Courtesy of the American Association of Feline Practitioners and Killarney Cat Hospital’s Cat Friendly Practice Certification
A family cat can bring endless joy to a household but it is important to teach children of all ages how to appropriately interact with their furry friend. Whereas with older children you can have a simple conversation, younger children often have a harder time grasping how to properly handle and play with a cat. Younger children are more likely to unintentionally play rough and take their frustrations out on people or pets. If your children are too young to understand spoken instructions on “playing nice” then your best bet is to lead by example.
Teach Your Child
Teaching your child to respect all creatures is a gift for both child and cat.
You know when your cat is scared or overwhelmed. Let your child know your cat wishes to be left alone, not touched when sleeping, and to respect the kitty’s feelings.
Modeling the behavior you want will show your child how to “play nice.”
Have your child watch you play and speak gently to your cat. Then have them do it as you supervise.
Showing your child how to handle the cat will keep them both safe.
Explain that cats do not feel secure when ‘big people’ suddenly pick them up. If age appropriate, show them the proper way to pick up and hold your cat with their arm under the cat’s bum. Explain that this should only be done when you are there to supervise.
Letting your child help care for your cat by giving her/him age appropriate tasks will allow the two to form a bond.
Even a very young child can help with feeding when supervised. Make sure to let your child know what you are doing and why it is important.