The relationship between cats and people
28th October 2019
Cats can provide companionship to people and teach children how to be kind to animals, and their presence can reduce stress among people of all ages. Here we take a look at how cats and people make a great team.
The domestic cat
Cats have been living among people for thousands of years. A human and a cat were discovered buried together in a 9,500-year-old grave, and in ancient Egypt, 2,000 BC, cats were mummified and idolised. Modern-day cats still need to be socialised with humans from a young age in order for them to cope with living in a domestic environment. The crucial socialisation period is between two and eight weeks of age.
Cats make great pets and are a wonderful addition to the family, but if they aren’t suited to life as a domestic pet they are also sometimes homed in a farm or stable etc. Whatever situation they are living in, people have a responsibility to care for them properly. People need to understand a cat’s dietary, housing, behavioural and territory requirements, and neuter their cats to reduce the unwanted cat population.
Relationships with children
Cats can make great companions for children, and studies have shown that through cat ownership children can learn more about responsibility and how to be kind to others. A cat can offer companionship and opportunities for play. Studies have shown that exposure to cats when a child is young may reduce the risk of asthma and allergies.
In order for your child to have a good relationship with your cat, you should teach your child how to behave around them. One of the greatest things you can do is teach your child to understand less overt feline body language, particularly fearful behaviour, so they know when to leave the cat alone. Show them how to stroke the cat gently and tell them that your cat should be left alone when they are sleeping, eating, drinking or going to the toilet. Tell your children that loud noises and sudden movements could frighten your cat. Keep litter trays and food bowls out of reach of young children or use a SureFeed Microchip Pet Feeder to keep little fingers out of cat food.
Babies and cats
If a new baby arrives on the scene, this can be a challenging time for your cat, especially if you’ve had your cat for a long time. A new baby will take up a lot of your time so it’s important to ensure that you are well prepared to offer your cat the same level of care you always have. While you are still pregnant, introduce your cat to the new baby equipment around the home and gradually reduce the amount of time they are allowed to sit on your lap or have access to the nursery. Your cat will adapt better to a gradual change in routine. When the baby arrives, never leave your cat and your baby alone together, even if your cat appears to accept the new arrival. Try to keep your cat’s daily routine as predictable as possible after the baby arrives. If your cat is used to having playtime with you or enjoys regular physical contact, try and ensure you set aside time during the day for these activities. Keeping their familiar routine will help your cat adjust better whilst ensuring they remain happy and stimulated.
Some cats will accept a new baby quickly, while others may be wary for a while. Give your cat time to acclimatise and if you think your cat needs help adjusting, seek help from a pet behaviourist.
Cats and older people
The elderly can find great comfort in the presence of a cat in their home. A cat can be a great companion to an older person living on their own and the cat can be good for a person’s health. Studies have shown that stroking a cat can reduce blood pressure and if an elderly person has a cat to look after, they are more likely to care for themselves better. Some day care centres have cats to keep the residents comforted.
Health benefits to people
Cats can help to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. People with depression, autism or dementia feel more relaxed when there is a cat around the house. Cats can give people a greater sense of wellbeing.
Bites and scratches
In order for people to have a good relationship with cats and avoid being scratched or bitten, we must learn to understand their behaviour. Some cats are snuggly lap cats, while others prefer not to be touched. Learn what your cat likes and dislikes and take a look at our article on managing your cat’s behaviour for more information.
Allergies to cats
Cats can cause allergies, so if you are thinking of getting a cat and you are not sure if you are allergic, try visiting a few friends who have cats to see how you react. Remember, the allergic symptoms will vary dependent on each individual cat. If you have a mild allergy, you might still be able to live with a cat by adapting your home to reduce allergic reactions. Hardwood floors and blinds are better than carpets and curtains, keeping your cat out of your bedroom and thorough, regular vacuuming can all help to reduce your symptoms.
Creating a home
In order to enhance your relationship with your cat, you must remember that your house is their home too. You may need to make some adjustments to your home to make your cat feel happy and safe. Take a look at our article on how to make your home your cat’s home too for some great tips.
This article was written in collaboration with Cats Protection. You can find more help and advice on their website at www.cats.org.uk/advice