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Adopting a Cat Is Like Buying Running Shoes: It’s the Fit

Think like a runner when adopting, and let the shelter staff point you to the perfect feline.

Dorian Wagner  |  Apr 16th 2015


If you know me, you know there are a few things I love: the beach, shopping, cats, going to the gym, running and pumpkin spice lattes (I liked them before the world decided everything should be pumpkin spice, OK?). I’m sure there are a few other things, but those are the general themes that constantly show up on my Facebook page, at least.

When you like things, it’s natural to find connections between them as they overlap in your world. Like, during pumpkin spice latte season, I like to have one while I’m shopping at the mall. Going to the gym makes me feel better about myself at the beach. And I run along the beach. Plus, as long as I work out, I can break even with all the calories from the lattes.

But cats? Where do they fit in? That’s easy …

Cats are like running shoes.

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You don’t see the resemblance? Kitten playing with red shoes by Shutterstock

I’m sure you need a little help piecing that one together, so let me help!

Any halfway serious runner knows that wearing the right shoes is super important. If you run for any kind of distance or for any length of time, you know that the right pair of running shoes can mean the difference between a blissful, zen, “in the zone” run and blisters, shin splints, and missing toenails (yes, it’s the ugly truth about runners).

When you go to a real running store to buy shoes, you immediately find out how complicated you had no idea the process is. It’s all about how you land on your feet –- you can pronate, overpronate, or be neutral. You might also like more support, a cushier sole, a wider shoe. Even how the laces are laced is a science.

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I’m here for the science! Cat with glasses by Shutterstock

But not to worry! They’ll watch you run a few feet and recommend your ideal shoe for how you run and show you what is probably only three shoes that match that –- from a wall of 100 or more choices.

When it comes to running shoes, you don’t choose by color, by brand, or by what’s trendy –- and more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. There is a perfect pair for you, and if you’re smart you’ll go with it and not worry about what they look like, because that’s not what’s important. It’s the fit.

I’ve walked out of running stores with colors of shoes that I’d never imagine myself wearing (yellow doesn’t match with anything I own!), but those hideous shoes were so perfect that I ended up buying eight more pairs –- replacing them over and over with the same shoe as they wore out.

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Eight pairs of those? Cat chilling on a porch” by Shutterstock

It’s the same with cats (or dog, or rabbits, or guinea pigs, whatever). It’s not about how they look, it’s the fit.

If you’re smart, you shouldn’t just go in and pick the prettiest one. You shouldn’t be so set on a specific breed. You shouldn’t set out to adopt (or, even worse, buy) a female gray-and-white, long-haired PersianSiamese mix who is three months old, or a female orange kitten. Because A) what are the chances you’ll find that exact cat? And B) how do you know you and that very specific cat will click?

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You want to adopt me, please? Black kitten sitting by Shutterstock

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You mean you only want a Siamese kitten? Black kitten on white background by Shutterstock

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Nooooooooo! Cute black kitten by Shutterstock

A better way to get a cat is to walk into a local shelter or adoption event and spend time with the cats. Get a feel for their personality and see if you feel a bond. Ask the staff or volunteers about their personalities, and maybe even describe what you’re looking for (it’s perfectly OK to know you want a lap cat or an independent cat or a more playful cat), and let them point you to the few that fit.

And forget about what they look like, what breed, or what color.

Your cuddly purr-monster of a lap cat might end up being that nondescript six-year-old black cat you may never have looked twice at. And your well-behaved, independent cat is probably not that fuzzy eight-week-old kitten wrestling with his littermates and nipping your fingers. The ideal friend you’re looking for for your bored cat at home may not be a purebred Himalayan. And unless you have time to essentially raise a kid, your best bet is probably a cat who is at least few years old and over that crazy cord-eating, leg-climbing, forearm-shredding kitten phase.

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I am the perfect nondescript cat my human didn’t know he was looking for. Tabby cat snuggled in lap” by Shutterstock

It’s because of this that black cats and tabbies have a harder time getting adopted. People think they all look the same and pay more attention to their “plainness” than their personalities. The white kittens and fancy breeds are the first to get homes, while the most perfect black cats and tabbies sit waiting and waiting for someone to notice them.

The same is true for older cats. Those crazy kittens are constantly hogging all the attention and looking just beyond adorable, while the calmer, more relaxed and refined adults sit watching and hoping someone will notice them. They are full of love, and they have their kitten moments, too, but they’re just bigger and maybe not as silly, so they don’t have as easy a time getting adopted.

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And they all lived happily ever after. Cheerful woman kissing grey kitten by Shutterstock

Adopting a cat isn’t a quick race, it’s a marathon. You’re in it for the long haul — and the rest of the cat’s life. Don’t worry about what your new kitty may look like, just make sure you get the right fit, so you have a wonderful, comfortable, happy time along the way!

What’s been your experience adopting? Tell us in the comments!

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