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LET YOUR CHILDREN PITCH IN

Your children are an integral part of the family, so they should play an integral role in caring for your cat. However, the responsibilities they can take on depend on their ages and abilities.

Keep in mind that getting a cat just to teach a child responsibility is a bad idea - for the child and the pet. Cat ownership is too big a job for a child to take on alone. However, kids can definitely share in the responsibility.

How Much Can You Delegate?

Ask your veterinarian what types of pet care jobs are appropriate for children of different ages. For example, even young children can help feed the cat, but your child must be much older to take full responsibility for giving your pet food and water.

And don't forget the litter pan! It's a dirty job, but it's also part of pet ownership. Older children can start helping with this task by holding the bag when you empty the litter box or spraying down the pan with the disinfectant during cleanup.

The amount of responsibility your child can handle will depend on his or her maturity level. Generally, 10- to 12-year-olds can take over feedings with some adult supervision, while mature teens can handle solo responsibilities.

One golden rule: Children and cats should never be left together without adult supervision. Disaster can strike when you turn your back for just one second.