If you’re lucky enough to live in a house with cats and kids, you’ll be familiar with the companionship they provide towards each other. Cats can be a great influence on children and most cats will enjoy the affection that children offer.
However, while cats and kids often share an unbreakable bond, it is important that children learn how to care for their cat properly. In aid of Family Safety Week, we’ve put together our top tips on how to teach your child to care for your cat – guaranteed to keep their relationship harmonious!
Keep an eye on them
Even the kindest children can accidentally frighten a cat by surprising them or pulling their tail. Make sure you’re around for every interaction that your child has with your cat, just in case!
Teach your child the right way to handle your cat
Show your child how to pet your cat carefully using an open hand and a soft, gentle stroke. Babies and toddlers are likely to poke or pat a cat, or even hold onto their skin, so watch out for this. You might even want to hold your toddler’s hand to show them how to be gentle – remember to give your child lots of praise when they treat the cat with care.
Allow your cat some time alone
No matter how great their relationship, there are times when a cat will tire of a noisy toddler or energetic child. Keep some areas in the house child-free zones, teaching your little one to leave your pet alone when they are in these areas. High shelving and hiding spaces are ideal places for your cat to find peace.
Decipher your cat’s body language
Teaching your child to recognise when your cat is stressed is an important part of ensuring your cat is happy. A cat who is enjoying being stroked will lean in towards your child or even purr. A swishing tail, growl or extended claws are signs of an anxious cat and your child should steer clear. You can find out more about your cat’s body language by watching our animation below.
Make sure your cat can hide
For cats, having somewhere to hide ensures they feel safe. Teach your child to leave your cat alone if they are hiding – they should never pull the cat out or try and squeeze in next to them. Cornering the cat might even cause the cat to scratch or bite, putting your child at risk.
Keep cat items out of reach
Litter trays and food and water bowls are often attractive to kids – especially if you’ve got toddlers with an inquisitive nature. Keep little hands out of reach of these items, or locate them in areas where your child doesn’t have access. Stair gates are an ideal way to section off parts of the house as out of bounds.
Help them to play
As your cat and child become friendly towards each other, there’s no doubt your child will be keen to play. Letting your little one play with wand and rod toys is a great way to encourage play without them physically handling the cat, especially if your cat doesn’t enjoy it. It’ll help your cat to get used to being in your child’s presence too, so they’ll see them as less of a threat.
For more advice on introducing your cat to your children or toddler, visit www.cats.org.uk/cats-and-your-family