Friday, January 4, 2019

The cats vs. the kitty loving kids

Earlier this week, we had two visiting kids who tried with all their might to make friends with Ellie and Bear. Their names shall remain anonymous - but they want a cat of their own so badly that this situation had distinct elements of disappointment when they did not succeed despite their expert attempts.

Kid #1: Nine year old boy. Famous for wearing down several litters of non-socialized farm cats until they just gave up and let him touch them. Escapee (re-named Thunder) was the last kitten to fall. Also, begged his Dad to "pet the kitty" in the farm shed ... the "kitty" that looked a little too much like an opossum. Traumatized for life because he was told he couldn't pet it. Often scared by the neighbor's huge over-friendly dogs, one of those farm cats defended him nobly on at least one occasion. 


Kid #2: Six year old girl. Lover of everything feline - including cheetahs (meet Fuli, from the Lion Guard). At any given time, you can bet she's wearing at least one item of clothing with cats on it. Claim to fame for convincing Molly Mew Mew, her grandparents' somewhat cantankerous older cat, that they should be friends.


MK: Momma Kat
EM: Ellie Mae Kat
BC: Bear Cat Kat
K#1: See above.
K#2: See above.
Mom of both kids

MK: {working on the computer} What time is it? OH! They're going to be here soon.
EM: Hi, Momma! I see your lap is empty! Let me rectify that injustice!!

MK: They'll be here soon, but you're welcome ...
EM: Your lap is the best thing ever! I mean, my lap bed is pretty awesome when you're not available ... but your lap is where it's at.
BC: {from the couch} BARF!
EM: I love you, Momma! I love your lap and I love your shoulder and I love when you pet me from nose to tail! I love everything about you, Momma! You're the best thing EVER! Your lap is the best thing ever! Don't tell Daddy, though. He's kind of sensitive about not being the favorite of any of the cats.

BC: Phht. He should know that Daddy's aren't Momma's! Even after copious amounts of catnip! Daddy's are NOT THE MOMMA'S at most, and Daddy's at worst.
EM: I think my Daddy is a Not the Momma.
BC: I just might barf because ...
{Momma sees the kids arrive on the front porch}
{Momma gets up and carries Ellie - still on her shoulder - to the front door}
EM: I love you, Momma! I love you I love you I LOVE YOU!!!!
MK: Hang on. There are two people I want you to ...
EM: {seeing the people Momma's referring to, still on the front porch and launching over Momma's shoulder and running down the hallway} AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! We're being invaded! We'll be skinned and hanged and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
{Momma opens the screen door}
K#1: Is that one Ellie?
EM: {from under the bed} HE KNOWS MY NAME! That can't be good.
MK: Yes.
K#2: Let me see! LET ME SEE! GET OUT OF THE WAY, Kid #1! I want to see Ellie! Where did she go? He gets to see everything! I want to pet the kitty!
Mom of both kids: Now, let's go over some rules. Imagine you were in your house and all of a sudden big people came and chased you around. You'd be scared, right?
MK: Bear ...
{Pause}
MK: BEAR?!? Where did he go? He was just on the couch a second ago.
K#2: I WANT TO SEE ELLIE! WHERE'D SHE GO? Is she under the bed? Huh?
EM: NUTS! They know where I am!
K#2: Oh! There's a kitty on the bed! That's Bear! Hi, Bear!
Mom of both kids: Now be gentle!
K#2: I just want to pet Bear!
Mom of both kids: Remember, we need to give him his ...
BC: HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSS!
{Ellie takes the opportunity of this distraction to find a new hiding spot}
Mom of both kids: Maybe we'll just leave him alone.
K#2: Where's Ellie? You said she's under the bed and I don't see her!
BC: If I tell you which way she went, will you leave me alone?

