Whether you already have a cat and are planning on having a child, or you already have a child and want to adopt a cat, this blog post is for you. It’s no surprise that some kids get excited and are less-than-gentle around animals, and it’s equally expected for some cats to be timid, skittish and defensive around children. So what’s a human parent and cat parent to do?
The five tips below will help you acquaint your child and cat to each other. When followed, these tips will help most kids and cats stay calm and patient, and should produce a rewarding, loving and totally pawsome relationship!
Tip #1: Smell
Smelling is believing! Try taking an article of your child’s clothing (such as a sock) and rubbing it on your cat’s fur. Once you’ve rubbed the sock gently on your cat, put the sock back on your child’s foot. This newly cat-scented sock may signal to the cat that he/she has marked the child as being safe and may progress their friendly relationship.
Tip #2: Praise
Praise your cat – and child – when they display calm, positive behavior. Positive reinforcement will show both kids and kitties that when they act in a respectful manner, they will get respect and rewards. When one or both of the parties act in a kind manner, tell them “good job” in a happy voice, and give many pets and pats on the back!
Tip #3: Touch
When they meet a cat for the first time, some kids will treat kitties the same way they treat their stuffed animals: rough. But don’t worry, you can teach them to be gentle with living creatures! To start, have your child gently hold their finger out for your cat to sniff. If/when your cat sniffs and rubs against your child’s finger, it means kitty is comfortable and it is a good time for you to show your child how to gently pet the cat’s head or back (a lot of cats don’t like their stomachs and paws being touched, so avoid petting those areas). Remember, being gentle is key!
Tip #4: Practice
Practice makes purrfect! Set up a routine and try having your child practice gently petting and playing with your cat on a regular basis. You can also purchase a specific kind of treat that only your child feeds the cat, or a toy that is specifically for child-cat play. Over time these gentle, fun rituals will establish a trusting relationship between your human and feline family members.
Tip #5: Supervise
This goes without saying, but always supervise interactions between your child and cat, especially when they are first getting to know each other. If you have any further questions regarding child-cat behavior, please consult your veterinarian.
Have you tried any of these tips? Did they work for you? If not, what other tips have you found to be successful for your kids and cats? Let us know in the comments below!