Domestic or purebred cat:
Before you begin to look for your cat you will need to decide if you want to adopt a purebred or a domestic (moggy). There are pros and cons with both. Purebred cats are more expensive than domestics, and some breeds can have a long waiting list. Moggies are readily available and most shelters are overflowing with cats who are desperate for a loving home. Moggies are every bit as special as purebreds, but some people may want a particular breed for its look or personality. It must be said, though, that moggies can have the same personality as purebreds. For example, you may want a Siamese because they're talkative, but many moggies can also be quite chatty, or you may want a Burmese because they're known to be affectionate, but moggies can be every bit as affectionate as the purebreds.
Cats have their own unique personalities. Some are friendly, some introverted, some are active, others prefer to spend their days sleeping. It is really important to have a think about the type of personality you are looking for in a cat. I have heard of cats being sent to shelters for meowing too much, or for being too affectionate (seriously).
Wherever you obtain your cat from, be it a shelter or a cat breeder, tell them what you are looking for in a cat, they will know which cats they have will fit the bill.
How many cats?
If you are out for long periods of time, it is recommended that you get two cats to keep each other company. This isn't compulsory, but a good idea. Some cats can become quite lonely if they are left for long periods of time, while others are quite happy to be on their own. It is a good idea to let the breeder or know of your home situation so again, they can help you select the right cat.
Some people say there is a difference, others don't. I personally have found females to be a little more independent than the boys, but that really could just come down to the individual cat. Entire males will roam long distances looking for females in heat, and their spray is especially pungent, entire females will come into season regularly and will mate with any available male (even a sibling or parent). Both males and females are much calmer and placid once they have been dexeded. Contrary to what you hear, desexing doesn't make cats fat and lazy, but it does stop their sexual urges and they are much happier to hang out at home than spend their time looking for another cat to mate with.
If you already have a cat at home, my recommendation is to get the opposite sex to what you already have as they will generally compliment each other. Males, in particular, can be quite territorial and if you have an adult male, he may get his nose out of joint if you introduce another male. This is much, much less likely if you bring in a kitten of the same sex.
Kittens are cute but they can be hard work. Older cats are often overlooked and can make great companions. You don't have to go through the kitten stage with them. If you have young children (under 5) I recommend an older kitten or adult cat because young children can be a little bit rough with a small kitten and can accidentally hurt it.
It is always lovely to have a playful kitten in the home, though. I've adopted both kittens and adult cats and both are equally special. You will find that older cats are cheaper to adopt than kittens and they do seem to genuinely appreciate being given a second chance.
Where to find a cat:
This depends if you are adopting a domestic or a purebred cat. Cat shelters are the best place to go to for a domestic. They are full to the brim with cats who are crying out for a new home. Not only that but shelters will almost always have done the hard work for you, that is, the cat will be desexed (spayed or neutered), have been vaccinated, microchipped and wormed. This not only saves you time but a considerable amount of money. People often think that a "free" kitten is a cheap kitten, but when you factor in the costs of desexing, microchipping and vaccinations, you will find that you are way behind.
Choosing the cat:
When it comes to selecting your cat, there are a few pointers. Let the breeder or shelter know exactly what kind of cat you are looking for. Talkative, playful, quiet, affectionate, independent. They will be able to narrow down the choice based on personality.
Look for a healthy cat, he should have clean eyes, nose, ears and bum. He should be lively, have a healthy and shiny coat with no signs of ringworm or parasites (such as fleas).
Ask the breeder or shelter if they guarantee the health of the cat for a period of time. If so, how long?
If you are buying a purebred cat, you should ensure the breeder is "registered" with an appropriate cat council. Have they tested for inherited disorders known to specific breeds (such as Persians with polycystic kidney disease)? Do they routinely screen for FIV and FeLV? Does the cat come with registration papers? Some people don't care if they receive papers or not, I personally like to have them.
Don't buy a cat from a pet shop, most purebreds come from kitten mills, it is more expensive because you will still pay a premium price for the cat and more often than not, have to then pay for it to be desexed and vaccinated. The only exception I will say to this is pet shops who offer a cage or two to shelter cats who are looking for a home.
How much do cats cost?
This depends on the type of cat, purebreds are more expensive than moggies and the rarer breeds can cost quite a lot of money. As a guide, the cost is approximately:
$200 for a moggy.
$800 - $1000 for a purebred.