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Are you thinking about adopting a feline friend, but wondering how good cats are with kids? Luckily, many cats are great with children. Here's what to consider when looking for a child-friendly cat to welcome into your family.
Cats and Kids
So, if you're asking if cats are good with kids, you probably have a child at home, or maybe you’re welcoming a new child into the home. Cats and young children can absolutely live safely and happily together if you adopt a cat with the right temperament and manage the environment correctly. The best cats for kids are gentle, friendly and patient. While rumour has it that many cats are cranky, this is often because they are misunderstood. In reality, most cats can make loving pets.
According to the University of Edinburgh, having a pet like a cat can positively influence a child's physical and emotional health, development and wellbeing. Pets provide a great source of comfort to kids and have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety. A stronger attachment to a pet is also associated with better communication between adolescents and their parents and friends.
To find the cat who will best adapt to your household, you'll want to consider your kids' ages and personalities.
Skittish cats don't tend to fit in well in homes with young children. As the Battersea Cats’ Home explains, timid cats can find these busy, often unpredictable surroundings very stressful to live in. In these cases, your cat might hide or develop problems like urinating outside the litter box. Instead, opt for a cat who is sociable, confident, and not bothered by loud noises.
Though fun, playful and energetic, a kitten usually isn't the best choice if you have an infant or a toddler. Like their human counterparts, kittens require a lot of training. As Cats Protection explains, kittens are still learning to use their claws and may play rough, which could lead to an injury for your little one. Kittens are also likely to be frightened by the unpredictable or loud behaviour of a toddler, who won’t yet understand that the kitten isn’t a fluffy soft toy!
Both young and adult cats with spirited dispositions are great for kids ages four and up, but not necessarily for youngsters three and under. Energetic adult cats may not tolerate the antics of very young children and may lash out if the child disturbs their rest or inadvertently traps them while attempting to interact.
Don't rule out adopting a senior cat. Older cats can make great companions for slightly older children, who will appreciate their desire to curl up on a warm lap and are capable of understanding and responding to the specific needs of a senior cat.
Include your children in the adoption process, beginning by looking through your local shelter's website and social media pages together. Before deciding on a cat, though, bring the whole family to visit an animal shelter together. It's important to see how your kids and the cat respond to one another.
Ask shelter employees and volunteers lots of questions about the cats you're interested in. Some questions you might want to ask include:
- How does the cat get along with people?
- Are they social or shy?
- Has the cat interacted with children previously?
- Do they exhibit any signs of aggression, fear, or overexcitement?
Specify your family's lifestyle — mellow and quiet, rambunctious and noisy or anything in between — so that the shelter staff can help you find the best cat for your household.
Don't be surprised if the shelter asks you a lot of questions, too. Remember that they care about the welfare of the cats in their care, and want to make sure that your family is the right fit. After all, neither of you wants to be in the sad situation where you have to return the cat to the shelter because they aren't right for your family.
The Best Cats for Kids
The following are a couple of the friendliest cat breeds that will suit a family with young kids:
- The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) says that Siamese cats are loud, outgoing and extroverted. These sociable cats love being part of the family, show incredible loyalty to their humans, and will happily play games with the kids.
- Ragdoll: Known for their easygoing nature, ragdolls love their human families and thrive on interactive play. Since they're so active, they're good for homes with slightly older children. They're also highly adaptable to change.
- Birman: This breed is as gentle and friendly as they get. The GCCF describes Birmans as “wonderful companions with a lot of love to give”. They love to play and are patient and tolerant of kids, making them great family pets. As an added benefit, Birmans have a soft, quiet meow, which means they're less likely to wake your child at bedtime.
While this list gives you a good indication of temperaments based on breeds, know that amazing cats can also be found at a local shelter. Even if you don't know a cat's exact breed, it doesn't mean you can't get a good sense of their personality while you and your kids visit the shelter.
Bringing Home Your Cat
So, we've already established that some cats can be great companions for kid-filled homes, but it is also important to prepare yourself before bringing home your cat. Teaching your kids how to have safe interactions with the cat is extremely important. Give your cat time to get used to their new surroundings. If your cat is super social, great! If they seem unsure at first, be sure to give them plenty of space, including a hideaway of their own. Allow the cat to slowly get familiar with their new housemates to help ease their transition.
Adapting to new surroundings can be stressful for cats and as a consequence, they may develop digestive upset or urinary problems upon arriving home with you. If you notice that your cat is experiencing these issues, talk to your veterinarian to see if there are any underlying health conditions that need to be addressed and if there are treatments that may help.
The time you spend researching the best cats for kids and how to prepare your family for a cat will pay off in a big way when you get to watch your child and kitty form a loving, lasting bond.
Christine O'Brien is a writer, mum, and long-time cat parent whose two Russian Blues rule the house. Her work also appears in Care.com, What to Expect, and Fit Pregnancy, where she writes about pets, pregnancy, and family life. Find and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @brovelliobrien.
Reviewed by Dr. Aileen Pypers, BSc, BVSc, PGDip