I trap feral cats to neuter then release them. Recently I trapped a cat that was obviously tame. After his surgery I opted to keep him in the house so I could find a home for him. (We live near a university and cat dumping is common.)
He turned out to be a great cat. Very friendly and easy going. After a few days I started wondering about keeping him for the kids except my husband doesn't want a cat.
Then he scratched, batted, or mouthed my 3 year old when I wasn't around. Four times he hurt her. I called some rescue groups to see if they could take him right away but it was the holiday weekend.
He hadn't hurt her in days. I started wondering if it was all related to being in a new environment, having surgery, etc. Then he discovered the doggie door and would go outside during the day. There were no problems and my daughter adores this cat.
This morning the cat and our 12 pound dog were playing together. Then the cat snuggled with me and the kids in bed. I told my husband I thought we should keep the cat as long as there are no more injuries and he agreed. This afternoon he gave our 3 year old a 4 or 5 inch scratch. Having had cat scratch fever, this concerns me for lots of reasons. We asked her what she did and she demonstrated a way of holding him that seems like it would cause a cat to protect itself.
My daughter's safety is top concern. In time she will learn to be more gentle with the cat (he can put up with what our 6 year old does, just not our 3 year old.) However, we don't know how long that will be. He's a nice cat, generally.
So any thoughts on what we should do?
Created an instant family (7/89 and 5/91) in 1997. Made a baby boy 12/05 adopted a baby girl 8/08. Ask me about tandem adoptive nursing. Now living as gluten, dairy, cane sugar, and tomato free vegetarians. Homeschooling and loving it.
Of our 2 cats, one of them has 'lashed out' at us maybe a handful of times. Before kids - it was at me, and we eventually recognized that he needed more cat play and also ended up getting a second cat within 6 months. He just needed a lot of active, biting-clawing play (getting a cat tree helped a bit too - but the second cat helped more).
The same cat had recently scratched my oldest dd. These were actually times when she wasn't engaging him at all, but he was running through the house doing 'cat play' and acting a little wild. She might have been running through the house at the same time, doing kid play, and they surprised each other or he interpreted her play as cat play? -- not sure exactly. But anyway, I've tried to pull out more of our active cat toys and catnip more regularly since and we haven't had a recurrence.
I'd make sure that your dd can recognize his 'stay away' signs, and make sure he has enough playthings and active play time with someone. And catnip.
Have you seen him (the cat) any of the times this has happened, to get a sense of whether it's play or aggression or defensive?
have you been in the room when he has scratched? It sounds like the first time you werent, are you sure your child didnt inadvertently hurt the kitty causing this sort of reaction? Kids often mean well but can hurt a kitty easily without meaning too. I would suggest not leaving them alone in a room together for now.