Many parents of tweens (children aged 10-12) consider getting a pet to teach their child responsibility and companionship. Cats are a popular choice, but are they a good fit for tweens? Here are some pros and cons to weigh up when deciding if a cat suits your tween and household.
Pros of Cats for Tweens
Cats are relatively low-maintenance compared to dogs. They sleep 16 hours a day on average and can be left alone for periods while children are at school and parents are working. As long as you provide food, water, a litter tray, toys and a comfortable place to sleep, cats largely take care of themselves.
Cats help teach tweens empathy and care for another living creature. Feeding, playing with and cleaning up after a cat encourages tweens to think of another’s needs. It also gives them pride to take care of a pet. Caring for a pet can be a great experience for foster tweens, but be aware that some children have allergies and your home might not be suitable for them if you are fostering in Scotland.
Interacting with a purring cat has therapeutic benefits for stress and anxiety in children going through developmental changes in the tween years. Stroking a cat can lower cortisol, release calming endorphins and regulate breathing.
Cons of Cats for Tweens
Cats may scratch furniture or carpets if not provided with a scratching post. Tweens will need to be responsible for clipping a cat’s claws regularly and directing scratching behaviour to appropriate areas.
Litter trays need frequent scooping and cleaning, which may fall on parents if a tween finds the task unpleasant. Cats can also have accidents around the home if the litter set-up doesn’t meet their preferences.
Cats have a longer life expectancy than many pets, often living 15-20 years. A cat acquired during a tween’s childhood may still be around when they go to university or move out, meaning parents need to plan for ongoing care.
Tips for Successfully Keeping a Cat with a Tween
Involve the tween in selecting the cat to increase bonding and excitement about the new pet. Have them help choose toys, bedding and other supplies for the cat too.
Set clear expectations for the tween’s daily and weekly duties regarding the cat’s care before acquiring the pet. Write out a cat care schedule detailing tasks like feeding times, scooping litter, play sessions, etc.
Make sure the cat has plenty of vertical space to climb and scratch. Multi-level cat trees, wall-mounted shelves and scratching posts are ideal. Place them strategically around rooms for accessibility.
Start training the cat to use a scratching post immediately. Whenever the cat starts scratching furniture, calmly carry them onto the post and reward with praise or treats for using it.
Research breeds suitable for households with tweens. Short-haired cats and younger cats often have an easier time adjusting. Skittish breeds may become overwhelmed with noise or activity.
Cats can make wonderful low-key companions for tweens when the family knows what’s involved and is prepared to shoulder some responsibilities when needed. Setting clear pet care expectations while letting tweens actively bond with the cat can make cat ownership a rewarding experience.