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How to Introduce Your New Kitten to Children

Updated on January 26, 2011

Even people who do not have children can find them a rather alien species, so kittens too, even if they are used to adults, may need time to get used to smaller humans that walk, talk, and probably smell different than adults. If you have children, avoid getting a nervous kitten. Opt for a confident, responsive, and inquisitive one, and life will be much more pleasant for people and cat alike.

Taking the time to explain to the children that the kitten is not a toy, that it is very vulnerable, and that it is likely to be scared of them at first should help them to approach it in the right way. Giving them the responsibility of trying to be kind and quiet with it will encourage them. Don't wait until the child has grabbed the kitten and then shout at it for doing it wrong, scaring the kitten and the child half to death. Lead by example and teach the children how to hold the kitten properly. Explain that sudden movements and loud voices may make the kitten panic. Get the kids to sit on the floor and let the kitten walk around and onto them. Letting the children offer a small food treat will also help to show them where the kitten may like to be stroked, on its head and along its back - no tail pulling, though! Explain the basics of feline body language (you may have to do some homework on this yourself or give the kids the task of telling you about it, depending on their age). Point out the warning signs of a stressed or frightened kitten - flattened ears, struggling to get away, swishing tail, hissing, etc. ­and emphasize that any of these really do mean that the children must back off. Also make sure they know that the kitten may be upset and reactive for some time afterward and to let it settle down and approach it in a different way in the future.

Discourage grabbing and squeezing - kittens are quite fragile and hard squeezing could be painful and frightening and put them off being picked up entirely. They may even scratch the child, who may then drop the kitten! Instruct the children to let the kitten walk away, no matter how desperate they are to play with it. The novelty will wear off quite soon, but at the beginning young children may be very intense about handling the kitten. Prevent chasing and disturbing the kitten if it is resting. Younger children should never be left alone with a kitten, as kittens are very fragile and easily injured; bad handling can permanently put them off being picked up or cuddled. Larger kittens can also scratch quite badly if driven to it, so there are health aspects to consider on both sides.

If the groundwork is handled carefully, kittens and children can make great pals. Having a pet is a great introduction to responsibility and caring for another creature, thereby growing the cat lovers of the future. And in turn, cats make great confidants and companions.

Remember too that kittens have periods of intense activity and then need lots of sleep. Too much handling can over exhaust a kitten, and it may sleep instead of eating. Give kittens time and space to eat and rest.


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