Kitties and kiddies can make the best of friends. They can play, snuggle and carry on endless conversations. But the cat is more than a best friend — she’s a family member who needs care, and even a young child can help with that.
“Involving kids from a young age in pet-related chores helps them learn responsibility and become a responsible pet owner,” says author and mom Stephanie Campisi. “It also helps them build a relationship with the pet, something that is more complex than passively playing. It helps them understand a pet is someone with needs.”
Some tasks can also help foster a sense of independence in a child and improve their motor skills. Stephanie shares three ways your kid can help care for your cat.
Cats, especially those kept indoors, need exercise. They can get that through what is likely one of your kid’s favorite pastimes: play.
“It allows for exercise and engagement and allows them to bond with the cat,” Stephanie says.
You’ll want to oversee this to make sure the cat doesn’t bite or scratch your child and that your child is gentle with the cat.
“Make sure your kid understands not to roughhouse with the cat … and that they’re playing with toys,” Stephanie says.
Certain toys are better than others. Toddlers often explore with their mouths. Stephanie advises asking yourself: Will my child put this in their mouth? If so, catnip toys aren’t recommended, but a large ball with a bell inside might work.
“[The child] can practice their coordination, rolling and throwing skills,” Stephanie says. “Also, it’s a toy that separates them from the cat, so they’re not getting too close to the cat’s mouth or claws.”
The child can also pick out a toy for the cat at the store.
“It allows them to be independent and make a choice about how they play with their pet,” Stephanie says.
Once playtime is over, it’s good to have the child put the cat toys away.
“That’s really simple and something that doesn’t require much oversight,” Stephanie says.
It will also make your life easier.
Nourishing the cat
A cat’s beverage of choice is water, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of life, you may forget to check to see if the dish is full. You can put your kid in charge of this task.
“Really young kids can just bring the dish to you if they are empty,” Stephanie says, adding that if you use an automatic feeder, they can also check to make sure it’s working once or twice per day.
Older kids can graduate to feeding the cat and refilling the water dish.
Cats, particularly long-haired ones, can benefit from a good brushing. Children can help with this, but you’ll want to supervise, especially if you and the child are still working on what it means to “pet nicely.”
Kids don’t know any better yet, and their motor skills aren’t as developed, so they may grab at the cat’s fur or ears rather than petting them softly. They also may not be able to hold a brush.
“Grooming mitts can be good if they can’t hold a brush,” Stephanie says.
You can also place your hand on top of your child’s and brush the cat together.
Featured photo: FamVeld/Getty Images
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