Are cats and kids a good match? Opinions vary because, on one hand, cats are wonderful companions. On the other hand, if the Carer is to be a tiny hooman, the relationship between a cat and a kid might fall anywhere from big love to complete ignorance, fear, and bickering. Today on the blog we’ll be checking if a friendship between cats and kids is possible and what should parents remember if they plan on welcoming a new, furry family member in a way that’s safe for all participants of the big event. Are you ready?
Children and cats - what you should remember about before getting your kid a feline sibling?
We are sure you don’t need to be told about this, dear fabCats, but when we decide to take a cat to a home with kids, it’s always worth keeping in mind that: A CAT IS NOT A TOY. This topic comes up quite often, especially around Christmas time, as some kids ask their parents (or a cat Santa) for a purring present under the tree, but in our mind, it’s always worth repeating it once more - the problem of overpopulated shelters, charities, and foster homes after Christmas is still significant.
Cats, especially kittens, do actually look like little mascots. They’re usually quiet, but playful. They’re rarely aggressive, but with their adorable face and soft fur, we want to cuddle them all the time. And here’s the first issue - cats are living creatures who can feel, be sensitive, have their own rules, and make sure we, as hoomans, follow those rules. They don’t like being picked up out of the blue and feel much better being admired from afar - if they want to get close to a hooman, they’ll initiate it. Cuddling? We advise you to be careful with it as well - one false move and the cat runs away, starts avoiding the child, or, on the contrary - might start scratching, biting, and kicking to let us (or the kid) know they don’t accept such affection. If we decide to get a cat while having a child at home, setting some ground rules on how to behave towards the new fluffy companion is necessary.
Sometimes the situation is completely opposite, of course - it’s the cat who was first to live with you and a child joins the family a little bit later. What then? We’ve heard many stories of cats being given away by families expecting a child, unfortunately, even though if the situation was approached the right way, there’s no need to take a home away from the cat because there’s a child on the way. But let’s start from the beginning.
Rules that you should discuss with your kid before the cat arrives
Let’s start with the first scenario where we want to bring a cat to a home where a child already lives. As we mentioned before, it’s necessary to set up some ground rules first and talk with the child not only about those rules existing but about why it’s important to follow them as well. Interacting with an animal is an incredible opportunity for children to learn to be patient, responsible, understanding, and loving, but to get there, the child needs to understand that a cat is not their new toy.
When you bring a cat home, it’s good to agree with your child that:
- a cat is not a human, so let’s not treat them like a little brother or sister. Cats have their own needs, preferences, and limitations. We won’t share a cookie with them, won’t invite them into the bathtub, won’t play together in the sandpit. But we can play with the cat using a wand toy or balls, we can build a safe obstacle course for them, and we can even teach them some tricks! Exercises like that make the bond between a cat and a hooman grow strong.
- cats have their own way of playing. They’re not dogs who will happily fetch a ball (though there are furs who love it), or wiggle their tail to show how happy they are. Cats don’t usually play by pulling toys out of your hand or rolling around on the floor. This is why dogs are the more common choice as a pet for a child - their reactions are easier to understand, both for parents and children. Feline communication requires more attention and the ability to read cats’ body language, even during tasks as simple as playtime.
- cats don’t like noise. Their hearing is very sensitive, so they don’t enjoy shouting and loud playtime. When they see and hear children playing, cats often run away to a high shelf or a quiet room to protect themselves from the noise. It’s normal and it’s important to explain to the child that it’s nothing to be sad about, nor a reason to pull the cat out of their hiding spot when they decide to look for a quiet space to nap.
- cats are individualists - as living creatures, cats have their rights, expectations, and limits that we should all respect. And that’s definitely the rule that’s the most difficult to execute if we want to get a cat and a kid to get along - though many parents do a fantastic job of explaining the most important rules of interacting with a cat, kitties are sometimes so adorable it’s hard to stop yourself and not invade their private space. Ha! Even we can’t sometimes stop ourselves from petting our cats’ bellies when they lay on their back in the middle of the floor. However, educating the young generation is incredibly important not just to build a positive relationship between a cat and a child, but also to limit “unexpected” attacks and “cat aggression” which are often a cat’s way of protecting themselves when they don’t feel safe.
What are some responsibilities that a child could take on as a cat Carer? Morning breakfast, playtime with a wand toy, giving snacks, clicker training. All that under the parents’ supervision, of course, especially when the young hooman is just starting to learn how to interact with a cat :) Older children could also clean out the litter box, though it’s important here to make sure that they stay safe, don’t dig around the litter box with their hands, wash their hands after cleaning and never disturb a cat when the litter box is occupied.
A newborn in a cat home - how to get through this?
The second scenario we should talk about when discussing relationships between children and cats is the case where you already have a cat at home and a child comes in later. Cats don’t generally like changes and they can feel threatened when a new member of the family comes into the picture - they’re not only losing the undivided attention of their Carers but also have to get used to new sounds and smells. It’s not that easy! It doesn’t mean, however, that there’s no space for a cat in a house with a kid and vice versa. You just need to take some precautions to prevent unexpected events.
- observe your cat - if they accept the baby and want to sleep with the little hooman, you need to make sure any joined naps happen under your supervision. The cat could lay on or near the baby’s face, making it difficult for the child to breathe.
- give your cat some time. Just like with introducing another cat to the household and using the isolation method, when it comes to a cat-baby relationship we also should give our cats time to adjust, to get familiar with the new smells, sounds, and noises around. Don’t introduce them to the baby by force - observe and let a meeting happen only when you have full control of the situation.
- give your cat something to do. A baby will move around and for cats who love hunting this could be quite the challenge - the hooman doesn’t let them hurt the baby, but the little one is wiggling their hands so temptingly! Because of that, it’s wise to give your cat enough things to do during the day, just so they can get their crazy out and have access to their own, quiet spaces at home. Scratchers, a floor-to-ceiling cat superhighway, tunnels, balls, sniffing mats, interactive toys - pick the gadgets you know your cat won’t be bored with.
Introducing a newborn to a house where a cat already lives is both an easier and a more difficult scenario. On one hand, a child that has been living with a cat from the very beginning has a higher chance of learning how to interact with cats properly. On the other hand though, if the cat doesn’t accept the young hooman, the situation can get really tense and a behaviorist’s help might become necessary. Remember, fabCat - if you see your cat acting strange, towards your child or otherwise, don’t be afraid to ask a specialist for help.
Will my cat like my baby?
Building a friendship between a cat and a child is definitely possible. Is it worth it? Of course! Being responsible for other being’s life has a positive impact on the overall development of a child, on their ability to understand others’ needs, and to be patient, accepting, and loving towards animals. We have to remember, however, that cats are pets that are more demanding than others and for the youngest of kids who don’t know yet how to set up boundaries, interacting with cats might be difficult at first.
And how does one choose a cat who could potentially join a family with a child? We see two possible routes - first, with breeders, looking for kittens who are familiar with children and accept behavior that is typical to young kids, or the other one - adoption, looking for specific foster homes with kids and cats who already get along with younger people. Cats can have different personalities and not all furs will find kids great company so it’s good to make sure before we decide to bring a kitten home. After all, both the child and the cat are there to stay with us for a long time :)
How did it go for you, dear fabCats, when it comes to a friendship between your cats and kids? Did everyone get along right away or did it require some acrobatic tricks to help your child and the cat like each other? Share your experiences in the comments - we’re curious to know your point of view. , kochane przeKoty, wyglądało budowanie pozytywnych relacji pomiędzy dziećmi i futrami?