Once you've carefully considered the responsibility that comes with owning a cat and decided that a feline would make a great addition to your life, the next decision is which breed to choose. There are a wide range of different breeds; some are purebreds and can command high prices as 'show cats', while many others are of mixed ancestry. Different breeds not only have different looks, but can carry different personality traits - although the way they are cared for and engaged with will of course have a significant bearing on their demeanour.
While there are upwards of 40 different types of cat breed - along with an endless number of cross-breeds - here's our quick guide to six of the most popular in the UK:
Persian cats are instantly identified by their thick, full and soft fur, along with their small, flatter faces and round eyes. This beautiful, luxurious fur does have one drawback for the owner, however - Persians need regular grooming to prevent their fur from knotting and matting, and occasional bathing is recommended to keep that coat thick and healthy.
Persians are the oldest recognised breed of cat, and although their colour and body shape has evolved, they are still known as laid-back, affectionate cats with gentle personalities.
The origins of the British Shorthair can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome, and it is thought that they were brought to Britain by the conquering Empire. Shorthair cats are large and powerful with strong legs and a broad chest, complemented by a dense and firm coat.
Yet British Shorthairs are known as 'gentle giants' because they are actually very easy-going, with typically stable characters. On top of that they have a friendly look thanks to those large eyes and round face, combined with rounded whisker pads which give the impression of a smile.
Originating in Asia, the Siamese cat came to England over 100 years ago, and is now one of the most recognised breeds around. This is thanks to their distinctive features: an angular face with a pointed chin and large pointed ears, while the short coat often involves colouring which differs on the legs.
Siamese cats are very affectionate so owning one can be very rewarding for those who want a playful companion who likes to sit on laps, but they do demand attention and have a high-pitched meow which they're not afraid to use to alert their owners to their needs!
The Maine Coon may look tough and rugged, but it's actually a big softie at heart - and it has a timid little voice to match its placid demeanour! Well-natured and playful cats, they are also highly intelligent - so much so that many exhibit dog-like mannerisms, following owners around the house, responding to calls and even playing fetch!
Although the Main Coon has a semi-long coat, the glossy outer layer of fur covers a dense undercoat, and grooming needs are minimal as it's largely self-maintaining.
The exotic markings of the Bengal bring to mind the larger wild ancestors of the domestic cat, and it shares some of the intelligence of the top predators of the animal kingdom. Boisterous and playful, Bengals tend to have a little mischievous streak which makes them great fun to play with, although they mix well with young children and other animals.
Bengal cats also benefit from a fairly robust constitution, meaning they are not as susceptible to illness and health problems as other breeds can be.
Thought to have originated from Burma - where they were considered sacred - before being brought to the West around 100 years ago, Birmans are bright, active and playful, with an extremely affectionate nature. They respond well to both humans and other animals, with a natural inquisitiveness and an intelligence which means they can be trained not to climb on furniture.
The Birman's coat is silky but one-layered and not prone to matting, making grooming easy. Underneath the soft fur, however, hides a stocky, strongly built frame with thick-set legs which aid its active nature.