Studies show children who grow up with pets to be more caring and empathetic toward people and animals, more outgoing and have better communication and social skills. Teaching children about cats is the first step to building a good relationship between them and the family feline.
Families who adopt kittens when their children are young offer a chance for their kitten and children to grow up together. If a child is old enough, she might enjoy watching a little kitten change and grow. The bond between child and cat could be special and long-lasting. On the other hand, the American Humane Association recommends adopting a cat over two or three years of age for children under the age of five or six.
Whatever you decide, teaching children about cats and how to interact with a new kitty friend is important. Whether or not the cat was there first when a child arrives, here are some tips for helping them get off to a good start:
- Don’t force a cat into physical proximity with a child, no matter what the age of a child and let your cat hide if she wishes.
- Always supervise interactions between cats and young children.
- Read stories about cats to young children.
- When a child is old enough for responsibility, have her do simple things for kitty such as feeding kitty her meals and filling her water bowl. Activities such as these help foster a feeling of dependence upon the child because a cat will learn to associate good things with her little human friend.
- Show your child how you pet, pick up, and talk to your cat, because children learn from observation.
- Have a toddler and a cat play with their own toys near each other.
To prepare a cat for a new arrival, it’s best to do so long before a child is born:
- Show her the new baby’s belongings.
- Move the litter box to a safe place so kitty gets used to the new litter box location.
- Bring home something from the hospital with the baby’s scent for kitty to sniff.
- Once a new baby is home, pay as much attention to kitty as was done before and try to keep the same routine for kitty.
Once a child is old enough to be able to color with crayons and do arts and crafts, the Cat Fanciers’ Association has a great website called For Kids… About Cats: Feline Education For Youngsters. This website has child-friendly resources to learn about cats and cat shows. It also has numerous activities for children of all ages such as coloring pages, an activity book, word searches and crossword puzzles.
Whether you’re bringing home a newborn infant in a household with a cat in residence, or you’re adopting a new family cat, fostering a good relationship between cat and child might be one of the greatest gifts you give to your child that may result in immeasurable benefits for both.
Photo Source: Stephanie Newman