Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Biting the hand that feeds you

Our family cat is 15 years old. She has been "retired" for the last five years and is no longer required to kill any bugs that creep into our home. She enjoys a life of relaxation, attention on her terms and pampered quiet.

I am thankful that she has always been affectionate toward us and our son. When he was a baby, she would sneak up behind him, rub up against him (which made him giggle) and then dash away quickly to watch him from afar. Today, she still enjoys rubbing up against him to remind him that he belongs to her, and I'll still find her sitting near him watching him play with Legos.

She is a really, really good cat and she has never bitten, scratched or hissed at us, but then again, we have all learned to play by her rules. From an early age we taught our son how to pet her gently, and - more importantly - where he's allowed to pet her. We also taught him to watch her tail for clues to her mood (up = happy and approachable; swish = walk away).

I mention all this because I've read the findings of the Mayo Clinic, which found that half of all children suffering from dog bites received them from the family dog. Although there is this thinking that the family pet is safe, it is important to reinforce rules around any animals. There are many cases where the pet may not have acted out of anger or fear but a game may have just gone too far.

So, we reinforce the rules at home with our son: Look to the tail, we remind him. He (and our cat) are happier for it.

And, of course, we also teach him: If you don't know the animal, hands off.

How did your family pet react to having a human brother or sister? Share your story in the comments.

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