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Cats as Pets for Children

Some thoughts on Cats

It is said that some people are cat people, and some people are dog people.  I don't know if I go along with that, having happily given house room to both over the years.  One thing for sure, cats do have their own distinct personalities centering around their independence, and it is this feature that makes them unattractive as pets to some, as well as their hunting instinct which results in them catching and tormenting mice and birds
Cat in Tree
Young boy with pet cat
Young girl with pet cat

A cat as a child's pet

Children love cats - they are just the right size to be picked up and cuddled, in many ways resembling a living teddy bear.  Kittens are so sweet and adorable - no child can resist them! 

What is the best age for a child to have a cat as a pet?

Before the age of 10 a kitten introduced into the house will usually be very much the adult's responsibility.  Most cat's prefer the more gentle adult petting, rather than a child's rough play.  Adult supervision of a younger child's interaction with a new kitten will be necessary to prevent injury to either party - that said though, both will soon learn!

Cats have claws - and are not afraid to use them!   The level of tolerance a cat has for a child will depend upon the individual, and their experiences of children.  A cat or kitten which is picked up and mauled too much may well react by striking out whenever a child comes within range.  If your child is young you will have to ensure that they realise that this is a living animal with feelings, and not a cuddly toy, and therefore has to be treated gently, and with respect. 

Whilst a young child cannot be responsible for feeding or cleaning out the litter tray (if you have one) they can assist, and perhaps take over more of the duties as they grow.  But there is an education in learning to live with an animal - how to recognise the signals that a cat has had enough play or petting.  Having a living creature in your house and supervising a child's interaction can help nuture a child's empathy.

Careful thought should be given if you are introducing a cat or kitten to a household where there is a baby.  Unless you close doors firmly a cat will consider the whole of the house as its territory, and will choose the softest place to sleep.  This could be your baby's cot!  Although probably the actual incidences of an infant's death from being smothered by a cat is low, it is a risk which no parent would want to take.  Care must be taken if there is, or is going to be, a baby around.

The Independance of Cats

Cats are independant creatures.  Most are kept as outdoor cats and when let out of the house - and then may disappear for hours on end.  I know of a cat that disappeared for a year, only to return the day the owners were moving house!  It's hard to gauge, when you adopt a cat or kitten, exactly how much of a homely pet it will be.  Unless you buy a pedigree breed with a view to showing or breeding, all cats should be neutered to prevent indiscriminate breeding, and it also helps reduce their desire to roam far and wide.  That said, the sweet kitten you bought for your child might prefer an outdoor lifestyle, and rarely be home for those cuddles! 

You can keep a cat indoors but you will need to provide toys and stimulation for him.  This will obviously keep him safe and stop him from disappearing as soon as he's eaten his food!  It's relatively easy to bring up a kitten to be a house cat, but if you adopt an older cat from a sancturary then you may have problems trying to keep him satisfied living indoors if he's been used to wandering. 
Now read on:

What's Good and Bad about owning a Cat?
The Commitment involved in Owning a Cat
Should you Choose a Cat or Kitten?