5 Yr Old Wants a Kitty

Updated on May 19, 2008
T.B. asks from Boise, ID
25 answers

Ok so my kids and I watched Animal Planet a few days ago. Now my 5 yr old wants to get a kitty. Hubby and I are still talking about it. My question is would it be better to get a kitten or an adult cat? I am thinking that if we do get one that we would get one from the local shelter. But after looking at their cats I am not sure which would be better for my family. I don't mind training kittens. I just want to know what would be best for the kids. We live by a busy road so it would be an inside cat.

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K.K.

answers from Missoula on

A shelter I worked for had a rule of no kittens under 6 months to families with children under 6 years. I think this works really well as I have done privite rescue for a number of years as well. It means much less stress for everyone (Mom and kitten especially). My suggestion would be to go through a shelter or rescue group that has cats/ kittens in foster homes(ask around every area- no matter how small or remote- has atleast one ) This way they get a better feel for the personalities of the animal and many foster homes have children so the cats are already socialized to kids. A six month old kitten is still rather small and should please kids that really want a kitten -with a little less risk to the kitten. Good Luck !

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H.W.

answers from Boise on

The thing about a kitten is that you don't know what their perosonality will be like as an adult cat- that's what my problem is. I've had my cat since she was 10 wks, and she's now about 2.5 years. She was a very cute kitten, already trained and fixed, but her personality now isn't very good with my 21 month old. They do okay, enough to hang on to the cat, but I wish she was a little less grumpy (the cat). I would suggest buying a full grown cat so you can easily get the temprament you're looking for. There's nothing like a dissapointed 5 year old because their cat won't play with them...good luck!

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V.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Dear T.,

I loved my kitten so much growing up. But I was almost 9 or 10 when my older sister brought her home. Kittens are wonderfully fun, until you get clawed!! And kids don't often understand that toes are free game to a kitten, so are all their toys. I will highly suggest getting a cat that is a little older, not ancient (mine lived until she was 17 and then she was only struck by a car and would have lived forever otherwise!) Some cats, just like dogs get ornery when they get older. So get a goo shelter cat. They might not be pretty, but they need a good home and your children need a cat that isn't too young.

That's my two cents! Hope that helps!

V.
mom of 1 dd age 6, and one large furrbaby Blue ( will be 1 yr in july. Weimaraner) Shadow (cat, age 17 died dec 07) Egypt (cat, age 1 died feb 08) Married 8 years.

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A.P.

answers from Denver on

Pets are a big responsibility. I would start with a fish and see how the kids handle it. If that goes well --- then I would try the cat/kitten. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With an adult cat --- it is already trained. But it might not like kids. With a kitten --- you have to train it. But, it will get used to the kids. Either way, get the cat/kitten from a local animal shelter and make sure it is spayed/neutered and declawed at least in the front. We used to have two dogs and a cat. I was so busy with the kids that I didn't have time to pay attention to the pets beyond feeding them. One dog and the cat have since died. When our remaining dog dies, my husband and I have agreed that we won't get another pet until the children want one and are old enough to take care of it themselves. Kids are really good about seeing something and saying they want it. But that will pass.

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C.L.

answers from Provo on

I would say go with a kitten and check ksl.com a craigslist.org for kittens people give away. I say go kitten because they are more kid friendly sometimes, like our two year old can squeal all she wants in the kittens face and the kittne doesnt run away like our adult cat does, so our daughter still gets to pet the cat after being excited to see it. Cats are pretty fast learners on the cat box deal, so that shouldn't be a problem if you remember to keep it clean. Also consider declawing if it is indoor online, ours are all declawed and incredibly playful with the kids because they know they can't hurt them.

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J.S.

answers from Denver on

I can see you've already gotten a lot of response on this one, but wanted to share my experience since I've done both. I had a cat before I was married, and she was about 8 when my son was born. Both of them adjusted just fine, but my adult cat is naturally very loving and mellow - which is the reason I picked her from the shelter - and she instictively wants to take care of everyone. We then adopted a kitten when my son was about 18 months. She was a handful simply because she was an active kitten, but I think she adjusted to my toddler better than an adult cat because she has never known anything else. She has occasionally scratched him, and is not very loving, but she puts up with a lot (being carried/dragged by a child, sometimes hard petting, loud noises, etc.).

