Everybody loves a kitten. They’re cute, they’re cuddly and they do lots of funny things which make great YouTube videos. Your kids may have been pestering you for years to get a kitten and at first, all eyes are on the new little ball of fluff. Over time, however, the children’s interest in the little critter often fades along with their promises to help with their daily care. Sure, you could easily care for the cat on your own, but don’t give in that easily – learning to care for another living creature is a lesson that not only your kids will benefit from, but your cat as well. Here are a few ways to get your children more involved in the care of your cat. 1. Have your child take responsibility for feeding the cat every day Most children can learn to feed a cat, and many get great joy out of watching them eat their meals. Wet food can be fed in a different place every day - your cat will start to follow your child around the house as they choose the next spot, providing exercise and entertainment for everybody involved. Dry food can be scattered on the kitchen floor, to be chased and caught by the cat, or placed in a treat ball so they have to work at getting it out. This may sound a bit mean at first, but is actually closer to their natural feeding behaviours. Of course, you could just ask your child to put the food in the bowl every day, but that can get a bit dull after a while. No matter what you or they choose, just make sure you manage the portion size as children have a tendency to overfeed. Use a measuring cup or draw a line on the bowl and educate them as to what can happen if they feed too much. Don’t forget to put fresh water out every day too! 2. Teach your child how to groom the cat Many cats enjoy being brushed, so this can be a good way for your child to bond with them and vice versa. Teach them to always brush in the same direction, WITH the fur and not against it, and to avoid any areas that the cat may find sensitive (try it yourself first so you can learn where that may be). Either a brush or a comb will do though it’s harder to do it wrong with a brush. They can check for fleas, examine the claws and get a good general idea of their overall health during these regular grooming sessions. Some cats just don’t like to be brushed, and in this case I wouldn’t recommend having your child do it. If they used to enjoy being brushed and then suddenly don’t be sure to let your vet know as it could be a sign of pain. 3. Play with the cat Kittens aren’t the only ones who like to play, adult cats enjoy a good play session too! Your child can choose their favourite toy at the pet shop, or even make their own out of cardboard rolls, pipe cleaners or feathers. Adding catnip will encourage your cat to play with them even more. Older children could even sew a catnip mouse. If you use string, be sure that it is securely attached to a wand or larger toy so the cat can’t swallow it and stay away from smaller items that could potentially be eaten. Playing together creates a good bond between pet and child, and is good exercise for both. Laser pointers are particularly fun, just be sure to provide your cat with something they can actually catch after playing with the laser or they may become frustrated at the game. 4. Keep a scrapbook Artistic kids may enjoy keeping a record of their cat’s life, much like new parents keep a baby book. Photographs and stories, even videos if the record is kept in digital form. It makes a nice keepsake and keeps kids on the lookout for interesting cat moments worth recording. Older kids (and let’s face it, adults too) can even give their cat its own social media account. 5. Get the whole family involved in your cat’s veterinary care Whenever possible, schedule vet appointments for a time when the children are around so they can see what’s involved. Or, if the thought of taking your very active kids to the veterinary clinic sends a shiver down your spine, see if your vet can arrange a home visit. Encourage your children to ask questions and ask the vet to explain what they’re doing throughout the exam. If any treatment is needed, be sure the kids understand what is wrong with the cat and how you are going to try to fix it. It’s a great way of exposing them to healthcare concepts and medical techniques such as injections that’s often less scary than going to the doctor themselves. You may also find that your kids are better at remembering treatment advice than you are! The more involved your kids (though the same principles also apply to partners…) are in your cat’s health and daily care, the better. Not only is it a good learning experience for the child, but it means the cat is likely to be treated with kindness and respect as well – less tail pulling and chasing wildly around the house! And of course you will benefit too by spreading the responsibility and time required to care for them. So don’t just give in when your kids start to lose interest, get creative and find ways to keep everybody involved. Amy Bergs DVM MRCVS If you are worried about any aspect of your cats health, please book an appointment with your vet or use our symptom guide.