If you are considering getting a cat as a pet for your children, the first thing you should think about is the day-to-day care that will be required. Help show your child what it’s like to own an animal by making a trip to the local library, or buying a book about how to look after cats.
Making your child a part of this new adventure will help her to understand what your new addition to the family needs before you bring her home. Of course pets aren’t all work and no play, and bringing a cat into your family can offer a lot of benefits to children, including reducing stress and teaching responsibility … not to mention the hours they’ll spend playing games together.
After you’ve explained the basics of what your new cat will need, there are a few other important things to teach your child when it comes to her pet:
- Cats need space.
Just like children sometimes need time outs, cats can, on occasion, feel the same way. That’s why it’s important to teach your children to read your cat’s body language and to respect when they may need time alone. Some easy signs to watch out for are:
- When a cat wags its tail, that usually means something has irritated him, so this is a good time for your children to give the cat some space.
- If their hair stands up on end and they start hissing, this is a definite sign that your cat feels threatened. In this situation your kids must leave the cat alone and back away. Give them about 30 mins to cool down and then quietly come back into the room, making slow movements and sit down at their level and offer to pet and fuss them again.
- Most cats don’t want to be fussed with when they’re hungry or when it’s time to eat, so it’s a good idea to teach your kids to leave the cat alone while he’s doing these things.
- Sometimes biting is a way for cats to play – so teach your children to keep their hands away from the cats mouth and ideally wear long sleeve tops and trousers until they get used to playing nicely together.
- Sometimes cats don’t want to play.
Cats can be solitary creatures, so however much your children may want to play a game, your cat might not be in the mood. Here are some useful tips to create happy play times:
- Never force your cat to play a game. If she seems like she’s not in the mood, it’s best to just leave her alone and try again at a different time.
- Try out different toys to keep your cat interested.
- Always use toys which are suitable and appropriate there are homemade toys like a ping-pong ball, a piece of string with newspaper strips tied to the end which can provide plenty of fun. Alternatively you can pop down to your local pet store and ask for some advice on suitable toys for your kitten or cat.
- Sleeping cats should always be left alone – no one enjoys being woken up from a wonderful nap!
- Try to schedule regular playtimes and supervise them with your children and cat until they can be trusted to play responsibly together.
- Cats need to be handled with care.
Whether you’ve brought a new kitten home or adopted an older cat, your children must be taught how to handle their new friend with care. Here are a few tips on the best ways to pick up a cat:
- Cats should never be picked up by the scruff of the neck. This can harm your cat and is something only mother cats should do with their kittens. Otherwise you may accidentally drop them as the cat wriggles from this uncomfortable position.
- When your child picks a cat up, it’s best if they scoop the cat in their arms and support one hand under their chest and the other under their hind legs.
Once you’ve got the basics in place you will find that your cats and children can form a wonderful bond together. Having cats is a great way for children to learn responsibility, how to care for something else and will also provide hours of fun, love and entertainment as your cat becomes a firm member of the family.