Rugrats and Kitty Cats:
Best Cat Breeds for Children
When I was growing up, we got our cat McCarthy the old-fashioned way. Our neighbor pawned him off on us.
Well, actually, the neighbor was pretty creative when getting rid of her cat's litter. She gave the kittens as prizes at her daughter's Halloween party. My sister, winner of "Funniest Costume," came home with the purring gray "trophy."
People get cats in many ways. Some are adopted from shelters, others are given away by neighbors and friends, others are posted as ads in the paper. There are even some cats that choose us, following us home and right into our hearts.
Often, we don't have a choice when it comes to breed. But when a family with young children is considering adding a furry new member, breed can be an important factor in deciding what cat will be the "purrfect" fit.
"I don't believe there is a 'best' breed of cat for families," says cat expert Michele C. Hollow of PetNewsandViews.com. "It's not the breed, it's the upbringing. Families need to be patient, kind and loving to their pets. They also need to train their cats to behave properly."
"Over the years, cats may have received a bum rap for not doing well around children," agrees Kelley Weir, spokesperson for the American Humane Association.
Weir adds that breed contributes to the cat's "purrsonality," so some breeds tend to fair better around children than others. She cites the AHA resource book, "The Top Ten Cats For Kids" by Dana Meachan Rau as a good starting point when researching potential new family members.
One of the most popular cat breeds, the Persian, is also known for its calm, affectionate nature which makes it a natural for families with children. "Persians are quite placid and love children. They even get along with dogs, and can sit on a lap for hours at a time," says Hollow. This ancient breed is worth a look when you're cat-hunting.
The Siamese cats in Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" may seem scary, but in reality this breed does well in a busy household. Children enjoy them because they "talk" a lot and are quite playful. Be warned, however – Siamese cats are very energetic and require attention and space to play (sounds a lot like your children!).
A bit more quiet – but just as family-friendly – is the Ragdoll, a newer breed that is named for its ability to go limp when it is picked up. Calm and loving, the ragdoll can be playful but low energy, and becomes very attached to its owner. They are large, gentle and generally quiet cats.
Another large cat, the Main Coon, scores high grades for "playing well with others." They are recognized by their easygoing nature as well as their bushy, raccoon-like tail and distinctive chirping voice. "Main Coons love laps," says Hollow, adding, "They love to play fetch, and get along well with children, dogs and other cats."
Also highly recommended is the American Shorthair, which are playful, curious and smart. They are also energetic and do best in a spacious environment which allows them to run, jump and play with their young owners. And though they don't have nine lives, the American Shorthair tends to live into its twenties, making it a perfect long-time companion for a child growing up.
Abyssinians score big points with families because of their athletic ability and intelligence. Curious climbers, Abyssinians will follow their owner and investigate anything you bring into the house. They are quiet cats, rarely meowing, but will make their love for you known by their devotion and their desire to play.
According to Weir, other family-friendly breeds include the mellow Manx, the easily-frightened Russian Blue and the Tonkinese, a curious breed that craves company. But don't rule out the mixed breeds – like the one my neighbor graced on my family so many years ago.
"Mixed breeds like those available at the local shelter are great," says Hollow. "There is an overabundance of stray cats, so purchasing one from a local shelter is the best option." Because of the blend of breeds represented, each mixed breed cat is different – just like the family that takes it home and makes it part of the household. So just choose the cat that seems most comfortable with your brood, then enjoy getting to know each other!