Tips for Adopting a Cat or Kitten with Kids

Get off to a paw-sitive start when you bring a new cat home!

By Suzanne Lee, Macaroni KID Renton - Newcastle - Mercer Island February 6, 2024

The day you bring home a new cat or kitten is one you never forget. For small children, it’s even more magical. From the soft purrs to the tiny “mews,” your new housemate is ready for playtime, snuggles, alone time–or a combination of all three. 

If you have small children, you might hesitate a little before adopting a cat or kitten. Sometimes, having a new animal at home takes some adjustments. But with a little planning, and some gentle coaching, you can smoothly integrate your new four-legged friend into the family. Here are some tips from the experts at Purrfect Pals Cat Adoption Centers to consider.

Embrace the benefits of pet ownership

Never underestimate the benefits of pet ownership for children, teens and people of all ages. Simply stated, pets give love and companionship. 

Pet ownership teaches kids responsibility, empathy and respect for all creatures. Having a cat also teaches kids to think of the needs of others from an early age. Plus, owning a pet can bring families closer as they bond over the ups and downs of loving and caring for a pet over its lifetime.

Before you bring a new cat home

Set some expectations. Have a family discussion and make sure everyone is onboard and understands the commitment involved with bringing a cat into the home. Then, make a shared kitty chore list so everyone is clear on what each of their daily cat care responsibilities involves.

Prepare to give your cat a “safe space” like a bathroom, small bedroom, or office set up with food and water dishes, a cozy bed, and litter box where they can retreat to when/if they are feeling overwhelmed.

Help kids learn about cat care and behavior with Purrfect Pals. (Photo credit: Purrfect Pals)

For small children, cats are mesmerizing creatures. But they don’t need to be mysterious. Help your kids to understand cat behavior with these insights. Who knows, you may inspire a future veterinarian!

  • It’s always best to let the cat come to you. Don’t chase them or pick them up, but invite them into your space by sitting quietly and patting your lap or the space next to you.
  • Cats give subtle cues with their eyes, ears, bodies, tails, and sounds about how they are feeling. Coach your kids how to read and respect their body language, and help them to notice these cues.
  • As a family, it’s everyone’s responsibility to teach your new cat appropriate play behaviors, like hands are not toys! It might be cute when they bite fingers when they’re a kitten, but as they grow it can become painful. Gently redirect your cat to toys they can safely use to take out their natural instincts to bite, chew, stalk, scratch, and kick. A scratching post is a great place to begin.

Taking care of a cat also teaches kids the importance of doing chores to keep the cat healthy. Having a predictable routine – beginning on the first day – can get you off to a good start. Children can sometimes relate to the routine. Think of it this way… “in the morning my cat eats breakfast and so do I.” Then, “I help scoop the litter box when I get home from school so my cat has a clean place to go to the bathroom.”

Curate a good environment for your cat

It takes time for pets to feel at home, so patience is key. Teach your kids that just like them, cats are individuals with unique needs and likes/dislikes. As a family, it’s your job to meet those needs.

If possible, try to match your kid’s and cat’s energies; if your kid is a bookworm, they may do better with a laid-back “study buddy” type cat. If your kid is high energy and always on the go, having an active kitten or young cat might help them focus their energy on playing with the kitty (and hopefully they can wear each other out).

Introducing your cat or cats to a new baby

Already have a cat and expecting a baby? With a new baby in the home, it’s important your cat doesn’t feel “forgotten” or they may start to have behavioral issues and act out to get your attention (like urinating inappropriately). This happens sometimes, but not all the time.

When you bring a new baby home, try to keep your cat care routine as close to normal as possible. (Your baby routine may not be as predictable, but your cat routine can be.) And,  always supervise your cat and baby or toddler together to make sure it’s a positive interaction.

Lastly, make sure your cat still has access to a “safe space” if they need it while acclimating to all the new scents and sounds of the new baby. 

Dreaming of a new cat or kitten? Consider adopting from a cat rescue or shelter. (Photo credit: Purrfect Pals)

It’s a harsh reality, but some pet stores and breeders are looking to turn a profit and are not always looking out for the wellbeing of the animals. Consider adopting from a cat rescue or shelter such as Purrfect Pals. Rescue cats will have been cleared by a veterinarian and cat-care team, and are ready for adoption.

One thing to note: Many pet stores have cats and kittens that are from shelters. Be sure to ask if your pet store is partnering with a rescue, which has lovingly cared for every animal.

At Purrfect Pals, for example, every cat is checked out by the veterinary team and treated for any diagnosed illnesses. Prior to adoption, Purrfect Pals cats all receive a vet exam, spay/neuter surgery, microchip, age-appropriate vaccines, treatment for fleas & parasites, testing for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus and Feline Leukemia Virus, and Senior Blood Screening (for cats 7+).

When you adopt from a rescue, you’re really saving two lives: the cat you adopted and the one that takes their place. 

Adopt a rescue cat at Renton PetSmart

Thinking of adopting a cat or kitten? Purrfect Pals has several adoption centers in the region, including The Renton Landing PetSmart. It’s run completely by volunteers who care for and socialize the kitties and adopt them out to loving homes. The Renton volunteers helped find homes for 102 cats and kittens in 2023 alone!

Adopt from Purrfect Pals in Western Washington

Founded in 1988 north of Seattle, Purrfect Pals Cat Adoption Centers is the life’s work of Kathy Centala. A lifelong cat-lover, Kathy wanted to offer an alternative to overcrowded shelters with high euthanasia rates. So, she started the first no-kill cat-only sanctuary in the Northwest.

Word of Kathy’s no-kill policy spread and cats soon started coming in by the hundreds. Purrfect Pals’ main campus moved to its current location on 5 acres in Arlington, Washington (near Everett) in 1993. The shelter has several adoption outposts at pet stores throughout the region. Its innovative programs have become a model for animal shelters nationwide.

Learn about Purrfect Pals and get your kitty fix

If you’re looking to add a new feline family member, consider adopting from Purrfect Pals. Take a tour of the main campus or call to find out which cats are at Renton PetSmart.

If you have the time and space, please consider fostering a cat or kittens. Being fostered with respectful children helps acclimate kitties to louder, busier homes and results in more confident cats.

Sponsor a special needs cat at the Purrfect Pals sanctuary and help provide for their care. This is a wonderful way to connect directly with a cat, especially if the circumstances aren’t right for you to adopt right now.  

Volunteering is another way to get involved and learn more about animal welfare. Purrfect Pals accepts minors 12-15 years old at the main shelter in Arlington and teenagers 14-17 years old at Renton PetSmart with a parent or guardian.

Magical memories, brought to you by cats. (Photo credit: Purrfect Pals)

I remember the day that my first kitten arrived at the house when I was seven. Pickle (named for my love of crunchy cucumbers) was a sweet and spirited Siamese. She instantly found a spot on my lap and claimed a big place in my heart. Looking back, having my own cat – and being responsible for her care – was a growth experience for me. In addition to having a trusted and constant companion, I was responsible for an animal. The sense of pride that cat ownership gave me was a magical part of childhood.

To learn more about the work of no-kill shelters such as Purrfect Pals, click here. If you’re interested in cat adoption and live in Western Washington, be sure to reach out to Purrfect Pals to learn more.