Print Nine Tips for Introducing Kids and Kittens

If your children are younger than 6, and you want to add a kitten to your family's collection of pets, here are some pointers to keep in mind.

Adam Denish, DVM, owner of a private practice in Philadelphia, says kittens and other pets "make wonderful companions for children and can teach them values we all need to develop: humanity, compassion, understanding, responsibility, and sorrow."

Follow these nine steps to help make your kitten’s (and your children’s) transition as seamless as possible.

  • Take charge. "Young children can't be in charge of a pet," says Gail F. Melson, Ph.D., and Professor of Child Development at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana. Children should not be expected to feed a cat or monitor its intake—only an adult can do this.
  • Introduce carefully. Be sure to introduce your kitten gradually to your other pets.
  • Involve your child. Being in charge doesn't mean excluding your youngster from helping out. A young child can help with shopping, naming, feeding, and changing the litter box, as long as a parent supervises. Visits to the veterinarian also are an excellent way for children to learn about kitten care. In fact, Dr. Denish says, "your children should be present at veterinary examinations to learn about their friend."
  • Share information. If you're thinking about adding a cat to your family, find out about feline health and behavior before adopting. Share the information you learn with your whole family.
  • Provide proper nutrition. It's especially important to feed a high-quality food like Eukanuba® Kitten Food, since the most growth occurs in the first nine to 12 months of life. These premium foods are specially formulated to supply energy for growing cells, support high activity levels, and meet the demands of small mouths and teeth and a smaller stomach capacity.
  • Be realistic. A new kitten won't be low maintenance. Kittens have high energy levels. As they explore their new home, they may use a plant for a toilet or knock things over in their enthusiasm. If such bedlam is too much for you, think twice about adopting.
  • Set ground rules. Children need to learn to not pull a kitten’s tail or bother her while she eats. They should also learn how to pet a kitten properly and to not corner a kitten.
  • Find the right toys. Kittens are more likely than cats to bite, nip, and scratch while playing. The best toys are those in which your hands aren't near where the cat will pounce. Some safe choices include soft toys, such as feathers or balls—the bouncier the better. Avoid toys that have sharp edges, strings, or parts that your cat might swallow. Some cats enjoy swatting at objects such as feathers and balls.
  • Monitor carefully. Experts agree that you shouldn't leave kittens and kids alone together until you're sure they'll play appropriately and safely.
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