Kittens and kids
They’ve been begging. Pleading. Even making promises you know they won’t keep, including vows to clean up their rooms every day for an entire year. Your kids would say just about anything to get you to agree to get a kitten.
Before you actually make a trip to your local animal shelter, there are some important things to consider. According to veterinarian Dr. Dawn Ruben, raising a kitten, which will eventually grow up to become a cat that can live up to 20 years, is a long-term commitment, and one bad experience — a swipe of a paw or pull of a tail — can set a bad tone between your children and their new friend. So before you bring a kitten home, it’s important to take a few measures to prepare your kids, your home and yourself to make sure everyone gets off on the right foot.
Do your homework: Understand the commitment involved in caring for an animal, even after that “cute kitten” newness wears off. Share this information with your kids to get them used to the idea of an animal living in their house and what that will entail.
Set ground rules ahead of time, one for the kitten and another set for the kids. You should choose the areas where your new pet will be allowed (and not allowed) to roam. Will it be an indoor cat only, or will it be permitted to go outside? Will your kitten be allowed to jump on the counters?
As for your children, make sure they know that it’s not okay to tug and pull on their new pet’s tail, whiskers or any other part of its body. Lessons need to include how to pick up their new kitty and careful interactions to keep it safe.
Assign duties: If your children are old enough — at least 6 years old, it’s important to allow only one child to feed the kitten, so it doesn’t get overfed. One child could be responsible for making sure that the kitten has fresh food and water every day, while another ensures its bedding is clean and that its toys are always available. However, leave the task of cleaning your kitten’s litter box to adults only.
Veterinarian Dr. Katharine Hillestad says your kitten won’t be as stressed out if it has the opportunity to get to know its new surroundings — and its new family and other pets — slowly. Don’t be alarmed if the kitty spends its first few days hiding under the bed. Remind your children that the animal’s behavior isn’t related to anything they did; their new companion just needs time to get comfortable in its new surroundings.
With time and your guidance, your children and their new kitten will develop that special bond everyone’s hoping for. More useful tips can be found at animalplanet.com.
Please be responsible pet owners — always spay and neuter.
Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board for the Central Aroostook Humane Society.