My DS is 23 months and he won't leave the poor cat alone!!! I am so afraid he is going to get hurt or that he is going to seriously hurt the cat! This has been an ongoing battle and it keeps getting worse and worse and worse. Already this morning I had to pull him off her three times - this is out of control. In the last week, I have seen him grab her by the ear and yank her out of a box she was playing in, he has grabbed her by the neck and pulled her up stairs, sat on her back and pulled up on her tail until her her hind legs were off the ground (when I saw that, I was sure she was going to have a broken back). Tail yankings? Thousands. His favorite game is to play 'cat horsie' where he grabs her, pulls her under him and bounces up and down like he is riding a horse. He regularly pulls a fistfull of fur out. Mostly though he'll grab her by whatever body part is closest (and this usually is and fistful of fur) and just lay on top of her saying 'awww, nice cat, nice cat'. Oh, yeah, and when he gets tired, he tries and often succeeds to stomp on her. I just feel so bad for her being abused like this, but I have no idea what to do to stop this...
Unbelievably, she hasn't scratched or bitten him yet. I can't believe it. And she doesn't seem to be afraid of him - or at least she doesn't run away when he comes near to 'play with her'. I usually don't know something is happening until I hear her start hissing or screaching and hear my boy laughing. Then I run over and pull him off, and 9 times out of 10, I have to pry his hands from her fur. I try to explain how that is hurting the cat and we don't hurt our friends. Or, if it is at the end of the day and she has been especially abused, I end up losing my temper and yelling at him. I have tried time outs, but obviously he is too young for that and doesn't get it. I can't even count the number of times we have practiced 'being nice' to the cat and 'petting gently.' Millions. This happens at least on a thrice daily basis. At first I thought it was an attention seeking thing, but I have been watching him closely and I really don't think it is. He really just loves the cat and enjoys playing with her. I think he thinks she is some kind of really cool stuffed animal that makes funny noises when you squeeze her really hard. So aside from locking either him or her in a room, I have no idea what to do. I am so at my wits end with this and I really don't want either of them to get hurt which is bound to happen!!! Do I just let her scratch him? Because clearly demonstrating gentle behavior and talking through this isn't working. There is no natural consequence to this behavior, but I am not sure I want him getting potentially really hurt by her to stop it.
Please, please help!
Vegetarian, breastfeeding, cloth diapering and EC'ing mama to my bare-foot, TV-free, free-range toddler and loving it!!!
23 months is probably still a bit young for him to totally understand the logic behind the "don't hurt the cat" maxim, but keep reinforcing it, it WILL click eventually.
In the meantime, does the cat have a space it can retreat to where the toddler doesn't have access? If not, you may want to create one.
I have had similar problems with both my cat, and dog. Let me know (by PM) if you want more details on specifics of how I've dealt with this.
Kitty needs some place to retreat. In our home we have 2 cats and 2 Australian Shepherds. One cat tolerates rough petting, the other runs away. One dog tolerates rough handling, the other will give a warning growl to let us know he's reached his threshold. As a dog trainer, I put a LOT of emphasis on proper animal interactions for DD who is 14mos. She is never allowed unsupervised with any of the animals, not because I don't trust my animals, but because 1) it's not fair to them to have to tolerate her all the time and 2) IF something does happen, I can't blame the animal. I don't worry about cat bites and scratches, in fact I'm a firm believer that kids who are too rough deserve a good scratch to learn the consequences. Unfortunately mine won't resort to that. But it doesn't mean another cat at a friend's house won't. So I try to teach DD that if she wants to play in a way that's not appropriate for the animals, she needs to go elsewhere. My cats have access to the basement to get away. The dogs I don't put away, on the contrary I put DD 'away' if she gets too rough - into her pack n play she goes!
I would make sure you have somewhere that kitty can go to escape and have down time. Supervise your DS and show him how you interact with the kitty. If he does something nice, praise him and tell him how much kitty likes when he does that. Let him help you feed kitty or toss toys. But as soon as things get rough - long before climbing on the cat - your LO needs to be removed. Just bc kitty doesn't walk/run away, doesn't mean she's enjoying things, she might be too scared to move! Explain as you leave that kitty is fragile and you know he loves her but if he can't love her in a 'soft' way, he can't spend time with her. Have him practice a soft touch on a stuffed animal to get the hang of it. So if avoiding the scratch/bite is your goal, removal is the next best option.