When Kids Mistreat Animals
Why did my child hurt the cat to begin with and what does it all mean? It may simply be a misunderstanding on your child's part or it could mean something deeper. In most kids, it simply means a lack of understanding how to behave with an animal. The ASPCA states that some adults who have been violent toward people also have a history of being violent toward animals. Children who have been exposed to violence also may attempt to show violence toward an animal. It is safer for your pets, as well as your child, to correct the behavior as soon as possible. It is important to remember that just because your child does this, it does not necessarily mean it's intentional or that she will be violent with animals or people in the future.
He doesn't know any better. Has your child been told why pulling a cat's tail or petting him backward is not a good idea? When you warn your child about these and other ill actions toward the cat, don't just say "No". Explain why it's not a good idea. Your child may see the family pet as a toy and not a living being. Some kids need reasons behind requests. You also need to explain things in terms that make sense to your child. A 3 year old will understand that pulling fur feels the same to a cat that pulling hair does to a human.
She hasn't been exposed to animals previously. If your child has never been exposed to animals before, especially cats, that could explain her actions. When a child hurts a cat, it doesn't necessarily mean she is being mean. She just may not have any history to tell her brain what the proper behavior is toward a cat. Ideally, parents should expose children to pets before adopting them. If it's too late for that, limit your child's exposure to the pet until she understands and demonstrates proper cat treatment.
Use gentle guidance and redirection. If you want your child to stop hurting your cat, you'll need to take a look at the whole picture. Exposing him to animals is the proactive end of the stick. But if the behavior has already started, you may also need to be reactive. Each time your child pulls the cat's tail, pets him backward, or otherwise treats him unfairly, use gentle redirection. Gently take his hand and use it to pet the cat slowly and gently. Say things like, "This is how we pet the kitty." "The kitty likes it when we do this." "Ooh, feel how soft the kitty's fur is."
Be consistent. Whether you choose to use the same methods I found useful or another method, the key in making it work is consistency. In order for the lesson to sink in, you need to act the same way each time your child is around the cat. If you use gentle guidance only sometimes and let it slide the rest of the time, this sends a mixed message to your child. What it says is that she only has to treat the cat nice sometimes, which is not what you want to teach her.
If your child cannot treat the cat properly, you may have to separate the two for safety on both counts.
*The above is meant for informational purposes only. Always ask your pediatrician and veterinarian for guidance in your specific situation.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network