Parenting Skills and the Domestic Cat

Parenting skills and cats

How many parents teach their children to respect the cat and educate them on the basics of excellent cat caretaking? It is unusual for this to happen. In fact, I believe there is a wider parental obligation. Parents should teach their children about animals generally. I suspect the majority of mums and dads don’t know enough about cats. There is a paucity of knowledge to pass on to their children.

I would expect a good parent to teach their child how to handle the family cat and to supervise them when they are together. This probably happens reasonably often because it serves to protect the child but a parent could do more.

A significant percentage of all people in the West care for a companion animal. They are a major part of family life. Often a cat is described as a “family member”. Describing a companion animal in those terms leads me to believe that parents have an obligation to educate their children in the basics of excellent cat caretaking.

These could be the topics:

  1. Prioritize safety above all else except for the simple first requirement: to love your cat. From that, excellent cat caretaking flows naturally when added to a bit of knowledge. The whole cat should be loved including the claws and teeth.
  2. Respect the cat
    1. Treat your cat in the knowledge that he/she is living in a human world – a land of giants – and has feelings, desires, likes, dislikes, feels pain, can feel content and safe, can feel anxious and afraid etc.. A sentient being with equal rights to ours.
  3. Excellent cat caretaking doesn’t just happen, it requires commitment, experience and learning. Children should be aware of this.
  4. How to feed a cat properly.
  5. How to check for basic health issues.
  6. Be observant and don’t neglect or ignore your cat. Regular grooming is a great connector between cat and person if done tenderly.
  7. Play is a substitute for hunting and an innate desire and is therefore important.
  8. Neuter and spay and avoid any informal breeding.
  9. Adopt a cat from the unwanted ranks

The reason I am concerned about parents educating children about the cat is because when the opposite happens cat abuse can be perpetuated. Cat abuse within families is handed down, generation to generation.

Kids abusing cats is not uncommon. There are a number of distressing stories on PoC about children and teenagers getting a kick out of being cruel to a cat – in the UK read about Chester. These children weren’t taught to respect cats by their parents. The opposite may have happened. Parents who dislike cats may pass it on to their children informally. Bad parenting just happens. It is an act of neglect and thoughtlessness. Good parenting requires thoughtful and committed actions.

Nearly all problems regarding the domestic cat have their origin in human behaviour. We know that. The greatest cat problem is the large number of unwanted cats. This is directly attributable to a careless approach to cat ownership.

In order to make progress in the long term and break the cycle of cat abuse or neglect, I’d like to see a greater emphasis on parental skills being extended to educating children to respect the cat, and to understand the cat. At present there is very little if anything about this on the parenting websites. It is time for change.

A last point made by Ruth (see comment), schools could also do more. This is a photo of Martha Kane in Malta talking to school children about animal welfare. This is taking place in Malta. Not Europe or America.

Schools should educated children about animal welfare too

Schools should educated children about animal welfare too. Photo: Michael

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Parenting Skills and the Domestic Cat — 22 Comments

  1. Awww!
    And, they are all miniature Mollys.
    If cats aren’t a part of the family from the get-go, kids don’t really get it.
    I keep thinking that it is such a generational thing. Grandparents had multiple animals, parents had multiple animals, I have multiple animals. It’s natural, a way of life.
    I’m always dumbfounded when people say that they have never had a pet their whole life.
    It makes me wonder how they can ever love at all.

    • thats horrible as that animal will never no love. i read somewhere if i rabbit never got patted it could die and develop hardening of the arteries. which is just so sad. its such a stress releasing patting an animal it takes alot of worry from us.

      • Two children.
        A son (40 y/o next month) has 2 dogs and a snake (yuck!)
        A daughter (35 y/o next month) has a dog, 2 cats, and a ferret
        I don’t know how they keep getting older when I keep getting younger!

        • LOL. It’s when everyone around you looks young, you know you’re getting a little old. Do they follow you in loving cats? It seems they love animals anyway. Your son has taken the male route and prefers dogs. Some people love reptiles. I don’t know where that comes from because they are not very lovable.

