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Cats and Children

Cats and Kids: How to Encourage a Positive Bond

Adding a new pet to your family is exciting! Before making it official, it’s important to consider how to integrate your pet, especially if you have children. With hands-on parenting and supervision, cats and kids can become the best of companions. Both help foster a safe and loving environment for children and pets to grow. To help you get started, we’re sharing ways to educate your children about taking care of a cat and how they can help.

Cats 101: What Kids Should Know

Parents play a vital role in teaching children how to care for a cat. By setting a good example and demonstrating the proper way to handle, groom, and play with your pet, your children will understand the best and safest methods. It also helps to instill an appreciation of cats and their unique characteristics.

If you explain that felines are independent and sometimes prefer to be alone, you’ll limit the confusion young children experience when cats are less social. Instead of feeling disappointment when your pet isn’t up for playtime, your kids will give your cat the privacy and space they need.

Kids Taking Care of a Cat

When caring for a dog, children can help with important tasks like daily walks and games of fetch. But when it comes to taking care of a cat, your child has limited opportunities. Not to worry, you can still encourage bonding between cats and kids with age-appropriate tasks.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends supervised play with cats for children ages five to ten and suggests tasks like feeding or cleaning the litter box for children ages ten to thirteen. Parents should always ensure that pets have food and water even if children are responsible for performing these tasks.

You can also use snack time to get your kids involved with caring for your pet. Teach your children how to give cats treats, or, how to grow and trim cat grass or catnip for afternoon snacks. If grooming is an area of interest, gentle brushing is okay as long as your cat enjoys it.

Supporting Interactive Play with Toys

Playtime is essential to the health and happiness of your cat. Aside from getting your feline up and moving, it helps foster a loving bond. When choosing cat toys, consider your pet’s personality and how they engage in play. This ensures they'll be excited and challenged when it's time to play.

Once you have a good selection, show your kids a game of chase using a feather teaser, furry mouse, or ball. A game of “catch it” with a laser pointer or flashlight on the wall is another interactive activity your children and pet will enjoy.

It’s also a good idea to educate your children about playing with your pet. Here's what they should know:

  1. Cats are creatures of habit and stick to a routine. Playtime should occur at the same time each day for consistency.
  2. Short bursts of activity in intervals of 15 minutes, once or twice a day, is recommended. This makes it manageable but also benefits the emotional and physical health of your pet.
  3. Avoid shouting, jumping, and running. With cats being sensitive to noise and movement, these behaviors can upset or frighten them.
  4. Never make hands the focus of any game. If you do, it will encourage your cat to claw and bite hands or engage in predatory play. Instead, make interactive toys the focal point.

Maintaining Safety for Cats and Kids

Cats and kids can develop strong, loving friendships, but it’s important to keep safety as the top priority. With proper supervision, you can create a safe environment in your home and observe how your child handles your pet. If you notice any unnecessary pulling or yanking, put an end to it right away. Aside from causing unintentional harm, this treatment can lead cats to scratch or bite if feeling threatened.

Ensuring your cat is up to date on their vaccinations and scheduled for regular veterinary check-ups is another way to maintain a safe home. These precautions not only promote the health of your cat but also protect your child’s health. Show your kids the importance of keeping your cat healthy and happy by allowing them to tag-a-long to veterinary visits.

The final area you need to consider is hygiene. Teaching your child to wash their hands after feeding your pet or cleaning the litter box will help limit the transfer of bacteria and germs.

Encouraging a positive relationship between cats and kids is a wonderful way to promote family bonding. Caring for a pet also fosters important characteristics such as responsibility, compassion, and respect. These new skills will prove valuable throughout your kids’ lives and help establish good habits for pet care.

Now that you know what it takes to build positive relationships between your pet and children, it’s time to get everything in order. Check out our five tips that will help you prep your home for a new cat!