Kids and Cats Together: 7 Things to Know
The relationship between a cat and a child can be a celebratory union that leads to a deep lifetime friendship. On the flip side, the interaction between a feline and young human can be fraught with complication and even physical struggle. Children often fail to read signals from the cat asking for space, and the result can be scratches and bites, with both cat and child upset and frightened. It’s not only falling toddlers or overly friendly 4-year-olds who can have poor interactions with cats; it happens with children of all ages, into the teen years. The stakes of how an interaction goes are high for the physical safety and emotional well-being of both the child and the cat.
To help your child or cat — or both — have better reactions to the other species, it’s important to put boundaries in place for all interactions. Here are seven essential rules that promote peaceful relationships and positive experiences for both human and feline.
Pay attention to your cat’s body language.
Supervise every interaction.
Teach your child the right way to pet the cat.
Teach your child how to hold a cat.
To help your cat relax while still allowing close physical contact, there are strategies for holding cats that can lower potential stress. For younger children, teach them to sit on the floor or couch and invite the cat onto their lap. It's important they don't force, but rather lure the cat there using a toy or treats and continue to reward the animal while she's on the child's lap with petting, toys, treats or simply warm body contact. If the cat desires to move away, the child must be taught to always let the cat leave when she wants. For older children who are physically capable and calm enough to hold a cat, teach the child to lift the cat's weight evenly with one hand under the chest and the other supporting the rear legs and to gently hold the cat against the torso for added balance and security. It's important the child learns to heed signs of the cat wanting down, such as the cat scanning the floor for a place to jump, ears moving backward or tail twitching. The child should then lower the cat to the floor or find an elevated structure with stable footing nearby, like a cat tree, where the cat can walk off without needing to jump down.
Keep indoor play calm and gentle.
Allow your cat to hide.
Give your cat some alone time.
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