Thursday, September 20, 2007

How to Choose a Cat

How to choose a cat. I bought books and created a checklist to help me choose the right kitten for myself when I decided to get a cat, my first cat since college.

Since I was living in Tokyo at the time, I purchased several Japanese books on choosing the right cat. When I went out to meet my potential kittens (mentioned in my previous entry) I took a checklist with me on specifics to watch out for.

So first, you give the cat a quick look-over. Does it look like a cat? (I can’t stress the importance of this point.) Then observe its movements for a while. Does it seem to be moving okay? What is its walking gait?

Now, take an orifice, any orifice. There should absolutely be no discharges from anywhere.

Feel the kitty all over for any lumps, bumps, or clumps. A lump around the belly button may indicate a hernia.

The cat should have good muscle tone. Avoid cats that feel like lumpy dough.

Make sure the cat is not blind or deaf. (Unless of course, that’s what you want.) If the cat can follow the movements of a string or anything else, then its vision is probably fine. To check for deafness, clap behind the cat’s head and see if it reacts. If it doesn’t it’s either got hearing difficulties or it’s an unusually placid cat.

Respiration. The breathing should be even and quiet. The cat’s got a respiratory issue if it sounds like it’s making a dirty phone call. If it’s sneezing or wheezing, it probably has an infection of some sort.

Coat Is it nice and glossy? Or is it dry, matted, and greasy? Any dandruff? Comb through the fur for signs of fleas. Telltale signs are specs of black on the coat. These are dried flea excrement. Pay special attention to areas behind the ears, the base of the tail, and on the back.

Nose Is it normal in appearance? It should be cool and slightly wet to the touch. A runny nose might mean the cat has an infection.

Eyes The eyes should be bright and shiny. Look in the corners for discharges.

Ears Look inside both ears. They should be clean, with no dark or crusty wax. Check for mites and signs of inflammation or discharge.

Mouth Examine the jaws, teeth and gums. Look at the jaw movement. The teeth should be healthy and fit together well. The gums should not be inflamed.

Anal area Should be clean, free of any signs of diarrhea.


Observe the cat for a while. Does it seem afraid of people? How does it play with its littermate? Does the cat seem shy? Fearful? Is it a bully? Hyperactive? Noisy? Is it aggressive, argumentative, jealous, clinging, fearful, suspicious, egomaniacal, or difficult to live with? (Oops, I think I might have mixed in another tip sheet.)

And finally, is the kitten fully weaned and litter trained?

The books showing you how to choose the right cat even came with helpful illustrations and diagrams. I took them with me when I went to check out the black kitties. I planned everything just right.

Except for one small hitch: I didn’t inspect the kittens at all. I didn’t watch them play or groom. I didn’t pick them up at all. To this day, I don’t know why. Maybe I was just beguiled by the fact that they were cute cats, little black baby cats—and all rational thought went out the window. (Probably the same window that mom cat slipped out from to get herself knocked up.)

I didn’t choose a cat at all, in fact.

The cat chose me.

Isn’t that the way it usually goes?

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