What Should We Teach Children About Cat Ownership?

As adults, can we put together a short list of good cat caretaking principles as guidelines for children?

I think we can and I believe we should. I wonder how many parents teach their children in a semi-formal way about how to look after the family cat, especially if the cat was adopted for the child. Alternatively, is school a good place to teach children on this subject? After all, there are lots of cats and it is a social issue (i.e preventing stray and feral cats  – the “feral cat problem“).

Teaching kids the principles of cat ownership

Teaching kids the principles of cat ownership. Main photo by familymwr and plush toy by yeowatzup

Whilst writing an essay about cat behavior I had children in mind and there are a lot of pages on PoC that are written for children. They are mainly fact based; about the cat breeds and wild cat species. What about the attitude and behavior of good cat caretakers? What is it? We need to know so the children can copy it.

This is my list of five principles of cat caretaking (or ownership) that we could teach our children:

1. Gentleness

Kids are kids. They are unaware of their boisterous behavior. Most cats won’t like it and neither will they like being handled roughly. It may end up in tears and cat/human relationship problems. Even young children are many times bigger than the domestic cat. They can be frightening to a cat. Babies squealing can scare a cat. The first principle is: Please be gentle with your cat and quiet around your cat.

2. Respect the Cat

The domestic cat should be respected for all his/her cat characteristics – the characteristics of a different species of animal that is one of the world’s best predators. Respecting the cat is a general guiding principle that helps the other principles to slot into place. The second principle is: Remember that your family cat is an impressive predator belonging to the family of cats that includes wild cats.

3. Observation – learn

A child would do well to observe the family cat. This will lead to understanding cat behavior in general and the routines followed by the family cat, which is turn improves cat caretaking. Self-education on cat behavior through looking and studying must lead to better cat care and cat health. The third principle is: Learn through observation.

4. Interaction – play and communication

A child should enjoy interacting with the family cat. This is beneficial to the cat as it will stimulate the cat and exercise his play/hunting skills. It will help form a bond between child and cat and create trust. The child will learn about cat behavior. The first principle applies very strongly in respect of interaction. The fourth principle is: Talk, touch and play with your cat. All of these should comply with the first and second principle.

5. Food

Food keeps our cats alive. It can have a big impact on health. Children should have some knowledge of a cat’s special nutritional requirements. Ideally children should be aware of homemade cat food such as described by Harvery Harrison. It is important that children should be aware of the handling requirements of homemade cat food. However, cat owners should not be so beholden to the large pet food manufacturers. There are alternatives and I feel that people should be aware of them and exercise some discretion. The fifth principle is: Be aware of cat food quality and endeavour to provide the best for your cat in the interests of health and wellbeing.

I am sure I have missed something. Environment?

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What Should We Teach Children About Cat Ownership? — 2 Comments

  1. May I add a comment on Iams and Eukanuba? Do not support them by buying their catfood, as they test on cats and other animals, inhumanely, I have read. Please back me up on this, or inform me otherwise…

  2. Very good article Michael and I agree with you that children should be taught about cat ‘ownership’ and that cats are not possessions or toys to use then cast aside, they are living feeling beings.
    The problem is that quite a lot of adults are ignorant about cats behaviour and needs, we only have to think of declawing cats in the USA and Canada to know that.
    Having the family cat declawed gives a totally wrong message to children, they should intead learn to respect cats claws as a beautiful and essential part of their pet.
    Yes I think animal care should be taught in schools and then maybe the children will pass on what they learned, to their parents, but anyway will grow up much more educated and hopefully at the very least more understanding of their pets than their parents are.

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