I grew up with cats, and my kids have always had at least two or three kitty brothers and sisters at any given time. It really never crossed my mind that someone might not bring a cat into the family because of their children — or even worse, rehome a cat who’s been a part of the family for maybe his entire life.
Like with anything, when you approach with intention and preparation, living in a home with kids and cats is a fantastic experience that I’d never trade for anything. There are a few myths about cats and kids that have been floating around for years, and some of them are automatically snapped up as the truth. I’m not into generalizations, and I realize each family has their own culture and vibe; however, I think there’s always room for education. I looked into some common misconceptions concerning cats and kids, and perhaps my findings will shed a little light on these myths.
If kids don’t learn how to properly spend time with cats at a young age, when will it happen? Why wait? Sure, some toddlers are loud and lean toward the rowdy side, but children of that age should spend supervised play time with cats, anyway. And parents need to take the time to demonstrate and allow the child to practice being gentle with the kitty, and keeping her voice at a softer tone. The more practice a child receives, the better chance she’ll find a loving companion in a kitty.
I will say, from experience, sometimes young ones visit and don’t know how to properly handle a cat. For the cat’s and the child’s safety, I’d recommend placing the cat in another room behind a closed door during the child’s time in your home.
I wrote an entire post about this very subject because my daughter has some pet-related allergies. It’s important to first identify the allergy — is it really the cat or could it be dust mites? If your child truly does have an allergy to the cat, there are a few strategies to try. Make your child’s room a cat-free zone, replace carpet with hard surface and use an air purifier. Also regularly clean your carpet and upholstery and have your child remember to wash her hands after playing with kitty. You also might want to look into hypoallergenic cat breeds.
Certainly, a cat will know something’s up when a new, tiny family member appears in the home, but there are ways to prepare your cat so the transition is smoother and kitty still feels like a much-loved part of the family. Allow your cat to explore the baby’s room, smelling and investigating every blanket and stuffed bear. There are even CDs of baby sounds you can play so kitty gets used to the variety of cries and coos. It’s a great idea to snuggle kitty while the CD plays so he’ll develop a sense of safety, and not feel scared when the real baby sounds enter the picture.
When the baby does come home, keep the schedule as consistent as possible, and remember to schedule playtime with your cat!
This one is just a silly wives’ tale. Certainly cats can be drawn to the smell of milk on a baby’s mouth, but they aren’t going to “suck the breath” from an infant. Kitties are heat seekers, though, and may want to snuggle up next to a baby. This should always be supervised snuggling.
How many times have we heard the phrase, “a boy and his dog?” The media doesn’t often depict cats and kids having the kind of playful and loyal companionship they show with children and dogs. Certainly, dogs are more active and kids enjoy taking walks and playing high-energy games like fetch.
In my experience, cats can be excellent companions to children, especially if the child was trained how to treat kitty respectfully at an early age. My cats have always enjoyed spending time with my two kids, either playing with a wand toy or simply snuggling together watching cartoons. Sure, it’s a quieter kind of friendship, but a true and beautiful one nonetheless.
What do you think of these myths? Share your thoughts 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.