Cats and Kids . . .

Updated on July 29, 2011
L.L. asks from Summerville, SC
22 answers

We are currently a pet free home (sadly) and my husband and I are trying to decide about our "pet future." We just lost our dog, and have been talking about getting a cat or 2 cats when our dog was no longer with us. Because our dog passed much younger than we expected, we are dealing with this when the kids are much younger than we had originally expected.

My husband is currently deployed, and we want to wait until he returns to actually get a cat - we want to let the kids adjust, and we will be relocating at that time too, so we want to wait until we are settled into a new place as well.

At that time (next spring) or children will be 3 years old and 1 year old, and we are done having kids. We will have 13 more years of military life (and moves) to go. My main conserns are what is best for the kids/cats combination considering the kids ages and our lifestyle.

So here are the basic questions we are debating:

- One cat or two?
- Adult or kitten?

The other big question is that my oldest is OBSESSED with cats and the timing we are considering will be coinsiding with her 3 year old birthday. Do we make this part of the birthday or have it be totally separate? In asking this I do not expect that a 3 yearold is truely ready to be a pet owner, and would never get her a cat at this age expecting her to really take care of it. But because we want to get a cat or cats anyway, I was thinking this could be fun for her to have some ownership and she could help with basic things like feeding dry food, playing with the cat, maybe help pick the name or other age appropriate involvement.

Any thoughts or advice on any of these issues would be appreciated. I love cats and have had many cats, but never in a household with small children before.

Thanks Mamas!!

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answers from Kansas City on

I would get two MALE kittens! I stress Male because in all the cats I have had and have been around they are much more laid back around kids. My female cat is good with my kids, but she does have her mood swings! My male kitty is awesome with my girls! He will lay on them, play with them, and lick them. He is the best cat ever!
I would not make it a birthday present, but you could say that since it is her birthday she gets to pick out the kitten(s) that you get.



answers from Washington DC on

I got my cat's as tiny baby kitties about 18 months before my son was born, so they were still very young, but big when he came around. He has always had them, so I don't really know what it would have been like to have waited.

I'd probably say get kittens (so that they grow up in a house with kids, rather than trying to find adult cats that LIKE kids) and I'd probably get two just because of the way my two cats pall around together.

When my son was little (he's 5 now) I kept "soft claws" (those little plastic caps that go over their claws... the vet can put them on for you, or you can do it... they fall off ever few weeks) on the kitties so that if they took a swat at him there was no damage done. If she's going to be "playing" with them, it'd be a good idea.


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answers from Honolulu on

ONE cat.

I have had cats.
Like all animals, it depends on the personality of the animal.
Some animals, do not like children, because children make noises and unexpected movements and grab and swat and are unnerving.

The thing is: TAKE your children WITH you, to a Human Society or animal shelter, sit in the cat room... and hang out a bit. See which cats, NATURALLY approach your children and you and seem to 'like' you.

Young children, will not take care of animals nor know how. You teach them.
AND you will be the Primary care-taker of the pets or pet.
So know that.
And having a pet costs money... physicals, cat litter, toys, food etc.
But cats are great. I love them.
My cats, were wild stray cats and I tamed them, and they were the nicest most mellow cats, I've had.

Again, go WITH YOUR KIDS, to the animal shelter... and sit with the cats for awhile.... I mean, like 1 hour or more. See which cats, are naturally... prone to you AND the kids.
And per personality, of the cats.
Some are hyper, some are mellow.
Just like people.
Some cats, do not like, being handled at all, too.
And some cats... DO NOT LIKE, "playing" with kids.
So, gauge the cat.

Start with ONE cat.
YOU have to acclimate to it too.
And learn to take care of it.
That is easier, with one cat, at first.
Don't go full on getting more than 1 cat at first.
Start... slow.

Keep in mind, if a cat is 'hassled' and irked... it will, hiss and may scratch.
My cats, never ever did that.
But I know some that do.
So... gauge the cat... and their personality.
ASK the shelter workers too... which cat is good, with children....

ALSO, if YOUR kids are rough or hyper or whatever... you have to consider that too. Because, kids can, irk an animal.
And it is not their fault.

And, have your cat spayed or neutered.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Kitten---cats can hurt adults and really hurt a little kid. I love my son's cat and I'm taking care of him for a while. The cat is really loving and he purrs away but if you rub him the wrong way, he will stick a claw into you and run as fast as he can. (Other cat lovers/owners will tell you the same thing). Cat's can draw FIRST blood before you can BLINK.

