According to experts, it’s perfectly fine to adopt a cat when you have
children. There is no reason why cats and children cannot get along harmoniously — as long as the parents carefully supervise interactions between the children and the cat to keep everyone protected and safe.
Many children develop strong, long-lasting, loving bonds with their cats. As a result of these relationships, children can develop respect for other creatures and learn how to be protective and kind to all animals as adults.
Most young children are extremely curious and active. Although high energy is normal in children, Dr. Dodman cautions that young children may take delight in throwing their toys around — a behavior that can be quite destructive. Therefore, it’s important for parents to teach the child that cats are not toys and are never to be treated like them.
Although some cats are quite tolerant and allow themselves to be dressed up in doll’s clothing, for example, even the most compliant cat can lose patience and swat a paw in self-defense. It’s crucial for children to learn not to invade a cat’s personal space. As Dr. Dodman explains, “Some cats are mercurial and may strike out at the child when stressed; so all interactions should be watched carefully.”
It’s up to the parents from the very beginning to set boundaries and teach children the correct way to approach, handle and stroke a cat.
Should we adopt a kitten or an adult cat?
Kittens are highly energetic and require much more attention and playtime than an older cat. Bringing a kitten into a home with a baby or toddler — who also needs extra care — may not be the optimum choice. While it may sound like a good idea for a youngster and kitten to grow up together, the American Humane Association recommends that it’s wiser for homes with young children to choose an adult cat as a pet.
Children who are just learning how to handle a cat may unintentionally be too rough with a young kitten. Kittens have very sharp claws and teeth, and if the kitten is played with roughly, he may scratch or bite in defense. Kittens are also at a higher risk of getting accidently injured by young children — which can result in the cat becoming fearful and/or shy by the time he reaches adulthood.
“Inclusion” is everything
Dr. Dodman recommends that the cat should be treated as a family
member from the very beginning. An ideal method for parents to teach children the correct way to handle the cat is to sit down together as a family, while one parent demonstrates the proper way to touch, stroke and handle the cat. It’s also a good idea to discuss feline body language —
particularly ways to recognize that the cat looks annoyed and needs space.