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Diet: Even tame cats are fast, effective hunters. They are carnivores (meat-eaters). Cats will kill and eat small mammals, birds, fish, frogs, lizards, and snakes. On farms, cats help reduce the vermin population (rats, mice, and other small, destructive animals). Cats use their acute sight and hearing to catch prey. They swallow large bites of meat without chewing it. Cats are primarily nocturnal (most active at night). They have very good night vision.
Anatomy: Cats are graceful animals that have a rounded face. They have a sand-papery tongue and needle-like teeth. Their skeleton is extremely flexible.
Cats are subtle solitary, independent, regal creatures that express affection on their own terms. It’s exactly these characteristics that draw people so deeply to them. When a cat loves you, it feels like the queen has just given you her smile of approval! When a cat crawls up on your lap and rubs your face with its cheek, it’s pretty difficult not to smile. Soft to the touch and immensely fun to play with, but fully capable of keeping themselves entertained, cats work well with families and kids that lead rather busy lives and want to snuggle up to an affectionate animal without having to spend hours and hours each day on exercise, cleaning and maintenance.
Lifespan: 15-20 years.
Level of Responsibility: Medium.
Messiness Factor: Low-Medium.
Estimated Yearly Cost: Medium.
Cat care is a relatively easy process and doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day. Cats are very clean creatures and most cats take naturally to a litter tray with a minimum of training. Most cats only eat when hungry and can be left all day with a bowl of food. While affection is very important to them, they are not emotionally dependent on you like a dog. This does not mean they don’t yearn for affection and attention, quite the opposite. They are also fully capable of keeping themselves amused, although they greatly enjoy games and will happily play with children. For kids who like free spirited animals, a cat is an ideal companion who stays occupied and sleeps far more than a dog but loves to snuggle and curl up whenever the mood and the opportunity strikes.
Cat claws may cause damage to furniture, wood surfaces and sometimes, your children. De-clawing a cat leaves it feeling defenseless and therefore more prone to biting. Instead, keeping a cat’s claws well trimmed on a regular basis will keep scratch wounds on young children to a minimum. Training cats to use a scratching post is also an effective method of protecting your furniture. Cat spraying is an issue among male cats and can be averted if you neuter your pet early on, but if the habit has already been learned it can linger. The thirst for the hunt can be very disturbing for kids whose pets bring them ‘presents’ of freshly killed animals as tokens of esteem. Cat fur is also a trigger for allergies and can be very uncomfortable for anyone in the house with a reaction.
Newborns- Age 5
With babies, a good pet relationship comes from training your cat more than your child at this stage. This involves teaching your cat to understand that the child means no harm, is easily hurt and is not a threat for attention, much as you would train your cat to accept another animal. A common problem in this period is cat neglection anxiety which can result in marking territory on a baby’s blanket. If this happens, do not scold the cat as this merely increases the feelings of anxiety. Instead try and spend more time and attention on your cat with your child around and keep the door to the baby’s room closed. With toddlers, the focus of teaching switches to your child. Kittens and toddlers can be a bad combo as they are unaware of their own strength and can easily hug or squeeze a kitten too hard. This unfortunate action can result in being damaging to both the kitten and the child’s psyche, so it’s best to have an older, stronger boned cat at this time.
Age 5- 10
At this age, there can be very positive interaction betweens kids and cats as long as there is good communication from the parents about giving their pet some space. If you can help your child understand that a cat needs alone time and may fight back if chased or simply avoid children all together, then there can be a very harmonious relationship between the two.
Age 10 and up
A lifelong friendship and love of the animal world could be born right here. By this age, kids will have grown out of the tendency to treat their cat like a stuffed animal, which will make your cat far more affectionate and appreciative of your child. The busier schedules of kids during this time also works well with the independent nature of the cat, giving cuddle time together a precious quality.