For centuries the cat has been a part of human existence and served as a companion to man, woman and child alike.
Cats were worshiped as gods in ancient Egypt and cursed as demons during the Massachusetts witch trials. Today, cats still hold our attention, as they quickly become the most popular pet in American households. We, humans, finally learned to value them for their ability to not only provide companionship and love, but also for their intelligence, and fun-loving and carefree nature.
The Bengal is one of the most adaptable breeds. They make an excellent addition to most families, and they are relatively easy to care for, relatively inexpensive and take very little space, in comparison to many other pets.
As a family pet, children can easily become involved in the care and nurturing of their new Bengal companion, while learning responsibility and simultaneously bonding to their pet.
Since most children can not be expected to be solely responsible for pet care, this also provides a wonderful opportunity for parents and siblings to learn to work together as a family in the goal of providing excellent care and love to their new Bengal cat.
Bengals are active, affection seeking pets and they generally thrive in a family setting. Most enjoy playing and running with children, are easily adaptable and quick to learn new tricks.
A new kitten in the home makes for an exciting experience for most children. Prior to acquiring a kitten though, children should be provided with basic information and instruction to eliminate and avoid any problems that might occur. Even very small children can learn basic safety rules. Depending on the child’s age, supervision should be structured to help keep both, the kitten and the child, safe.
How to play with the kitten should be discussed, even using a stuffed animal as an example for smaller children. Children should be taught to be gentle and calm around the kitten. Some children learn by observation and therefore parents should set the example.
Once the kitten arrives, teach children that there are certain times when the kitten must be left alone. These rules will help keep them safe and make the kitten feel safe too.
- When it’s eating or drinking
- When sleeping—unless to give soft and gentle strokes
- If the kitten is hiding
- If the kitten is hissing, has its ears back or is showing aggression.
Providing children with safe toys that will assist in positive interactions, yet will not frighten the kitten, will help the kitten to trust the child and help the child to release some of the excitement that may be building over the new pet. Parents need to intervene if hitting occurs and the kitten needs to be protected. Throughout interactions between the kitten and the child, parents should be quick to step in when needed on behalf of the kitten and or the child.
Behavior from the kitten that would be unacceptable as an adult should be unacceptable as a kitten, for example biting hands or nipping at heels and children need to be taught how to tell the kitten no in a firm yet gentle manner. The safety of the child and the kitten are paramount and ultimately the responsibility of the adults.
On another avenue of first meetings is the opposite side of the equation—where it’s not the kitten that is new to the home, but rather it is the baby that is new! Preparing the kitten for the new arrival is very important and will help to prevent incidents. This might take a bit of work as well as commitment on the part of the parents. Start prior to the baby’s birth to chart a probable schedule; waking at odd hours increased use of certain appliances (the washer and dryer), etc.
Don’t isolate the kitten from the nursery—the kitten should be introduced to the nursery and the baby’s furniture prior to the baby’s arrival. If the kitten starts to jump up on the crib, stop the behavior right away so that the kitten understands that the area is off limits. Making a recording of a baby crying and playing it for the kitten to hear will aid in desensitization. Once the baby arrives, remember that the kitten is used to getting a certain amount of attention and the family should make a concerted effort to maintain that level of interaction.
Children and kittens can make wonderful friends. But it is critical that the adults provide guidance to insure that the interactions remain positive for both the kitten and the child.