If you get a tiny kitten and start training your child and your kitten together (TO BE GENTLE), it will be fine. Still, keep the claws filed because a CAT is a CAT.

I'm sure you miss your dog, I lost mine in January after 16 years of companionship and I miss him everyday.


2 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Definitely include the three year old in the decision to an extent. Kittenhood is short and I will confess that while I love cats I think kittens are a lot for households especially ones with kids. I am as close to both of my cats that I got when they were adults as I can be to any cat that I had previously since kittenhood so I don't think that is entirely necessary to get a kitten. Petfinder has an awesome feature that you can look up cats by type including color and gender and they also indicate if a cat would do poorly in a household with kids. In my experience orange tabby boys love everyone (so there is so truth to Puss in Boots a la Shrek) our orange tabby guy loves the kids and would do anything for them and let them do the whole dress up and cuddling thing with them too. I do like to have two cats because they often seem to like it and it gives the cat someone to wrestle or cuddle with when the kids are at school. The nice thing there is too pet finder often has adult cats listed who want to stay in the same home together and they generally do great with a new family as long as they are together. For the birthday I would give the child a cat collar or cat carrier and let her know when you will go looking for a cat. Presenting it at a party could be traumatic for the cat and would leave her out of the all important guided decision making Good luck

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answers from Youngstown on

My daughter is obsessed with cats too! So we got her a kitten 3 weeks ago (my daughter just turned 3). The first 3 weeks went great. The kitty is really tolerant and laid back and it took a few days, but my daughter got the hang of being gentle with the kitty. Things were going well. Until 2 days ago. We put my daughter in daycare (for the first time in her life) and I don't know if she needed some extra reassurance or what, but my daughter got really clingy with the kitty. She was wanting to hold her and carry her EVERYWHERE. Well, I think the kitty had enough, and scratched the heck out of my daughters arm. And the kitty bit her. So I have to take my daughter back to daycare tomorrow and her little arm is all scratched up. I feel horrible. I wish I would have waited until my child was older, or maybe if we had gotten an older cat from a shelter (one that was already declawed). I have learned the hard way that a kitty (with very sharp kitty claws and very sharp kitty teeth) is not a good playmate for a 3 year old.

I suggest an older kitty (not an old cat, just not a kitten). Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

First, and you probably know this: Having a pet is a lifetime commitment so whatever you choose, make sure you are firmly committed and life is stable including your finances because pets are expensive. Make sure you try to adopt from a shelter since there are so many homeless and unwanted pets.

I am always for getting the pet a "companion" too. Seeing two dogs play or two cats play is very cool and a human cannot mimc it.

No, do not make a pet a gift, in my view. I know it is tempting because of how much the child wants the pet but really, this is a new member of the family.

Little kittens will teeth and could bite and not really know any better. Adults are probably easier in a way. You could get a 9 month old to a year which might make it a compromise if you are in the middle.

I don't like the term "pet owner". It may sound nitpicky but we own things and discard them so I think the "pet companion" where they share our life with us and vice versa.

I'm not into the declawing because I think it is cruel and inhumane. It's not a fingernail they are amputating, it is basically the cat's top knuckle. If you choose a declawed cat, get one from a rescue group that is already declawed. You can trim the nails and get a scratch post.

I think it is nice that you want to have your child help with the pet. But don't expect it to last because you are ultimately making the choice. Child wants living pet. Mommy gets living pet and wants child to help. Child stops wanting to help and think about what your expectations are of your daughter and if she chooses not to feed, play or groom the cat?

It's good you are putting some thought into this though. So many people don't and that is why there are 5,000,000 pets killed each year because they are unwanted companion animals. sad...

go to the aspca website on pets and kids.

And Thank you for your sacrifices and your husband for serving our country.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

I like the idea of an older, mellowed out cat rather than a feisty kitten with kids that young. My cat was 14 this year before she had to be put down so she was about 7 when my oldest was born. She was the best! The kids could do anything to her and she NEVER bit or scratched them. Go to your local shelter and see if they have an older cat (not too old to play!) that is used to kids. Then get a kitten in a couple of years when the kids are a little older.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

We got our first cat before my oldest was born. Nothing phased that cat. Still I think it was the cat's personality not cats in general. Stinky, our new cat, used to be a farm cat. My older daughter brought her home and kinda hid him for a bit. Don't go aww cute, she was 16 at the time. Anyway my younger daughter carried him around in an uncat like manner since he first came home. He takes it like a man. :p

Honestly all the advice you may get here means nothing. Every cat has a very unique personality. You just have to find the right cat for you.

