It wonderful when a child grows up in the company of cats. Our feline friends have so much to offer, from a listening ear and quiet companionship to the gift of joy and laughter. Indeed, the child that learns to love and cherish another living creature, learns a valuable lesson for life.
But kids can be noisy, boisterous, and intimidating to our fur-friends. Whilst all cats are individuals, and purr-sonalites varies within a breed, you can increase the chances of a harmonious household by choosing a breed with a reputation for being placid and tolerant, rather than a highly strung spitfire.
Even with the best parenting skills in the world, kids can be a handful — for you and for a cat who doesn’t understand what’s going on. With this in mind you need to choose a breed that has a naturally laid back character so that when the going gets tough, all she does is find somewhere to sleep.
Your ideal kid-friendly cat should be:
- Noise tolerant
- Not territorial
- Enjoy attention
- Like being handled
Selecting a Kitten
You’ve selected the ideal breed, now to find the individual who will fit in purr-fectly. Choose a breeder who raises kittens in a home environment and whose kittens are handled daily by a wide range of people. This helps the young cat to be self-confident and less liable to be aggressive when out of their comfort zone.
Best Cat Breeds for Kids
- American Shorthair: The amiable American Shorthair has a reputation for being affectionate, easy going, and playful, which sounds about perfect for a family pet. Descended originally from the working cats brought from Europe to North America by the first settlers, their modern day descendants are muscular and robust making them better able to cope with kids.
- Burmese: As well as having a delightfully soft velvet coat, the Burmese is said to be the cat that’s most like a dog. She loves being around people, is eager to please, and thrives on cuddles and love. A well-socialised Burmese is close to bombproof with kids and will prove a loving companion for years.
- Birman: The distinctive looking Birman with their long silky fur and distinctive dark mask and white gloved paws, also has a beautiful temperament. Fans of the Birman put them on a pedestal as the perfect pet, citing their loving nature and sense of curiosity as evidence. Bred as companion cats they are easy-going but intelligent, creating a cat that is responsive and fun, but gentle and laid back.
- Exotic Shorthair: This breed is another that is considered almost dog-like for their love company and how they follow you from room to room. They love toys and playtime, but when their ‘mad half hour’ is over, they also love to snuggle on a lap. A well-adjusted exotic shorthair is hard to rile and loves lying upside down in your arms.
- Maine Coon: A big cat with an even bigger personality, which is exceedingly friendly and a real gentle giant. Highly adaptable the Maine Coon is happy to have company, and as likely to make friends with the family dog, children, or other cats.
- Ragdoll: Known for being affectionate, the more love you give a ragdoll the more they give back. Not for nothing are they called ragdolls, with their love of being cradled in your arms. However, the ragdoll is not the most intelligent of breeds and can lack common sense when let out, so is best as an indoor cat.
- Adult Rescue Cat: Breed is just one way of predicting the personality of an adult cat. Don’t overlook the wonderful, affectionate, and loving shelter cats in desperate need of fur-ever homes. With these cats there are no nasty surprises as you get to meet and interact with the adult and see if they are a good fit with you and your family before you take them home.
Even the most even-tempered cat cannot be expected to tolerate teasing and rough handling, so every cat guardian has a responsibility to teach their child respect. For the youngest this means learning that a cat is a living creature with feelings and needs, rather than a cuddly toy. The child needs to understand that a pulled tail causes pain and could end with them being bitten or scratched. It also means supervising your child and kitten at all times, because it’s not fair to place the responsibility for behaving well on such young creatures.
For the slightly older child it’s about learning to sit still and let the cat come to you. It’s about moving slowly and talking in a quiet voice and about helping out with feeding and grooming, so as to learn the satisfaction of caring for another living being.
The following points are important is ensuring a harmonious relationship between kids and cats:
- Never corner a cat: Teach the child how to leave a clear escape route out of the room, so that the cat can leave if she feels overwhelmed. Cats don’t want to scratch or bite and only do so when backed into a corner.
- Let the cat come to you: You can’t force friendship on a cat, but to win trust means letting her come to you on her terms.
- Play with toys on strings: Keep small fingers out of harm’s way by playing with wings-on-strings.
Do you have a favourite breed that you think makes an ideal children’s pet? We’d love to hear your recommendations on the best cat breeds for families with kids.