Welcome to another edition of my off-topic weekend rambling!
There are many good resources out there about how to get your kids and pets to get along from people far more expert-y than me, and go into greater detail. However, let me tell you what I did from the very beginning.
We have one rule: A zero-tolerance policy for aggressive or bothersome behavior. From ANY PARTY.
What does that mean? It means the cat can’t get away with biting the kid. It also means that Twig isn’t allowed to pull ears or tail – or hit the cats. She is supposed to be NICE and will be given age-appropriate punishment (i.e. verbal warning, time out) if she is not. And the adults in the house have to lead by example. You can’t kick the cat or your kid will think that’s ok.
Folks, you can’t expect a cat, dog, or whatever you have to just sit there when the kid starts yanking on his ears. And even if YOUR pet is docile about it, you are doing your kid a great disservice by not nipping that behavior in the bud. The next time she goes up to the neighbor’s cat and yanks on his ear, what do you think is going to happen?
(Side note: obviously you should always ask the pet owner before letting your kid touch the pet – and teach your kid not to touch unless you, the parent, say it’s ok. Still, though, if your kid manhandles the docile pet after you give the go-ahead to touch, it may not be pretty.)
When she was too young to know better, she was also not mobile, so the cat could simply MOVE AWAY. Once she was mobile, she could understand “no.”
And you know what – zero tolerance for bad behavior worked. One of her first words was “nice.” As in, she would go up to the cat, gently pat the cat, look at me pointedly, and say “NICE”. Look at me, Mom, I’m being NICE to the cat just like you told me.
Sure, occasionally she forgets and pulls the cat’s tail. And sometimes the cat is irate enough to give her a smack (both parties are “punished” in that case). But in general, she is nice to the cats and the cats are nice to her.