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See also:

Introduction to Cats as Pets for Children
The Commitment involved in Owning a Cat
Should you Choose a Cat or Kitten?

Cats as Pets - the good and the bad!

Advantages of a Cat as a Pet

Cats are very clean animals.  They wash themselves and seem fastidious about not getting covered in mud.  Although they may track in some dirt and leave damp paw marks on a rainy day, this does not usually cause much of a problem.

Cats do not need constant human attention.  Being very independant creatures they do not mind if you are out of the house for the whole day, caring only that they have sufficient food and water.
Pet Cat
If you are regularly going to be away from home you may wish to consider getting two cats for company.
Cats can really make a home and welcome you home from a hard day at work!

You may be able to get a kitten for very little or free, and there are often cats waiting to be rehomed in cat sancturies and rescue homes.  A rescue cat often makes a very good pet - many rescue animals have simply strayed too far from home and have become lost.  Some people may have found they are allergic to cat hair, and have put their cat up for adoption.  A rescue cat is often pleased to have the comforts of a real home provided, and will be a loyal companion.

Although some cats may be fussy eaters (or are skilled at persuading their owners that they need a gormet diet!) they need not be expensive to feed.  Quality foods can be purchased online, or the more common brands at the local supermarket or pet store.
Cats are great company, and will happily sit on your lap for hours purring loudly.  Stroking a cat is said to reduce blood pressure, and take away stress.

If a cat does not have easy access to the outdoors, or if you choose to keep it inside it will need a litter tray.  Whilst the benefit of the cat is that it is very clean, and will always use the tray, the tray will smell.  There are odourless litters that you can buy which will help, but will not totally eradicate the smell.  Kittens, or adopted cats learning their new home, will need a litter tray for the first few weeks.  If you have a toddler in the house you will have to be very careful that only the cat has access to the litter tray.

Cats, like dogs, have worms, and must be wormed regularly to ensure that the parasites are not passed onto humans - especially children who, at any age, seem to spend most of their time on the floor!  Cats, unless protected regularly, are prone to fleas.  Cat fleas love the taste of human blood.

Some people are allergic to cat hair which is very fine.  Some people may find they can tolerate other animals which have coarser hair, such as dogs, but are very uncomfortable around cats.  If anyone in your family has ecxema or asthma it is always worth checking by finding a friend who has a cat and visiting them at home.  Allergic reactions, such as runny eyes or sneezing, usually appear as soon as someone is exposed to cat hair. 
Disadvantages of a Cat as a Pet

Cute and cuddly kittens have claws!  Kittens love to play, but often think an outstretched hand with wiggling little fingers is a toy.  Many children (and adults) can get nasty scratches.  Kittens also love to tear around a room, climbing curtains a wallpaper, and swinging off of furniture.  It is not unusual for a kitten to cause as much, if not more, damage than a puppy!

Some adult cats do not like children, and will swing their claws at them if a child goes to stroke them.  This may stem from being a defensive reaction from children who were overly rough with them as kittens. 

Cats can be aloof and independant.  You cannot rely on your cat thinking you are the perfect owner.  There are many cases of cats choosing their own home!  You may end up with a cat who will deign to live in your house and eat the food you provide, but which will not want to sit on your lap and be petted!

Cats catch birds and mice.  It can be useful to have your house rid of rodents - but you may not like to see your cat stalking and killing a sweet little finch!  You can put a collar with a bell on to try and lessen your cat's hunting chances, but it is the cat's instinct to be a predator. 

Cat's have no road sense.  If you live anywhere near a main or fast road you will have to either accept a cat is not for you, or be prepared to find your cat dead or dying having been hit by a car.  The other option is to keep it indoors (cats do not understand garden boundaries, and will set their own territory!)