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It seems so sweet to give your young child an innocent and fluffy little kitten. I mean, they are both babies and wouldn’t it be so wonderful to let them grow up together.
Ummm, before you take the plunge and bring a kitten into your home, you should make sure that your toddler is ready for this big change.
Kittens and puppies are so different - like night is from the day.
A puppy is all warm and cuddly and takes rough play like a champ.
A kitten, on the other hand, may interpret rough play as a threat to their wellbeing and retaliate as they see fit.
There are several tests your child needs to pass with flying colors in order to keep them and the kitten safe and sound.
Think through these and answer honestly. You will be searching for another home for your kitten if you don’t make sure your child can handle these. Or even worse, your child or kitty could be seriously injured in the process of “getting to know one another”.
1 - Does your child share well?
Are they happy to share their toys OR do they always want what the other child in the room (sister, bother, etc.) has?
Yes? - Chances are they are going to be willing to share kitty with others.
No? - Chances are it is going to create a lot of fights and drama around your house. No one is going to get to hold the kitten but the toddler! And you definitely don’t want your child to pull and tug at kitty when they are in someone else’s arms.
2 - Does your child respond to NO well?
Yes? - Then it’s likely they will STOP immediately whatever activity they are doing with kitty that could cause harm.
No? - Your child may continue to pull kitty’s tail or hold it by one leg, even after you say, "NO, STOP". This is dangerous territory to tread. The new kitten could be hurt very badly.
3 - Can your child comprehend that kitty is a baby and is very delicate? OR will they think it’s just another toy to throw around?
Yes, delicate... - Then kitty is probably going to get the respect it deserves.
No, just another plaything... - Then kitty is going to become frightened of your child, and possibly turn into a mean kitty with dangerous claws.
4 - How fast does your child learn? You will need to teach them the proper way to hold the new kitten. Do’s and don’ts of handling a kitten….do softly pet the head, don’t pull the tail, move away if ears go down, don’t put your face in kitty’s face, etc.
Pretty fast? Great! Because they will need to apply these DO’s and DON’Ts quickly.
Slower? Kitty and your child may have a rough time of it.
5 - Will your child be able to distinguish between a playful kitten that is using their paws and claws and a mad/scared kitty that is using their claws to defend themselves.
This is a complicated one. Your cat will naturally play softer but may still use their claws when “fuzzed up” for active play. However, your cat will also use those claws to scratch and defend themselves if they feel threatened in any way.
Yes? - Then great, your child will know when to back away.
No? - This is dangerous territory. If your child cannot discern if the kitten is angry vs. playing, they are going to have a tough time knowing how to respond to them.
6 - Does your child throw temper tantrums when they can’t get their way?
Yes? - Again, you’re inviting a bunch of drama into your life. There will be times when they shouldn’t have the kitty. He is hungry, sleepy, or just worn out and ill.
No? - You’re good to go.
7 - Can you do a trial run with a friend’s kitten perhaps?
Yes? - This will be a great way to test out the possibility without committing to adopting a kitten.
No? - Go to your local humane society and see if you and your child can spend some time in a controlled area with a kitten.
PLEASE DON’T THINK:
Blindly bring a kitten home and think it’s going to be a wonderful experience without any challenges with your toddler. Trust me, it will be extra work on your part to teach your child what to do and how to respond to the new baby in the house.
WHAT YOU DON’T WANT:
Bring kitty home, have bunches of trouble and decide you don’t want the kitten. And in the meantime, the kitten has grown and grown. The adoptability of the kitten has gone down now because many people want a tiny sweet kitten - not a grown cat.
Make an informed decision. Make sure you’ve tested out, to the best of your ability, our top 7 questions.
Take an honest assessment and be realistic. If you can’t answer yes to most of the questions, then maybe you should give it a little more time. You will be amazed at how much your toddler will mature and change in just 9 - 12 months.
Do the right thing for all involved - kitty, your toddler, and the whole family! You want this to be full of love and good things, not a tormented kitten and more stress for you.
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