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If you’re thinking of welcoming a cat into your home, you may be wondering how your new furry family member will get along with your kids.
While you love your kids and they’re utterly adorable, they aren’t always gentle. Or quiet. Or calm. And this, unfortunately, can make young children a scary prospect for many cats.
The good news is that it’s entirely possible for cats and small children to get along. The key is to take a gentle and patient approach with your cat, while also teaching your kids the right way to behave around your cute new kitty.
Cats are notorious for their strong will and independent spirit, so it won’t surprise you to learn that patience is an essential virtue when training your cat to get along with small children. One of the key areas you’ll need to focus on is letting your kitty adapt to interacting with kids at their own pace. Start slowly, let your cat engage at their own pace, and never force them to do anything they’re not comfortable with.
Teaching cats and kids to get along is also as much about training your kids as it is about training your cat. If you’re going to have any chance of success, you’ll need to educate your kids about how to play appropriately and safely with a cat.
The other thing you need to remember is the importance of supervision. No matter how well you manage the introduction of your kids to your cat, or how well-behaved your children are around the kitty, it’s essential to supervise all kid-cat interactions. That way you’ll be able to ensure that your cat is completely comfortable with the situation and that your kids are doing the right thing at all times.
Finally, it’s also worth mentioning that your cat’s age and breed will also play a part. For example, a curious and playful kitten might be much more open to new people and experiences than an older cat that’s set in their ways. Some breeds are also simply a whole lot more people-oriented than others and will respond more quickly to training.
Having a good supply of your cat’s favorite treats on hand will help you throughout the training process. You can use treats to reward your pet for good behavior or simply to help them adapt to a new situation.
It’s also a good idea to keep your training sessions short and fun. This will ensure that you avoid tiring out your cat and that the session ends on a positive note.
The Gentle Introduction Method
Don’t just force your cat to confront a room full of excited kids head on. Instead, let them meet the children at their own pace and in a space they’re familiar with. With the kids distracted (for example, with TV or a book), let the cat sniff and explore at their own pace. Remember, any early interactions between your cat and your kids should be on the cat’s terms.
Use treats if needed
If your kitty is reluctant to go near the children, give them time to adjust. You might also want to use a couple of treats or even your kitty’s favorite toy to lure them closer to the kids so they can realize that these shorter-than-normal humans don’t represent a threat. Even giving your cat a treat when your child enters a room can help — it all depends on what works best for your cat.
Gradually increase interaction time
As your cat grows comfortable being around kids, you can slowly start letting them spend more time together and encourage your kids to pat and play with their furry friend. We’ll delve into how you can teach your kids to interact safely with a cat further down the page.
Monitor your cat's body language
Watch your pet closely for any signs that they are distressed or uncomfortable. Both you and your child should know the body language cues that indicate whether your kitty is relaxed, stressed, or frightened. From a tucked tail to extended claws, there are many tell-tale signs to keep an eye out for.
Give your cat a safe place
It’s important that your cat has a safe place they can retreat to if they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable with the situation. This could be a cozy bed, a high perch, or even another room — it just needs to be somewhere your cat can feel safe and secure when they want to be alone.
Don't disrupt their routine
Finally, remember that introducing your cat to your children shouldn’t cause too much of a disruption to your cat’s regular routine. They still need their alone time, they still want plenty of food and water, and they still need to have lots of cuddles with you. Once they come to accept kids as a regular part of life in your home, they’ll be ready to start bonding with the small members of your family.
The Training Your Kids Method
Teach your kids how to pat a cat
Small children aren’t usually known for being particularly gentle. If they’re going to get along with your cat, you’ll need to teach them how and when to touch your furry family member. Being gentle is a must, while any sort of pulling, poking, or hitting is a big no-no. Even if your cat is tolerant of a bit of rough treatment, you shouldn’t be. Also take care to teach your child the importance of approaching the cat in a calm and quiet manner, and show them where your kitty likes to be patted.
Teach your children about cat body language
Next, focus on teaching your children about cat body language. Once they recognize the signs that indicate a cat is uncomfortable or even frightened, they’ll be better placed to avoid any potential scratches or bites.
Encourage quiet play
Small children playing happily are a cute sight, but to a cat, they can be quite intimidating and even scary. Noisy and boisterous play could frighten your pet, so try to encourage your kids to play quietly and calmly in front of them. When they’re ready for a bit of rough and tumble play, make them take it outside or at least into a separate area of your home.
Explain that cats need alone time
It’s also important that your kids understand just how overwhelming some situations can be for cats. Even if a kitty loves playtime with small children, they’ll likely still need time for peace, quiet, and rest each and every day. So teach your kids to recognize the signs that your cat wants to be left alone and make sure they always respect the animal’s wishes.
Supervise, supervise, supervise!
Last but not least, remember to supervise every interaction between your kids and your feline. This will allow you to put a stop to any rough play from your kids, and make sure your pet is always completely comfortable engaging with children.
By a Labrador Retriever lover Tim Falk
Published: 02/23/2021, edited: 02/23/2021