I think you could go with either a kitten or an adult - if you go with the adult make sure you take the time to find one with a mellow, friendly personality and not just pick the cutest one :) And I liked someone else's suggestion about a place for the cat to get away - our cats are both indoor cats now and have a high scratching post that everyone knows is their place, so when they jump or climb up there we have to just say hi and leave them alone.

Good luck!

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A.J.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I've been a vet tech for about 10 years now, and I have to tell you that whatever you decide to get...please, please, please take the cat to your vet BEFORE you introduce it to your kids!! It is great to get cats from the shelter, it really does save lives, but so many of them get very sick while they are there. You would really hate to have your kids get attached to a new kitty just to have to return it. That said, I would get a kitten. They pretty much litter box train themselves, you just show them where it is once or twice and they've got it...lots easier than puppies!! Plus they will be more likely to adjust well to your kids. Some cats will urinate all over when they get stressed out, and kittens just go with the flow because they don't know any better. Plus a kitten will live longer, so you won't have to have the talk about why you had to put your cat to sleep until they are older.

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J.J.

answers from Colorado Springs on

I have a 6 yr old and a 2 yr old. We got a kitten from the shelter when he was 8-10 weeks old. I had forgotten how rotten a kitten can be! He has done more than his share of stalking my kids, pouncing on my kids, scratching my kids and biting my kids. We have shed many tears. However, they adore him. My six year old has even said that she loves him even when he's biting her. He just turned 1 and seems to be turning the corner into mellow kitty mode. I don't know if I would go the kitten route again, though the risk of bad behavior in an adult cat is what led us to this in the first place.
Not exactly a solution for you, but some things to think about.
Adult or kitten, I do believe that having a pet is a remarkable experience for a child, and a great responsibility-teaching tool for a parent.
Good luck!
Jen
P.S. Our vet gave us a great piece of advice: never tempt your cat to play by wiggling your fingers, always use a toy so that the kitty is not constantly going after your tender little digits! This also gives you the chance to throw the toy across the room once kitty gets too excited!

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J.M.

answers from Denver on

Hi there,

my husband and I have 4 cats and are expecting our first child in October. From years of living with cats and being connected to a variety of cat welfare groups, I would recommend a "teenage" cat, somewhere between 6 months and a year and half.

A young kitten doesn't have the skill and coordination to interact with younger children (including to get away when your toddler wants to pull the kitten's tail) and younger kids don't understand yet that they might be playing too roughly. Scratches and injuries to both kids and kitten can result. A "teenage" cat is big enough to get away when appropriate but also very active and interested in play with strings, balls, toy mice, etc. An older cat is less interested in play and not as adaptable and exciting. As other people have mentioned, kittens are a lot more work because they get into everything and want lots of play and attention. A "teenage" cat has started to get a bit more independent but is still quite involved.

I would recommend taking your kids with you when you choose the cat. You want a cat that doesn't get scared of the children and that likes to be touched and carried around. Make sure to help your kids learn how to pick up a cat and respect that sometimes the cat won't want to play. An easygoing and friendly cat will tell the kids this by moving away, followed by mild hissing and growling, and eventually possibly a scratch if they aren't being listened to. If everybody learns to respect each other then cats can be wonderful pets for kids.

I would definitely emphasize that hands are not toys and use strings, cat "fishing poles", and so on because this avoids many scratches. Hands should be for love and petting. I would also recommend making sure that there are places the cat can get away from the kids when he or she needs a break...a high shelf or cat tree where they can watch what's going on, a closet with a cat door that is otherwise locked, or something similar that works with your home and lifestyle. This gives the cat a break when they need it and means they are much happier when they really do want to play. Good scratching posts that are treated with catnip and used as part of play can really help behavior too. We actually have one in most rooms so that there is always one for the cat to scratch.

Oh, I might also recommend making sure nobody is allergic to cats in your house. It would be horrible to find just the right cat, bring it home and have sneezing, itchy eyes, and hives be the result. Having to return the cat would be hard!

Anyway, those are my thoughts. I love cats and am always happy to share stories and advice!

