Few things in life are quite so delightful to a child as a furry friend, and fortunately, most cats also love the attention a youngster will lavish attention on them. Children and cats can live and play together wonderfully, provided they can respect one another.
Toddlers should never be left alone with a cat. They can be rather clumsy and may accidentally hurt or frighten a cat, especially a fragile kitten. If a cat is frightened, she might bite or scratch, so you should always supervise their playtime together.
All children who are going to come in contact with your cat should be taught the basics of handling:
- Always pick her up supporting the chest with one hand and her hind legs with the other. A cat can also perch with its front legs on your shoulder, but be sure to support the back legs with your arm or hand
- If a cat struggles or tries to get away, let her go
- If a cat's ears are flat and its tail is lashing then she is not happy and should be left alone
- Don't touch a cat's tummy. It can frighten the cat and she may bite
- When playing with a cat, always use appropriate toys. Teasing, or trying to entice the cat to catch your hands or fingers is not a good idea. It may lead to a scratch or a bite
- If the cat is sleeping, eating or using the litter-box, leave her alone - there'll be plenty of time for play later
Many parents choose to introduce a family pet as a way of teaching their children compassion and responsibility. This may not actually be such a good idea for younger children. If a child falls behind on the routine jobs associated with the cat (feeding, watering and cleaning the litter) it's only the cat that will suffer. When deciding to get a cat, make sure that you - and your children - are committed to its' care. This will lead to a happier cat, children and parents.
Cats should have a 'quiet-space' where they can be left alone. This may be a room (you might choose to keep her litter tray in there too) or just a space under a bed. An ideal piece of "furniture" for a cat is a tall cat perch. Cats love having high places to sit, it can double as a scratching post and if she is feeling stressed she can also use it to climb out of reach of grabby hands.