Introducing cats and children
Introducing a cat or kitten to your child requires time, clear boundaries and patience, but when done effectively they can make great companions.
When choosing your cat or kitten it’s important to choose one that is right for your family.
Below are lists of things to look out for, an idea of rules to follow and different ways to help your children get along with your new cat or kitten.
When choosing your cat:
Choose a confident cat - Your cat will need to be confident and well socialised, as they will need to be tolerant and capable of handling bouts of unexpected affection. Consider which breeds would suit you.
Check the rehoming centre advice - Some rehoming centres do not allow their cats to go to households with young children due to noise and disruption concerns. However, we highly encourage you to find a rehoming centre that supports matching their cats or kittens to the right family.
Establishing some house rules:
Set some house rules - These help transitions run smoothly, some ideas include:
● Which family member is responsible for each chore (feeding, litter tray cleaning, etc)?
● Where will the cat sleep (although the bedroom is often an exciting prospect, this should be discouraged if your child suffers from any allergies)?
● Which rooms will be out of bounds?
● What level of attention is appropriate during the settling in period?
● What places are going to be designated for the cat only? This should include the litter tray and a number of resting places.
Once your cat or kitten is home:
Register with your vet - Cats and kittens need regular treatment for worms and fleas as these could be a potential health hazard for your family.
Allow your cat to adjust - Make sure your new cat isn’t overwhelmed by giving it one room to focus on at first.
In your cat’s first room... - Fill that room with all the necessary resources like food, water, comfortable resting areas, elevated places where the cat can go as well as places they hide and a litter tray.
Keep your cat inside - Even if you plan to let your cat outside at a later time, it’s important to keep them inside for the first few weeks while they adapt to their location.
Teach children how to handle the cat - Teach your children how to be gentle around cats and how to hold a cat appropriately. Eg. Cats need support under the front and hind legs. It’s also important that children should only pick up cats that are tolerant of being picked up, and only if they are strong enough to support all the cat’s weight.
Supervise initial interactions with children - Young children especially should always be supervised with cats. This will prevent the cat from having unpleasant and stressful encounters with children as it tries to settle into the home. It will also help safeguard against bites or scratches that could occur if the child pushes things too far with the cat before the cat feels totally comfortable around them.
Give your cat a ‘safe space’ - It is very important, especially with young children, that there is at least one room that the cat can retreat to as a ‘safe place’ within the house. This is an area that the children cannot access and the cat can go if it feels too overwhelmed.
Help your cat to find quiet places - Cats can get overwhelmed by noisy and busy family environments. Baby gates help to prevent toddlers from moving from room to room and are a great asset to a cat who may want to seek refuge upstairs or in another room.
For more information about how to successfully introduce cats and children, please visit the complete article here.