What breed makes the best house cat?

This is a question which resurfaces from time to time. My views have changed slightly over the years so I’d like to have a second go at answering the question.

Ragdoll cat

Beautiful Ragdoll cat. Photo: Jack Andreas Solberg

The starting point is to ask what is the best environment for a house cat in 2017. I believe the answer must turn on the cat’s safety. It is not feasible in 2017 and looking forward to allow domestic cats to roam freely at will because it is not safe enough. Safety is the first responsibility of a cat owner. If you are a really concerned cat owner it is very difficult to live with the knowledge that your cat is outside wandering around while you have no idea if he/she is safe. You can assume that he is not entirely safe but how unsafe is it? Domestic cat confinement is as much about the cat’s safety as it is about the owner’s peace of mind. But there are different degrees of confinement.

If that is agreed, the ideal compromise is an environment which confines to cat to a garden enclosure and the inside of your home. If the garden is around a quarter of an acre that gives your cat a reasonable amount of outside space to enjoy the scent and sounds of nature. Less worry about getting worms, fleas, infections and injuries. This arrangement will be impossible for many cat owners. However, I am focusing on an ideal.

On the basis that this is agreed the cat breed needs to be highly domesticated which excludes wild cat hybrids such as Bengals in my opinion. Some breeds are more comfortable living in confinement.

Ragdoll Kittens

Down the road from me is a Ragdoll. She lives inside all the time. There is no garden enclosure but my impression is that she is content. If we believe that Ragdolls are super laid back and the indications are that they are more laid back than the average cat breed, this makes them the best breed for an environment as described above. In fact Ragdoll cat breeders sometimes insist that their cats are kept inside when adopted. It is part of the contract.

Websites will provide a list of cat breeds suited to indoor living. I don’t believe these lists. Individual cats from nearly all the breeds will be similar in temperament. I have selected the Ragdoll because breeders selectively breed for character (as an important aspect of their breeding) while the norm is to breed for appearance. This applies to the cat breeds selected by these websites.

When you selectively breed for appearance, the character will be an average and varied somewhat and no different from random bred cats. You are then reliant on whether the individual cat selected has a character ideally suited to a confined life. That will be down to luck if adopting a random bred cat from a shelter. Most often these are not cats of a cat breed so I need not discuss this here.

The Ragdoll temperament is said to be “calm, docile, quiet, easy to handle etc.”.

Gloria Stephens (Legacy of the Cat) writes that they “show little or no interest in the great outdoors and therefore are perfect for houseā€¦.”

You could argue that although the Ragdoll was created in a different age, the 1960s, they have become a modern cat because of their suitability to confined living. Personally, “confinement” should not be too harsh. I would almost insist that there is some outside space to allow a cat to gain some satisfaction and stimulation from the outdoors.

P.S. I have always adopted rescue cats. I will always recommend adopting from a rescue center. However, this discussion is about cat breeds. There are many rescue cats highly suited to living in a confined space.





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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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3 Responses

  1. Susan Gort says:

    I know that 3 of my feral rescues would dearly love to race around outside, but as they are deaf and there are too many predators around it is impossible. Nor can I afford to build an enclosure as the cost is prohibitive. I leave the inner doors open in good weather and when I am at home, so they can see and smell the desert. If I could train them to a harness and leash, I would be taking them for walks. But I wouldn’t stress them that way-they would be terrified at the restraint. When I have the windows open, I sit on the chair and they gather on the sill. Then we can all enjoy the outdoors.

  2. M. E. King says:

    Cats raised indoors with loving guardians who meet their needs are usually content.
    That of course excludes man made exotics that are often a dismal failure for the owners and the animal even when outdoor enclosures are provided. If you don’t like wild animals in a zoo you can’t condone taking them from the wild and crossing them with a domestic animal to make designer ego mutants.

    • Michael Broad says:

      Agreed. A well socialised domestic cat whether she is a purebred or not will adapt to a confined life. It is a compromise and a good one.

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