K#2: OKAY!
BC: She went that way!
EM: HEY!!!
BC: So much hay ... you can call her Smellie Neigh. We also call her Yellie. Did Momma tell you that?
EM: Don't make me come out and beat you up!
BC: Phht. Your best talent is sitting on things.
Mom of both kids: Maybe we'll just leave them alone and give them space. Bear will find us and Ellie will come out when they feel like they have their space.
BC: Don't bet on that.
EM: YEAH! You underestimate how long I can hide in here.
K#2: Is she in there?
K#1: No. Her meow came from that way.
BC: Did you look ...
EM: DON'T YOU DARE, YOU STUPID STUPID HEAD!
K#1: Come out come out wherever you are! Ellie? I just want to pet you! And play! PLEASE?!
MK: They don't speak English. Do you know meow?
K#1: Umm ... no.
MK: Come on, Bear! It's not like they're going to dress you up in clothes or anything!
BC: {hissing} DON'T GIVE THEM ANY IDEAS!
MK: Fine. Come on, Ellie. They just want to be friends.
EM: Can they braid my fur and stuff?
MK: Ummm ...
BC: BARF!

EM: You're right! I have enough friends!
BC: Phht. She doesn't have ANY friends.
EM: Shut up!
MK: And they have laps ...
EM: Err ... they won't try to eat me, will they?
BC: YES! They want to eat you!
EM: I'm NEVER coming out ever again!
BC: So THAT'S what it takes! I must remember this. Momma? Can you have a kid or something?
{Momma and the adults come out into the living room to talk}
K#2: What are Ellie's favorite toys?
MK: The sparkle balls.
K#2: I have an idea!
K#1: Come on! I just want to be friends with you!
K#2: {whispering} She said they don't speak English!
K#1: I've got another idea.
K#2: The micey are Bear's favorite.
MK: {to the adults} Huh. She's actually right!
{There's a kid huddle and a bunch of whispering ... then kid #1 walks into the living room with a teddy bear.}
Mom of both kids: What are you two up to?
K#1/K#2: Nothing!
{The adult get deep in conversation - meanwhile the kids walk in and out of the living room.}
K#2: {whispering to K#1} He's just staring at me ... like this!
{Silence for a few minutes}
K#1: TADA! We made sure Bear is comfortable!
MK: I'm afraid to ask ...
K#2: We surrounded him with teddy bears.
MK: Uh oh. Bear?
{Momma walks back to the bedroom, noticing the trail of sparkle balls to the bedroom}
MK: What the?
K#1: We made a trail of sparkle balls since that's Ellie's favorite toy. We thought she might come out to play!
MK: Okay. One thing at a time ...

MK: Bear?
BC: You WILL pay for this. Now GET THESE OFF ME!!!

MK: It is kind of adorable.
BC: If you think a claw up your rear end is adorable ...
MK: You're BEAR and they surrounded you with teddy bears.
BC: WHO'S SIDE ARE YOU ON!?
MK: {uncovering a ton of micey cat toys under the bears} Oh, my!
BC: WHAT?! Why are you looking at me like that?

MK: Oh, my goodness! They brought all your favorites ... adorable ...
{The kids walk into the bedroom}
BC: {to the kids} What?!?! Haven't you seen a cat with micey before? Why's everyone looking at me?

EM: {from her hiding spot} Maybe they turned to stone.
BC: Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.
Mom of both kids: Alright. Let's clean up this mess before we go.
MK: It's not a big ...
BC: M'ROW!
{Pause as K#2 decides whether to cry or not}
BC: Don't you DARE take any of my micey!

MK: Bear! You bit her!
BC: YEAH! She stuck her hand in my face!
MK: She was trying to move the mice around you!
BC: And there's more where that came from! I'm the SHARK!
Mom of both kids: She's okay. It didn't break the skin.
MK: Just her feelings? I imagine that stings even worse. Bear, I'm going to reach in and grab the micey ...
BC: M'row! 
MK: I just figured you were a little crowded.
BC: My micey stay!
MK: Okay. Okay!
BC: By the way, YOU OWE ME!!! With hazard pay too!
EM: {from her hiding spot} You get paid?! I don't get paid! That's not fair!
Mom of both kids: Are you kids ready to go to lunch?
K#1/K#2: YEAH!
MK: I'll deal with this when I get back.
BC: THAT'S RIGHT! And don't let the door hit you in the ...
EM: Is it safe?
BC: I scared them away.
EM: Uh huh. 
BC: What? I did! With my penetrating stare!
EM: If you weren't surrounded by mice, I might believe you.
BC: Oh, shut up! So tired ... but I need to protect my micey ... {Bear nods off} ... mmm ... hmmm ... from illegal seizure ... {light snoring}.

