Is your child cat-ready?

Giving in to a bundle of kitty fur just because it is cute and you want your child to have an animal companion, is not a good idea. Only once a decision is carefully deliberated and you are sure that your child is mature enough to take care of a pet, and you understand that the ultimate responsibility lies with you, the adult, it becomes a good idea.

There are a few other factors that you should take into consideration, but the most important is that a pet is a life-time commitment that involves responsible pet ownership. The first thing your child should understand is that the new cat is not a possession – she is an animal with feelings and needs.

“It should never be a decision for your own pleasure or enjoyment,” says educational psychologist Cindy McDonald. “But rather be based on the fact that you want to improve the life of an animal by giving it a good and loving home.”

Maturity levels

Children mature at different ages. One child might be more mature and responsible at the age of 10 than another child at the age of 13. Responsibility and commitment go hand in hand when it comes to taking care of a pet. In some instances, children understand and naturally do this, where other children need to learn it.

Either way, children need guidance from an adult on how to properly take care of a pet, and they need to be supervised until they can prove that they are capable of doing it themselves. Sometimes, it is better to wait a few years. “No harm will come to a child who has to wait a few years to get a pet, but much harm has come to pets who are given to children who are not yet mature enough to take care of them,” says Cindy.

“The ability to take responsibility for self without continual reminders from the parent is a good sign. Doing things like homework, personal hygiene practises and simple chores around the house without being nagged by mom or dad is a start. If a child does not take his dirty glass to the kitchen without being reminded, there is little chance that he or she will clean the cat’s litter box without a fuss.”

Another indication that your child is ready for a cat, is when your child takes care of other pets without being prompted. They will, for instance, fill the dog’s water bowl, feed the fish in the aquarium, or interact with the bird in the cage. By being aware of an animal’s needs is a good sign that your child may be ready to take care of a cat by herself.

Ultimate responsibility

The ultimate responsibility of taking care of an animal still lies with the adult – from the food bills, vet bills, day-to-day care, to ensuring that the cat is fed and that she has fresh, clean water. It is also your responsibility to supervise playtime and to ensure that your child doesn’t hurt the cat. You should also guide your child and train the kitten about acceptable behaviour.

When you and your child are ready to take on the responsibilities that go with a pet, and you get the ideal kitten to suit your lifestyle, the bond and love will grow to much fulfilment, joy and happiness.

Can you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions?

  • Are you willing to supervise your child and take responsibility for the cat’s care?
  • Do you rent your property or live in a complex? Do they allow cats?
  • Most cats like to live indoors and have space outdoors. Are you happy with a cat in the house?
  • Is anyone in your home allergic to cats?
  • Can you afford quality food and health care costs?
  • Do you now about cats and what care they require?
  • Are you willing to learn more about cats, their behaviour and how they communicate?
  • Do you know about cat litter, the different types and how often the tray should be cleaned?
  • If you go on holiday and don’t have anyone to care for your cat, can you afford the cost of a cattery?
  • Are you prepared for the responsibility, commitment and care of your cat well into old age, for the rest of her life?

A pet cat can teach your child some valuable life lessons:

  • Commitment
  • Responsibility
  • Patience
  • Confidence
  • Compassion and respect
  • The cycle of life

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