How to teach kids to be kind to our cat?

My two kids (3 and 6) torment our cat and I am at my wits end. This is much more the 3 year old than the 6 year old but its a daily battle. They will chase, hold him against his wishes and throw things at him when he is under the bed. Typing that out just breaks my heart. I am a huge cat lover and my kids have never witnessed me or my partner being cruel to any animal-ever. We have done everything: model the correct behavior, talk about gentle touch, reading cat's body language and on and on. I seem to recall ARF in Walnut Creek offering a class about teaching kindness to animals for kids but I can't find it again. I wonder if it would help to get an outside expert to chat with them about this behavior. Does anyone have any ideas?? 

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

We have a two year old and the rule is basically one warning/reminder to be gentle with the dogs and after that we move the dogs behind the locked baby gate for their safety. We don’t punish her but explain that if she isn’t able to be gentle we have to put them way to keep them safe. Playing with the dogs is a privilege. The dogs hate it but we give them a fun treat to play with on the other side the separation usually doesn’t have to last long. I say if your kids can’t be gentle then they can’t play with the cat. They are our family members and not toys.  Solidarity, it’s a daily struggle. 

I would make sure that the cat has a safe place to escape to.  He's obviously trying by going under the bed but apparently they can reach him there. I don't know the logistics of your house but I think you should make a big effort to create a safe space for the cat. 

You mention that you have talked to your kids and modelled the right behavior. Have you imposed any kind of consequences for tormenting the cat?  A six year old is old enough for a time out, or having screen/TV time taken away, etc.  Maybe the 3 year old too.  I might also try to work on the 6 yo and appeal to his/her greater capacity for self-control, and enlist him/her as an ally.  "Help me to show your little brother how to behave with the cat" etc.  Part of the problem might just be the two of them getting carried away.

We had the same issue. We made a rule that they could not touch or interact with the cat in any way in the kitchen. That was where his food and water were and he had a cat door from there to the garage to the yard so he had a safe area and an escape route. I taught the cat to walk away in other parts of the house and then I had to teach the kids not to chase him. "when the kitty walks away, he doesn't want to play" I also tried to be extra nice to the cat - extra treats and pets whenever I could manage it. On the rare occasion when he scratched them, I took the cat's side. And of course all the obvious - modeling gently behavior, telling them to always be gentle, cat's body language, etc

That said, that cat was amazing and really adjusted to the kids. Taught them both to be cat lovers like me.

The kids are getting big fast, they will learn and this too shall pass

So, you have been using no punishment? Just something mild like time-out should work. Also, create  a safe spot where the kids can reach the cat or throw stuff at it. A suction perch high up on a window or maybe something over a door or on top the kitchen cabinets. 

Any of the behaviors you described by our kids against our cats or dogs would be cause for immediate and serious punishment in our house - time out, talking to, loss of favorite toys, loss of dessert, etc. A repeated offense would be cause for an even stricter punishment - permanent loss of favorite toy, no tv for full days, time spent doing cleaning and chores, etc. Maybe you aren’t communicating to your kids the gravity of the situation?