their cat access to the outdoors.
Also, the cat’s background and temperament will determine if they enjoy being picked up or stroked or whether they thrive in the company of other cats. Moggies have so much to give, even the quieter ones hiding at the back of the cage in a rescue centre can blossom into the most loving companion with patience, understanding, care and attention. Moggies are low maintenance in the grooming department as most have short hair. Moggies tend to be tabby, tortoiseshell, black and white, ginger, black, white and even grey.
Always consider getting two kittens together if space allows so that they have companionship during the long hours alone and always think of the needs of your cat from the cat’s perspective. Your cat will love you for it!
SPECIAL NEEDS CATS
Blind / deaf / wobbly syndrome cats / disabled cats
Most cats with a disability, obviously depending on what it is and the severity of the disability, cannot be free roaming cats but this doesn’t mean to say they would not enjoy a secure garden of their own. It also doesn’t mean these cats cannot walk on a harness and lead outside. Just check out one of the many You Tube videos on blind cats walking on a lead with their guardians. One such video is below….
Disabled cats are some of the most affectionate cats I have met and they can do everything most non disabled cats can do. Blind cats can get around fine in the home, can jump up on beds and do everything a sighted cat can do apart from see you an be free roaming! These cats very often get overlooked as there’s a stigma towards disabled cats or a fear of the unknown with them.
These cats can fit in well into smaller homes as well as larger ones and they thrive on human companionship. Naturally If there is a garden then it can easily be cat proofed with companies such as Katzecure or Protect A Pet. The human just has to adjust what they do with them. For example. play for a blind cat would involved toys that have sound or some light and definitely smell plays a huge part too.
Here’s an artice I wrote about toys for blind cats: http://www.catbehaviourist.com/blog/best-toys-blind-cats/
Disabled cats are vulnerable outside as free roaming cats but there’s nothing to stop them enjoying the outdoors if the garden is secure or of they take and enjoy a harness and lead with their owners. My cat, Zaza, is now disabled with three legs and she’s turned in Ninja Granny. Nothing stops her jumping on beds or walls in the garden. We have a ramp for her so she can get down easily from sofas and beds.
Take time to consider these cats. Most are born with a disability such as blindness or Cerebellar hypoplasia, sometimes called wobbly cat syndrome, and so they know no different. As far as they are concerned they are fully able to be a normal cat and just need people to stop feeling sorry for them or scared of them. They have bags of love to give. Certainly the ones I have been lucky enough to meet and are great life teachers.
Wobbly cat syndrome cats just fall over a lot but that doesn’t stop them being love bugs.
Here’s a video of the adorable love bug Willy but you will find plenty of cute videos of Wobbly cats on You Tube.