Helping kids become best friends with their cats can be quite the feat. Kids are loud and crazy tornadoes, which cats often find scary and threatening. To build a life-long friendship between the two, it is super important to teach your children how to properly handle, read and act around your cat, here’s how to do it!
The first thing that kids need to understand is that kitties have feelings too. You can explain to them that cats feel sad, happy, excited, etc, just like them! You can then teach your kiddos how to tell how cats are feeling by telling them what certain body language and verbal sounds mean. These are the most important ones:
- Tails – Up high in the air means the cat is feeling friendly, down or between legs means she is scared, puffed up means angry or scared, twitching means she is getting mad, and wagging means she is very angry.
- Ears – Upright means kitty is listening, flat means she is scared or angry.
- Eyes – Wide pupils means she is nervous, small slit pupils means she is relaxed. Avoiding making eye contact means she wants to be left alone, blinking means she is relaxed too.
- Whiskers – When whiskers are pointing forward or backwards kitty is scared or angry and could bite, when they are relaxed to the side, kitty is also relaxed.
- Full body postures – Arched back is a scared cat that is ready to fight, body pressed to the ground means she wants to be left alone, belly up means she trusts you and wants attention, but don’t pet her belly! Laying down like she is sleeping means a happy cat.
- Verbal cues – Typical meows that you hear a lot is just kitty talking to you and getting your attention, purring usually means that she is relaxed and happy but sometimes she can be hurting or frustrated. Growling and hissing mean leave her alone until she calms down.
Once your child understands how to read a cat’s body language, you can teach them about approaching, petting and holding a kitty! This is how to do it:
- How to approach and pet a cat – When kitty is showing her “yes I want attention” body language and after they’ve asked the owner if they can pet her (if it is a stranger’s cat), they can slowly go up to the cat. Tell them to try not to stare at her and they can even try a slow blink. They can slowly reach out a finger and let her push her head in to it to show them that she wants to be pet, your child can then gently pet down her body to the base of her tail with a relaxed, open hand. Remind them not pet too much and for too long, lots of kitties don’t like that. Almost all cats will like a good head and check scratch though. Each cat has preferences.
- Picking up and holding a cat – A cat should be picked up under the chest and belly between her legs with both hands. Once kitty is off the ground, your child should pull her to their chest and hold her with one arm supporting her front legs and the other arm supporting her back legs. They need to make sure she feels like she won’t fall and that she is comfortable.
Using a stuffed animal to show your kiddo these things before they try with a real kitty is a great way to make sure they understand how to do everything properly!
Kids get very excited when they see cats, and that’s when the scary tornado can happen, so always remind them, along with everything above, to always be gentle when petting, visiting and playing with a kitty, talk softly when they are with kitties, and don’t bother cats when they are sleeping, eating, using their litterbox, hiding or relaxing up high.
Some more fool proof ways to help your cat and kid become best friends is to teach your child that your cat isn’t an “IT”, it is an object, not a living animal, always use your cat’s name or he or she. You should also intertwine cat and kid routine, including your child in feeding (how much kitty eats and what is good and bad for them), playing (show how to play properly with kitty), grooming, growing catnip and cat grass, and loving will help them understand cats even more and will help your cat see that your child is quite awesome too.
Kids are the future and it’s our responsibility to teach them compassion, kindness and love for cats and all other living beings. This is the first step to doing just that!