Cats can be good pets for families with young children.

How to Teach Preschoolers About Cats

by Kathy Gleason

Regardless of whether you're a cat person, you can teach your kids all about these furry, funny creatures. Ensuring that your preschoolers are prepared for dealing with a cat decreases the likelihood of having a confused child and a furious cat trailing the bonnet your child tried to tie on her head.

1 Show your preschooler photos of different kinds of cats. Explain that many people keep cats as pets. Tell your child that baby cats are called kittens, and are born in a group called a litter. Kittens drink from their moms until they are old enough to go out and hunt for food, or begin eating cat food if they are pets. If you have a cat, take the time to explain how the pet became a part of your lives. For instance, explain where it was adopted or found.

2 Explain cat safety. For example, the child should never approach a strange cat on the street because it could be dirty or sick and might scratch or bite the child. Tell your preschooler that if he is visiting someone's home who has a cat, always ask permission from an adult before approaching or petting the cat because not all cats like to be handled.

3 Teach the child the basics of what is involved in having a cat. For example, what kind of food and drink cats need, such as water and wet or dry cat food, as well as the type of toys cats like. This is also a good time to explain what cats DON'T eat and drink. For instance, cats don't get fruit juice in their water bowls or gummy bears mixed in with their dry cat food. Explain that cats use litter boxes instead of toilets, and litter boxes have to be cleaned out regularly to keep the house smelling nice and to prevent germs from spreading.

4 Tell your kids that cats are small and delicate and cannot be handled roughly. If they hold a cat, one hand should be supporting the cats behind and the other should be under its chest, cradling the animal and holding it close.

5 Organize a trip to a zoo or wildlife preserve. Once children become interested in cats and you explain that many species exist, some much bigger than regular house cats, your preschooler will be intrigued and this is a perfect time for a trip to the zoo to see tigers or panthers. And really, doesn't that sound like more fun to you than yet another afternoon in the sandbox?

Items you will need

  • Books about cats
  • Pictures of cats

Tips

  • If your child is really into cats, take picture books out of the library that have cat characters, or even nonfiction books about cats aimed at older children. Even if your child can't read, he might enjoy looking at the photos of exotic kinds of cats.
  • Always supervise your preschooler with cats to ensure the cat isn't dangerous to him, and that he is treating the cat properly. Sometimes, problems can be unintentional. For example, your little sweetie might think trying to lie on the cat to cuddle or getting down next to her food dish while she's trying to eat is a show of solidarity and love, while your kitty might disagree -- loudly and with claws!

Warning

  • According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 14 percent of children are allergic to cats. Symptoms of a cat allergy include a stuffy nose and itchy or watering eyes. In extreme cases, kids who are allergic to cats might have trouble breathing.

About the Author

Kathy Gleason is a freelance writer living in rural northern New Jersey who has been writing professionally since 2010. She is a graduate of The Institute for Therapeutic Massage in Pompton Lakes, N.J. Before leaving her massage therapy career to start a family, Gleason specialized in Swedish style, pregnancy and sports massage.

Photo Credits

  • Martin Poole/Digital Vision/Getty Images