Oh, the 16 year old named him, he is Stinky Hoosier III. Yeah, naming doesn't improve with age. :(

OOOh he is licking his butt on the end of our sofa, cats are soooo cute!!

Okay now he is getting wasted on cat nip.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

The birthday idea is great, we actually did that before and it turned out wonderfully. I would get a kitten. An older cat might pee everywhere. You can train the little one from day one, so that is all that it knows and what is expected. I have tried to get bigger cats from the pound throughout the years, and it has never worked out for us, although I'm sure it has been great for others. I just have zero tolerance for pee in the house so I suppose that is where my opinion comes from. Will picking the name of the cat be part of the perks for your daughter? I'm sure she would love that. Good luck to you.


answers from Portland on

I would get a cat that is older than a kitten, at least 5-6 months so that he/she is not as delicate if your then-3 yr old is rough. I would get the kitty after the bday b/c you don't want the then-3 yr old to be possessive of the cat. If you think she could handle it and not think it's just her kitty then go for it. I have 2 cats, the youngest was just weaned from mommy kitty and my daughter was 6 months. I kept the 2 of them separate until the kitten was older b/c at 6 months my daughter would NOT have been friendly lol. My daughter knows how to treat the cats (she's 2 1/2 years old) and never pulls their tails, jumps on em, etc. If you teach her every before the "rough" behavior happens (it naturally will) and then teach her if it happens then she will learn. When my daughter pesters them I tell her that the kitty doesn't like that and needs a break for a little bit. They have learned to run to the bathroom (there is a baby gate there b/c of the litter box)... always get a litter box with a snap on lid AND gate off the litter box. They WILL play with it haha. To my daughter it's like play sand.

I would also suggest a kitten (but older kitten) because a cat who doesn't do good with kids (even if they tell you he/she does) is set in their ways. Since it is a ways away start exposing them to cats now. Friends with cats? family? SPCA? start teaching them now (both of them even the baby can pick up on it through the first year) so it won't be a crash course in being nice :) I would definitely start with just one. Don't want to overload yourself. It's different before/after kids, I got my oldest cat before my daughter and there was a noticeable difference before/after she was born.

I agree with Jo, it's a lot of unique personality. Also, if you treat them like they are your own then they will most likely be very affectionate to all of you (both of mine are). Plus my cats box my daughter, not scratch. They swat her with claws in... personalities :)

I also agree with Toni V, I would look into the claw caps so it won't hurt the kids if the cat scratches.'



answers from New York on

We had 2 cats before my son was born. The cats adjusted very well to my son and have never ever hurt him or soiled his things. BUT, we also have a Persian and a Himalayan. The Himi is from a breeder and the Persian is from I would whole heartedly reccomend getting an adult cat from Petfinder. You already know their personality and you are doing a nice thing. I reccomend a Persian because although they do require brushing a few times a week and can't go outside, they are extremely tolerant of young children and very loving. Get a cat who is used to having its nailed clipped because you will really regret it if you don't clip the nails. It makes a huge difference because if your child is being "loving" with the cat, which sometimes can get rough, the cat my claw your child. Our son loves our cats and calls them his best friends. He is 3. You can get one or two, it depends on if the cat gets along with other cats. I would get one for now. We feed out cats dry food. We feed Purina One hairball. Do not feed wet since it rots their teeth. Definetly let the child help in picking a name. You could come up with a list of 3 and she could pick.



answers from Washington DC on

OK so my hubby deployed to Iraq and not only did I have a new cat in the house but another dog too, and a dshepherd at that. When he left for Afghanistan he made me promise NO MORE FURRY FRIENDS. So we got a firebellied toad.
We have three cats and three dogs, now many toads and two chinchillas that we are babysitting. He is always afraid to leave longer than a week. LOL

Get two cats when you get them.
Go to the pound and find cats that say they are good with kids, or get kittens and be sure to teach the kids about sharp parts, becasue cats do have sharp parts.



answers from San Diego on

ZERO! Ok, I know this sounds curmudgeonly, but every time I hear people with small children adopting pets, I think, "Are you nuts??" I'm so exhausted by the end of the day with my two children, I have absolutely no time to devote to my cats. My poor cats are so attention starved, I feel so sorry for them.

And if your husband is frequently deployed, that's just that much more work for you. I know you had a dog before, so you're used to it, but I'd seriously give myself a break if I were you. At the very least, wait until your youngest one is (fully) potty trained.

