If you’re seeking a cat with a specific look or personality, consider one with a family tree
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Kittens come in all sizes, personalities, colors, patterns and coat lengths. Thousands are available from animal shelters nationwide, and they are as cute as can be. But if you’re looking for a particular type of cat, you may go to the shelter or check rescue groups online daily and still not find what you’re looking for.
That’s when you may turn to a responsible breeder who raises the type of cat who meets your needs: For instance, one who’s bred to be outgoing or active; who has a particular coat type, length or pattern; or whose personality and activity level are suited to your lifestyle or home environment. Cats may not vary quite as much in size and appearance as dogs, but individual cat breeds have distinct traits that make them the perfect choice for some people. Pedigreed cats have been selected for specific personality or behavior traits over many generations.
People choose a pedigreed kitten when they want to know what a cat’s personality and size will be when he matures. They might take into account how they want to spend time with a cat (go for walks or snuggle on the sofa) or whether the breed is known for being playful or trainable or friendly toward dogs.
Random-bred domestic shorthairs or longhairs can also come in a variety of temperaments and activity levels, but they are the surprise packages of the cat world; it’s not easy to predict their personality or behavior if you don’t know anything about their parents, grandparents or more distant ancestors.
Health is another factor. A kitten with a family tree comes with a known family medical history. That doesn’t mean they won’t develop certain diseases, but if purchased from a reputable breeder, they’ll come with a written health guarantee against heritable conditions. The sales contract should provide for a replacement kitten without forcing you to give up the original cat you love. It should also state that the breeder will take the cat back at any time if you must give him up.
If you have your heart set on a cat with an unusual pattern or color, a pedigreed kitten may be the way to go. It’s not impossible to find a spotted tabby kitten in a shelter, but it’s not common, either. That look is most often seen in Bengals, Maine coons, Savannahs and Egyptian maus.
Are pedigreed kittens perfect? Not necessarily. And the imperfect one may be exactly who you want to take home -- that is, if you don’t plan to show him. Some kittens have cosmetic flaws that make them unsuited to the show ring but perfect for family life. They have the same predictable traits as their show siblings but lack the perfect markings a cat needs to succeed in the show circuit. They also have the good nutrition, health care and early socialization provided by a responsible breeder.
Read up on breeds you’re interested in beforehand. The websites of the Cat Fanciers Association (cfa.org/breeds) and The International Cat Association (tica.org/breeds/browse-all-breeds) are good resources.
When you visit a breeder, the cattery should be clean and not crowded, says Marybeth Rymer, DVM, who has two Abyssinians. Cats should be calm and easy to handle.
Question breeders about health history, genetic issues and what the cats are like to live with. Dr. Rymer says health questions should include whether the cattery has had any cats with feline infectious peritonitis in the past five years; has had issues with diarrhea and the organism Tritrichomonas; steps the breeder takes to prevent these diseases; and whether the breeder performs appropriate genetic tests for that breed and tests for feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus.
Breeders should be open with their answers. Move on if they’re unwilling to share health information.
“Do not feel you must buy that day,” Dr. Rymer says. “Consider revisiting the cattery to confirm your first impressions.”
How to prepare
holiday pet feast
Q: What’s a fun but healthy way to include my pet in upcoming holiday feasts?
A: That’s a great question! Our pets know just from their noses that we’re eating yummy food, and of course they want to join in -- but not everything we’re eating is good for them. Common foods in our holiday feasts that can be toxic to dogs include onions, raisins, grapes, some nuts, chocolate, rich or fatty foods, and anything containing alcohol.
To let them participate, we love this idea from Best Friends Animal Society: making a “barkcuterie” or “chatcuterie” board with pet-friendly, healthy treats. Here’s how.
You’ll need the following:
-- a serving or cutting board that your pet can eat from;
-- cookie cutters in your favorite shapes and sizes -- paws, bones, hearts and stars would be fun;
-- cutting board, knife and spoon for food prep;
-- 1/2 cup of your pet’s favorite wet food (if they don’t eat canned food, double the amount of dry food);
-- 1/4 cup of your pet’s favorite dry food;
-- a hearty handful of your pet’s favorite treats;
-- a small, colorful assortment of your pet’s favorite dog- or cat-friendly fruits and vegetables, chopped or sliced: apples, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon or cantaloupe (cats love it), broccoli, carrots and bell pepper, for instance;
-- coconut whipped cream (optional);
-- peanut butter (optional) -- make sure it doesn’t contain xylitol.
Design the barkcuterie board with your pet in mind, and choose his favorite foods and treats. Use the cookie cutters to make cute shapes with the canned food and place them on the cutting board. Surround with cut fruits and veggies. Separate colors so each item stands out. Decorate with small amounts of coconut whipped cream or peanut butter, if desired. Fill in empty spaces with dry food and treats. Your pet will have fun chowing down. -- Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
pets find homes
-- If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, make the most of the holiday season by visiting Macy’s Union Square through Jan. 3. You won’t want to miss the holiday live cams (sfspca.org/holiday) showing outrageously cute animal videos in store windows and on the main floor from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Snap a photo at one of the store’s shelter animal Instagrammable outposts, and be on the lookout for San Francisco SPCA Animal Assisted Therapy animals in the store, not to mention other adorable animal holiday surprises. Over the 35 years of the Holiday Windows program, the SF/SPCA has placed nearly 10,000 dogs and cats in new homes.
-- Cats use their keen hearing and the ability to create a mental map of their surroundings to keep tabs on the location of their people, according to a team of researchers in Japan. In their paper, published in PLOS One earlier this month, they report that cats appear to be able to track owners’ movements even when they can’t see them. In a series of experiments with 50 pet cats, divided into three groups, they placed the cats in enclosures fitted with speakers. They then piped in sounds: the owners’ voices calling them by name; strangers’ voices calling their name; and random noise. Next they played the sounds in pairs. The first went to the speaker inside the enclosure; the second through the speaker outside the enclosure. Cats seemed most surprised when owners suddenly seemed to be in a new place, suggesting that they were keeping track of where the human was supposed to be.
-- Four hamster facts: Hamsters use their whiskers to explore their environment. Hamster teeth grow continuously. Hamsters are nocturnal, with eyes that function well in low light. Hamsters usually live for up to two years. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.