EM: HOW CAN YOU SLEEP AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!?! I'm NEVER coming out ever again!
BC: {waking up a bit} Food ...
EM: Did you say ... FOOD??!? WHERE?!?!
BC: Our ... bowl ...
EM: Don't mind if I do.
BC: I'd be shocked if you didn't.
{Bear falls back asleep snoring lightly}


NOTE:
I wish I'd thought ahead and seen this as a learning opportunity. I wish I'd been more intentional about the visit. Before they came, I got out a wand toy and treats - hoping that might allow distraction for the cat. I know Bear is a lost cause - but I was surprised that Ellie was so stubborn. I truly thought she'd love playing with the kids. I became so involved in conversation with the adults, I didn't really think about the cats. I knew the kids wouldn't hurt them - and I know kids like to explore and are bored by adult conversation - so I wasn't worried about not watching them. I can't blame the kids - even as an adult, I've stalked kitties - demanding they be my friend. The last cat cafe I visited, I was interested in the cats that wanted nothing to do with me. And by interested, I mean I put myself all up in their personal space. I do this despite knowing its best to meet and interact with cats on their own terms - in their own time. No matter how often I tell myself they'll come to me if they want to ... I'm impatient and don't want to wait. I just want to love them!!! That is my fault - and not fair at all to the target of my adoration. Knowing how I behave, I can't blame the kids. I should know better myself - but I just can't resist the cute kitty!

Kids are resilient. Given their history, I doubt this will be the end of their cat-loving tendencies - but I grew up with a Grandmother that was deathly afraid of animals because of the dogs her father had growing up. I recognize how little it takes sometimes - and that one has to experience the event from the kid's view point. Something that seems innocuous to us might seem devastating to them.

In thinking through all this, it hit me that ensuring feline welfare is as much about teaching people how to approach and interact with cats - as much as it is directly caring for them. Kids are our future cat people - so investing in them to be the caretakers of the future can only further the feline cause.

I did a bit of research into how to introduce kids to cats. There are so many benefits to having pets for kids. Pets teach empathy, responsibility, and love in a completely unique and meaningful way. To sum up my research, I come back to it being best to meet and interact with cats on their own terms - in their time frame. Some things I saw cited are make sure the child is calm, introduce one child at a time, try to entice the cat to you by sitting on the floor, make sure the child is gentle and show him how to pet a cat, and of course, highlight that the tail isn't to be pulled. Much of this we can do by example - modeling the behavior we expect kids to have in regard to cats. This includes not teasing cats, not taking one's anger out on them, and not playing rough. We want our children to be a benefit to cats and not harm them as so many people have in the past. Cats are lives after all - with their own quirks and personalities. Respecting them and their space is a start - and the sooner children learn these lessons, the better off our feline friends will be.

48 comments:

  1. Sure does sound like the best approach to me. We are smaller, more delicate, and socially well adjusted companions (on our terms) with feelings that many–if not most young humans and many adults(?) do not understand. Stands to reason we should have the say when and where we interact and with who. As to me, I trust nobody unless they a) climb mountains for me b) feed me lots on my terms c) don't play with my mice too much and d) any other criteria I see fit to apply at the time using my feline instincts MOL
    Toodle pips and purrs
    ERin
    PS I am not that swayed by treats unless I know the person, bring large samples, and references . . . Mrs H brought me upper proper, like ;)

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  2. Oh my, those mini-humans are pretty scary and noisy too.

