Cats and children

Happy kids, happy cats

Cats can be a great influence on children of all ages. And most cats enjoy the extra attention and affection that kids offer - just make sure your cat has an opportunity to escape and a place to hide.

Cats and children - the benefits

Kids love cats. And cats love kids (most of the time).

Many children regard their cat as their best friend and learn many great lessons about empathy, care and love through their feline companion. For an only child, a cat can provide a vital source of friendship and opportunities for play. Some children prefer to share their feelings with a pet rather than another person.

There are physical benefits for children too and pet ownership can provide a source of comfort during recovery and rehabilitation.

Studies report that exposure to pets during infancy may significantly reduce the risk of asthma and allergies in later childhood. Primary school children from pet-owning households are also shown to have lower sickness absenteeism from school.

Teaching children to care for cats

Children learn best by example. If you treat your cat with love and respect, it's more likely your children will grow up to do the same.

As soon as your children are old enough to understand, explain that cats like to be left alone when eating or sleeping and that they can be frightened when people shout, make sudden movements or try to grab them.

Children soon learn the signs of an unhappy cat - the swishing tail, ruffled fur or hissing - and will avoid doing things that upset them.

Kids love to get involved with cat care, so get them to help with the feeding, grooming and playing routines.

Create safe spaces for your cat

Food and litter trays should be moved out of the reach of toddlers, but make sure the new locations are suitable for your cat to avoid any stress or toileting accidents.

Cats love to have the ability to retreat to safe, quiet spots and this is probably more true when kids are present. Make sure your cat has a high vantage point that they can use to watch from a safe distance. Teach your children not to disturb your cat when they're in their safe place, or while sleeping, eating or using their litter tray.

See also - Cats hiding

Cats and babies

Cats generally respond well to babies, but remember that having a baby tends to change routines and lifestyles, something that can be unsettling for cats. To help prepare your cat for these changes, you can:

  • reduce the amount of lap time your cat gets - you're unlikely to have as much time for your cat when your baby arrives
  • make the nursery off limits to your cat
  • move feeding bowls and litter trays to their new locations gradually

Your baby will be around three months old before they notice your cat. Your cat will have noticed your baby on day one, and may be curious about the new arrival, so don't worry if your cat sniffs your baby's feet or stands guard by the cot. Not all cats love babies and many will ignore infants and give them plenty of space.

See also - Cats and your pregnancy

Related topics

Cats and your pregnancy - Topic

Cats and your family - Topic