There is no simple, straightforward or correct answer to this question. The answer usually depends upon the adopter’s personal circumstances and preferences.
I could stop there because there is no single correct answer and I don’t want to go through every permutation. So, I’ll try and answer the question on the basis of what is best for cats – not a bad way to make the decision. However, I expect a lot of people to leave the page here because they are seeking clean answers.
On the basis that all cats should be adopted from rescue centres (which is an excellent starting point from a moral standpoint) then the answer is very much simplified.
As kittens are often the first to be adopted from rescue centers, and as older cats are less popular you could strongly argue that an adopter should choose either a one-year-old cat or a 10-year-old. There are some wonderful older cats at rescue centres. Of course, a 10-year-old will have his or her own character; well formed and settled. You will have to decide, as will the cat, whether you can get on.
Incidentally, if you already have a cat in the household you should think very hard about adopting a new cat because there are too many instances of cats not really getting along in multi-cat households although it should be said it can work really well. It’s just a tricky thing to do because of the inherent, solitary character of domestic cats.
Reflecting on it, you could argue that a one-year-old cat is the least likely to be adopted because there are some people who wish to adopt older cats. The point that I’m making is that you should choose the cat which you prefer and which is the least likely to be adopted if you want to base your choice on what is best for cats.
This is a great way to choose cats at rescue centres because it makes you feel good about what you’re doing. You are saving the lives of cats; you’re improving their welfare generally. This is a big reward and a great starting point in your relationship with your new cat companion.
It is an interesting thought; to put aside completely your preferences with respect to cat appearance when adopting from a rescue center. If you select on character and the needs of the cat i.e. whether he or she has been left behind, you may find that, in the long term, you have a better and more fruitful relationship. You should find that your cat’s appearance become secondary to his character and his companionship.
A cat’s appearance is not as important as the relationship. At the end of the day you don’t see what your cat looks like in an absolute sense, you see your cat through his or her character and the strength of the relationship.
The great cat ‘owners’ adopt cats that come to them. They don’t choose in the way the question suggests. The cat chooses and the person accepts. Sarah Hartwell (messybeast.com owner) comes to mind. All her cats walked in the backdoor and stayed. That won’t suit everyone. However, it’s good to shake up the usual criteria for selecting a ‘pet’. To think out of the box and ask some fundamental questions about how and why.