Kitty Konundrum
September 16, 2007 11:22 PM   Subscribe

KittyFilter: Help me find a feline friend! Lengthy background and requirements after the jump.

I just moved to New York for school, and while I adore the city and the freedom of living on my own, I miss the constant companionship of my family and dogs back home.

I've only ever had dogs as pets, but I just couldn't bring myself to have a dog in the city, especially when the dark of winter sets in and going out to walk it starts to feel more akin to Shackleton's trek than a stroll around the block.

I've always wanted a cat, but I really don't know anything about them other than the basics (four legs, hair, tail, invisible bicycle, etc). I do know that different breeds have different personalities, but I wouldn't know where to start looking to find out which of them match best with what I'm looking for in a kitty. I know cats tend to be loners, but I'd really like to find a furry friend who needs my affection as much as I need his. Loyal, playful, etc– all the best characteristics of a dog, but without all the drool and barking. Perhaps something trained in the ways of LOLcattery...

Additionally, while I certainly don't want anything resembling a shaved rat, it would be a plus if whatever cat I end up getting won't shed hair all over my clean minimalist room. I realize shedding is a natural part of being a feline, but I'm sure there are some breeds that shed more than others.

Am I out of luck, am I asking too much, or is it only a matter of time until I'm taking care of my very own fluffball.
posted by dantekgeek to Pets & Animals (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Rescue a pair, two cats are double the medical, but half the trouble.
posted by iamabot at 11:29 PM on September 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Not sure about the shedding, because it seems to really vary, but I've always found that male cats are friendlier than female. On top of that, generally it's easiest to teach a cat the qualities that you're looking for by getting a kitten and just playing with it frequently. Have a look at the classifieds in your area or on craigslist for people who've got a litter of kittens they're giving away, or call your local humane society.

And if you don't want a kitten, just go down to the humane society anyway, and spend an hour. Most places will let you hang out with the cats for a while. See which ones are friendliest, most playful, etc.
posted by sunimplodes at 11:32 PM on September 16, 2007

Also, lamabot is absolutely correct.
posted by sunimplodes at 11:33 PM on September 16, 2007

I have two cats, a year apart, but from the same mother. One male, one female. The male is much friendlier to anyone who will let him sleep on, while the female is a secret cuddle whore to anyone who will be patient enough to warm up to her.

American shorthairs (basic cats, usually solid colors) are pretty simple basic cats, shedding isn't too bad, if they will be indoor cats look into getting indoor specific cat food, to help reduce hairballs and shedding.

And it really is worth it to get two cats. They will play with each other while you are out during the day. I have had a roommate and a gf who have had a 'single' cats, and both cats were extremely agressive towards other animals, prone to attacking and biting people (I'm guessing they were trying to 'play' with a human thinking i was another cat). My two cats have socialized well with just about anyone, and when I was in college, they would mix fine with my parents two cats when I went home for vacation.

Also start talking to people at the humane societies and other animal places first, and play with some cats before committing to getting one. Maybe even volunteer to help clean out their cages and litter boxes, just so you know what you are getting into.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:44 PM on September 16, 2007

Best answer: You're in New York? You want the CACC, then, a.k.a "the pound". They spay/neuter, vaccinate, and even microchip your pet for free before you take him/her home. I got one of my two kitties there some years ago, on my fourth visit in a two week stretch.

You can go there whenever you want and wander around looking at the animals for free, even take them out of their cages and play with them a little, until you find one that you click with. You can even search their "inventory" online!
posted by Asparagirl at 12:25 AM on September 17, 2007

If you live in NYC, you should be aware that cats can actually make a lot of noise for your downstairs neighbors if you live in certain apartment buildings. Their galloping around can be quite thunderous below, and that might be more bother than you want to deal with.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 12:29 AM on September 17, 2007

Unfortunately, it's difficult to pick out cats with your specific personality traits, as kittens are a blank slate and grown cats at the pound will act either super-affectionate or terrified no matter what their "real" personality is. It will take a while for them to settle down so you may find you don't have the dog-cat you want until a month or so later--though if you're very affectionate and friendly to them they will surely warm up to you.

But I would second those who say get two cats. Either two kittens or two cats you know have been living together--adopting two single cats at once could cause quite a bit of trouble!
posted by schroedinger at 3:12 AM on September 17, 2007

You're in NY? Go here to find this incredibly affectionate female kitten. (Her story continued. Latest update).

If Melanie has been adopted, I'm sure here are a lot of other great cats there.
posted by maudlin at 5:26 AM on September 17, 2007

nth-ing the get two, get males, and spend some time at the shelter suggestions.

We have a male and a female, and the female is neurotic and a pain in the ass more of the time than not. I've also heard other cat owners say their male cats are more social and laid back than females. We have garden variety rescued/fixed tabbies (one striped, one mackerel), both short haired. They are wonderful companions and low maintenance if we decide to go somewhere for a day or two. Good luck!
posted by yoga at 5:39 AM on September 17, 2007

All the above advice is very good, especially the "get the cats at the shelter" stuff. I've had nine cats throughout my 16 years of cat ownership and currently have four. Male cats tend to be friendlier, but that's not to say that you won't find a tremendously social female. Right now we have one female who likes us only (friends call her the phantom cat), a male who really cannot get enough attention, a male who has specific "touch me" hours that change daily, and a female who is simply the best kitty in the entire universe. She fetches. I'm not kidding.

