There is no reason to not have a cat if you have kids. Many cats enjoy the company of children, but not all cats can tolerate the rambunctious nature that little children tend to have. It all comes down to picking the right cat and training your child how to interact with your cat. It is up to you as the parent to teach your kids how to pet, handle, and treat them with kindness and compassion. Many kids have amazing relationships with their cats and learn about respecting other animals and being gentle towards them – it can be done successfully, but as the parent you have to lay down the rules.
When choosing a cat, research different breeds and pick the breed that does the best with children. If you opt to go to a shelter and rescue a cat then great! Just make sure to inform your adoption counselor that you have children and they can help pick the best cat for you and your household. The ideal family friendly cat would be well socialized to children of all ages, with an endless tolerance of handling and affection. Very shy and timid cats may find living with children very stressful, and cats with these types of temperament should be avoided.
Training Your Child
Teach your child to gently approach your cat to see if he wants to play. If he seems preoccupied with other thoughts or is sleeping, leave him alone until he is ready
Instead of playing roughly with your cat, use teaser toys, rolled up balls of paper, or socks to play with the kitty. If you play with your hands, the cat will think they are toys as well and that it’s okay to attack hands and feet
Don’t bother your pet while he’s eating, sleeping, or using the litter box.
Stroke your cat’s coat gently in the direction the fur grows. Let your kitten determine what they will allow to be petted. Sensitive areas that cats usually don’t like getting petted are on their tummies, hips or feet. It is best to avoid these areas of the cat’s bodies.
As much as you’d like your cat to sleep on your bed, it’s best that he find his own spot to rest. Cats are more active at night so allowing them in your or your children’s bedrooms may result in sleep-interrupted nights because your cat may want to play.
Advice for Parents
Supervise your children when they play with the cat at all times. Also remember that infants and toddlers don’t understand the difference between their stuffed cat and your live pet, and an angry exchange between them can flare in an instant.
Do not let your child carry the cat around- if the cat decides they don’t want to be carried anymore, or if your child is carry around the cat in a way that is uncomfortable to the cat, your child could get scratched or bitten in the process.
Every member of the family should understand the importance of keeping doors to the outdoors and windows shut so your cat cannot get outside. Your new cat will need plenty of escape opportunities from your children if they want to be left alone, and the outdoors is not one of those places.
If you have a toddler, it can be a little more difficult to teach them how to handle a cat appropriately. The temptation for a small child is often to squeal with excitement, chase and grab so it is essential that you plan your cat’s escape route before bring a cat into the home. Baby gates are a great asset to the cat as they allow the cat to feel control over its environment by being able to leave a stressful situation and not have to fear being followed by a rambunctious child.
Training Your Cat
Have you ever watched two kittens play together? They bite, paw, and roll around with each other. Cats and children can become such good friends that sometimes your cat forgets your child is not one of his littermates and could treat your child the same- causing your child to get bitten or scratched in the process. Discourage hand-biting verbally with a No, and offer him socks or other toys to nibble. If your cat is still wound up, pouncing and attacking your hands and feet, it may be time for some quiet time for your cat in a room away from the kids.
Speaking of quiet time, all cats should have a place where they can retreat to if they want to be left alone. This may be a room or even just a space under a bed. You may want to invest in a cat tree- cats love having a high place to sit, and it’s a great way to get out of reach of grabby little hands when they want to be left alone.