Introducing Cats to Children

     Congratulations on deciding to enrich your and your children’s lives by adding a feline friend to your
household! Here are steps to follow to ensure happy and safe interactions for all.
 
    The first few days in a new home are often quite stressful for any cat and, on the other hand, very
exciting for a child! Make sure to balance your child’s enthusiasm for spending time with your kitty
with their need for adjustment and alone time. For the first few days, confine your new cat to a quiet
and low traffic room in the home. If your children are under 10, this should not be the child’s room.
Allow your cat to get used to their new surroundings slowly.
 
     Provide a safe space for the cat. Whether it is at the top of a cat tree, or over a baby gate, all cats need
to be able to get away when they want to. Teach your kids to respect these hideouts—your cat should
know that they are not going to be dragged out of these special places. If you have toddlers, make these
spaces inaccessible to them; for older children, explain the reasons and make sure they understand to
follow these rules.
 
     Teach kids about cat behavior and body language. Teach them basic body language so they know when
your cat is happy and when they need a break. All children, even the youngest, can be involved in cat
care: helping with feeding, playing with interactive toys, cleaning the litter boxes, or grooming. These
positive interactions will make both your cat and your kids feel good!
 
     Teach kids appropriate animal handling and keep kitty’s nails trimmed. A cat who is chased or picked
up incorrectly is likely to scratch or bite your child, either by accident or in a defensive manner.
Teach kids to respect a cat’s boundaries while eating, drinking, or sleeping and to never bother a cat
who is using or about to use the litter box.
 
     Be a role model and let your children see you handling the kitty respectfully. Talk to them about why
you are handling your kitty the way you are. Make sure kids know it’s not ok to roughhouse with the
kitty while playing.
 
     No matter how old your kids are, remember that you are the adult and are the responsible one—for
the kids and for the pets! While duties can be assigned to children, such as refreshing the water and
cleaning the litter box, they should always be monitored by the parents. The health and wellbeing of the
animals is ultimately the sole responsibility of the adults in the home.
 
     The best relationships are made when parents involve themselves in their kids’ and cats’ interactions.
Watch for inappropriate behavior from both felines and human kids. Be aware of how your cat and kids
feel about each other. These steps will help you and your family enjoy a positive, loving relationship with
your new cat!
 
 
     Cats can greatly enrich your children’s lives and teach them many valuable lessons about the human-
animal bond. There are a few things to consider to make this endeavor a success for your family as well
as for your cat, and to ensure happy and safe interactions for all.
 
The Right Cat
 
     For a family with young children, it is important to choose a sociable cat. Avoid choosing a fearful or
aggressive cat, or a cat that does not like to be carried, petted, hugged and handled. Once the right cat
has been found, the adults in the household should guide introductions between the cat and the kids.
First, educate your kids about cat behavior and body language. Explain how the body language changes
when your cat is happy and when they need a break. Explain “safe zones”, which are areas in the house
where children are off limits. This can be on top of a cat tree, or in a quiet place that is sectioned off by a
baby gate. It is important for your cat to be able to get away when they want to. If you have toddlers,
you may need to make these spaces inaccessible to them. For older children, explain the reasons and
make sure they understand to follow these rules. This includes respecting a cat’s boundaries while
eating, drinking, sleeping and using the litter box.
 
     The first few days in a new home can be a little stressful even for a confident cat. On the other hand, it is
usually very exciting for a child! Make sure to balance your child’s enthusiasm for spending time with
the kitty with your cat’s need for adjustment and alone time. Allow your cat to acclimate to the new
surroundings slowly. Provide your cat with a quiet and low traffic room in the home. If your children are
under 10, this should not be the child’s room.
 
     Make it fun and keep it safe for everybody. It is important to understand that most cats who are
chased or picked up incorrectly are likely to scratch or even bite. This can be avoided by teaching
children safe animal handling and by keeping kitty’s nails trimmed. All children, even the youngest of
children, can be involved in cat care: helping with feeding, playing with interactive toys, cleaning the
litter boxes, or grooming. These positive interactions will make both your cat and your kids feel good!
 
     Be a good role model. Let your children see you handling your cat respectfully. Talk to them about why
you are handling your cat the way you are. Do not roughhouse with your cat in play. The best
relationships are made when parents involve themselves in their kids’ and cats’ interactions. Watch
for inappropriate behavior from both felines and human kids. Be aware of how your cat and kid feel
about each other. These steps will help you and your family enjoy a positive, loving relationship with any
cat!
 

Volunteer

Adopt