Q: In your experience, have you found any truth to breed stereotypes? I’m thinking of adopting my first cat and have heard so many confusing opinions such as orange cats are good tempered, black cats are the least popular, torties are feisty, Siamese are hyper, Persians need too much grooming. I just want a friendly easy-going cat. Any advice?
A: In an age where the word “stereotype” can ruffle lots of feathers, let’s talk about some of the common characteristics of cat breeds: they are furry (well, except for the hairless ones), they purr (except for the ones that don’t), they’re independent (except for the ones that are social). My point is: every cat is an individual, and should be judged as such. I loved my orange cat “Charlie”. He was the friendliest cat I ever met – he could have run for mayor. But just last week, I saw an orange cat that the owner had dubbed “demon cat” because of his less-than-friendly demeanor at home.
The characteristics that you mentioned are sweeping generalizations that some owners would agree with, and some wouldn’t. And very often, the situation that a cat finds himself in will affect his personality much more than his breed. I find that very hyper pet owners often have very hyper cats, and easy-going pet owners often have easy-going cats. Even diehard breed-specific owners will often say “this cat is not your typical Siamese/Maine Coon/Persian.” Who’s to say what’s typical? Who’s to say which personality is right for you?
Here’s my advice when trying to choose a cat: Go to your local shelter and visit with some cats. They’re loving, wonderful pets just waiting for a terrific forever home. Some shelters (like New Rochelle Humane Society) have big rooms where lots of cats roam free, and you can judge for yourself. I guarantee you’ll know which one is right for you. When I got my first cat, I said, “the first one that comes over to me and squints his eyes like George Burns is the one for me.” Seconds later, my cat “Salem” did just that – and he was with me for 14 years (and he did the BEST George Burns imitation!). He was a plain old domestic short haired tabby cat with a feisty personality, sometimes hyper, but overall good-tempered and easy-going, who never needed help with his grooming. He was all the stereotypes wrapped up into one, and that’s what I love.
Editor’s Note: I agree with allowing a cat choose us without a premeditated agenda. Even breeds with distinct characteristics can have exceptions. When I was a teenager, I’d heard Siamese cats could be high-strung, but that didn’t stop me from adopting my first Siamese. She turned out to be the sweetest cat and I was instantly hooked on the breed for their intelligence and affectionate nature. It’s a question of knowing what you can live with. Chatty Siamese cats can drive one crazy with their loud talking. Merlin, true to his breed has the lungs of an opera singer, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When it comes to love, my mothers always said, there’s a lid for every pot. I think the same holds true for cats and the humans who love them.