All of them are shelter cats and all of them have been properly socialized by us. There are plenty of opinions on how to socialize a cat, but I think the most important thing to remember is that they aren't really anti-social creatures, no matter how much non-cat people try to say they are. Talk to your cat(s), pet them often, hold them, play with them (even if you get two, still take time each day to play with them), and you'll find lovely companions.

There's very little that a purring cat can't make better.
posted by cooker girl at 6:29 AM on September 17, 2007

just two words: devon'll never regret it.
we've had ours since a kitten (nearly seven years) and she's a constant source of amusement and companionship; a 100% indoor cat (even though we have a large yard - but we got sick of losing cats to the local traffic) and entirely ok with it (so would be ideal for an apartment.)
gets on very well with huge dog (weimaraner about the same age and 20x her weight) and new baby.
Huge personality and very affectionate and very smart.
If you are going to be out at work alot, i would suggest getting two as they crave companionship, but then you'll have double the snuggles at bedtime :) (on, or even under the covers seem to be their preference).
i would recommend getting in touch with a local breeder. get their advice and, if the shedding issue is a major issue, find out about the genetic line of kitten being considered; we chose a devon partly also because of the reputation of being good for allergy sufferers - however ours turned out to be somewhat atypical of the breed as it is quite furry and sheds profusely in summer (although nowhere near as much as most other cats).
good luck wih your search.
posted by beige at 6:49 AM on September 17, 2007

Good advice above. There's not as much "breed" differentiation in cats as there is in dogs. Most cats (domestic short hairs) are mutts, and their personalities are variable. There are exceptions: Gingers tend to be aggressive, Siamese are loud and social, to name a few.

To minimize the shedding, go with a short hair with a single coat. Even so, you'll have quite a lot. Even shorthairs get furballs, so that's another thing to control. During spring and fall, cats can be puke machines.

I ditto everyone who says get two. It's really little more trouble and expense than getting one. For reference, I spend about $80/mo on a pair without trying to economize. The only pairing I'd avoid is two unrelated females. In my experience, that's the most difficult mix.
posted by bonehead at 6:54 AM on September 17, 2007

Based on your desired personality, I think you would like Siamese quite a lot. They're often called the most "dog-like" breed in terms of behaviour. They're usually very affectionate. Several of my parents' cats---they rescue siamese---play fetch. Actually, the first cat to do this taught US to play fetch (throw a toy, she'd bring it back, throw again...).
posted by bonehead at 7:00 AM on September 17, 2007

Siamese are indeed very playful and affectionate, but also extremely loud and talkative to the point of annoyance. You may find yourself getting nasty notes from your neighbors.

Bombays have a good reputation.
They are adaptable to apartment living and are generally calm...They are intelligent, actively seek interaction with humans and love to play games. Many retrieve and do tricks.
Though, my cat's "trick" is to pounce on my head at 5:30 am looking to be fed.
posted by desjardins at 7:10 AM on September 17, 2007

Nthing the advice to go to your local shelter. The workers there can guide you to the affectionate, short-haired cats they have. And nthing that IME, male cats tend to be friendlier and more laid-back than females. The best thing would be to adopt a pair of neutered male cats. Two cats are far better than one.

Also, a word for adopting adult cats instead of kittens. Adult cats tend to be more laid-back. Kittens are the most cute and adorable beings in the universe, but they can be incredible pains in the keister with their energy and destructiveness. Also, with adult cats, their personalities are settled so what you see is what you get. A friendly, playful kitten might not stay that way, but a friendly, playful adult will always be friendly and playful.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:19 AM on September 17, 2007

Seconding Siamese; these are a fantastically playful and affectionate breed.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:46 AM on September 17, 2007

Cats have more differentiation as individuals than they do as breeds, at least in terms of personalities. You can get all sorts of personality traits (from the endearing to the bizarre) in virtually any breed of cat. There are some vague generalities, but it's like trying to quantify human personality types by skin color: it's doomed to failure and heavily biased depending on what/who your sample is.

So get thee to the pound, and not to a breeder (given the surplus of cats that's an occupation that IMO should not exist anyway), and certainly not to a pet store. At the rescue/humane society/pound you should be able to play with the cats available for adoption, and get information about them.

My recommendation to you would be to get an adult or young-adult cat who has been raised indoors (making an indoor/outdoor cat live indoors is bad for both the cat and your sanity). Cats who have been together as a pair should stay together as a pair, and that can be nice because they'll play with each other, but that may be a bit much for a first-time owner.

In terms of reducing shedding, get a short-haired cat that has sleek, shiny fur. The longer and 'fluffier' the fur, the more it will tend to shed (IMExperience). Also get a Furminator and use it regularly. Some people swear that giving their cat a bath reduces shedding a lot, but my cat would quite literally kill me for trying. At some point though you're just going to have to accept fur as the price of having a companion, particularly wherever the cat sleeps and spends its time.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:19 AM on September 17, 2007

Yep, get two. And get them from a shelter. It may take a few months or a year, but they will warm up to you and you will have enriched their lives and enriched yours.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:26 AM on September 17, 2007

Definitely adopt a shelter kitty. There are so many that need homes. Shelters usually give a nutshell description of their personality that they've determined from past history or from their time in the shelter. It's very useful.

