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The Frisky Feline's Guide to Teaching Children Cat Friendly Interactions

Much like us, children are fascinated by cats. They take curiosity in their interactions, the way they move and respond to things and are in awe with just how cute they can be.

In order for good relationships to be made, it is our responsibility to show children proper cat etiquette. We must take the necessary steps to teach gentle interactions, boundaries and body language that they, as human and cat, can grow with. Check out our top 10 tips for creating a better relationship between cat and tiny human:

#1 Supervise children around cats! Bites and scratches can be avoided and happen oftentimes because the cat is spooked, stressed or cannot get away.

#2 If you just adopted a new cat or kitten, get to know them BEFORE introducing to a child. Learn about their petting/interaction preferences so you can ensure interactions remain safe for the child/cat as they learn about one another. If this is kitty has been with your family for a while and a new baby is coming, work to introduce smells and sounds in preparation for baby long before the baby's arrival.

#3. Take it slow. Do not rush to have relationships created! If your cat is scared, it means they need more time and smaller steps to adjust. NEVER force a cat to meet someone by holding them near or still to be interacted with as this can cause further avoidance and fear.

#4 When first bringing child and cat together, demonstrate the ways to interact with your cat. If showing how to pet, be sure to demonstrate soft, slow movements and emphasis on taking breaks from interactions. Be sure to share the specific areas on a cat which should be touched and which shouldn't. Talk about quiet voices and moving slowly. BE sure to watch your cat for signs of stress with interactions, if so try a lesser approach next time where the child is observing from further away.

#5 Make sure kitty has place to retreat! This means places off the floor where kitty can go that are ABOVE child height. This might mean a cat tree, wall shelves, window perches, chipped cat door to a cat safe area or catio.

#6 Emphasize NO PET zones, such as while kitty is eating, drinking or in the litter box or their scratcher. Cats must feel safe when doing these basic functions.

#7 Teach a basic outline of cat behaviors which mean the cat wants space such as "kitty is moving away", "kitty's tail is swishing" OR "kitty's ears are back". You can also share vocalizations like "hisses mean kitty is scared or doesn't like this interaction".

#8 Demonstrate love and kindness! Children repeat what they see because they are learning. Be mindful of your interactions with your pets - especially nicknames, petting and picking up. If you pick up your cat for kisses and they are meowing to get down/away, a child may do the same.

#9 Get them involved with your cat in SAFE ways. REMEMBER not all interactions need to be hands on. Have them make a cat house from a cardboard box, or set up their tunnels for them to play in. For older children, creating DIY cat toys, blowing catnip bubbles or softly rolling treats might be a start point. As your child grows older, the ways in which they interact may grow as well.

#10 Seek help from professionals if you need it before considering rehoming your pet. Behavior professionals are out there to help keep your family together - find one local to you OR ask your vet for a referral. Need more help? Contact us 860-387-9637. We offer in home and virtual services to all 50 states!

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