Once you've set your heart on getting one, you should know how to choose a cat. Do not rush straight out and get one, unless, of course, one has chosen you already. Instead, ask yourself some questions, such as:

• Do you want a show cat as well as a pet?
• Would you want to breed the cat and why?
• Would you prefer a male or female cat?
• A longhair or a shorthair?
• Do you have a specific breed in mind or will any type of moggy do?
• Would you like to get just one cat or two (or more)?

A cat is a great family pet if you are at work all day and haven't enough time for a dog. However, although people often think cats are aloof and independent, don't forget they do like human company and can get lonely on their own. Cats are also very long-lived and 12-15 years is now a common lifespan. If you buy a kitten for your kids, remember the cat will still be part of the family long after your children have left home! Cats tend to roam a lot and can easily get hit by cars so veterinary care can be expensive - don't forget to budget for veterinary bills. Consider taking out pet insurance to cover against major illness or accidents.

Adult or Kitten?

New kittenEach has its virtues. An adult cat is a ready-made companion. He's trained, self-sufficient and like the words of a famous philosopher "what you see is what you get". What's more, he may already be neutered and he knows how to take care of himself. He'll hide when he tires of playing with the children and they get rough. And if you need a mouser, he can probably learn the job within hours. Assuming he's healthy and comes from a loving breeder or home, he may make an excellent pet.

On the other hand, adult cats are generally slower to adjust to new situations than kittens. Normally shipping can cause adults immense stress which can bring on illness. It may take a little extra patience to introduce an older cat to other pets in the family. You'll probably have to watch closely for a few months until he becomes adjusted so that he doesn't sneak out the door and try to return to his former home. Starting out with an adult cat, you miss the enjoyment as well as anguishes of kittenhood; some people feel its easier to bond to a kitten than an adult cat.

No doubt kittens are adorable, cuddly and amusing. Their nonsensical antics and youthful exuberance bring out the cheerfulness in everyone. Watching them learn and grow is unforgettable for all ages and an exciting experience for children. And why not keep a few memories of your new cat for your and the kids to look back on by taking a few photographs.

They do take time and patience however; be prepared to give a kitten lots of care during the first few weeks. He may need to be fed several times a day; you'll have to spend time training him and cleaning up after him when he has an accident. He may even need to sleep cuddled up with you the first night or two. Kittens are born explorers, so put away table top treasures (or glue them down with a glue gun) until he's older. Finally, be prepared for veterinary expenses - for inoculations, neutering and checkups.

As a general rule, kittens are curious, playful, and full of energy, while adult cats are more relaxed and less mischievous. Kittens also require more time to train and feed. Cats are only kittens for a few months, though, so the age of the cat you adopt should really depend on the level of maturity you're looking for. Young children usually don't have the maturity to handle kittens responsibly, so a cat who's at least four months old is probably the best choice for homes with young children.

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