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15 Best Cat Breeds for Families With Kids

We turned to the experts for a primer on cat breed characteristics, finding your pet personality match, and helping your kids and critters live happily ever after.

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What's In a Breed?

Cat breed diversity is fairly limited compared with dogs. According to a 2008 study, most cat breeds were developed in the last 150 years; as we’ve bred dogs (for specific physical and behavioral characteristics) for thousands of years, it stands to reason that the differences between a Burmese and a Bengal seem trifling compared to the differences between, say, a Maltese and a Mastiff.

That said, vets, behaviorists and adoption pros have plenty to say about the characteristics that can help ensure love matches between kitties and kids, as well as observations about breeds and mixes that have fit those characteristics in their experience. Petfinder allows would-be adopters search for cats in need according to breed, and general web searches can lead you to breed-specific cat rescues around the country. Fair warning: Though you might think you’ve got your heart set on a particular sort of feline, the most important part of adopting a prospective pet — that is, meeting them and gauging chemistry with each member of your family — could lead you to fall in love with a cat you might never have envisioned in the first place. Ready to start looking? Read on to learn about kitties that will love your kids (and vice versa).

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Low-Maintenance Furballs

The simplest way to minimize cat hair buildup — and the need to tackle cat hair buildup by vacuuming and dusting — is to bring home a cat with no hair, right? Not quite. When considering so-called low-maintenance kitties, "many people immediately think of a hairless breed, such as the Sphynx, but while hairless cats won't shed, I wouldn’t call them low-maintenance: Hairless cats need weekly baths and frequent ear cleanings to help control the oil and dirt that fur usually helps wick away," says Annie Valuska, Ph.D., senior pet behavior scientist at Purina.

"Although all cats benefit from occasional brushing (and nail trims), short-haired cats such as Siamese, Devon Rex [above] and Cornish Rex are known to shed less heavily than some other breeds," she explains.

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High-Energy Types

Looking to pair a lively cat with your lively kids? "Abyssinian [above] and Bengal cats are known for their high energy levels and interest in play," Dr. Valuska notes. Just as human little ones need lots of ways to wind themselves down, vivacious cats will need help blowing off steam, too. "These breeds require a lot of exercise (think strenuous play sessions chasing the feather wand around the house several times a day) and, because they can get bored easily, benefit from other types of enrichment such as food puzzles, climbing shelves or a catio."

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Play Buddies

The key to preparing potential playmates like the Bengal [above] for your kids — and vice versa — is to help everyone understand cues.

"Kids should be taught how to appropriately interact with a cat, and children and adults should stay attuned to the cat's body language if the cat shows signs of stress, such as eyes that are very wide or squeezed shut, ears that are flattened or rotated away from the front of the face, or a tail that's tucked under the body or rapidly flicking back and forth, take a break," Dr. Valuska says. "Cats can get overstimulated from too much petting, so keep sessions short, especially in the early stages of the introduction – it's important to always end on a positive note when you’re trying to build that relationship!"

Explanation, Valuska continues, is all-important. "Take advantage of children's natural curiosity to ask 'Why?' and help them to see that their cat communicates through behavioral signs when they want to be petted, to play, if the interaction is getting to be too much for their cats, etc. By telling kids the cat behavioral signs to look out for, parents will be teaching kids to have empathy for their cats."

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