JJLosier on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericThe first cat in my life was Mittens. My parents brought her home when I was only a year old.
My sister, who was nine years old at the time, managed to convince my parents to get her. There were seven of us and I am the youngest.
What I learned from Mittens was how to be gentle and patient with others.
She was the one I could tell all my secrets to and the one who loved me unconditionally.
When I was scared, just having her around was comforting. Mittens never made fun of me.
When you are young, it's hard to put feelings into words that parents and older siblings will understand.
With Mittens, I didn't need to try and convince her of anything. She was always there for me when I needed her. Mittens lived for 16 years.
Cats Help Children Develop Life Skills
Whether you are a parent or grandparent, the first time a new pet is introduced to a child can be a wonderful experience.
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, pets provide children with life skills that are invaluable. Some of those benefits include the following:
- developing life skills of non-verbal communication, empathy, and compassion
- greater self-esteem and confidence
- helps to encourage a sense of trust and how to be trustworthy
- a secret friend or confidant
- someone who understands and loves them unconditionally
- builds on life lessons about accidents, caring for others, illness, death, and bereavement
- provides structure and routine for chores
- encourages responsibility
- teaches respect for all living creatures
- helps provide physical development and exercise
- a source of comfort and affection (both giving and receiving)
- helps to develop a sense of loyalty
Facts to Accept Before Getting a Cat
kinggril on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericFirst of all, no matter how much a child promises to take care of the new cat or kitten, you need to be aware of the following:
- Children under the age of four are not old enough to control their emotional impulses and should never be left alone with a feline.
- Kids under the age of ten are not mature enough yet to care for a cat on their own.
- Even if a child appears to be taking good care of a cat, parents should supervise the cat's care at all times.
- Children need a strong role model, you need to demonstrate how to properly care for a cat or kitten. Responsible pet ownership is a learning process for children.
A trend in society that bothers me as a parent are online games where animals are injured (and somehow it's portrayed as funny). I feel it's important to speak up whenever animals are injured and gently remind children (whether your own or others) that animals should never be abused.
Introducing Babies or Children to a Cat
rumpleteaser on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericCats are creatures of habit - any change in their routine can be quite upsetting. Before a child arrives (be it your own or a grandchild that visits you) it's a good idea to prepare your cat ahead of time.
Cats have scent glands on their head, cheeks and paws that they use to mark their territory. Your cat will "mark" people by rubbing its head and cheeks on their legs. Marked people are then deemed safe and friendly by your cat. Amy Shojai, certified animal behavior consultant and president of the Cat Writers' Association suggests the sock trick.
Here's how it works:
Obtain a pair of the child's socks, rub them on your cat's head and cheeks and put them on the child's feet. This tells your cat that the child has been scent-identified as safe, friendly, and part of the family.
And I think the same holds true for other items that smell like a child. Using the same brand of baby lotion on your own hands or keeping a child's blanket around for your cat to get accustomed to can help.
Cats Always Need an Escape Route
Glen Beltz (beltz6 on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericWhen my daughter was about four years old, she was determined to hold our cat Miss Boo. In the kitchen, she cornered her (and there was no place for Miss Boo to escape). For the first time in 11 years, I heard Miss Boo hiss.
So, no matter how friendly and laid back your cat is, they hate being chased or cornered and always need a "safe" place where they can be left alone or where they can observe children from a safe distance.
Up next is a short 1:17 second video presented by Purina Cat Chow featuring veterinarian Dr. Katrina Warren, her baby, and her cat Obie.
Introducing Your Cat to a Baby
Teach How to Hold, Pat, and Talk to a Cat
Adam Hodgson (LAGtheNoggin on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericMost pet owners know that cats hate it when their fur is patted the wrong way or their tail pulled and so on. But young kids, who've only had stuffed toys, may not realize these things. Also, joyful squeals from a child can be terrifying to a cat.
So before an introduction, if your child or grandchild is old enough, explain how cats need to be handled, patted, and talked to (in a soft, gentle voice).
Never scold a child or a pet for any unpleasant interaction, it can take weeks for a cat to accept a child into his or her life. Again, always ensure there is an escape route for your cat.
When a child wants to hold a cat, the best method is to have the child sitting cross-legged on the floor or sitting on a couch. Cats need to feel secure when held and in no danger of being dropped.
Up next is a 1:57 second video presented by Vetstreet featuring training consultant Mikkel Becker.
How to Pick Up and Hold a Cat
If you have any other tips to share about introducing a cat (or kitten) to a child, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.
Remember, pets and children always need to be supervised. Up next I include an adorable 58 second video of a cat that absolutely adores a baby. You can see how this cat rubs its head on the infant to mark him or her. NOTE: This may not be possible with your cat (and that's okay).