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  3. Angel Hercule was so brave with kids : he always came to meet and greet, and just left the room if it was too much for him. He never bit or scratched or hissed at a kid. We are not so brave, and apply the following rule when mini-humans are in sight : run ! (and hide...) Purrs

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    1. Bear never really hissed at anyone besides me. I guess he's getting grumpy in his old age.

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  4. Those kids tried really hard! Eric and Flynn would both disappear at the first sound of small visitors.

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  5. Oh Darlings! Give the kids some slack. They really really tried hard. XXXXXX

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    1. They did ... that's true. And they are bona fide experts!

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  6. I think our cats have only met one kid (at least that I can remember). They did very well. We'll have a visiting baby in the house soon and it'll be interesting to see what they think!

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  7. No. Say no to kids. I'm glad I have my office to stay in when the sticky kids come. Once I did play a little with a neighbor kid TW called "Demon Seed" for some reason. She was nice.

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  8. The kids really meant well and it must have been frustrating for them to not get the interaction they were anticipating. I like what you wrote about approaching cats on their terms. That’s so hard to understand, though, especially for enthusiastic kids. I know Annie would have hidden. I’m really not sure about Pierrot. I really like how you did this post!

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  9. AMARULA: Bear, your fortitude is admirable! I will refuse to run when the human invites other dogs or cats in the house -- but a kid always sends me straight to the basement post haste! Frodo, the dunderhead, of course lets kids pet and hold him--idiot!! I love your idea of sending them in search of your sister. My suggestion would be that the time time the little "darlings" visit you should tie a brick to EM tail! That way she can't run! I have extra bricks if you need any!

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    1. Does that work? I think we have one here somewhere ... ~Bear Cat

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  10. Baby steps with babies of all species, right? Sometimes two energetic kids give off too much...umm...well, energy. It's hard to get them to be patient, but I have to get kids to wait until the pups are ready when they come visit. Outside on walks, they walk right up to them, but I suspect dogs and cats treat little people differently. Good luck at round two.

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  11. I agree with you about teaching kids the proper way to approach cats. There was a movement a few years ago (can't remember the name) that focused on teaching kids the proper way to approach cats AND dogs. I cracked up at the chain of sparkle balls (that WAS pretty smart), and the tons of mousies!!!! My Angel Bobo used to HATE kids (actually he hated anyone who didn't live in his home lol). Cody likes people but is NOT a fan of kids. I think kids make moves that are too sudden for cats and they are ALWAYS trying to chase them.

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  12. We've never met kids! I'm not too sure we'd like them that much. I get scared easily and Lexy gets annoyed.

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    1. Hmmm ... much like us! Only Bear gets annoyed and Ellie gets scared.

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  13. Those sparkly balls would have gotten KaTwo's attention. Our 3yr old mini human visitor has finally gotten 3 of our cats to like her instead of just Joanie. Keep trying :)

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    1. I have no idea who the other two could be ... now I'm wracking my brain!

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  14. Loved reading this. Can sense the fun in your post...

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  15. What adorable kiddos....I hope very soon they are able to have a pet...Pets teach children so much about unconditional love, responsibility and give them such joy.
    Hugs Cecilia

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  16. We are sorry the meeting with kitty-loving kids/experts did not go better this time. We hope you will have more opportunities to get to know each other in the future, and that you will have fun together!

    Gracie is pretty nonplussed about visitors. Ava always seems to disappear into mid-air!

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    1. I was really hoping Ellie would give them a chance. She's more social - but no.

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  17. What an adorable post, and a great lesson too about kids interacting with cats. Having so many cats with completely different purrsonalities in our house, I have cats that are afraid of kids and those that demand pets on the first meeting! Baggie and his brother Ollie, were all over the little girl, circling her feet and demanding pets. So I took that opportunity to show her how to give them treats and play with them. There were some that hid for the entire time and others who casually strolled back into the living room when they thought "she's alright" after all.

