This may seem like a dumb question, but it's an important one. After all, you're going to have to spend 15 to 20 years with this animal. What kind of relationship do you want to have?
Some pet owners I've seen live in a cold peace with their cats. They feed them and take them to the vet on occasion, but the cats and people don't enjoy each other's company. In some cases, this is the human's fault for not caring enough, but in many cases I've seen, people adopt cats that hide out all the time and don't like human contact.
To me, the worst thing that could happen is for me to get stuck with a cat that acts like it doesn't really want to be here. What's the point of having a pet if all you do is feed it and take care of its basic needs?
Here's my very amateur theory. I think most people who go to the shelter to adopt cats are thinking "I'll pick the cutest one," but some of those people get the cat home and they're disappointed b/c they may have adopted a cat that just doesn't bond with them.
About.com's Franny Syufy has a great set of tips on choosing a cat from a shelter, but even after reading her article, I don't feel more confident. She says to "let the cat choose you" but how can I tell? What if no cats choose me? This is bringing back memories of my high school gym class!
Last Saturday, I went to 4 different shelters and I didn't really run into a cat that "liked" me. There were a couple of nice close calls, though:
- At the ASPCA, I saw an older female cat who had been injured. We're looking for two young, healthy cats to adopt together so she wasn't right for us, but when we approached her cage, she rolled onto her back and stuck her paws through the bars as if to say "play with me." That's the kind of cat personality I want and I think most people would want.
- At the local Petco, there's a shelter that shows cats for rescue. I saw a young cat there named "Spike" (he has an ad on Petfinder) who was very quiet and passive, but he let me pet him and turned his head to let me scratch his chin.
Since the Petco is right around the corner from my home, I went by there again on Sunday and talked to the rescue people about him; they said he doesn't like to be picked up and you can tell he's either sick (they said he has a cold) or out of it b/c while the cat will let anyone touch him, he doesn't get up and walk around his cage and he's not interested in toys or other things that stimulate other cats. He just sits around staring into space. So either there's something wrong with him or he just doesn't respond to me. Too bad, because he seemed like an interesting cat. But the last thing I'd want is to bring home a cat that just sits in the corner.
The quest continues.