Any respectable pet owner will tell you that their pets, that all animals, deserve respect.
This includes paying attention to them to see when they’re comfortable or over-stimulated. And obviously, they should not treat them like a toy, but rather a living, breathing animal with feelings.
This last point should be as obvious as any other, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
But Redditor shenanigansarefun’s niece clearly hadn’t received the memo.
When she received pushback for calling her niece out, the Orginal Poster (OP) wondered if she should have kept her feelings to herself.
She asked the sub:
“AITA (30 [female]) for saying my niece (9 [female]) deserves to be scratched by my pet?”
The OP and her cat lived with her family to help out.
“I’m a 30 [female]. I live with my 37-year-old sister to help her out with her 4 kids.”
“I have a two-year-old cat. He is neutered and fully vaccinated and normally the sweetest cat ever.”
“He’s very tolerant of my nephew, who has Down syndrome, petting him and touching him. I redirect my nephew when he is too rough touching him. When the cat has enough, he will go away.”
But the OP’s cat did not have a good relationship with the OP’s niece.
“My nine-year-old niece is a different story. It’s gone so far that I have told her she’s not allowed to even pet the cat anymore.”
“She will bother him from a sound sleep and pick him up because she ‘wants to hold him.’ I’ve told her, ‘So, should we pick you up when you’re sleeping? Do you like that?'”
“I’ve told her to leave him alone and he will come to her when he wants. He will sleep with her most nights.”
“She has a bad habit of picking him up and not listening to when I say he’s meowing, he doesn’t like that, he wants down, and she will protest.”
The OP tried to teach her how to care for the cat better.
“I will tell her to put him down and sometimes she does it rougher than I’d like. I told her she needs to do it softly because animals are fragile.”
“I’ve shown her to look for body language signs with the cat, like how he’s holding his ears and tail, to see if he’s happy or not.”
“It’s not fair to the cat, it stresses him out to be picked up whenever she pleases.”
“She has no respect for the fact he’s a living creature and not a toy.”
But the cat eventually ran out of patience.
“He had enough of it and was yowling and squirming and scratched her arm.”
“She cried, and I told her she honestly deserves it because she is constantly bothering him.”
“My sister said it was an a**hole move for me to tell a child she deserved to be scratched.”
“I think she’s old enough to respect the cat’s boundaries and body language and honestly had it coming.”
“So Reddit, AITA for telling a child they deserved to be scratched?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said the OP and her cat were NTA.
“You’ve given her plenty of warnings. You’ve tried to educate her. She refuses to listen and she isn’t 3. She understands no at this age. Your cat has every right to defend itself.” – TibbleTabbs1114
“My stepson was 2 when I got my puppy, and we sat how down and explained how he has to be gentle and taught him how to play with her. He was never rough again after the first time. Now, he’s 4 and they are best buds. Might be more his pup than mine, haha.”
“OP, this kid’s just a brat and did deserve it. I feel bad for your kitty. Hopefully, this teaches niece to leave kitty alone” – brandi__L
“I’m tempted to argue that no, she doesn’t quite love your cat the way you do, she loves your cat the way she loves a stuffed animal or a doll: As a fun toy to play with, not as a living animal that has its own feelings on the matter.”
“That doesn’t make your niece a bad kid, she just hasn’t learned that animals have their own opinions and motivations. The occasional scratch is a perfectly acceptable way to learn this.”
“One of my kids briefly struggled with the same concept, and we took about the same approach: a child-appropriate version of “Start s**t, get bit,” or more likely scratched.”
“While we would certainly help them clean and bandage their scratches, we were decidedly short on the “Oh, you poor thing!” messaging and focused on reinforcing the idea of paying attention to animal body language.
“We also told them that things like petting a cat should be enjoyable for both parties.”
“NTA.” – CaptainBasketQueso
Others said the niece might need to learn the hard way.
“I mean, my niece is 4 and is very similar with her ‘baby kitty,’ she always wants to hold her and play with her whereas her twin sister is more willing to let Baby Kitty come to her.”
“But, my sister doesn’t baby her when she gets scratched by the cat because my niece has been told to let her relax and that she doesn’t want to be held all the time, and learning that your actions have consequences is sometimes painful.” – Uma__
“My kid pulled the cat’s tail once (we did supervise as much as we could but it’s simply not possible 100% of the time). He was nearly 2. He learned his lesson and now pets nice and he and the cat have a good relationship.” – JaPrufr0ck
“This is one of the most overlooked BENEFITS of kids being around pets, IMO (in my opinion). I had cats growing up, and when I got scratched, my parents taught me how to treat it… while also explaining why the cat scratched me, and how I needed to ‘listen’ to their body language to know what they like and don’t like (not in so many words, though, but that was the basic idea).”
“Pain can be a good teacher, and realizing that animals are NOT toys, but living creatures with needs and wants and feelings, is a wonderful way to help instill empathy.”
“It certainly helped me learn empathy, and I learned cat body language long before human body language (autistic) which eventually helped me understand human body language.”
“Also? I’m a boss at proper wound care now. Been bit/scratched tons of times (unfortunately, sometimes you HAVE to do things cats don’t like) and never once had any sort of infection or complication.” – Willowed-Wisp
Some also pointed specifically at the OP’s sister as the AH.
“When I was a little kid (around 5, I guess?), we had a cat, and apparently (I don’t really remember but my parents told me) I always pulled at its tail a bit and stuff like that. My parents told me I had to stop that but I didn’t.”
“So one day I was walking past the cat who laid on the couch, and I guess the cat thought I was going to annoy it again, so it ‘punched’ me with its paw on the head. There was no blood, not even scratches, so it didn’t use its claws, it was just a warning.”
“I ran crying to my parents, who comforted me quickly but also told me that’s what I get for annoying the cat all the time. Never did it again.”
“Moral of the story: kids can be s**tty but gladly cats can protect themselves.”
“Talk to your sister and your niece again, and tell them that a cat is a living being with its own needs and not a toy. The cat wants to sleep or play or snuggle when it wants, you can’t force it and you have to respect that, or you get scratched because it’s not having any of this anymore.”
“Maybe compare it to a boundary your niece wants respected, so she understands it better.” – A9J9B
“NTA. Your sister is. The mother should have set boundaries and failed. Now she is upset because you correctly said that she got what she deserved? Kitty dished out justice on kitty’s terms.” – Strokedoutbear
“NTA, your sister needs to back you on this because to me it says the kid doesn’t respect what you have to say about the cat.”
“Also how else is she going to learn if the cat isn’t protected from her? Because your sister didn’t care until she got a scratch.” – NiteGrimwood
“NTA. I’ve had cats ever since I was a little kid, you p**s them off enough, they’re gonna scratch and whose fault is it? Your own.”
“I knew well enough by age 6 that you can’t handle cats the way your 9-year-old niece does. You gave her fair warnings several times and now you’re the bad guy? Nope.”
“Your niece and sister can’t cover their ears and ignore what you’ve been telling them just because they don’t want to. The only bad guy here is their attitude.” – duhnexpectedmulaney
The subReddit was quick to confirm the OP was in the right and to support her directness and guidance of her niece to protect her cat. The niece might be excited to be around a cat, but she needed to learn what it meant to truly love and respect a cat, and reap the rewards of that.