by Larry Chamberlain
Are cats and children a good mix?
So, you had a cat in the family when you were a kid. And you are thinking that the addition of a cat into your home would make a terrific family pet, and would give your children the pleasure of loving and caring for an animal.
Most likely you’d be right. But, just because you have nothing but pleasant memories of growing up with a much loved feline pet doesn’t mean that things always go faultlessly well. There are things to remember and steps to take before introducing a cat to your children. First thing make sure that your children would want a cat as a family pet. Most probably they will enthusiastically welcome the idea, but make sure that they understand that caring for a living breathing creature has responsibility attached to it as well as pleasure.
Be prepared to assume all the responsibilities of taking care of the family cat yourself. Children can, and should, be taught to take care of some of the chores if they are old enough, but if they lose interest it will be up to you. No matter how laid back or tolerant your cat is you should never leave a toddler unattended with a cat. Even older children should be under your supervision until you are quite sure that the cat and your kids respect each other.
Try to have a place that your cat can retreat to when he or she does not want the attention of kids (or adults for that matter.) Sometimes children do not understand when a cat does not want to play or be petted and a room, or someplace that your cat can be alone when it feels the need to can save disharmony.
Children need to be told just how sharp the claws and teeth of a cat are, don’t let them find out by painful experience! Explain that cats can bite and scratch if teased, stressed or over excited. Show you children how to play gently with their pet and preferably with the sort of cat toy that keeps the cat at a little distance, such as a catnip mouse on a string.
Kittens may not be the best choice for very young children. A toddler may not be able to understand just how fragile a kitten is and that an over enthusiastic hug could harm their pet. A kitten is also less able to tolerate the rapid movement and gleeful shouting of a very young child than is an adult cat. An older cat, two years and up, would be more likely to be laid back about the attention of a toddler and certainly more robust than a kitten.
Demonstrate to your children the proper way to hold a cat. Show them how to gently pick kitty up with one hand supporting the chest and the other the back legs. If your kids are to young to learn how to do this they should be dissuaded from trying to pick up your cat. Tell your children to beware of a cat’s sensitive areas such as stomach, tail, ear and paws.
A strong bond can develop between kids and cats and this can teach them love and respect for animals that can last for the rest of their lives. Teaching your children the basics of looking after their pet will reward them for years to come.
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