Cats are increasingly popular family pets, and it's easy to see why. Besides being intelligent and entertaining, they are small, adaptable, and tidy. Cats also fit in well with the busy lifestyle of today's families: They don't need to be walked, and depend less heavily on human company than dogs do. They can nap contentedly while you're at work and the kids are at school, then come alive at dinnertime and playtime.
Here are some of the practical pluses that make cats an attractive pet choice for many people:
These qualities, along with their independent nature, make cats less reliant on their owners than many other pets. This makes them a particularly good choice for anyone who:
No pet is ideal for everyone, and that includes cats. Whether you should bring a cat -- or any animal -- into your home depends on a number of factors. Ask yourself the following questions:
If you and cat ownership aren't a good fit, you might want to consider another kind of pet, or put off pet ownership until your circumstances become more animal-friendly.
Growing up with a cat can be a wonderful experience for kids. It can teach them responsibility and empathy, and provide them with a loving friend and confidante.
Most kids under age 12 aren't ready to become the primary caretaker of an animal, however. You or another adult will have to take ultimate responsibility for making sure your cat's basic needs are met. Let your child help in ways that are appropriate for his age: A preschooler can help dish out the cat's dinner, while a 10-year-old can handle the daily brushing chores.
You can set the stage for a successful relationship by preparing your child for the new arrival:
If your child is still a baby or toddler, you might want to postpone bringing home a pet. Adopting a cat -- especially a kitten -- is like adding another baby to the family, and may increase your stress level accordingly.
Contrary to the old wives' tale, cats do not smother or suck the breath out of babies! This odd superstition probably originated as an early attempt to explain the tragic phenomenon of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
A cat who jumps into a crib and starts sniffing around the baby's head is simply expressing its natural curiosity about the newest family member. However, you'd want to discourage this behavior for commonsense reasons: It might frighten the baby, which in turn could frighten the cat -- leading to a potentially dangerous situation for both of them.
If you do bring a cat into a home with a baby (or vice versa), safeguard them both by never leaving them alone together, in the nursery or anywhere else.