What is Your Cat Saying to You?

Some people like to call cats mysterious, but they’re pretty consistent in how they communicate if you pay close attention! Cats use their eyes, tails, ears, whiskers, fur, and body posture to display exactly how they are feeling. These detailed illustrations by Lili Chin are fantastic depictions of the many moods of our feline friends and are great for using to teach kiddos about how to tell if a kitty wants to be pet – or prefers to be left alone.

The best choice for kids interacting with cats they have just met is to encourage them to sit quietly and wait for the cat to come to them! If the cat is sitting quietly or purring and slow blinking their eyes, you can quietly and slowly approach them, then move your hand near their cheek or chin. If they ignore it or their body language changes, leave kitty alone! If the cat is welcome to pets, they will nudge their head into your hand to encourage more pets. Kids should pet cats on their head, neck, and back, but never their belly unless you know the cat loves belly rubs. Some cats will splay out and present their belly as a sign of trust, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to be touched there. Another great thing to teach kids is to take breaks. Some cats can get overstimulated by too much petting. Essentially their battery gets overcharged and that energy has to go somewhere, which can cause some cats to quickly engage in play that is too rough. Pet the cat for about 30 seconds, take a break and wait for kitty to ask for more by nuzzling you or moving closer.

If you or your child does get scratched, be sure to administer first aid promptly. Cat scratches are certainly no fun, and while they are usually not deep or wide, cat claws can carry bacteria, especially if the cat spends time outdoors and/or does not receive regular nail trims. Immediately wash any scratches with warm, soap water and spray with antiseptic. Monitor the scratch as it heals – if the edges appear red or jagged, you will want to make an appointment with your doctor.

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