Cats and Kids
A pet will generally play a wonderful role in the life of a child. Cats can provide comfort and companionship, while also teaching responsibility. However, a mutual love and respect must be cultivated from the start for both cat and child in order to ensure a healthy relationship.
If you are planning to add a cat to your family and you already have one or more children, it is a good idea to purchase a cat that has an outgoing personality. A shy cat may be easily frightened, especially by a child, and will likely end up spending much of his time hiding. Do your best to make the cat feel comfortable and get used to his new surroundings. If possible, prepare a single room as kitty’s home for the first day or two, keeping visits to a minimum. This should keep him from being overwhelmed or stressed by anything, including interaction with a child.
Once the cat has been with you a few days, it is time for introductions. Seat your child on the floor in front of the cat, and carefully allow your cat a few minutes to smell the child and otherwise take in this new person. Then, take your child’s hand and gently stroke the cat, teaching them the best way to pet this furry friend. You can also allow them to feed the cat a treat. If kitty seems anxious to escape, do not continue to encourage the introduction, but allow him to get away. By forcing anything, you will only make the cat more fearful, and he will probably be more resistant the next time.
While most children would never intentionally harm an animal, children do not yet know their own strength and may hit the cat when they are intending to pet it. They may also inadvertently step on the cat’s tail or kick him accidentally. Most cats will take some mild abuse, but any interaction between the cat and child should be carefully supervised until they are completely comfortable with each other and you are confident that they will continue to get along once you have left the room. Don’t despair if your child and kitty do not get along right away. Many cats will not be comfortable with the antics of kids, at least not immediately. Give their relationship some time to slowly develop, and they will likely become the best of friends.
If you already own a cat and a baby or child will be joining your family for any reason, you will want to be prepared for the response of your cat. Jealousy is a trait that many cats never exhibit until a child joins the family. Upon the arrival of this new member of the household, a cat may develop certain problem behaviors as a means of seeking your attention. To rid your cat of the problem of jealousy, introduce him to the baby or child, making sure the introduction is slow and carefully supervised. Also, do your best not to ignore your cat during this busy time. A little attention will go along way in helping your kitty to feel wanted and loved.
To avoid the problem of jealousy with a baby, try getting your cat familiar with the sounds and smells of an infant before he or she arrives. Let your cat smell baby shampoo, baby powder, baby food, and any other baby-related item you can think of. Also, allow your cat to become familiar with the sounds of a rattle shaking and a baby crying (if possible) to lessen the confusion your pet will feel when he hears these sounds upon the baby’s arrival. Once the baby is living at home, keep the cat away from the baby’s crib unless you are there to supervise. Cats have been known to jump into a baby’s crib for a nice, cozy nap. While this may be the cat’s way of showing affection for the child, it can have dire consequences, even potentially suffocating the baby.
There is no reason why cats and children cannot happily coexist. Many times, they can be good friends, spending hours on end playing together. To encourage this sort of respectful, loving relationship, make sure to set aside a time for introductions between the two, giving them time to slowly get to know each other in an environment that is comfortable for both of them. Carefully supervise any interactions until they are completely comfortable with each other, and then sit back and watch a healthy friendship blossom.