Cats & Children

Children and pets can form a special bond that lasts a lifetime, but what are some ways to achieve that relationship without tears or scratches? Children who grow up with a cat, or cats, in the household can learn a lot about life. They learn about nature, and the amazing power of love and affection.
Children do, however, need some special guidance to be sure that they understand the correct way to behave when interacting with their pet, and they need a few lessons in cat communication.

Small children must always be supervised, and they must be taught that they should always be gentle with the cat.

  • To promote the best relationship, children should try to see things from the cat's point of view. 
  • Children should be taught not to initiate play while a cat is eating, sleeping, or using the litter box.
  • Do not allow your child to tease or play roughly with the cat.
  • Make sure the children remember to close the doors so the cat isn't able to run outside and possibly be hurt or lost.

A mild tempered dog might put up with a young child's rougher handling but a cat is not likely to take it nearly as well. Before you even introduce your child to your cat, you need to teach the child to read the cat's body language to see the signs of when it is okay to approach the cat, and when it's best to leave the cat alone. It is not difficult for a child to recognize the signs.

  • If the cat seems happy and contented, purring with its tail up, it is a good time for the child and the cat to play. 
  • If the cat's ears are flat, or if the cat is agitated with an arched back, or tail twitching, the child should be instructed to leave the cat alone.

It is important for the child to understand the proper way to handle a cat, always providing support under the chest and back legs. The child should be aware of the fact that a cat's natural reaction is to grab and bite whenever someone touches their tummy.

If a bite or scratch does occur, do not punish the cat for acting according to their nature. A clap of the hands and a sharp "No!" is the only correction required. The cat does not intend to hurt the child, or be overly aggressive, but sometimes, like children, they get carried away.
Treat the child's wound with disinfectant and apply a dressing.
There is no reason to try to punish the cat. After a few minutes they will not associate the bite or scratch with the punishment and they will have no idea why you are upset. What the cat needs at a time like this is some of your love and reassurance to let them know that everything is okay.

Do not adopt a kitten under four months old if you have children under about eight years old. A very young child's overly aggressive play or hugs can seriously injure a very young kitten. An older cat can better withstand the wear and tear of the youngest children, but adult supervision is always very important to protect both the child and the cat.

It is better to let children learn responsibility by assigning jobs like taking out the bins, or cutting the grass, and not subject the poor cat to sometimes haphazard care provided by children.

Cat ownership can teach your child a valuable lesson about animals and love and friendship. By opening your home to a cat, and by teaching your child to understand that cat’s wants and needs, the child will learn to give and receive love.