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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 little ones. Here's what to consider when looking for a kid-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 kiddo at home, but you might also be wondering this is you already have a cat and are expecting a new child into the house. Cats and young children can absolutely live safely and happily together if you adopt a cat with the right temperament. The best cats for kids are gentle, friendly and patient. While rumor has it that many cats are cranky, most can make loving pets.
And having a pet such as a cat can positively influence a child's development. "Children raised with pets often demonstrate well-balanced emotional health benefits such as greater empathy, cognitive development and greater social participation," according to the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
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 International Cat Care explains, "very nervous and timid cats will find living with children incredibly stressful, and cats with these types of temperament should be avoided." In these cases, will your cat often hide, this extra stress could lead to health problems like urinating outside the litter box. Instead, opt for a cat who isn't easily disturbed by noise and will join in on the fun.
Though full of vigor, 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 the Animal Friends Connection Humane Society explains, kitties are likely to be frightened by the unpredictable behavior of a toddler who sees a cat as a stuffed animal rather than a living creature.
Both young and adult cats with spirited dispositions are great for kids ages 4 and up, but not necessarily for youngsters 3 and under. Energetic adult cats may not tolerate the antics of very young children. And don't rule out adopting a senior cat. Older cats can make great companions and will thrive in a loving home.
Include your children in the adoption process, beginning by looking with them your local shelter's website and social media pages. 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 isolated?
- Has the cat interacted with children?
- Do they exhibit any signs of aggression or fear?
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 for these cats, and want to make sure that your family is the right fit for one of their cats. After all, neither of you wants to be in the poor situation where you have to return the cat to the shelter because they aren't a 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:
- American Shorthair: The International Cat Association describes the American shorthair as "one of the most adaptable breeds for any type of household" and "excellent with children."
- 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, as the Cat Fanciers' Association attests: "Because the Birman is patient, even-tempered and tolerant, they make an excellent choice for families with children and/or other pets." As an added benefit, Birmans have a soft, quiet meow, which means they're less likely to wake up your child at bedtime.
While this list gives you a good indication of temperaments based on breeds, know that there are also amazing cats that can be found at a local shelter. Even if you don't know a cat's exact breed, doesn't mean you can't get a good sense of their personality while you and your kids visit at the shelter.
Bringing Home Your Cat
So, we've already established that 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.
While not ideal, adapting to new surroundings can be stressful for cats. It is possible that they experience digestive upset or urinary problems upon arriving home with you. This usually clears itself up as the cat becomes more comfortable at home, but if you notice any of this behavior, limit the cat's exposure to children to start. Allow the cat to get familiar with their new housemates to help ease their transition. If this doesn't do the trick, it's probably a good idea to talk to your veterinarian to see if there are any other underlying health conditions you should be aware of.
The time you spend researching the best cats for kids 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, mom, 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.