How to Teach Your Kids to Care for Their Cat
Teaching your children how to look after their pets is a fantastic way to show them what it takes to care for another living being. But before you let your kids take responsibility over the family cat, it’s a good idea to set some rules that could help ensure the safety and well-being of both your child and furry friend.
Establish That Animals Are a Lot Like People
Young children might have a hard time understanding that a kitty has feelings, too. But with the right approach, you could teach your son or daughter to respect their pet and be empathetic towards animals.
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You could do this by connecting your child’s daily needs with your cat’s needs. So, for example, you might show your child that your cat wants good food, a soft place to sleep, and some toys to play with for fun, just like any human.
You could also establish that your cat can feel a range of emotions, including fear, loneliness, annoyance, and contentment, and that your child’s actions could contribute to a pet’s negative or positive feelings.
Set Rules About Attitude and Behavior
It’s important to supervise children while they’re interacting with pets. Kids could make the mistake of handling an animal too roughly, pulling on the fur, ears, whiskers, or tail, as a few examples, and that could lead to injuries to your cat, as well as bites and scratches on your child.
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It’s best to teach your child to approach your kitty when both of them are relaxed. A kid who’s stressed, frustrated, or loud could end up stressing and frightening your pet, especially if your child is chasing him. And these types of behaviors and attitudes could also lead to bites, scratches, and injuries.
Here are a few pointers that could help you teach your child all about gentle handling:
- It isn’t a good idea to force a cat to be petted. Your child should instead try extending a hand towards the cat to see if he responds to being touched. A treat or toy could even be used to gently coax a kitty to come closer so that your child could then gently stroke his fur.
- Petting the cat from the top of the head, or the shoulders, to the tail, in the direction of the fur, is a good place to start. Remember: not all kitties like belly rubs. Teaching children that they shouldn’t put their fingers near your cat’s eyes, ears, nose, or mouth is also a great idea.
- Only after a period of time has passed, during which your child and your cat are getting along and you know for certain that your kid knows how to pet and hold your kitty, should you move on to a lesson involving picking up your cat—that is, if your cat is the type that likes being picked up in the first place. When ready, teach your child that one hand should be used to support the cat’s chest, while the other should be used to support the back legs. With your cat calm and secure, your child might be able to hold him comfortably and safely.
- Give your pet an escape route at all times, such as up to a tall cat tree, in case he starts to feel overwhelmed or threatened by your kid. It’s important to teach children that animals have limits that should be respected.
Give Your Kid Certain Chores to Help You
As children get older, they can take on more responsibilities when it comes to taking care of their pets. And, as is the case when teaching your son or daughter all about positive interaction with your cat, take age into consideration when it comes to doling out chores.
Here are a few things that your child could help out with, whenever they’re ready to do so:
- Rinsing out your cat’s water bowl and refilling it with clean water daily.
- Brushing your cat to help keep his fur clean and smooth.
- Giving your pet his daily treat.
- Helping your cat exercise through playtime with various toys.
Raising Kids Who Love Animals
By teaching your children to care for their pets, including their feline friend, they could bond with their animals more, while at the same time gaining a sense of responsibility towards another life. These are lessons that they can carry with them into their teen years and their adult life, so it’s never too early to start educating your kids on the benefits of watching over their four-legged friends.
Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. An advocate for better treatment of all animals, she enjoys producing content that educates others, helps them understand animals better, and inspires them to help, whether that means volunteering at a shelter, fostering strays, or simply giving their own pets a safe and happy home to live in.
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