Have your children been asking you for a feline friend? Or maybe it’s your idea to welcome a kitty into the family! Either way, bringing home a new cat is a major milestone, and these pets are especially beneficial for kids, teaching them many values such as compassion, responsibility, and affection.
To encourage a wonderful bond between your cat and kids, it is important to prepare your little ones for the kitty’s arrival and continue to monitor their interactions once they meet. Follow these tips for introducing a kitten or adopted cat to kids!
Children are often intrigued by cats, but that doesn’t mean they inherently know how to behave around these furry friends. Therefore, you must give your children background knowledge on how to treat the new furry family member before their arrival.
To help your new kitty get off on the right paw, set aside some time with your children before the cat arrives home. Talk about how this four-legged friend is in a new environment and will require the family’s patience and care to feel welcome. Reiterate that showing compassion and empathy will go a long way toward building a strong bond.
Explain to your kids that cats use their bodies to express what they’re feeling. This can help children distinguish between when a cat wants to interact and play versus when a cat prefers to be left alone.
For instance, if a cat is suggesting they want to be petted, they will usually rub against a human’s clothes or hand and softly purr, according to Vetstreet. A low, wagging tail indicates your cat is annoyed while their ears lying flat against their head, large and staring eyes, or tail hidden under their body are all signs they may be scared. Understanding some basic cat body language will help ensure your cat and your children stay safe and content.
Your kids should also learn the proper way to approach, stroke, and handle the cat. To demonstrate an example, show your children how to gently pet the cat’s head and back by lightly stroking your child’s arm. Stress the importance of not touching, grabbing, or pulling sensitive areas such as the cat’s fur, tail, ears, feet, and belly. Show how to pick up the cat under the chest with one hand and support the hindquarters with the other.
As your new furry family member adjusts to the family (and vice versa), maintaining both physical and personal boundaries will be key to a harmonious household. Get a head start on determining which rooms will be on and off limits for your furry friend. Similarly, emphasize the importance of closing doors when entering and exiting the house to ensure your pet doesn’t escape.
Meanwhile, your children should learn other guidelines to follow regarding the kitty’s personal boundaries. This includes maintaining gentle voices around the cat so that they don’t startle or annoy their new furry friend—especially when the cat is acclimating to their new home. Additionally, kids should be reminded to never put their face too close to their cat or interfere when the feline is eating, sleeping, or using the litter box. Discourage teasing, chasing, and rough play, such as wrestling the pet, to avoid unintentional cat scratches. Instead, keep a variety of kitty-specific toys to promote safe cat playtime with toys.
To ensure your cat adjusts well, you will want to have essential supplies ready; this will make your kitty feel comfortable and easier to introduce to your children. Some cat necessities include bedding, food, water, and accompanying bowls. You will also need cat grooming supplies, a litter box and litter, and a safety collar and ID tag to keep them happy, healthy, and secure. Don’t forget to pick out a cat scratching post and interactive toys to entertain them!
Once your kids have an idea of how to act toward the cat, you should continue reinforcing appropriate behavior and follow the tips below.
Your children may be tempted to play with their feline the second the kitty walks through the door, but at first, the cat will need time to become familiar with their surroundings and settle. Therefore, your kids must respect the cat as they accustom themselves to your home. Your cat may prefer safe places to hide, such as the top of a dresser, under the bed, or a gated-off room. Explain to your kids that the cat’s behavior has nothing to do with them, and that the kitty is simply getting used to their new living space.
Once your feline friend feels more at home, you can begin introducing them to your kids—and be sure to supervise them when they’re together. Let the cat get to know your children slowly and in short spurts so they can get used to their new human family members at their own pace. Also, allow your cat to approach your children rather than the other way around. If one of the parties gets too overwhelmed, then it is time to separate them. Lead by example, gently handling your four-legged friend and treating your pet with kindness so the kids mimic your behavior.
Giving your children cat-related responsibilities helps strengthen the bond with their furry friend and teaches them a valuable lesson: how to care for a living animal. Before doing so, ensure your child is old enough to take on these responsibilities; kids who are at least six years old can have a role of their own when it comes to tending to a cat, according to Animal Planet.
Kids may get territorial over their responsibilities. If you have more than one child, assign them different tasks. For example, one kid can be in charge replenishing food and water bowls while the other can make sure cat bedding is clean and toys are available. Leave litter box duties to adults as it is important to wash hands thoroughly and take extra precautions while handling waste.
Following these guidelines before and after your new feline friend arrives is key to ensuring a blossoming relationship between your cat and kids. The kitty is sure to make a great addition to your family and bring joy into all your lives.
Check out our cat care tips that will be helpful before bringing a new cat home!
Four Paws®, Magic Coat®, and Wee-Wee® products are available at major pet stores everywhere in the U.S. Please check with your local retailer for product availability near you.