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I know that at least one shelter/animal rescue and adoption group in our area flat out won't adopt kittens to families with kids under 5. The reason they gave is that young children are much more rough and a kitten may not be able to tolerate that.
We got our cat when our youngest was 20 months. The cat was about 3 or 4 at the time. This is how we chose him: we went to a local adoption center with the kids and walked around looking at the cats. Most of them withdrew from the noise/comotion and mannerisms of a young family. Finally my youngest walked up to the cage of this big white cat and my first thought was 'not that one for sure. he's so big' But when the cat took one look and rubbed up against the cage by my son I knew he was the right one. He has been with us for over 3 years and has been very gentle and loving and patient with the kids. So really he chose us.
My point in all this is, take your time and make sure that you get the RIGHT animal for your family. You may have to go back several times, or check with a variety of adoption centers. Just don't be in a hurry and end up picking one just to take a cat home this time.

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J.P.

answers from Colorado Springs on

I have 3 daughters ages 3,6, and 8. We just got a kitten 1 week ago...she is now 9 weeks old. Our 3 year old tends to be pretty rough with the kitty which usually ends in the kitty trying to get away and my daughter having a scratched up face. My 6 and 8 year olds are more gentle and so the kitty is more gentle. The only "problem"(if you want to call it a problem)with having a kitten and not an adult is that the kitten is far more playful(kind of rough playing) than an adult, which will have outgrown this stage more. Our kitten bites a lot which we expect will decrease with age, as she's in that teething kind of stage right now. She chews mine and my husband's feet all night and we feel like we just brought home a new baby...we are actually tired!! If you don't mind going through the "I'm going to chase you own the hallway and attack your feet" stage, then get a kitten. It is nice that the kids will have grown up with her since she was a little thing. Also...the kitten is still able to fit in doll clothes(poor kitty) and let's the kids do things like that to her. Can't see that happening with an adult cat.

Kitten= scratching, biting, chasing, and wardrobe changes.

Adult Cat= I can use the litter box, pet me.

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D.F.

answers from Pueblo on

Good for you to be looking for shelter cats!!
Two sides to the coin:
Adult cats are the ones most people don't want because, well, they're adults! They give fantastic love and attention because they're truly grateful. They're already house & litter trained and easier to correct when learning the rules of a new home. They're not going to scratch and climb on everything. They're wonderful! The downside is that you might have to watch them with your kiddo since they're a little less tolerant. The shelter will (or, at least SHOULD) let you spend time in a room with the cat you choose and will advise you as to whether the cat is good with kids, so that can help.
Kittens are great because they're babies, grow with your baby, teach a different kind of responsibility, and provide hours of entertainment. Coming from the shelter a kitten will already be litter trained, but will definitely need to learn not to climb on and scratch everything. They're great with kids because they're still little, themselves. They have an entire lifetime of love to give. The downside is definitely the scratching and climbing, the fact they're easier to injure by a young child, and that you may have to REALLY reinforce the litter box (but that's a huge maybe, not a big worry).

The best thing is to keep an eye out and let the cat or kitten choose you. When it's right, it'll happen. But don't forget that cats live a very long time, so this is definitely a lifetime committment! Oh, and please make sure arrangements are made for your pet in case something happens to you. Definitely worth it to have a pet in the home! :)

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K.J.

answers from Salt Lake City on

my opinion is kittens are the best when raising children. if the shelter is your option. find out what background you can about the cat, if good with children, see which one gets along with your child/children, and go with your gut feeling. sometimes older cats are ok, though kittens are great in the fact that they grow up with your family.

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L.P.

answers from Denver on

Hi T.
I have a 2 yr. old and a 10 yr. old and we just got 2 kittens. I thought kittens were the way to go so that the kids and cats could grow up together and be used to each other. I didn't want a older cat set in its ways that would be grouchy toward the toddler. Im glad we did it this way. the kittens were potty trained in a matter of days. The sleep in the laundry room, eat and go potty there for now so at night we just lock them in and then we dont have to worry about them waking us up like dogs, they are fine there all night and are minimal work. The kids are great with them and my daughter does the cat box. Everyone seems to get along great! I totally wanted to get them from a shelter however most were not helpful at all and the process to adopt or to even see the cat was a hassle not to mention the web sites were not up to date as to what was available so I started going around to vets and asking if they had anything and one did and that is how we got our 2 new additions. Hope that helps a little

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S.O.

