When you're looking for a kid-friendly cat that doesn't shed much, consider disposition and breed. While most social cats play nice, some don't like aggressive kids. Some require more attention and space than others. With few exceptions, all cats shed. Proper grooming is key. Consider allergies, too.
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A cat's disposition is the primary factor to consider when choosing a kid-friendly cat. Look for a cat who tolerates loud noises and sudden movements and who doesn't nip or claw when being handled. Spaying or neutering a cat at a young age lessens territorial instincts.
It's important for children to learn how to treat cats. Teach them how to approach, act around, play with, hold, feed and share a cat. Make sure they don't pull their tails and know to avoid the cat's mouth and paws.
Concerning Breeds and Hair
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Some cat breeds are more social than others, but, with few exceptions all cats shed. They grow heavier coats when it's cold and shed fur when it's warm. Artificial light stimulates year-round shedding in indoor cats.
Domestic shorthairs, the mutts of the cat world, require less grooming. Their temperaments vary greatly. Among other cat breeds, Abyssinians, American shorthairs and wirehairs, Burmese, Havana browns, Manx, Thai, Tonkinese and Toyger are affectionate choices who require less grooming. While affectionate, some Chausies and Siamese don't tolerate aggressive children.
Longer-haired cats generally require more grooming than their short-haired brethren, but regular brushing may cut down on vacuuming and furniture clean-up. Birman, Maine coons, Napoleons, ragdolls, Siberians and Turkish angoras are particularly social cats with longer hair.
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Certain cats may not be appropriate for your lifestyle. Families that can't offer direct pet supervision should avoid kittens, who are more curious and can get into dangerous situations. Families that don't spend much time at home should avoid Persians, Himalayans and Burmese, all of whom are quite affectionate, but suffer from lack of socialization. (Ironically, these are some of the most kid-friendly cats.) Families with minimal space should avoid Abyssinians and Maine coons, who require more space. Persians do well in tighter spots.
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Visit a friend or an animal shelter and handle some cats before bringing home a new pet to make sure no one is allergic to them. People aren't allergic to cats, per se -- it's their dander that does it. If your allergies aren't too severe, you may be able to get by with a cat that's less likely to agitate them.
Male cats tend to produce more allergenic secretions than females, intact males produce more than neutered males, and dark cats produce more than light-colored cats.
There are three exceptions to the all-cats-shed rule of particular note to people with allergies. Cornish rexes and Devon rexes lack undercoats and sphynxes don't have any fur at all. Like all purebreds, these cats are rarer than domestic shorthairs and more likely to have health problems. They're also more expensive.