There are many benefits to children being around animals, including developing compassion, reducing risk of allergies and teaching lessons in responsibility. All that being said, it’s important to know how to properly introduce the two together.
Here are some important tips to remember.
Tips for that first meeting between your cats and children
• These meetings should be adult supervised.
• For cat and children meetings, introductions are made best in an area where a cat is comfortable.
• Children should be sitting down and refrain from yelling or grabbing at the cat.
• Children can give the cat treats or play with the cat, depending on how comfortable they are.
• If the cat seems to be getting too excited or anxious, have it focus its attention on something else (e.g. a toy) or take the cat calmly and quietly away from the child(ren) without punishing it.
• Do not force the cat to interact with your child(ren). This can make a cat feel anxious. It is best to have the cat interact with the child(ren) on its own terms.
• Cats should have a “quiet spot” where they can choose to withdraw from interactions and be left alone.
NOTE: There are products available that mimic natural cat pheromones, creating a sense of familiarity in the environment, and can be used to help reassure and comfort cats during stressful situations. This product may be helpful during cat-child introductions.
We hope these tips help you introduce a new cat to your children!
By Emily Cook, Ontario SPCA & Humane Society