If you have children and are adopting a cat or kitten, it is important to create harmony. Children raised with pets have been shown to be more sociable as adults, both with people and animals. They also tend to have better communication skills and are much less likely to develop allergies towards pet fur and dander. Even so, children can often be overly enthusiastic in developing a relationship with a pet, so a little education can go a long way.
Children and cats can share a relationship that is mutually beneficial, provided each is old enough to respect the other. The good-natured dog may put up with a child’s playful tousling, but the dignified cat may be less tolerant.
Helping the child see things from the cat’s point of view will not only ensure a healthy relationship between pet and child, but help to build empathy for all living creatures. Nothing is more satisfying than loving and being loved. If you teach your children correctly, you have a win-win situation.
Before getting a cat
Sometimes children beg their parents for a kitten or cat and promise to take care of her. Most children have good intentions, but they are children and sometimes they may lose interest in the kitten as she gets older, or they forget to do the chores. There is some balancing needed here because having a pet can teach a child responsibility, but if the chores are onerous or if there is constant conflict, there may be resentment.
Before you buy a pet, discuss the aspects of being a responsible pet owner with your child. Get the children to agree to accept the chores that they can handle according to their age and level of responsibility. As a parent, be prepared to be the primary caretaker. Nurturing the bond that develops between cats and kids and setting a good example will teach them lessons that they will benefit from all their lives, and will help them to be responsible pet owners and caretakers when they have children of their own.
Remember it is best to acquire an adult cat if you have a toddler, as it can take only one unsupervised moment to severely injure a small kitten. Protect your children and cat by choosing a fully grown cat if adding a feline to your young family.
Preparing for your baby’s birth
Before the baby arrives, allow your cat into the nursery to inspect the new furniture and changes you made to that room. Do not refuse her access to this redecorated room. It was, after all, previously part of her roaming territory. She will love exploring and familiarising herself with what’s new. Cats, like humans, find satisfaction in the act of ‘inspecting’ any modifications to their homes. Enjoy watching her; it could bring about a lot of laughter as you watch her extra alertness and curious dinner-plate eyes as she explores each metre of the room. Discourage her if she shows an interest in lying in the cot. Gently remove her from the cot and say “no” in a firm tone. She will ascertain quickly that the cot is not made up for her at all. Don’t chase her or shout at her, as this will only damage your relationship with your cat.
Put a bit of baby lotion on your hands and allow your cat to smell and experience the fragrance she’ll later associate with the baby. It is a slow introduction to the new presence that will be in your home. Once the baby is born and not yet home, perhaps your hubby can bring a used item of your baby’s clothes back home and allow your cat to smell the scent on that. This way, your cat will have a chance to recognise the smell of your newborn when you first bring him or her home.
Text: Kim Roberts
The full article appears in the November issue of Animaltalk.