By Arlene Atkins
Children and cats: Hearing these words together, your first instinct might be to say to yourself, “Nope, not a good combination!” I understand that reaction, I really do. BUT, stick with me a couple minutes….
In addition to the joy that comes from bonding with a pet, the benefits your child will receive from loving and caring for an animal—especially a cat—might surprise you. You would be amazed how great it is for children of all ages to interact with cats. Learning how to pet and, when ready, picking up cats is such a compassionate act. Being kind to animals enriches the children’s lives but also the pet’s life. It takes observation, patience and a soft touch for a cat to love its attention. The responsibility of teaching children how to be gentle, patient and considerate with the cats is on the adults and older children. But, when given the chance, children will surprise you with how quickly they can absorb the right way to treat cats and kittens. Here are some tips for parents to keep in mind when teaching their children about pet care.
Some cats will tolerate more “rough housing,” but you have to remember, they are smaller and can get hurt easily.
Also, cats have (and should keep their claws), so they will need cat “scratchers,” and most need nails trimmed occasionally. Keep in mind that cats can and will scratch, usually by accident, but sometimes on purpose. The on-purpose times should be rare if you are teaching your child how to be behave appropriately with the cat/kitten. Since cats are small and don’t need the amount of care that dogs need, they are wonderful if you live in an apartment or don’t have the time it takes to walk a dog. (Of course, you can have both like
If your child is more timid around animals, consider pairing them with a shy kitty! Children as young as 4 to 5 years old can learn how to read and interact with shy kitties. They learn how to read their behavior and how to be patient, quiet and move slow. My grandson loves to read to the shy scared kitties that we had in foster care. It was good for both. Learning how to take your time and go slowly with them works such miracles. Using something with a long handle that has a toy on the end or even a soft cloth taped to a wooden spoon is a wonderful way to “pet” them without your child having their face too close when first meeting them. (Works great for adults
Know Before You Adopt
When you’re considering adoption, keep the following in mind: A pair of kittens, or a kitten with a social adult cat, work out better than just one kitten. Kittens need another cat/kitten to teach them to not bite or be too rough. You may have met an adult that is a bit of a terror and plays too rough…Chances are they grew up as an “only cat.” Some people have allergic reactions to cats/kittens. The main cause is from their saliva from grooming. A tip: Once a day, take a damp paper towel and wipe them off. It makes a huge difference, and they seem to enjoy it.
Cats make purr-fect friends, have interesting or entertaining personalities and enrich your life. Why do I have so much experience with shy/scared/sassy cats you ask? About 10 years ago, I started a program to help the kitties at our local county shelter that were not “showing well” on the adoption floor. They either needed more patient owners or were best suited for a caring barn, warehouse or office. The county shelter does a fantastic job getting the cats healthy and ready for new homes. Then, we help the cats that need us. If you are interested in adopting, please let us know. Visit barncatbuds.org for more information. Donations are always appreciated. We are wonderful matchmakers!
Arlene Atkins is the founder of Barn Cat Buddies, a Frederick County –based volunteer group that works with local animal shelters to match cats with good indoor and outdoor homes in the community.