It has to be a good idea to encourage children to assist in taking care of the family cat. I believe that children should be directly involved in caring for the family cat but there is a caveat. Precautions have to be taken otherwise a parent is setting things up for failure, which would be a knock-back for a child’s confidence in her relationship with the family cat.
It could be argued that I am not qualified to write this article because I don’t have children but it’s really about common sense. And the age of the child is clearly an important factor. Initially the parent should have a good knowledge of cat guardianship and behaviour. There’s no way a parent can teach his/her child how to look after a domestic cat if they themselves have bad ideas and habits and lack the expertise to do so.
On the basis that a parent does have the expertise then initially, if I were a parent, I would train my child on the following topics (A) feeding (B) playing (C) grooming (D) improving the environment (E) veterinary care (F) respecting the cat (G) responsibilities.
Feeding a companion cat is a good starting point for a child who wants to get involved. Children should be advised that it can be quite easy to overfeed a cat which can cause obesity. They should be aware of the dangers of obesity in terms of health. A child should be aware of the correct body confirmation indicating a correct weight. This means knowing how much to feed a cat and how frequently. Cats normally like to feed several times during the day. The portion size should be correct. I would suggest that the general consensus nowadays is that the cat should not be fed exclusively on dry cat food and that point should be made because domestic cat don’t compensate adequately by drinking more water.
The sort of feeding bowl should be discussed. Plastic bowls are really not good enough because bacteria can be harboured which can cause problems such as feline acne and skin problems on the cat’s chin. Metal or ceramic bowls of better. The provision of water and type of bowl can also be discussed (use the custom search tool on this site for info about these topics).
Playing with your cat is a wonderful way to improve the bond between cat and human. It really is the best way to do that and of course it stimulates your cat. Children like to play as do cats and therefore this is a win-win situation. However, it must be done with supervision initially and with training of the child to ensure that he or she does not get scratched or bitten. It is quite likely that a child would be scratched or bitten unless that child has been taught what to do. Hands should not be thrust in front of a cat’s face. Cat should not be grabbed vigourously and children should be made aware of the areas that the cat does not like to be touched unless it is done gently and unless it is known that the cat accepts it. There are dangers in playing with a cat and I will let others decide what those dangers are although I have mentioned one or two points. Gentleness is the byword for kids playing with cats.
On the topic of playing with your cat, children can be involved in making homemade cat toys. This must be an excellent pastime for a child who wants to be involved in caring for a cat. Homemade cat toys are as good and sometimes a lot better than commercially made ones.
Grooming your cat is also a wonderful way to bond better with your cat. It can be combined with flea coming which is useful. Although a flea comb is a very fine comb and therefore combing with it must be done with care and gentleness and the right areas should be focused upon.
There are dangers too for a child grooming a cat. For example, if the coat is slightly matted it could hurt the cat if the child grooms too vigorously and tries to force the matts out. Training a child to do this is definitely a prerequisite and should cover all aspects. As to flea combing, the best areas to comb are the sides of the neck, sides of face, back of the neck, under the chin and the base of the tail. These are good starting points but not necessarily exclusive.
Of course, long-haired cats are more difficult to comb than shorthairs and greater care is required. Regular combing will make combing easier the next time it is done. Perhaps that goes without saying but for children this sort of point should be emphasised.
Making the environment suitable for a cat and indeed enjoyable is the flipside of allowing a cat to express her natural desires and behaviours. A child needs to be made aware of this and ideally should be involved in creating a suitable environment. They should know about the desired vertical movement of domestic cats; how cats like to be high up. The dangers of outdoors and the hazards of indoors should also be discussed. Yes, indoors does contain many hazards such as incorrect plants which are poisonous to cats (and insecticides on plants) and chemicals in carpets and in cleaning materials etc..
Cat health is also another critical and important area in cat caretaking. I think a child should go to the veterinarian’s clinic with their parents to experience the event. It’s a bit stressful and it can be a bit difficult to observe and be part of but despite that I think it would be a good learning experience provided there are certain limits. Clearly very difficult situations should be avoided because they may be too hurtful for a child.
A child also be aware of the better cat websites on the Internet. Facebook is good for cat rescue but Facebook is not 100% reliable because it is prone to trolling and unpleasant comments as is YouTube. There are also other hazards for children on social media such as grooming by paedophiles. Once again supervision will be required initially to warn a child of the hazards of social media.
This website has many pages on essays for children on various topics pertaining to domestic and wild cats.
Perhaps the most important lesson the child can learn about domestic cats is that we, humans, need to respect them by which I mean we need to respect their behaviours. We need to see them as domestic cats and not little people. Only then can we ensure that we provide them with the right environment and interaction and do not end up doing minor abusive things such as dressing cats in clothes.
When a child cares for a cat he/she learns to take the burden of the responsibility for caring for another. This is a useful aspect of life to learn early on. It will make the child more rounded and responsible. A better person.
P.S. America children should be taught the cruelty of cat declawing. We need a new generation of cat owners in the US who reject declawing. Then it will die out.