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Test-driving a cat: What do you do?

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  • Test-driving a cat: What do you do?

    I was at our local shelter yesterday, enjoying their liberal cat-petting policies.

    Yeah, it's one thing to pet a bunch of strange cats when you know you don't have to own any of 'em. It's another when you are shopping for The One To Put A Ring On.

    For those of you who have a check-list of things you do for test-driving horses and cars, what's on that for cats?
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

  • #2
    I'm really not a cat person, so please take this with a grain of salt.

    My favorite cats (at work) are the ones who want attention. Who raise their bums and flag their tails at the mere HINT of your hand skimming across their backs. The ones who start purring when you're a few feet away and just generally don't care WHAT you do as long as you're doing SOMETHING with them.

    Generally, I dread having to handle cats at work because the majority are displeased about having had a car ride. Are displeased about having gotten into a carrier. Are displeased about being restrained even for something so simple as to get a weight. I like the ones that act like big dumb labradors (my preferred breed o' pet) and just want attention. "Hey you! I love you! What's your name?"

    But I know that's not the cat for everyone.

    Have to say though, had JUST that cat yesterday. And even though we were having to poke and prod, he was totally "I love you. Please pet me." Super sweet kitteh who made me ALMOST want one!
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    • #3
      A big test for me is whether you can pick the cat up and hold it. Is it happy? Does it squirm? Does it flinch when you reach for it with two hands?

      I never thought that this would be an issue having previously had very social cats, but it is HUGE. I have ferals now that are about 7-8 years old (They were 18 mos. to 2 years old when I adopted them.) One is fine to handle and lift up. The other one will not let me come at him with 2 hands or he takes off. He flinches when you reach out to pet him.

      Another thing that you may want to think about is how talkative the cat is. They are "oh so cute" meowing at first, but it gets OLD! Particularly when it starts an hour before dinner.
      "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


      • #4
        I am also a big fan of the Cogs (cat that acts like a dog). Both of my cats come when called and are attention whores with anything that will touch them. So, I have two totally different cat stories but both ended up as the fun-loving Cog.

        My first cat, I got at the shelter and I knew he was the one for me when I picked him up and he didn’t try and get away. The shelter is not a fun environment for them so my theory is that most of them just want out of their cage and to walk around so when you pick them up, they immediately try to get away. This was not the case with my first boy. I got him out of the cage and he melted in my arms and immediately started purring. I never put him down until I had to put him into the carrier to take him home.

        My second cat I go through a friend because he was going to be put to sleep because the owners “didn’t want him anymore”. How sad is that? But I digress. In any case, the first two weeks all I saw was a black and white blur as he bolted from wherever he was to under the couch when I arrived home. I also saw the glowing eyes when I looked under the couch to ensure he was still breathing. At first I was horrified as all of my pets have been super friendly and outgoing. I didn’t force the issue and after about a month he came into his own and became the friendly Cog I had always been so accustomed to. He now has to be one of the most successful cat lover producing cats I’ve ever met. I have had several tried and true cat haters come to visit and leave as cat lovers.

        So those are my two stories. Although I realize the latter is not a common occurrence it did happen to me. So if you get a cat, give them time and they may become the Cog you always dreamed of.

        I have also had good luck with pets from Craigslist. A lot of those will end up in shelters if not re-homed. The nice part is, you can usually go and meet them and see their personality in the environment they’re comfortable in.
        "Be the change you want to see in the world."
        ~Mahatma Gandhi


        • #5
          First off, I'm partial to Maine Coons, or any primary mutts thereof-- I believe MC's are known to be very dog-like. So that's the start.

          I like to know how Kitteh tolerates being held. Bonus points if they'll let me hold them upside down, belly-up like a baby (although I find they tolerate this more once they get to know you, but major bonus points for tolerating it right away!)...

          I NEED to know how they are around dogs. We had a cat (who came before the dogs) who never got comfortable around our dogs, even though the dogs never bothered her. She hid in the basement literally for a YEAR after the first dog arrived. We're dog AND cat people, so any Kitteh needs to be able to tolerate the pups. Most rescues/shelters will tell you which ones have been around dogs and are cool with that.

          Same goes for being around other cats, unless you want a one-cat household. I keep my eyes on the ones being housed with buddies, and/or in the big group cat rooms.

          I recently went cat-shopping, and I think you can get a pretty good feel for the sociable ones; I figure if they can be sociable with complete strangers in an environment as chaotic as a shelter, then that's a pretty good sign!

          Our current older kitteh, I found on Petfinder, and I just KNEW from seeing his photos that he was going to be "the one." He had Maine Coon written all over him, and of the 3 photos they had posted, he was just flat-out pimpin' in every shot, swirling around like he owned the room without a shred of modesty.

