My child is an only child. He has two siblings, the furry kind. We adopted our two cats, Roo and P.I.T.A, six months after our son was born. He learns tremendous lessons of responsibility and compassion from our pets. Our pets allow him to learn vital behaviors just as he would with a sibling. When he interacts with other kids, we can see that the influence of his experiences with our cats has set him up for social success.
If there is a kitty in his way, he must learn to walk around or say “excuse me.” He is very courteous to his cats which has translated to proper manners when dealing with people.
With learning how to interact with his cats, he understands how to interact with other animals. He enjoys seeing and petting other animals and is gentle and kind.
When he is away from his cats, he searches and calls for them. He coddles them and senses when they are in distress, he immediately stops what he’s doing to investigate.
Our cats are obsessed with food. Any food. We guard our food as if it were our last meal. Our son has learned that sometimes his food will be stolen, just as a toy might be taken from him at the playground. He must learn how to deal. On the other hand, he also has learned that it’s fun to share with the cats. He routinely offers up his food or toy.
Cats can play rough. Kids can play rough. Being that his “siblings” are of the furry persuasion with sharp things, he can get scratched or bitten while he’s playing. He learns that playing rough can have consequences and he needs to acknowledge the limitations of each cat’s personality, same as with any person. Luckily the cats understand he’s itty bitty and just give love bites and light swats.
My boy is a kisser. He kisses everything and loves kissing the cats. He bends down and smooshes his face into their fur. Nose to nose kisses are top priority, as well. It’s important to us that he treat the cats with the same affection that he shows us.
Each morning, before we leave, we need to account for each cat to make sure neither one has been closed in a room. We call each one by name and go through the house to make sure we find both before walking out the door. My son will diligently look under furniture and behind doors until he finds each cat. Only then is he satisfied and ready to leave the house. As he gets older, responsibilities will shift to feeding, bathing, brushing, and cleaning the litter box.
How a person treats animals goes a long way to how they treat other people. We hope that by instilling all these traits into our child with his furry siblings, we have set him up for success with all beings, furry and not.