Children and Kittens

There comes a time when getting a kitten becomes the chief topic of conversation in most households.

The child or children have the sudden need for a pet. Finding an available kitten or cat usually is not a problem, as shelters have an abundance of them.

The question of importance in most households is “who” will be in charge of caring of the new arrival.

Most certainly the child will promise to do all the necessary caring chores, but expecting that, is like believing everything the weatherman says everyday.

Getting a kitten/cat or any pet for that matter that requires a great deal of care should be a family matter. The family, as a whole or at least, 75 percent of the family,including at least one parent, needs to be in agreement.

The biggest mistake a parent/parents can make is expecting a young child or even a teenager to take full responsibility for the care of the pet.

With today’s activity schedule, homework and a child’s need for a social life, it is too big of a responsibility for someone who is not mature to undertake.

Teaching responsibility is one thing, but expecting 100% devotion is too much. Granted there are rare cases, those being few and far between.

If a kitten/cat has been decided upon, it is fair to give a young child a certain responsibility to take care of. Cleaning the litter box or brushing the cat is a good start.

If there are other children in the family divide the duties, with Mom or Dad keeping tabs on the children, the cat and the care. This way no one has the full responsibility and generally the cat will receive proper care, at least the majority of the time.

If you have very young children it is best not to get a kitten or cat until they are old enough to understand certain behaviors are not acceptable. Waiting until your child is at least 5 years old is a good idea, up till then a child does not really understand that pets have feelings too, and can be hurt.

If you already have an older cat/cats teaching the child to act quietly around them and to pet them only under supervision is a wise beginning. Allowing the child to feed the cat a few treats at a time, will be the beginning of a bonding experience between the cat and child.

Make certain the cat has a “safe house,” a place it can escape to when it has had enough attention.

Getting a kitten for a small child can be hazardous for the child and the kitten. Toddlers do not understand the difference between a soft hug or squeezing a kitten to death or the difference between a pet or a smack on the head with a nearby toy. A kitten will bite or scratch in an effort to protect itself and you soon will have a problem on your hands.

Even older children have to be taught the proper way to hold a cat. If having a cat is a new experience for the whole family, teach the child or children to hold the cat on their lap while sitting down. This way the cat will feel secure and the chances of dropping it and getting injured are slimmer.

Even though it is said, a cat always lands on its feet, that may be true most of the time, but many a leg has been broken to disprove that statement.

Establish a few ground rules such as: never grab or squeeze the cat, do not hit or play rough with the cat using your hands, play with toys that are interactive (toys with wands are good,) pet only in the direction of the way the fur grows, do not rub its tummy, and under no circumstances disturb the cat when it is eating, sleeping or using the litter box.

The best teaching method you can use is to “be a good example.’ Show your child/children your respect and love for the cat (or any pet) and they will follow suit.

As time passes do not expect your child to be as attached to the cat as it once was. As children grow and interests change, so do attachments to pets. That is why it is so important that an adult becomes part of the equation from the beginning. A cat or any pet is (or at least should be) part of the family and not something to be disregarded once the momentary interest is lost.

Pets teach children empathy, they give unconditional emotional support when a child needs it most and they teach children respect for all living things.

It may sound like a great deal of effort and work on the part of a parent, but when you see your child and their pet engaged in a moment of pure love and enjoyment with each other it is all worth it.

No one said parenting was easy, but it has its worthwhile moments.