6 questions to answer before you get a cat for your child

As many parents will know, a child who has decided that he or she wants a pet can be very adamant about it! Pets are good for children, teaching them commitment and responsibility. However, it would not be responsible to leave your new kitten’s care solely in the hands of a child. They forget, or lose interest, and it would be very unfair to the cat if all of a sudden no one is interested in her wellbeing anymore. Here are a few questions to answer before you decide to surprise your child with a kitten.

  1. Where do you live?

In South Africa today many people prefer to live in a security complex, and of course every complex has its own rules with regard to having pets. The first step is to find out how many pets you are allowed, especially if you already have other animals at home. You will also need permission from your body corporate to acquire another pet. You can choose to either buy your kitten from a breeder or adopt one of the many cats who are waiting in shelters for a home to call their own.

Either way, you might have to provide proof that you have permission to welcome another pet in your home.

  1. Are you willing to take full responsibility for the cat?

The decision to get a cat is not one to be taken lightly. By getting a cat you are committing to care for her throughout her whole life – so resist the urge to satisfy an impatient child and get a cat without doing all your research. This is also a great opportunity to teach you child why he or she as to wait a bit to get a pet. Teach your child that animals have feelings, and that they need much of the same things we do: play, healthy food, love and attention and medical care. But you will have to realise that ultimately all of these things are your responsibility. Don’t expect that you will teach your child how to feed the cat and clean the litterbox – and that everything will go smoothly after that. You will have to supervise – and take over if the novelty wears off.

  1. Are you willing to take responsibility for your child?

Simply handing your child a cat and hoping for the best is a recipe for disaster! Remember, cats have sharp nails and teeth and they can do a lot of damage. You will need to take time out of your busy schedule to educate your child about how to gently handle a cat. Not only is this to protect your little one from those nails, but it is valuable information, planting the seed for your child to be a considerate animal lover for the rest of his or her life. Consider things like the correct way to pick up a cat and treating her with respect – no tail or ear pulling, rough handling and definitely no trying to ride on the cat’s back!

  1. Do you have time to spend with your child on research?

Begore getting your cat, it’s a fantastic idea to hop onto Google with your child by your side. Do some research on what you can expect from having a cat in the house. Look at what it takes to raise a kitten, cats’ body language and general behaviour you can expect from a cat – for example, they spend a lot of time sleeping, especially as they age! A sleepy cat who is not in the mood to play might lead to a frustrated child and a very grumpy cat! This kind of research will also give your child a good indication of whether a cat is really the kind of pet he or she wants.

  1. Is anyone in the house allergic to cats?

It can lead to a lot of heartache if you do not determine this before getting you bundle of fluff. Many cats get surrendered because allergy sufferers simply cannot handle the discomfort they have to deal with. Get the whole family to spend some time with cats to see how they react. If you are getting your cat from a breeder, this is also a great way to get to know the characteristics of the breed you are interested in.

  1. Can you afford a cat?

Many people mistakenly assume that cats are ‘easy’ and that they will be fine left to their own devices. However, it can get expensive to own a cat. You will have to be able to afford a good-quality food to keep her as healthy as possible, along with things like toys and bedding. Just like dogs, cats also need their annual vaccinations, and you have to be able to take your cat to the vet should she get sick or somehow injure herself.  Also keep in mind that you might have to make use of a cattery if you decide to on holiday.

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