I’ve heard parents say they were getting a kitten or a horse in order to teach their children responsibility. Sadly, some of them decide that the best way to teach them is to turn the child loose with the animal. WRONG! I’ve written several articles on this concept. Today I want to share my tips for teaching kids responsibility through cat ownership
Toddler (ages 3-4)
(Together with the parents)
- Determine where the cat will eat and sleep.
- Select cat food and litter.
- Participate in locating or purchasing bed, food/water bowls and litter box.
- Minimally participate in feeding the cat. (A young child can help a parent pour kibbles and water into the bowl, but they cannot be responsible for remembering to feed or for keeping the water bowl full and clean.)
- Help choose appropriate toys for the cat or kitten.
- Play with the cat or kitten with supervision. (Have a few teasers around for playtime. A teaser is a wand with a feather or other material dangling from it. Teach the child to use the wand instead of his hand at playtime.)
- Coach the child in how to pet, hold, and, where appropriate, pick up the kitten or cat.
Ages 5 through 7
(With parents’ assistance)
All of the tasks above, plus:
- Decide if this will be an indoor or outdoor cat. (Understand and discuss the pros and cons of each choice.)
- Make the house safe for the kitten or cat. (For a kitten, keep toilet seats down, place blind cords out of reach, keep needlework supplies picked up, remove toxic plants, secure household cleaners, etc.)
- Choose or build a cat tree (scratching post).
- Determine what sort of grooming equipment you need for this particular cat and participate in making the selections.
- Help with light grooming.
- Feed and water the cat under parental supervision. (While these children can manage these tasks, it is up to the parent to make sure it gets done.)
Ages 8 and up
(With parents’ guidance and supervision)
In addition to the tasks above:
- Take responsibility for feeding and watering the cat daily.
- Clean the litter box every day and ALWAYS wash hands with soap and water afterward.
- Make sure that an inside cat doesn’t get out.
- Clip coupons for cat supplies (food, automatic watering device, toys, litter, etc.).
- Make sure the cat gets plenty of exercise.
- Research how to train the cat to use the scratching post instead of the furniture.
The next time you walk into the kitchen to fill the cats’ bowl with kibbles, stop. Round up the kids and turn feeding time into a family affair. Your feline princess or prince can become an even more valuable family member by helping you to raise more responsible children.