Introducing Children and Cats
Whether you are adding a new furry four-legged friend to your family, or your family is growing, it is crucial to know how to introduce your pets to your children. Introducing a cat to a child, or children, is different than adding another type of house pet. Cats are known to have distinct personalities and can be temperamental at any given moment. They are intelligent animals who want to please, but must be shown how. If you are adding a kitten to your family, this will provide your pet to grow alongside your children, and they will know no difference. If you have a cat and you are adding a new family member to your family, it may take some time for them to adjust. They might be used to being the center of attention. There are a few different tricks to teaching your children how to interact with your new cat.
Allow your animal and your child time to adjust to one another. You can start by having them sit in a neutral part of your house and letting the cat introduce themselves. Some cats or kittens may walk over to your child on their own, but if not, give them a moment to adjust. Your child can start by slowly putting out one finger for the cat to sniff. According to American Humane, if the cat tries to rub your finger, that is a great sign! If they back away or hisses, the cat is not comfortable. Never force a cat into a situation where they are uncomfortable. Allow the cat and child time to introduce themselves so that the cat can adjust to the new scent.
Signs of Affection
If your cat is responding positively to your child, this would be an excellent time to introduce affection. Your child can either demonstrate this by playing with the kitten with toys or gently petting it. It is essential to teach your child how to pet an animal gently. This could be something that affects their future relationship. If your child is grabbing at the cat or being too rough, the cat is more likely to run away and hide. They then will associate those feelings with your child and might choose to not interact with your children. An excellent way to teach your child how to pet a cat is gently demonstrating smart places to pet. Some cats may not like their bellies rubbed, so avoid that area until you know your cat’s likings. Start by slowly and softly petting their head, chin, or back with two fingers. You will know immediately if your cat likes that or does not. If your kitty starts to purr and rub against you, you did it!
Holding an animal is an interaction that should be tested out with an adult first rather than a child. Every cat is different and has their own personality. If you are unsure if your kitten or cat likes to be held, try it first before introducing the skill to your child. If your cat positively responds to you, then it is a safe skill to teach your child. American Humane suggests starting by placing one hand gently under their stomach and slowly lift their front feet off the ground. As you continue to pick the cat up, use your other hand to support their back legs. Once you have picked your cat up off the ground and are supporting them, hold them close to your chest. Be sure to not squeeze tightly when doing this. This motion will allow the cat to feel supported and safe when they are close to you. You should demonstrate this with your child and help them hold the cat the first couple of times before they do so on their own.
If your cat or kitten responds well to these strategies, you have successfully introduced your child to your pet! Some of these things might not come right away, but with time and patience, your child and cat will be getting along great. If you are struggling with introducing your cat to your child, or feel your cat is stressed, make an appointment with us, and we can help you! Visit us online at https://andesstraleyvet.com/ or call our office at (423)378-4443 to learn more about pet introductions. Our mission is to educate and involve clients in developing an individualized preventive health care plan that is best for your special companion!