Don't rule out an older kitty. Kittens are easy to adopt out because everyone wants the furry ball of fun. But older kitties tend to be more calm, and I truly believe, thankful to have a nice home to live in. A kitty that's 5 years old will want to snooze happily on the couch while you watch TV. A kitten will need you to occupy him/her.

And absolutely adopt two together. I have two boys and seeing the ways they interact I know their lives are better for having each other. They really do require less tending to that way, too, it's true.

These questions excite me 'cause the love of a pet is something no one should ever go without... just promise us you'll update here or on MeTa when you find the one(s), and of course, post pictures!!
posted by loiseau at 8:29 AM on September 17, 2007

Seconding Bombays. Black, shiny coat, bright green or gold eyes. The two I know are total whores ("pleased to meet you! rub my tummy!") and love to play, but aren't loud.

Siamese and Siamese-related Balinese are lovely and very people-focused, but really talky. "Yeoooooooooowr? Yeeeeeeooowr?" all day long. I loved that but you might not.

Mutt cats from the pound are usually a good bet. Bred cats are expensive and can have more medical problems; it's not necessary to get a purebred.

Get an adult cat, rather than a kitten. (1+ years old) Kittens are adorable but crazy, need lots of attention, like to chew chew chew, need more medical care. An adult cat will be more mellow, and you can get a better sense of their personality when you meet them at the pound. You want a cat who, when you offer it a hand to sniff, will then rub its face on your hand and respond well to getting petted.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:47 AM on September 17, 2007

I've lived with cats all my life, shorthairs and longhairs, and they've all shed; best way to prevent kitty tumbleweeds is to be in the habit of vacuuming regularly.

I don't personally see any reason to look for a cat of a particular breed unless you're into the social status of having a fancy breed. 95% of the wonderful cats people live with are just plain old mixed breeds.

In my experience, if you get one cat he or she'll be more focused on you (in terms of sitting with you when you read or work at the computer or watch the tube) while if you get a pair from the shelter (esp littermates) they will possibly be more sociable to each other and less so to you. The down side of the one cat thing is if you are out of the apartment a lot or travel a lot kitty will be very lonely when you're not home.

And -- you're absolutely sure you are allowed cats in your apartment, right? Nothing would be more heartbreaking (to you and also to the cat(s) than if you had to give them away or take them back to the shelter when an unfriendly landlord lays down the law). I only ask this because I have encountered people who wrongly assumed cats were allowed in their apartment before, and sad times ensued.

Oh, and last but not least: don't declaw them. It's the equivalent of removing the last joint of the fingers. Figure out how to redirect their enthusiasm or live with the fraying furniture.
posted by aught at 10:05 AM on September 17, 2007

another suggestion would be breed-specific rescue groups, though the application process may be a bit lengthy.

i am also nth-ing the two cats suggestion and not just because there are sooo many cats that need homes. with two cats you will worry less when you come home late, when you sleep over some place else, and when you leave for a few days. they really do take care of each other. also having two cats will NOT decrease the amount of love and attention you'd get from the cats.

I adopted my cats from a foster home and ASPCA and they are wonderful. With the ASPCA, the woman who worked there really knew all of the cats very very well so if there's no way you can take two cats, you can be set up with a single-pet cat.

one of my cat is a snowshoe- which is half Siamese and half american short hair, and she does not talk AT ALL.

good luck!!
posted by ceesbees at 10:13 AM on September 17, 2007

Nthing the rescue cats, the "Make sure you have permission to have cats", and the DO NOT DECLAW. Most vets who do it require an overnight stay because the amputation sites can get infected easily and because all but the most cruel and insensitive cat owners would be horrified to see the pain and distress the cats are in upon awakening. Get a scratching post. Ask the rescue people if there are two good cats who do not mid nail clipping. Accept it as part of kitty life.
I have 4 (recently 5, but Tub died three weeks ago) and the joys of co-habitating with cats far outweigh the fur and claws. I am personally partial to oranges. This boy is 20 pounds, has opposable thumbs, (although you can't really see them in that picture), and is the light of my life.
posted by oflinkey at 12:18 PM on September 17, 2007

Yup, male cats are typically the most affectionate, American shorthairs are the tidiest, and there does seem to be some special sweet and loving gene inside of black kitties. These are also said to have a hard time finding adoptive homes. So why not give one a chance (though some shelters refuse to adopt them out around Hallowe'en out of worry they'll be abused).

When I picked my ultrasweet black male Evel out at the pound lo these 16 years ago, he was one of three identical brothers in the cage. I knelt down and meowed at them. One hid behind a scratching post, one went on licking his ass obliviously, and Evel came rushing over to the fence, looked me square in the eye and meowed back. Adopt that cat.
posted by Scram at 7:02 PM on September 17, 2007

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