Cats and children

CATS + CHILDREN

04/08/14

Cats are great. They’re cute, cuddly and affectionate, but we all know cats have all kinds of personalities, and some cats are nicer than others. All cats – naughty or nice – need space once in a while. Follow these tips to teach your children how to be safe around cats:

TIPS FOR ADULTS

  1. Never leave cats and children alone together: Due to the unpredictable nature of cats and children (especially children under 6 years of age), they should be supervised at all times. Older children should only be allowed to pick the cat up under adult supervision as well. Keep a close eye on your cat and remove them from the room if they are being bothered or appear uncomfortable.
    If your child is visiting a friend’s house where there is a cat, ensure the adults in the home are as diligent about supervising the interactions between your child and their cat as you would be.

  2. Teach your children how to interact with cats: Tell your children to approach all cats quietly and to never bother a cat while it is grooming, eating/drinking, sleeping or in their litter box. Most cats don’t like to have their bellies rubbed so your children should be discouraged from doing this. If your child is allowed to hold your cat, teach them to let go if the cat gets restless.
    Remind your children that cats are not toys and can be hurt easily. They should not be laid on, tugged at or carried around the house.  

  3. Trim your cat’s claws: Ensuring your cat’s claws are kept short will help to reduce the risk of injury if a scratch does occur.  Your veterinarian can assist you with this task or you can attempt to do it yourself if you have a laid back cat. Read our article on nail care for your pet.

  4. Avoid using your hands as a toy: Games that encourage your cat to chase and jump on your hands should be avoided at all times. Instead, try playing with a laser pointer, a paper box or toy mouse.

  5. Ensure your cat has a quiet place of their own: We all deserve a quiet space to call our own. Ensuring your cat has a comfortable space away from all the hustle and bustle of your family life will allow them to retreat when they need some peace. This is a good place to keep your cat’s litter box, bed and water and food bowls. 

  6. Help your cat form an escape plan: Cats are usually very good at escaping from a situation that makes them uncomfortable. Their ability to jump to high places quickly provides them with the ability to dodge wobbly toddlers and excited children. Provide your cat with a few high places around your house where they can sit and watch the family activities without having to be directly involved. 

  7. Watch your cat: If your cat appears uncomfortable at any time, ask your child to step away from them and remove the cat from the room. If a cat flattens her ears or is wagging her tail, she is most likely irritated and may strike out. Keep a close watch and discourage this behavior whenever you see it.

  8. Reward good behavior: This goes for your cat and your children. Praise your cat when he is showing calm, positive behavior, especially at times when your child is close or interacting with them. Ensure you praise your children too when they pet the cat gently and follow the rules you have enforced.

  9. Practice what you preach: Children learn the most by observing the actions you take. Teach your child to treat all animals gently and kindly.

TIPS FOR CHILDREN

  1. Never approach a cat while it is eating, drinking, grooming itself or sleeping: Cats don’t like attention all the time. If your cat is busy eating breakfast or taking a nap, wait for a better time to play.

  2. Never pick up a cat without permission from an adult: Unless there is an adult in the room, you shouldn’t try to pick up a cat. If someone has given you permission to hold a cat, the best thing to do is to sit on the ground with the cat in your lap. If your cat begins to squirm, you should let them walk away. Cats should never be carried around the house.

  3. Do not chase cats: Cats do not like to be chased. If you want a cat to come closer to you, sit on the ground and softly call its name.

  4. Be calm around cats: Screaming and yelling can hurt a cat’s ears, and jumping and running can scare them. You should never pull a cat’s tail or fur, or poke their eyes or face either. Speak softly and remain still if you’re trying to get a cat’s attention.

  5. Avoid hugging and kissing cats: Although most cats love a good ear scratch, they don’t like to be hugged or kissed. Pet them gently, but avoid their tummy and do not put your face too close to any cat, especially ones you don’t know.