          And sure enough, within 24 hours of coming into our home, he went strolling through the living room, marched right past one dog on the floor, and proceeded to evict the other dog (who was laying next to me on the sofa) to claim his spot in my lap. He has not a single mean bone in his body, but he really and truly thinks he's just "one of the pack," and has been like that from Day One.
          *friend of bar.ka

          "Evidently, I am an unrepentant b*tch, possible trouble maker, and all around super villian"


          • #6
            They have to be self-confident enough to stand up to the rather overbearing yellow cat that I have. A timid cat would be pretty overwhelmed by him. After that, I pick the oldest, homeliest cat that fits that category and bring it home with me.
            If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
            Desmond Tutu


            • #7
              Ha ha! I haven't heard that before, but I definitely have a Cog! She runs to meet me at the door, flops down at my feet and rolls over for tummy rubs, AND walks outside on a leash.

              She sees new people as just more of her adoring fans. This includes the plumber, stove repairman, and any friend who comes to my house and declares they don't like cats. That friend is definitely going to end up with a cat in their lap.


              • #8
                My cats have mostly test-driven me. Even the strays I've found. Especially the strays I've found, in a way.

                Evy, my tortie girl, Queen of the house, was discovered across the street in some bushes, yelling her tiny head off. No one else heard her but me. Came in the house and in less than an hour the puny little kitten showed the two grown cats (Sol and Skittles) just who was the boss.

                The same with my first Siamese, Sol (aka the Wiener because of his long-bodied stretches). He was found in the backyard, screaming at the top of his lungs on a hot June day. Again, I was the only one to hear his howls. He immediately started romancing me by being so verklempt he had to be dropper fed for a while-- he was just a tiny kitten, too.

                Buster, my current Siamese, was the runt of the litter. He was so pathetic and tiny and pleading (do you sense a theme here?) that his darling little face just spoke to me from the enormous crowd. It was an enormous crowd, too. Two litters that two Siamese mothers were raising. (Both litters had the same dad.) Even now he knows how to turn on that pitiful look!

                My first serious relationship with a cat, Leia, was the most blunt and straightforward of all. My sister's cat had a litter of kittens. Leia climbed in my lap and sat there through an entire movie on TV. How much more obvious can you get?

                I loff my Quarter horse clique

                I kill threads dead!


                • #9
                  Mine are strays that show up, so no test drives. I pretty much take them as they are. I even like the nasty ones. The old saying " those that play with cats, must expect to be scratched. They most likely have second thoughts about me because when they show up they get the treatment. (vacs, spayed, wormed, feluke tested, flea treated, and whatever else they need) Gotta love drop offs.
                  Just like our eyes, our hearts have a way of adjusting to the dark.--Adam Stanley


                  • #10
                    I take what shows up, no test drives here either...except for my Dollar Store kitten. But I'm just a sucker for dumped animals.


                    • #11
                      I agree, they should be outgoing, but they can ALSO develop that. As someone said, the Shelter is high stress, so their "real" personality often doesn't show. Even tho it's NICE to have a cat who likes to be held, two of my very best cats HATE being held, but LOVE to sit on your lap, curl at your feet, and they burrow into my neck, chest and arms when lie down ... they are FABULOUS and VERY affectionate, just prefer "not to leave the ground." That sense of "self assuredness" can be a positive, making them friendly and bold around dogs, strangers, kid friendly, etc. It's such a tough choice. Just adopt the one with a pretty color (jkg).
                      "If you don't know where you're going, you'll end up somewhere else."


                      • #12
                        The street cats tend to find me, or my subsequent Siamese have been breeder selected by the breeder who knew my personality. However, my first Siamese, my heart cat, I definitely picked on attitude. I went to what was obviously a kitten mill, didn't know better then. Out of all these innumerable kittens in this swarming room being inspected by innumerable people, there was the one who was NOT being sociable, NOR being timid. Plenty of both of those, but she stood out a mile. No other kitten there had her precise expression. Nope, she was aloof and reserved, totally different than timid. She looked like SHE was test driving the people who were kitten shopping and was keeping a score sheet on them. I picked her for that expression. It took that kitten a whole day to purr; even Mom, who held her while I drove home, commented that she was not struggling, but she would not purr, not even to an ear scratch. Once she had come to her conclusion, she purred perfectly fine, but she was not going to do it until SHE had test driven ME to her satisfaction. Late that night, she climbed in bed and purred. We were inseparable after that. No other cat has bonded to me as tightly as that one. But sociable when met? Friendly? Not even close. Nor timid, fearful, running. Just, "I have no idea who you are, and we are not on a first-name basis yet, so don't get too familiar."

                        I've never quite seen that exact flavor of analytical expression on another kitten. But that cat was so exceptional that if I ever encounter it again, I would select the cat based purely on that.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Eclectic Horseman View Post
                          Another thing that you may want to think about is how talkative the cat is. They are "oh so cute" meowing at first, but it gets OLD! Particularly when it starts an hour before dinner.
                          Good lord, no kidding.

                          One of my cats was born in the barn tack room. Just as soon as she was mobile, she would climb up your pant leg and DEMAND attention.