          • Both are animal lovers. Even though my son prefers dogs, he likes cats and doesn’t mind that they’re everywhere when he comes to visit.
            That snake… I asked him what pleasure there was in such a reptile that has to be fed live mice. He told me that the snake really has personality, can show some affection, and is beautiful to watch. I don’t get it, but that’s me. Plus, I don’t believe that a snake should be in captivity.

            • In any case, they both grew up with animals around, especially cats.
              All normal to them and common for me to hear, “Mom, Twinky just ate my french toast!”

    • I agree Dee, I can’t imagine life without pets in it, we always had dogs around as kids and budgies and canaries and guinea pigs at one time too, I loved them all, but even not having a cat of my own I loved cats more. A neighbour had a cat always having kittens, she lived in a shed in their yard and that shed was where I spent my happiest times for years and our mam always knew where to find me. I repaid that neighbour when she was old and almost blind by helping her a bit with shopping and carrying coal in for her fire, because I never forgot her kindness allowing the little me to sit in her shed.
      ‘As ye sow so shall ye reap’ I always say, she had long forgotten about the happiness she gave me but I never did.

      • Like your neighbor, there really are some genuinely kind people in the world. But, it seems that it was more true years ago.

        • We are lucky to still know some kind people, but you are right Dee it was more true years ago and as Michael said many don’t have time now and are stressed and anxious.
          I find too that older people who are strangers smile or say hello in passing, they do here in the North anyway, but young people either drop their eyes or give you a challenging stare if you look at them. It’s very sad that friendliness is dying out!

  2. This is such an excellent article, Michael.

    There is such a strong seque from animal abuse perpetrated by children who then escalate to child abuse and domestic violence.

    Unfortunately, these children are often victims themselves- victims of their parents violence and abuse. Teaching their children to be kind to animals is the last thing on their mind… and sadly- these parents are generally also victims of abusive parents. It is a chain of violence that is so hard to break- and transform.

    • Thanks Jo. It is the chain, the cycle. I’d like that to be stopped. The current parents who are not doing a good job should be educated. That, though, is a big call for any government, local or federal. I believe there needs to be some real work on upping parenting standards. Poor parenting is a major obstacle to progress in anything.

  3. You are right Michael, good parenting should include teaching the children to be gentle and kind and to respect animals because as you say those children who don’t learn will grow up ignorant and possibly cruel to animals.
    I think all schools should give lessons on animal welfare too or at least take the pupils on trips to educational Sanctuaries, we have The Ark on the Edge here who do that, they have The Beaver scouts there today. One of the cats in care, Molly, who was pregnant when she was taken in,had 4 kittens yesterday so they will see those day old kittens and learn about why it’s important to have cats neutered.
    Aren’t they just gorgeous, Molly and her babies!

    • Ruth and Babz getting a camera for each other was a gift to all of us as well! I love this photo. I saw a similar one the other day, but the forth baby was a squirrel nursing on the cat!

    • Wow BEAUTIFUL – what a lovely photo – what a wonderful little family. So sweet. They look very healthy dont they. I hope they have good lives 🙂

      I think that welfare should be a compulsory subject all the way up to GCSE level. Or 16 years of age basically. Simple as that. Parents too by all means – should teach their children well.

      • Two have homes promised already, Molly will be spayed when her kittens are weaned and hopefully she will get a home too then.

      • Nice point Marc. There is no reason why something like “companion animal welfare” cannot be one of the courses at GCSE in the UK. I think cooking is a course. Other courses are for example:

        • Digital Photography
        • Preparation for Working Life
        • Original Writing

        If these are courses so can animal welfare be a course.

    • just love mummy and kids picture she looks like a tabby cat too. She looks content and happy as well. I agree if education is taught in schools children will respect all animals. They will grow up to love animals esp cats and smaller ones and not be taught to harm them. Theres actually research if you hurt an animal you can seriously hurt a child or other human its not that far a leap.

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