All that being said, if you are absolutely set on having pets, I'd say get two kittens from the same litter, if you can. They will be lifelong buddies, and two cats aren't much more work than one. But even one cat is much more work than none!


answers from Dallas on

Our experience...

Don't get a cat with them so little. We did that when my daughter turned three. We bought a kitten. It was a Burmese. It started off fine. We loved the cat. But our daughter was too young. We worked hard on her being gentle, but it was a constant struggle. She would get too rough (really fast!). We'd stop her as soon as we saw it, but then the cat started rough housing with her, and my daughter would end up with scratches and stuff. It was very frustrating. And it was a constant task to make sure she was being soft and kind (and she was a very sweet 3 yr old. She just didn't understand everything!). It was exhausting and not very fun...

I will never get a cat/kitten with small kids! A dog I would do because they are more obedient and it gives me more control in the situation. But with little kids, a cat doesn't work well for me. Actually, I wouldn't have a dog either. Just if I had to choose a dog or a cat, I would choose a dog. We are planning on a dog in several years when the kids are older. We want no toddlers. Maybe when the youngest is 3-4 years old we'd go for a dog...

But if you do it, you might like an older cat around your younger kids. But I LOVE kittens. It was just really challenging for us. And, I like the idea to tie it in with the bday. Good luck!


answers from Orlando on

We got 2 cats from the same litter when my son was 2ish and he fell in love wih his Wall-e cat :) and honestly we couldn't ask for a better pet for him. I know not all cats are like him but he has NEVER sratched or tried to bite my son even though he's pretty rough at times Wall-e even snuggles with him every night. They do make these plastic caps you super glue on to the claws so they can't scratch which I love... I love cats and I thnk they make great pets


answers from Tampa on

Separate from a birthday gift... animals should not be gifts, but a well thought out addition to a family.

2 cats, preferably littermates... males are usually more easy going and friendly. Don't forget to neuter and spay!

Get cats about 1 year old... they are past the worst of their rambunctiousness and destructive playing habits.

No, I would not expect a child under 5 to give any sort of actual care to an animal - tho they can definitely help you.

I've had my 6 original cats before I had my first child. Now I have 13 cats and daughter is 6 y/o and I'm about to have #2 any day now.



answers from Cleveland on

We got two cats for my children's birthday gifts (early for my daughter, as her birthday is 3 months after my son's). They loved it! And they love those cats so much!

Once, when my son's cat got out (they are indoor cats) and we couldn't find him for about 10 minutes, my son was near hysteria. After we opened the front door and found the cat sitting there waiting to come back in, and after he had settled down, my son said, "Mom, is that what you go through when you can't find me or J. at the store?" (Yes. Yes, sweetheart, it is.) "I'm sorry, Mom. I will never wander away again. That was awful!"

So, they can learn a lot from the cats, too! : )

But my only caution is..... get females, since you are going to be relocating so much. Cats do NOT like moving, and males will take to spraying. Even if they have been fixed! They will still spray, and it's gross! I admit, I've only ever had male cats over the last 20 years, so I don't know how females will react to the moves, but I don't think they will spray.

Good luck and enjoy!

ADDED: Pamela, Raven and Son - Really? 13 Cats?! Are you trying to be one of those "crazy cat lady"s you read about in the news? ; )



answers from Washington DC on

It really depends on the cat(s) and the personalities of the kids. I would take your kids to pick them out. Until recently, I have always had a multi-cat home. I got my first 2 kitties together and they were about 5 months old (they looked like they were 8 weeks because they were so malnourished). I got littermates so that they could have another cat to play with. I will say that my husband was like a 3 yo and liked to rough play, and these kitties did not appreciate it. They just stayed away from him for about 5 years. I had them both declawed to save my furniture and my sanity (but they do have back claws and can get you with them if they get stuck). I remember getting a kitten as a young child and always having scratches all over. It goes with the territory. Cats can't talk and that is how they will express being hurt by a child. Some older cats will do well with a small child and some will not. Personally, I would go with 2 kittens and teach your kids how to treat them, don't freak out over bites and scratches, and supervise them carefully. There was a show on Cats 101 on Animal Planet the other day on a family with 2 young kids adopting 2 young kittens. It went over how to select them with kids in mind, how to care for them. good luck!



