Navigating Children and Family Pets

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Our family has two pets, both cats: Jam Sauce (female) and Spicy McNugget (male). They’ve both been around for nearly a decade, arriving long before we had children. So, of course, we doted on them like the fur babies they were.

Our cats became accustomed to a certain type of lifestyle. They got attention when they desired it, a quiet house daily, and nothing to bother them but each other. We bought them gifts at the holidays and couldn’t imagine leaving them alone overnight without someone stopping in to give them snuggles. Life was good for our fur babies.

 

Then, things changed. Their favorite room was repainted, the furniture was replaced, and they started to get slightly less attention. But none of these changes could prepare them for when we brought home our son.

The attention that we once had for our cats was now almost entirely redirected toward our son. Sure, my son was good-natured for the most part, but of course, he cried and was up all night on occasion. Thankfully, our cats didn’t protest poop on the bed or try to smother our son in his sleep. Still, it was a change and a challenge for them.

Jam sauce took it the hardest. She was our first family pet, and the stress of adding an infant to the family caused her to lick patches of her fur clean off. The veterinarian gave us a supplement to help alleviate her anxiety. I also made a greater effort to spend time sitting and playing with her, both cats really.

A few years and another child later, the cats continue to take a backseat. However, I’m trying to change that. My children are now at the age where they can get more involved with our cats. They are also beginning to show interest in them, my cats seem to be equally curious.

We are coaching our children to be slow, patient, quiet, and gentle when approaching and engaging with our cats. For the most part, they are able to pet the cats for brief periods and toss their toys around with them. Over time, I hope the relationship will grow closer.

I am also trying to encourage a positive relationship by having my kids get feed and water the cats. Each morning they clean and refill their water bowls, portion out their food, and set the timer on their evening feeding dish. The cats now meow at them in the morning if they’re being slow pokes.

I am starting to see progress in the relationship between my children and our family pets. Mainly, with my son. Spicy McNugget will now come and lay with my son and me as I read him books and put him to bed at night. It’s taken a LONG time to get to this point though, I’m talking adding a minute a night for months long.

It will likely be a long slow road for my children and our cats to truly develop the trusting relationship I want them to have. I hope eventually to see the cats curl up on my children’s laps while they are reading books or watching television. I hope the cats learn to trust my children to brush them, play with them, and sleep with them. I hope they all will eventually see magic in each other and fall unconditionally in love.

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Jaclynn knows a good thing when she sees it, that’s why she and her husband, Dave, decided to raise their son and daughter in Brookfield, the same Milwaukee suburb where they grew up. After earning her English degree from UW-Madison, Jaclynn attended Marquette University Law School and worked for several years at a small Milwaukee firm practicing estate planning and elder law. When her son was born a few year ago, she followed her heart and became a SAHM. She is now the mother of two, having welcomed a daughter last June. When she's not managing her family circus, you can find Jaclynn instructing or taking classes at the Barre Code. Jaclynn would be lost without dessert, family friendly breweries, books, comfy pants, and the moms who have helped her navigate the labyrinth that is ‘momming’.

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