My two kitties, Ghost Cat and Specter, are the best of friends. They share food, toys, and are frequently found sharing a cuddle. They’re on the same page about pretty much everything — except when it comes to kids. My older gal, Ghosty, thinks human children are great, but to poor Specter, the laughter of little ones is the most frightening sound on earth. If a happy child comes through the front door I may not see my little beast for hours.
Luckily for Specter, the only children who live in my home are of the fur variety, so her interactions with human kids are limited to once or twice a week, maximum. When young visitors appear in the doorway, Speck heads for her hiding places, while Ghost Cat prances up to the little people, ready for affection.
I don’t know much about Ghost Cat’s early life, but the way she interacts with kids leads me to believe that she probably spent some time with human children before she had kittens and ended up in a shelter.
The first time I ever saw Ghost Cat interact with a kid happened when a baby came to brunch at our old apartment. The baby was hanging out on the floor in her little car seat, with her parents less than an arms length away. I watched as Ghosty started to become curious about our little visitor and approached the tiny babe. As Ghost Cat got closer to the baby I went into full helicopter pet-parent mode, rushing over and scooping up my kitty before she got too close. I didn’t know what I was afraid of — I just knew that I’d never seen my cat around a small child before and I wasn’t sure she even liked them.
“It’s okay,” said the human parents. “Don’t worry about it!”
They were way more relaxed about the impending baby-cat meeting than I was, so I put Ghosty down and went back to serving eggs and drinking coffee. Ghost Cat and the baby made eye contact and checked each other out.
Ghosty kept coming around the baby for the rest of the visit, but she never made any weird or aggressive moves, so I considered this first cat-kid meeting a success.
Just a few months after that, we moved to another city and bought a house that we wouldn’t be able to move into for a month. Our friends were nice enough to let us stay with them (along with their kids and cats).
It’s a well-known fact that Ghost Cat was pretty much a giant jerk to the resident kitties at our friends’ house during that month, but the human kids were a different story. Ghosty liked those kids more than she hated our friends’ cats. Ghosty would let the kids pick her up, and they’d pull ribbons around for her to chase.
“Can we help you feed Ghosty?” they’d ask when I got back from work, like it was some super exciting thing. Apparently dumping wet food into a dish and watching a kitty eat it is super cool for the three- to seven-year-old crowd.
It’s been nearly a year since we stayed at their place, but when our friends come over here with their family, Ghost Cat remembers the kids. She doesn’t run and hide, instead jumping up onto the couch to have a visit and get loved on. Even when the action gets a little rough and tumble, Ghost Cat doesn’t go far. She just waits on the sidelines, keeping an eye on everyone and sticking close to me.
Specter, on the other hand, often runs when children come into the house. Kids who come over here always want to play with her, but I just let her take off and hide out until she feels comfortable.
It makes sense that Speck would find children a little too over-stimulating. Although Specter was born into a household with kids, I don’t think she had too much interaction with humans before she was given to us. Specter was an accidental kitten born into the house of a lady who was allergic to cats. The lady’s school-age daughter had brought home Specter’s mother and kept the cat in her room — but when that cat had a litter, the kittens (and the mama cat) were moved to a downstairs bathroom until they were old enough to be given away. When Speck left that bathroom she came straight to our house, where child visitors were infrequent (at first).
The first time she met a couple of kids, Speck was just a tiny baby, and she didn’t seem to mind the gentle touches and soft petting of supervised little hands (but she might have just been too terrified to let on). It was during Speck’s babyhood that she met an older child who now spends one evening a week at our house. Our little nine-year-old friend loves Specter and is very sweet to her, but it took Specter some time to warm up to this smaller human.
Specter would watch from across the room as our two dogs and Ghost Cat all piled on the couch to cuddle with our young guest. As the weeks went by, Specter became more and more receptive to this smaller human, and these days she no longer hides during our weekly visit. In fact, she now likes to hang out beside the kid during dinner, begging our grade school guest for food. I guess kids aren’t so scary when there’s food involved.
Even though Speck has warmed to this one particular kid, I don’t pretend that that means she likes all children. When kids come over, I let Speck do what makes her comfortable. Sometimes, that means she’s going to choose to hide while Ghost Cat chooses to visit — and that’s okay. Specter is my little baby, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to play nice with other people’s human babies.
Do your cats like kids? Or do they run from the pitter patter of little feet?
Read more about cats and families:
About the author: Heather Marcoux is a freelance writer in Alberta, Canada. Her beloved Ghost Cat was once her only animal, but Specter the kitten,GhostBuster the Lab and her newest dog, Marshmallow, make her fur family complete. Heather is also a wife, a bad cook and a former TV journalist. Some of her friends have hidden her feed because of an excess of cat pictures. If you don’t mind cat pictures, you can follow her on Twitter; she also posts pet GIFs on Google +