answers from Miami on

Bah I've grown up with cats my whole life. We have three cats. Had three cats when my daughter was born. My daughter has grown up around cats and learned from an early age how to handle a cat. When to hug when not to hug. Its all about knowing what your doing and picking a cat with a personality that will match your families. I would take both your kids to the humane society and let the workers there bring in a few different cats. It doesnt necessary need to be a tiny kitten she can be a bit older. If you find one or two you seem to like and seem friendly put them on hold and come back the next day. They will help set you up with a local vet that can help with the vacinations. Please Please do not get the cat declawed. There is no need. If you teach the cat right it wont scratch your stuff up. Get it a scratching post. Cats are smart. Get one to start with. If you find your spending to much time away from the house get the cat another one for company



answers from New York on

It depends a bit on your kids and their personalities. We had an older cat (21 years old) who died last summer after being sick about a year. My kids were 4 years old and 18 months old at the time. We waited a year and are planning to get a cat in Sept. If you have a toddler who is reasonably calm and gentle in temperment then that is one thing. My daughter is younger and never bothered the cat too much (but the cat was old and sick and mostly hid). My son is a very loud/rough/active boy. It took until he was almost 4 before he could be gentle enough for our cat. We had cats as pets when I was a baby and toddler and my parents were able to teach me how to handle them safely. I'm not sure what your kids are like, especially the younger one. It might be good to wait until your little one is 2.5 to 3. With toddlers there is a huge difference between 1 or 1.5 and 2.5. That is my 2 cents at least.



answers from Austin on

Welllll I've had cats all my life, since I was like 4, I think...(mom didn't write the age of us on the back of the photo w/our 'first kittens'), may've been 5 yrs old but I think it's best, not only for the cat(s) but for everyone to wait til you move again & get settled if you plan to move soon. The cat may get stressed on a sudden move after trying to get used to your current residence just to hafta get used to a new house soon after. I think a kitten is okay, just remember, they're babies too but I think kittens w/small kids are good b/c they can grow together & they can learn early how to be responsible & being so young, a kitten compared to an adult cat, may not be as onry if little ones go to pull on their tails or play rough unintentionally as opposed to a kitten...kittens LUV to play & also, kitten teeth & claws don't hurt nearly as much as a grown cat's...although they're still SHARP just so ya know. On the other hand, you can find an adult cat that can be great w/small kids. I'd really like to say wait til they're older to get a cat or a least til the oldest is 4 or 5 b/c IMO, they'd be older & can undertand better when you explain to them how to take care of the cat/kitten, aka not to handle rough or play rough & IMO younger aged kids will be a lot more rough, like they might do playing w/their dolly not knowing really that kittens can't be played with rough, cats especially don't like rough handing in my experience but it's really your decision. If/when you choose, I'd suggest starting out w/a kitten, knowing cats like I do, I think they'd have a bit more fun w/a kitten b/c they're little & easier to manage/train & if you get 2 kittens, each child can have one but if you get a cat, I'd start out w/one simply b/c it's already grown & if the two cats don't know ea other, you hafta acclimate the cats to ea other before putting the cats together which can take upwards to a month sometimes & may be more stressful than what you'd like to start out with due to trying to acclimate the cats along w/making sure the kids don't let them get together prematurely along with trying to make the kids understand 'why' the cats hafta be separated for a while first whereas kittens seem to grow w/ea other & get along a lot easier, even if they're strangers IMO. Also, just so you know, I'm partial to Siamese & Siamese cousins (aka Colorpoint Shorthair, Javanese, Balinese, etc) but even though they're BEAUTIFUL, these cats demand a LOT of attention & will NOT leave you alone & they are TALKERS...they will NOT shut up, plus they can have issues like tooth loss & gum disease so I just thought I'd give you a heads up on that in case you didn't know that in the event you were drawn to one of those breeds. I've had no probs with tabbys or regular breeds of cats (same w/my friends that have cats) as far as they being independant & quieter -vs- attention needy like my past cat (1/2 Siamese) & my new one, (Colorpoint Shorthair). Just remember, try to avoid declawing tho b/c firstly it's extremely cruel & secondly, if the cat(s) escape out of the house somehow, they have no way to defend themselves, can't even climb trees to get away from danger & thirdly, sometimes if it's not done correctly, the cat may stop using the litter box b/c it hurts too much to dig in the litter & the dirty litter may infect the wounds so just remember that they CAN be trained REALLY easy to use a scratching post & to avoid your furniture. I've had NO problems w/it in all the years I've had cats & I'm 39 now & haven't had any time w/o a cat in 35 or so yrs!. Remember, cats are meant to have claws! Think about the cat's needs & its feelings regarding that, think of how you'd feel if you were the cat & someone declawed 'you'. Hope this helps!! If/when you get your new furry friends & have issues or questions, I'd be more than happy to give advice. I don't know everything but basics I can prob help with. Best of luck!

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