I’ve been writing about cats for five years and have lived with them my entire life. I’m currently a mom to two human kids and three feline ones, so I consider myself pretty qualified to write a column about children and cats. Since I began writing this column last year, I’ve received some wonderful comments and feedback from readers. Most of it has advocated cats and kids sharing the same space. But some of the comments have communicated quite the opposite viewpoint.
I don’t feel good about generalizing most things — I think it’s a poor way to demonstrate truth and a great way to piss people off. I mostly avoid it and try to teach my kids that words such as “always” and “never” should be used very carefully. When I began my foray into cat writing, I just wanted to share funny stories with friendly people who loved cats as much as I did. Honestly, most of my experience has been just that. There are some amiable, easygoing and fun cat lovers out there, and I feel grateful to have connected with more of them than I can count.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the readers who had very black-and-white thoughts about cats and could become aggressive about it. During the first year of writing my blog, I sometimes left my computer in tears after reading a comment left on a humorous story I thought was quite innocuous. Since then, my skin has thickened, but I’m still sometimes blown away and saddened by the judgmental — sometimes outright mean — comments readers leave on posts I write. I’m all about free speech, and I encourage direct and thoughtful commentary; however, being mean is just not OK in my book. We all love our cats — can’t we just get along?
I’ve also come to discover there are some people out there who love cats but have fairly negative opinions about children. I understand their opinions are based on personal experience. Heck, I have a fear of big dogs because I was attacked by a German Shepard when I was five. I still have trouble shaking the fear when I’m around anything bigger than a Corgi. Do I think all big dogs are vicious? No. That would be generalizing. The root of the issue, as it is with many issues, is education and the way we parent both animals and children. If parents or other caring adults don’t properly teach children and pets how to behave and act respectfully, we get what we get. And unfortunately, sometimes we’re on the receiving end of that bad behavior.
So when I read comments from readers saying, “Kids should NEVER have cats” or “Children are not capable of properly handling cats” or “Children are horrible creatures,” I feel sad. And I’ve honestly received all of those comments. That’d be like me saying, “Big dogs are monsters!” No way would I say that, because it’s a complete untruth. And I think it’s kind of ironic that these people who are advocating respectful behavior toward cats leave disrespectful comments.
Don’t get me wrong — I think it’s important to be cautious when leaving a child and an unfamiliar cat alone. If a child is visiting, go over guidelines for properly handling your cat, and what kitty likes and doesn’t like. If you feel uncomfortable, place the cat in another room during the visit. This post isn’t negating caution, not at all.
Just like it’s possible to responsibly parent a dog or cat, it’s conceivable to raise compassionate, respectful children who can properly handle cats. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I love writing this column. Certainly, I know I’m preaching to the choir a lot of the time, but I hope to reach people who need to read what I’m writing. Maybe someone is thinking about bringing a cat into their family home and happens upon one of my posts during an online search. Or perhaps someone forwards one of the posts to a friend whom they think would benefit from the information. I feel good knowing my posts are out there in cyberspace. You never know who might see them, but I do know one thing: Education is the key to all of it. And that’s a generalization I feel very good about using.
What are your thoughts? Tell us about it in the comments!
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About the Author: Angie Bailey is an eternal optimist with an adoration of all things silly. Loves pre-adolescent boy humor, puns, making up parody songs, thinking about cats doing people things and The Smiths. Writes Catladyland, a cat humor blog, Texts from Mittens (originated right here on Catster) and authored whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds, a silly book about cats wheeling and dealing online. Partner in a production company and writes and acts in a comedy web series that features sketches and mockumentaries. Mother to two humans and three cats, all of which want her to make them food.