Research indicates that cats are the most popular pet in Western Europe. Their loving yet independent nature makes them a perfect choice for busy families but they can also be sensitive and territorial. These traits could see them clash with young, excitable children who may not have the correct level of understanding to treat them appropriately. But with some guidance and consideration it is possible for the two to cohabit successfully and form a long-lasting, loving bond. Here are some tips on creating harmony between the cats and kids in your home.
If you are thinking of introducing a cat into the family home then take time to research the temperaments of different breeds – this may affect how they react to your children. For example, research suggests that Birmans are easy to train, American shorthairs tend to be playful and Persians are more docile. Do also bear in mind that a rescue cat can come with a difficult history that could affect his behaviour. If you are bringing a new baby into a home where you already own a cat, try to familiarise the cat with the scent of the baby beforehand. You can also use associative tricks such as providing treats upon introduction so that the cat connects the baby with something positive.
Having a pet can be a great way to educate children about care and responsibility but they need to know from an early age that a cat is an animal, not a toy that can be pushed and pulled around. Enlist them in the basic care of the cat – such as feeding and grooming routines – to allow them to establish a caring bond. Giving the cat dedicated quiet areas that can’t be accessed by the children can be a good way to give him an element of control. This will hopefully lead to a happier pet who is gradually more receptive to attention from the whole family.
Safety always comes first in a family home and no matter how much you love your cat, you should always be aware of the dangers they can pose. Never leave a cat alone with a baby and always remove their food and litter trays out of reach of a baby or toddler. Cat faeces contains bacteria that can lead to toxoplasma in children so always be vigilant. Keep your pet’s injections up to date and always seek medical advice for a cat scratch/bite that leads to fever or general illness in children.