While Tails Are Not For Pulling isn’t the most lyrical book in the world, it is a must-have for those of us raising children in a household with a pet.
My cat is going on 17 (I got her in high school) and I was probably more worried about her adjustment to the baby than I was about the inverse. After all, everything is new to a baby, so we bring her home and there’s a cat…voila…for her, there has always been a cat in the house. But the closest thing to a baby that my cat had ever experienced was a roommate’s overly rambunctious kitten…and they had not gotten along well. I am an only child, and for the 3.5 years previous to Elanor’s birth, she was the only small creature in our home. Neither my husband nor I have siblings, and we are among the first couples in our circle to have babies, so there haven’t been any babies over to visit our home ever. Lady has gotten fairly cantankerous in her old age, and I wasn’t sure how she would react to a squalling infant who, once mobile, would chase her and yank her fur.
We were pleasantly surprised that when Elanor came home (the second time, after her hospital stay) Lady seemed to have instantly accepted E as one of her “peoples.” When Elanor would cry, Lady would look anxiously at us as if asking “aren’t you going to do something about that?”. She would curl up near Elanor. Once the crib was sidecarred on my side of the bed, Lady took to sleeping in the opposite end from Elanor at night to be near all of us without the downfall of being kicked (my husband and I both being restless sleepers).
As Elanor has gotten older, she has noticed and taken a deep interest in the cat. To the point where, whenever the cat was nearby, Elanor tried with all her might to get nearer to Lady. So we began “teaching” Elanor how to pet Lady gently. This has gone about as well as you would expect anything you “teach” an infant to do would.
The first time I saw Elanor reach out, get a fistfull of Lady’s fur, and yank Lady a good three inches closer to her (Elanor) I braced for the cat to turn around and scratch the baby. Which, honestly, I wouldn’t have blamed her for doing. Lady, to my shock, just shot me a long suffering look that said “little help here?!”
It was a few days later that I was at my yuppie mommy store, purusing their books that I happened upon a rather santimonious series of books called the “Best Behavoirs Series”. It’s just chock full of titles like “hands are not for hitting”, “diapers are not forever”, “words are not for hurting”, etc. Santicmonious and slightly preachy? HELL yes they are.
With any luck, my cat will be around for at least a few more years. And I want those last years of her life to be as good as the previous 16, pre-Elanor. It’s bad enough that I forget to give her soft food every day (she always has hard food out).
So I bought it.
And we incorporated it into our bedtime routine. It is one of the books we read each night, along with “The Going to Bed Book”, but we read it to Elanor ONLY if Lady is in the room. We use the cat as a demo as we read “fur is for petting” and other lines.
Has it helped? Well, she’s seven and a half months old, so go ahead and guess how much has sunk in. BUT, she does generally try to move her hand down lady’s back as she yanks the fur, so maybe we can call that progress?
At any rate, if you’ve got a pet and a small child, I definitely recommend Tails Are Not For Pulling.