It’s very common for families to want to add companion animals to their home, especially if they have children. However, some homes are small, and some families may not have time to care for a dog or may include members who are allergic to dogs -- making cats a common (and wonderful!) choice.
If you are considering adopting a cat, you may think you should get a kitten so your child and the kitty can grow up together. While this may sound like a nice idea, American Humane Association recommends that homes with children choose adult cats instead. You might be disappointed by this, but keep in mind that 8-week-old kittens will essentially be adults in less than a year.
Additionally, young children tend to be very active and may be too rough with fragile kittens, which can result in injuries to the kitty and/or a fearful, skittish adult cat. Similarly, young kittens have particularly sharp teeth and claws, which can accidentally injure delicate young children.
For all these reasons, cats over 2 or 3 years old are best for kids under age 5 or 6.
Animal shelters are great places to find a wide variety of adult cats. Although it is very tempting, avoid choosing a cat based on looks alone.
Begin by setting up both the cat and the child for success. Demonstrate to your child how to appropriately meet a cat:
If you are pregnant and you have a cat, toxoplasmosis is probably something you have heard about. Before you part with your feline friend, however, American Humane Association would like to tell you a bit about this disease.
Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can be transmitted to humans (and other animals) by ingesting infected cat feces, consuming raw or undercooked infected meat, or ingesting contaminated water. To acquire the disease, the host cat must consume raw meat or live animals that are infected with toxoplasmosis. Once infected, the cat can spread the disease for only a few weeks. Further, in order to be infective, the contaminated feces must remain in the litter box for several days, and then be ingested by the pregnant woman.
If the disease is contracted, infected people may feel as if they have the flu, with swollen lymph glands or muscle aches and pains that last a month or more. Severe toxoplasmosis can cause damage to the brain, eyes or other organs -- infants born to mothers who are newly infected during or just before pregnancy are among those most likely to develop severe toxoplasmosis.
As scary as this disease may sound, there is no need to give up your cat!
Here are some ways to keep yourself and your baby safe: