Some moms are concerned that their cat is aggressive towards their child. They are looking for answers.
The key point is that domestic cats don’t randomly attack people in the home for no reason. And it unlikely that a cat will make an unprovoked attack on a person in the home or outside. It can happen rarely through e.g. because of transferred aggression but the most likely reason a cat is aggressive towards a child is because they are being defensive when they feel that their safety is threatened or when reacting to rough handling such a tail pulling.
Another reason why a cat might seem to be aggressive towards a child is if they attack what they see as prey but which is a hand or a foot moving around and that foot belongs to a child. The cat will be in a play mood because they have energy to burn. Or the cat’s play instinct has been activated by the child who is unaware of the potential dangers.
Mishaps between child and cat can be minimised. The child should be taught how to interact with the family cat. Until then there should be proper supervision when cat and child are in close proximity. When there is a child and cat in the home it seems to me that it is vital that (a) mom and dad watch their child when with their cat and (b) know how cats like to stroked and petted and generally understand domestic cats.
Petting a cat
Children should be instructed on how to pet a cat. There are plenty of resources on this on the internet and on this site. For a child it is probably best to pet a cat in a minimum way. A child should pet a cat less than they instinctively want to. This is playing safe as children are prone to overdo cat petting i.e. the wrong place, too hard and too long. Focus on (a) where to pet e.g. cheeks, top of head, back of neck and down the spine and (b) how to do it gently and (c) not to thrust a pointed hand, fingers-first at the face of a cat and (d) not to pet the stomach or hind legs and so on.
When might a child interact with a domestic cat?
The better time to do it is when cat and child are less hyped up. If the cat’s energy is drained, feline aggressivity levels are decreased. In this spirit of this observation, it is probably better to allow a child to pet or play with a cat after the cat has played with an adult and a toy which might burn off some energy.
Also as part of this strategy it might be useful to plan child/cat interactions. Ideally I think it takes a bit of planning to ensure that it goes well. When both cat are at their mellowest is best. Clearly this takes a degree of self-discipline and order in the household.
Giving up the cat to a shelter
As I recall one reason for giving up a domestic cat to a shelter is because the cat is aggressive to members of the family. I understand the problem but, in truth, the underlying reason will normally be because the family has created the wrong conditions and perhaps a child has mishandled the cat and been scratched several times. Rather than supervising and checking on their child’s petting and interaction techniques, the mom decides to take drastic action and give up on the cat.
I see the biggest obstacle to carrying the above it that it takes effort. This sounds flippant but I believe it is true. It means managing child and cat if their interactions are to be supervised. It is about that non-politically correct word nowadays: self-discipline.
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