                          It was very cute when she was a wee, tiny kitten. It is not so cute every day in an adult cat! She is the noisiest, most demanding cat in the house--not surprising considering her tendencies which showed themselves as soon as she could walk. But not nearly as fun as it was then!!

                          As for test drives, they just don't happen here. Cats seem to arrive for a reason


                          • #14
                            HA! Cat shopping - apparently my 2 cats didn't get the memo that I was the one to do the shopping. Instead, they got the "people shopping" one.

                            Maxwell Smart has Maine Coon in him and is def a "Cog". Likes to snuggle and be with his humans.

                            Miss Kitty (the husband watched waayy too much Gunsmoke!) is a no nonsense type. Semi-feral when she showed up and went from barn cat to sometimes house cat. But if there is a critter to be caught, it will be on my porch.

                            Also, Ragdolls are more puppy-like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bO4kxWR2gdM


                            • #15
                              I fished my sweetest, most cuddly and affectionate cat from under a woodpile, hissing and muttering the most vile things ever. She did not seem to be a promising cat to own, that's for sure! She was incredibly good company for 19 years. It's been seven years since she passed, and I miss her still.
                              Don't tell me about what you can't do. That's boring. Show me what you can do. - Mom


                              • #16
                                Thus far my family has taken in whoever has needed a home. Over time we learn to adore each and every one of them but most of them are not cats I would have chosen. My last foster became a failed foster and is now another lifer. Thankfully she bonded with my sister who gets her cat-like ways. I've never done well with cats who want to be pet on their terms and randomly snub attention. She is very tolerant but has no desire to accommodate my minimal cat skills.

                                Down the road I need the most over the top gregarious, in your face, look AT ME, dog-loving cat that has ever walked the earth.

                                At a shelter I go for the cats who are demanding attention but seem very confident. I understand that the shelter is a very stressful environment but I am making a 10-16 year commitment. I want to be able to hold the cat, examine his feet, look at his mouth, tactfully touch his/her stomach and tail, etc. I want evidence that the cat is bomb-proof. I've met a number that fit this description but unfortunately I came across them before I was ready to make that long term commitment.

                                I recognize that I don't have the cat skills to bring a scared cat out of its shell so I need a gregarious cog who can tolerate being treated like a dog from day one.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Originally posted by Emryss View Post
                                  I fished my sweetest, most cuddly and affectionate cat from under a woodpile, hissing and muttering the most vile things ever. She did not seem to be a promising cat to own, that's for sure! She was incredibly good company for 19 years. It's been seven years since she passed, and I miss her still.
                                  Your story and the other about picking the cat who asked for ID:

                                  After you have earned the love of a self-possessed female cat, it raises the bar and changes the test-drive.

                                  I love the Cog neologism. I agree that these are the greatest cats-- low standards, low care, no free will-- be halfway nice to them and they'll roll with it.

                                  I used to choose this kind of cat. He was usually a male slacker.

                                  Then I had Old Lady Cat who rode shot gun in my life for more than a decade. That cat was purposeful and free and not stupid and enjoyed what I offered her. IMO, she also overlooked a lot of suffering and health problems in order to pick out the good stuff and purr.

                                  Once you have been given the stamp of approval by a cat who has the choice to issue that or not, you want more of that earned, deep love.

                                  My criteria are changing, thanks to Old Lady Cat.
                                  The armchair saddler
                                  Politically Pro-Cat


                                  • #18
                                    Well I adopted my two without ever really having a game plan, lol.

                                    I was drawn to Allen because he was too dern cute and had the perfect smoochy face. I reached in to pet him and his motorboat started and he rolled right over to give me better access to his tummy for a rub. He's been with me 3 years now.

                                    Winnie, my most recent, I just picked because I was visting (read: lying to myself that I was NOT actively looking ) the local humane society and there she was - little female already named Winnie, which was exactly what I wanted; same sex and same name.

                                    She is a hoot and a half, although I haven't developed the bond with her that I have with my Allen baby. Right now she is in total Kitten Terror phase, and at only ~3 months old we've got some time left before she settles down. But she worships the ground Allen walks on, so I'm good with it
                                    Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars


                                    • #19
                                      No kittens. Cute, but you never know what they'll be like as adults. Mom had Willie from about 8 weeks on; he was a charming little kitten and never knew anything but love and good care. And he was the meanest sonovabitch ever to wear fur. She got Harry as an adult; he'd been dumped, and a nicer cat you couldn't hope to meet.

                                      I like cats who have doglike personalities.


                                      • #20
                                        I adopted a rejected shelter cat aka she was adopted and returned...more than once because she was shy.

                                        So I figured I would take a shy and could handle a nice, shy kitty.

                                        And what I got is an obnoxious cat who follows me around constantly and reminds me when I am not doing my job properly.

                                        It did take a couple months for her to unwind.
                                        Semi Feral