Cats and Kids

Updated on November 6, 2016
Low maintenance, interactive, and independent
Litter boxes, can be difficult to train, generally nocturnal.

Cats and kittens are a popular request from children, second only to puppies. I find cats to be suitable pets for all ages, with proper supervision. With kittens, just as with puppies, I recommend waiting until the child is over the toddler stage. Most adult cats can identify a rambunctious youngster regardless of species, and a healthy adult cat has the agility and skills to get out of the reach of such youngsters quickly. Most cats will avoid in this type of situation rather than attack, unless they are cornered. This is a benefit to the cat but can be a positive or negative for the child, depending on the child’s temperament. A rowdy and rambunctious child may scare the feline off and end up quickly losing interest in their pet, or this behavior will teach an otherwise disruptive child the benefits of tranquility, patience, and gentleness.

Why a Cat?

Cats can be wonderful pets, as they do not require as much care as a dog to remain happy and healthy, but can be affectionate, independent, and amusing. Cats are often an excellent choice for a child who does not expect to spend time training his or her pet but wants a companion animal that doesn’t require a cage. It may also be a good choice for a household with a busy schedule or a smaller household. Most cats are quite capable of entertaining themselves safely for long stretches of time, and even vigorous play sessions with your feline can be accomplished in a relatively small space. In my mind, there is nothing more comforting and calming than a purring cat.

Cats who Cuddle
Sphynx, Tonkinese, Ragdoll
Athletic Cats
Egyptian Mau, Bengal, Manx
Independent cats
British Shorthair, Russian Blue, Persian
Although breeds can have personality predispositions, each cat is an individual. Take your time in choosing your companion!

Ages and Stages

Cats require feeding and brushing, and they have litter boxes that need to be kept clean daily. They need just enough care to teach a child responsibility, without taking all of their time, or yours. Feeding a cat can often be handled by even a very young child of two or three, although cleaning litter boxes should be saved or supervised until at least the seven or eight-year-old range. Instructions on how to how to properly scoop the litter box should include proper hygiene and hand-washing techniques. Brushing duties will be dependent on the demeanor of the child and the type of fur the cat has. Even a reasonably gentle three or four-year-old can brush a short haired cat, but brushing a long haired cat may require more dexterity and finesse, so should be the responsibility of older children or adults. Brushing a long haired cat is essential to its well-being, as tangles that form in long cat hair may develop into mats. Mats that are left too long can start incorporating the skin underneath the fur as well as the fur itself and cause painful welts and possibly even skin infections. Some long haired cats are highly resentful of being brushed and should only be brushed by an adult until they have learned to tolerate the procedure.

Five years later and this cat still runs to my daughter when she gets home from school.
Five years later and this cat still runs to my daughter when she gets home from school.

Things to Consider

Cats generally prefer to experience the world on their own terms. This means that there are some things that are just difficult to teach them, such as staying off the counters when there are interesting smells, that closed doors are not intended as an affront to them, and not to lie on your book while you are trying to read it. Another point to remember is that cats also have claws. This is something that needs to be taken into consideration when getting supplies for your new pet. I do not advocate the removal of claws unless there are mitigating medical circumstances. Cats need a dedicated scratching post of some sort or your furniture will suffer, and finding the one that your individual cat likes best is sometimes challenging. I do advocate learning to trim your cat’s nails and familiarizing the cat with this procedure as soon as possible. I have known cats who were unable to walk on carpet due to arthritis as they got older because their claws would get stuck in the unsheathed position. Being comfortable with the process of getting their claws trimmed can help to prevent this unfortunate situation.

Did you have a cat growing up?

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In Short:

Cats are not creatures that are prone to coming when called unless they are relating it to food, but they can make devoted but independent companions. Kittens may be a bit fragile for the youngest of children, but adolescent and adult cats are usually able to avoid trouble. Cats can be happy either solitary or with other cats or animals in the house, and manage to take care of themselves fairly well when you are not home. They like to play and are usually easy to entertain, and quite entertaining in their own right. They are athletic and flexible by nature, and very curious, and yet they spend much of their non-playtime sleeping, rather than begging for your attention.


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    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Sebring 3 weeks ago from Fort Collins

      It is true that there are a wide variety of personalities when it comes to both cats and kids, and many of them do not mesh. When getting a cat specifically for a child's pet, it is best to wait until the child is old enough to understand the cat's body language, explain it back to you, and to respect what it has to say. I, however, have shared my home with cats from before the time my kids were born until now, and with proper supervision and training the two can get along in the same home quite beautifully.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 3 weeks ago from East Coast, United States

      Several of my young friends had thought about having a cat for their children. I advised against it. The children were young, did not listen, and could be quite bratty, as many are. My own cat hates children. (Not to sound mean, I had four children myself. Of course my own children were wonderful. Haha. But I wouldn't let them have a cat either.)

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Sebring 15 months ago from Fort Collins

      FlourishAnyway Absolutely! I've had several cats live to be over 15 years old and at least one that made it to 22.

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Sebring 15 months ago from Fort Collins

      AliciaC I love them all! Pets do interact a little differently with kids than with adults though. It can be so joyous to watch when the mix is right.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 15 months ago from USA

      Cats are kind, curious, entertaining and intelligent companions who understand their humans' emotions. I learned that from an early age and have never forgotten it. I would encourage people when adopting a cat (not buying one) to commit to the lifelong companionship of keeping them, just as one would with a child.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 15 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There's some great advice in this article, Penny. I grew up with dogs rather than cats, but as an adult I've discovered that cats make wonderful pets. Your information about cats and children is important.