answers from Omaha on

My children have been born into houses with cats. We were lucky that with our baby we didn't have kittens. If you have one that is a toddler and a baby that is walking around I would get a cat about a year old or a little more. They are a lot sturdier then a kitten and have less of a chance to get hurt if they are fallen on. Also less likely to scratch or bite while playing or when tail or fur is pulled. We live in Idaho Falls and their shelter is great. They have a couch that is the cat room so you can sit and hold the cat your interested in and get to know them a bit. Keep in mind though that a cat may be shy at first. We have the most beautiful Maine Coon cat 18 libs of beautiful sweetness. He was so shy when we saw him at a Humane Society thrift store you couldn't even pet him. I got him at a discounted price because they had had him for several months and couldn't get him a home because of this. We brought Angus P home and let him be for a couple of days. He is the most wonderful cat in the world and not a shy bone in his body. He was just scared. I hope you are lucky enough to find your own Angus P. He even purrs when our baby grabs his tail and fur. We are now trying to teach an 11 month old not to do that. LOL GOod luck

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T.K.

answers from Denver on

I'm not sure if you're in Boulder or not, but if you are, I have a beautiful 9 month old cat who's looking for a home. He's a beautiful sable color, loves kids and lots of hugs, is totally house trained (but loves to go outside) and he would be perfect for a five year old who wants a companion and is ready to take on the responsibility of an animal. We found him as a baby in the woods, abandoned and crying, and brought him home to care for him, always intending to find him a home. Of course, we fell in love and kept him, but now we're moving and can't take him with us. Please let me know if you are interested...

T.
[email protected]____.com

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M.N.

answers from Denver on

I would go for a kitten because the shelter estimate adult cats life and theres no guarantee how long the cat will survive. As for potty training cats they usually learn fast and have the instinct once they know where the kitty litter is. I hope this helps and gl.

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M.L.

answers from Denver on

hello,
we made the decision to get a cat when my daughter was 22 months old and i was pregnant with my second. i was so worried that we were going to get one of those cats that hides from everyone and doesn't like kids. it took us awhile, but what we did was payton got to hold every kitten we looked (you know the way little kids hold animals by the underarms and neck) and fiannly we ran across one that just hung there. he let payton carry him all over and never once tried to get away. so that was the cat for us. also we started from the time we got him home, gently pulling his tail and tugging on his ears. we did this because we figured once the new baby started crawling the cat might not like the new baby trying to pet him. well my sone is now 15 months old and he is all over this cat and the cat just lays there and has never scratched or hissed at. the cat also likes to be anywhere the kids are. when they are playing he is in the room too either laying and wathcing the kids or he is in the business trying to play too..
so the best advise i could give is yes get kitten and then let all the kids love on it.

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K.R.

answers from Cheyenne on

I think it is wonderful that you want to adopt a cat from the pound. The only thing is that you have to be careful with an adult cat. Your child is going to want to pick the cat up, and carry it around. An adult cat from the pound might not want to picked up or carried around. A kitten on the other hand will be much easier to handle for a 5 yr old. Plus it is more adapt to get use to the attention of a 5 yr old then an adult cat would.

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C.W.

answers from Provo on

It would probably be best to get a kitten. Then it will grow up knowing your family and getting used to you.It will be easier to train than a cat set in its ways. Be sure to teach the child to respect the kitty and not chase it or frighten it. It will become his pal.
Your plan to keep it in is a good one. We have lost a lot of cats to the highway over the years.We have two 14 year old cats right now, but they have survived by being unusually wary cats.

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C.C.

answers from Salt Lake City on

I just went through this...my biggest concern was how to garuantee I got a cat that liked dogs...or at least knew how to tolerate and avoid. anyway I looked on KSL a local classified add and found a lady who was sad about giving up her kitten/cat (10 months) because of grandson's allergies. The kitten had been around dogs since it was a baby. It worked out great for me because while still young the kitten is already house broken. and I didn't have to wonder how old she really was. I was ready to go to the shelter to rescue a cat but figured taking one before it got to the shelter was just as good, and better in the sense it hadn't gone through that drama. I've had my cat for about a month now and it has worked out great. The lady also posted the cat was great with small kids. My 2 year old carries her around the house and she isn't declawed but doesn't scratch her. just tolerates and runs when she is put down. lol. I don't know if you have a classified there in ID but I would recommend checking it out if you can. Another bonus...my cat was free.

