Maky was always a very happy cat. She’s about 1 ½ years old and she’s been with us since she was 4 months old. She loves people, even strangers. Every time we have guests, she loves to head bump their legs and smell everyone’s hands. However, some people are just not comfortable around cats. From our experience, children are most often afraid, especially if they’ve never been introduced to cats before.
We’ve often heard people say things like “cats are not affectionate” or “we’ve never had pets and the kids aren’t used to them”. Whatever the reason may be for being afraid, there are several ways to prep your kids before visiting someone with cat.
Respect the space
Talk to the kids about pets before your visit. Think of a pet as a family member. If you’re at someone else’s home, you generally abide by their rules and respect their family members. The same goes for pets. They have their own space and it’s their home, too.
Prepare the visit beforehand
Talk to the pet owners and ask questions about the cat’s personality. Just like people, cats have very different personalities and not all of them interact similarly with other pets or other human beings. Some cats were adopted later and in life and may have had a rough time with people, making them less likely to interact with strangers. It is okay to ask the people you’re visiting if their cats are friendly with strangers, kids in particular.
Introduction through smell
If the cats aren’t too shy to come greet you, they will want to smell you. If you take your hand away before they’re done, they will possibly follow you around until they’re done. Remain calm–he simply wants to get to know you. Ask your kids to reach out their hands and allow the cat to smell theirs, as well. This is the best way for a cat to welcome strangers into his life.
Watch your step
Coach your kids on ways to avoid stepping on the cat. Cats like to walk close to people’s legs and will commonly position themselves almost purposefully in front of people, so it is important for everyone to watch their step. A cat may strike out if stepped on, as this is a common defense mechanism. Avoiding the situation altogether is ideal.
Avoid yelling and screaming loudly. Having strangers in their territory is stressful enough for the cats. Cats are very sensitive to noise. Contribute to a calm and quiet environment and explain to your kids that using inside voices is especially important around cats.
Make sure children know purposefully harming a cat is NOT acceptable. Show them the proper and calming way to pet a cat when, and only when, the cat is open to contact. If the cats run away or avoids contact, explain to kids that cats often need space. Tell them that the cat will ask for attention when ready to receive contact.
Picking up a cat
Adults should always supervise their children who are picking up a cat. Teach your kids how to hold cats, supporting them in the right areas so they don’t feel uncomfortable or hurt. Picking a cat up under the armpits–as you would a human child–can hurt the cat. Also, be wary of forcing a cat to stay on you or your kids’ laps. If the cat is forced to stay where he or she is uncomfortable, he may feel like they’re being harmed and lash out.
Cats are individuals. They have their own personality and routines. Be calm and patient and teach your kids how to be so, too. Following your lead, everything will work out between your kids and the cats you visit. Happy petting!
Author: Sara Fonseca