Introducing your kitten to your children
Children and cats can be best friends for life but first impressions count. Our tips will help get their relationship off to the best start!
Before collecting your kitten
Encourage your child to get involved with the practical side of pet ownership by drawing up a shopping list of things your pet will need when they come to live with you. These could include a bed, food, toys, poo bags or litter trays etc.
Write down some kitty dos (or rules), specific to a cat’s needs. Not only can this be fun to do together, but it is something you can easily refer back to if needed once your pet has come home. Ask your child to think about how your new pet might like to be treated and note these down, eg do be gentle when stroking (cat’s name), do leave (cat’s name) alone when they’re asleep, do make sure (cats’ names) always have enough water. If you don’t like the sound of dos, how about promises to the pet instead? You could turn the dos or promises into a poster and decorate it or colour it in.
If your child is a little young to understand written rules about pet care, they may get used to the idea of looking after a pet by caring for a toy animal. There are some lovely toys available that come with accessories such as a bowl, bed etc and these are great for encouraging children to have empathy towards animals. If you’re bringing home a kitten, consider getting a cat toy before your kitten comes home. Ask your child to think about what the ‘pet’ might like, and encourage them to brush and feed the toy.
The first meet will be really exciting for both, so talk to your son or daughter beforehand about how to welcome your kitten to the family. You can even turn this into a fun activity by getting your child to make them a welcome home card.
Your kitten will likely be very tired on arrival, so having a dedicated ‘quiet room’ just for them is a good idea. It’s important that while your kitten is in their quiet space, they are given space to relax and learn that they won’t be bothered. Kittens, just like children, need some quiet time and a chance to recuperate, especially after all the excitement of exploring a new home.
Once your kitten is rested and calm, or even starting to become inquisitive, sit down on the floor with your child, making sure they stay still and relaxed. Let the kitten come to them and encourage gentle strokes. Short bursts are a great way of making sure the first few days are full of positive interactions for kit and child.
Keep play sessions nice and short. Kittens will naturally play with their teeth and claws, so teaching them to focus this onto appropriate toys as early as possible will really pay off when they eventually grow into adults.
Kittens need to sleep a lot, so best that they are left alone to rest when they need to. Just like children, if kittens don’t get enough sleep they may become irritable!
Although it’s good to get your kitten used to being picked up gently, children may want to do this more than the kitten wants! Actively supervise when your children handle your new kitten and make sure that the kitten is well supported, comfortable and happy.