    I find what freaks cats out about kids is their high pitched voices, and to them it probably sounds like an unfamiliar scary wild animal, who knows? I saw how shelters also have programs about kids reading to shelter cats. That must be a great way to get the cats familiar with their voices. Perhaps next time when kid1 and kid2 come over they can bring a couple of books and read some bed time stories to Bear and Ellie. I'm curious if the cats will be up for that lol Would love to see :-)

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  18. I agree with Chirpycats. The highpitched voice will scare off kitties. Although I thought the kids tried pretty hard and used great imagination to be friends with BC and EM.

    Jean

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    1. Err ... high pitched voice scary? Err ... I do that all the time? "It's a kitty!!!" I'm worse than a 6 year old. Hmmm ...

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  19. I have found that cats that have kids in their household take on new ones (kids) with no problems. Cats who are not around children, look at kids as some sort of exotic (to be avoided) animal! Even dogs can be that way. When my kids were young, the cats could have cared less about new children. However, since the kids have grown and left home, the cats I've had since are scared of these anomalies!
    Nellie was used to lots of people coming and going and traveling, she tolerated children, Marv has led a sheltered existence with very few visitors and and runs and hides when new people enter the townhouse.
    I love that the kids tried!
    Purrs
    Marv

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    1. Maybe Marv will come around - it's been a pleasure to watch him grow into his own cat.

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  20. Sorry your visit didn't go as well as all had hoped. But, awnty Kat, purrlease, don't give up on Bear. Sis Lexi was traumatized as a young kitten and didn't really like meet and greets in her home. But, at the age of 11, she turned 'round and became a social butterfly. Mommy says the trick is calm and quiet. When we have company, she tells peeps to sit down and speak calmly and quietly. Then and only then does she retrieve us one at a time fur introductions. And yes, mommy does force us, but we're used to it. And yes, kids must be taught the purropurr way to deal with us kitties ifin we're to stay 'round once we have the chance to run. Ifin things go well, we just might surpurrise ya' and hang with company. Good luck. Big hugs

    Luv ya'

    Dezi and Raena

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    1. I'm not giving up on Bear. I was actually impressed that he stood his ground and didn't hide. That's a huge improvement. It's hard to keep kids calm and quiet when a kitty's involved ... okay, even for someone my age ;)

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  21. Hiya MK, BC & Em, oh my having little hoomans around is quite challenging, we know this because of the P.A.'s nephews aged 9 & 6, they love us so much but we're not so sure we feel the same, we love them when the P.A. talks with them on Facetime, but in real life **huge intake of breath** things are furry different - Amber hides under the bed and the rest of The B Team usually keep their distance. I didn't mind them at all as I was the most chilled out and Fudge is purretty laid back too, so at least they got to play with 2 of us last summer on their last visit! MOL [they live far far away in Peru].

    Happy New Year!

    Bestest Purrs

    Wing Commander Basil & The B Team xox

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  22. My mom is like you, Momma Kat, whenever she sees a cat anywhere she just wants to go up to them right away and make friends and to pet them. She always offers her hand for them to smell first and she tries to crouch down to their height and take with a soft voice. I think kids in general take cats by surprise, 'cause they can have higher pitched voices, are excitable and unpredictable and tend to want to approach the cats up close right away without giving them space, as you say. There is a neighbor boy that reaches his hand in to pet me when Mom takes me out in my stroller. There are no kids at my house, so I'm skeptical and not sure what they're all about. Tee hee hee. I hope Bear and Ellie Mae didn't leave any sleep over the visit from the younglings. Winks.

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    1. They're okay. I just wish I'd thought things through before they came over!

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  23. We've had cats who love everyone, and cats who would hide anytime anyone came over, big or small. As long as they could retreat if they felt the need, we didn't worry about it too much.
    Hopefully these two kids will get to meet some cats of the former variety, and won't give up! They certainly seemed like they wouldn't give up easily...some of the things they did with the toys were so sweet!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

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    1. They were incredibly persistent and creative! I hope they get a cat of their very own soon!

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