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S.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi-- Good for you for considering a rescue cat. I volunteered for a pet rescue group before becoming a mom. The age of cat you choose depends a lot on your patience level and your child's maturity level. In my experience, kids under about age 8 are just not as gentle with baby kittens as they mean to be. . . little kittens *are* still babies, after all, and need to be handled pretty gently. There is also the issue of learning to use those new claws for climbing and swatting, as well as spending at least a few days figuring out exactly where their litter box is. Kittens are fun, but more work and would require a lot more commitment and supervision from you even beyond the initial adjustment period.
With an adult cat, you know exactly what you're getting into, and lots of the long-overlooked cats in rescue are fabulous with children! Our cat (also an inside cat)was two when we adopted him and he is so affectionate with the kids we joke he's part golden retriever! And he was a stray found on the railroad tracks! My two-year-old puts hats on him sometimes, and when he's had enough he just runs and hides for awhile, but has never gotten mad enough to scratch (although I'd step in and advocate for him if I saw he was really being tortured.) Lots of the adult cats are already totally box-trained and don't feel compelled to try our their claws on everything. You can also see the sort of fur they have and evaluate how much grooming they'll need; with little baby kittens, sometimes you can't tell exactly how long-haired that fuzzy kitty will beocme. At a recent pet adoption event I saw a sign on a cat's crate that said "Cats are just kittens with finesse!" It's true, and an adult cat is worth considering.
You might like to look at www.utahpets.org or www.petfinder.org to look at different cats in your area shelters and rescue groups. Rescue groups are great because they have cats in foster home situations and can often tell you more about each one's personality and background. Plus, since rescues are typically no-euthanasia, that can take the pressure and stress of choosing, knowing you're not sentencing a furry friend to death if it's not a good match for your family.
Adopting from a shelter or rescue group is typically a good deal, too, since your pet will be current on all vaccines and already be spayed or neutered, which is so important is reducing unwanted behaviors as well as reducing the homeless pet population.
Also, I would discourage declawing--it's a really brutal surgery that removed the end of each toe from the first joint--kind of like if a human has the end of each finger cut off--and it's linked with lots of troublesome behavior problems. Many declawed cats refuse to dig in their litter box since their balance is impaired and their feet hurt for so long, and many resort to biting whenever they feel remotely threatened because they are a bit high-strung without having an defenses. There are far more humane ways to save your furniture, including nail caps, offering an appealing scratching post and simple training with a spray bottle of water if unwanted furniture scratching persists. (Personally, I have a house full of leather furniture and a fully-armed cat, and everyone is fine.)
This time of year is the height of kitten season, so all rescue groups will be full of kitties of all ages. Make the best choice for your famiy, but don't overlook the adult cats just because they are not as cute as the babies--they could be the perfect fit.
Good luck!

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A.K.

answers from Pocatello on

I would say get a kitten from somewhere you trust. Cats have a lot of diseases, and an adult cat could have some you don't know about. Give it its shots and treat it for fleas and other insects. If it is an inside cat, than have it declawed or say good-bye to your arms, legs and furniture. Box training a kitten isn't hard, but it takes time.

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M.O.

answers from Denver on

When my boy/girl twins were 6, we got a Siamese kitten, "Ping Pong". As it turned out, the kitten was 12 weeks old, so he was not really tiny. My advice it to go with a kitten with a gentle nature. Kittens grow very quickly and our cat now fits our famliy beautifully. We also have a black lab, the two animals get along great.

Ping Pong has been a wonderful addtion to our family. The kids love him, sleep with him, and play with him constantly.

FYI - He was declawed and netured very young with no problem

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K.M.

answers from Fort Collins on

I have 3 adult cats that we had before children, and one kitten. Well, the kitten is no longer a baby, but still acts like one. We decided to get a kitten because my middle child loves cats, and our adult cats weren't to fond of being handled by kids. We got a kitten for her, when she was 2 years old. The benefits of having a kitten, is the bond and tolerance she has with the kids. She really loves the kids, unlike the other cats who run and hide when they see kids coming.
Now as for the disadvantages, a kitten was a lot of work! I had to be on constant guard of the kitten's safety (not allowing the kids to hurt her) and the kids safety (getting clawed, finding the litter box and playing in it like it's a sandbox).

It depends on the cat, some adult cats might be fine with your kids, but kittens (in my opinion) might be more fun to play with and be more tolerant of the kiddos. Our "kitten" is so much fun to be around with and so lovable.

If you decide on a kitten I would try to find a playful, brave, stocky kitten over a quiet, scared, tiny kitten.

Good luck on your cat/kitten adventure!!
K.

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