Checkout Lane: Finding the perfect feline
The key to finding the right cat is to make sure the animal's personality is compatible with the prospective owner's.
''It's all about the chemistry,'' said Joanne Mainiero, director of the Massachusetts Humane Society shelter in Weymouth.
That's why Mainiero recommends meeting and interacting with a cat before buying or adopting it. Some cats prefer quiet surroundings, while others can handle loud noises, she said.
Some personality traits can be assumed by the breed of the cat, according to Dawn Goncalves, a veterinary technician at the Weymouth Landing Cat Clinic. Siamese cats, for example, tend to be vocal and family-oriented. But they are also quite needy and cry a lot, according to Goncalves.
Calico cats tend to be high-strung and temperamental, while tuxedos (a name given to black and white cats) tend to be more passive and easygoing.
''But every cat is different,'' Goncalves stressed. ''You definitely want to do some investigating.''
Age is also an important factor in determining what cat is best for you or your family. Goncalves suggests that parents with young children - particularly toddlers - would do well to avoid a kitten and go for a cat between the ages of 9 months and 2 years.
''Kittens are very young and fragile and can develop behavioral issues if kids are chasing them,'' Goncalves said.
Mainiero's shelter charges $125 to adopt an adult cat, but with vaccinations, other health needs, food and toys, she said it is important to consider the long-term costs of pet ownership before adoption.
''They need to make sure they can afford any medical care the cat may need from day one,'' Mainiero said, adding that indoor cats typically live 15 to 20 years.
Mainiero and Goncalves stress the importance of spaying or neutering a cat. Mainiero said the procedures can cost up to $150, the cost increasing with the size of the animal.
Only people who promise to keep the cat indoors may adopt one at the Weymouth shelter.
Mainiero said keeping the cat indoors helps prevent disease and other hazards.
''I can get anywhere from four to seven calls per week on lost cats,'' Mainiero said.
And owners must be prepared to make room to accommodate the cat's needs.
''They're more of an independent animal. They don't need the extreme socializing of a dog,'' Mainiero said. ''Still, you've got to fit your lifestyle with the animal.''
LITTER BOX TIPS
Why the litter box? Cats instinctively look to urinate or defecate in granular materials, where they can bury their waste in an attempt to hide it from predators - thus the litter box.
Changing the box: Often a dirty litter box can lead cats to answer nature's call outside of the box. Some cats require the box's litter to be changed daily, although most are content if the box is changed once or twice a week.
Multi-cat homes: It is recommended that multi-cat homes have one litter box for each cat. Cats are generally individualistic and might feel threatened if forced to share the litter box territory with another cat.
Moving the box: Moving a cat's litter box - or food and water for that matter - should be done gradually. Cats are habitual creatures and may continue to urinate where the box was previously located if the move is done too quickly.
Information courtesy of Weymouth Landing Cat Clinic & Hotel and its Web site, WeymouthCats.com.
The Patriot Ledger
A.J. Bauer may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.