Introducing a child to a new pet, or even a family pet to a new child can sometimes be a daunting process. If you don’t do it the right way, it can be difficult for your child and your pet to form the kind of solid bond with each other than you no doubt want to foster. The bonds that children form with their pets are special and can last for a long time. Many adults can still recall their childhood pets and many cite a number of benefits to pet ownership that shaped them as they grew older.
Below are some top tips for helping parents to introduce children to pets in the right way and ensure that they are able to build a strong and lasting bond with one another.
Encourage Them To Keep The Volume Down
Kids love to make noise and lots of young children are also very loud talkers. It is only natural for most toddlers to be loud and boisterous, but while this is definitely useful for getting their parent’s attention, it isn’t so fun for a cat who is not used to them. In fact, loud noises can be distressing for a cat and can make them start to naturally avoid your child.
You should encourage your child to use their “indoor voice” around your cat and show them how being calm and quiet will encourage your cat to approach them and show affection. Some people naturally slip into a different voice when they are talking to their pets. Some children will find it easier to talk to their cat in a special “kitty-cat voice”; this can be very helpful with cats who are more prone to shyness anyway.
More adventurous and sociable cats may well be able to adjust to louder voices, but they are unlikely to enjoy the sound of children shouting.
Teach Them To Be Gentle
One of the most important aspects of teaching your child to bond with a new pet is teaching them that they must be kind and gentle so as to avoid unintentionally causing harm to the animal. If you are introducing your child to a very young kitten, it is essential that they are aware of how fragile young animals can be.
As part of this process, you should be teaching your child that even if the cat upsets or frustrates them, it is still important that they do not act aggressively towards it. Teach them that cats are not responsible for their actions in the same way that we are, and they, therefore, need to respect the animal’s boundaries.
When your child is first getting to grips with how to properly handle your cat, you should aim to supervise all of their interactions. You can stop supervising them as soon as you are confident that they are going to be able to play nicely together. However, when they are both new to one another it is a good idea for you to be on hand and both to offer advice and to intervene if necessary.
As a responsible pet owner, it is always sensible to have cat insurance. Pet insurance for cats covers you against unexpected vet bills, including if your kitten sustains an injury because your child let it out when it was supposed to stay indoors. Everypaw is a pet insurance provider. You can compare policies with different levels of cover, so your cat is protected against illness and injury.
Establish A Routine
While cats are independent animals that love to explore on their own, you should also try to establish some kind of routine with them. This will help your children to bond with them, especially as children tend to be following relatively strict routines anyway. Simple things like putting food out for your cat at the same time every day, as well as following the same rituals and procedures every time you do so, will help to reinforce routine behaviour for both your child and your pet.
Even if your cat is gallivanting around the neighbourhood and isn’t there when you put their food out, establishing this as some kind of routine can still help to foster a bond between your child and the cat. If your child helps to feed the cat every night, whether they actually see the cat eat the food or not doesn’t matter. They will still be involved in the feeding process and will be contributing to looking after your cat.
Reward Good Behaviour
A great way of strengthening the bond between your child and your cat is to emphasize to both of them the value of good behaviour. By using a system of rewards, you can encourage your cat to behave in a particular way. For example, if there is a certain part of the house that you don’t want your cats going into or an area that you do not want them climbing on, then you can give them a reward every time they successfully avoided. Alternatively, you might withhold a reward that you usually give them with their meal if they contravene any rules.
Similarly, you can find a way of rewarding your child whenever they do something positive with your cat. For example, if they are willing to empty out the cat litter tray and refill it for you then you can give them a reward for doing so. Similarly, if they have been struggling with the way that they speak to or handle your cat, then give them rewards to show that they are improving in this regard. This won’t just boost your child’s bond with your pet, but it will also boost their own self-esteem and motivation.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner
Owning a pet should be an enriching experience for both you and your children. However, in order for children to get the most out of pet ownership, they need some guidance from their parents. By ensuring that your child interacts with your cat in the right way, you can help to nurture a bond that could last until your child is well into adulthood. Make sure that you have a plan for introducing your child to a new pet, don’t leave anything to chance.