4 year old son killed kitten
by Pauly3, Feb 18, 2009
My four year old son went to bed as he usually did every night blanket, sippy, and our fairly new kitten.  We had gotten another kitten from our local animal shelter a few months prior and everything was fine.  I would occassionally find him being a little rough with the kitten and just figured it was our job to teach him that you cannot be rough with an animal.  He is only four and it is a learning process for him.  A family friend had asked us if we wanted her 9 week old kitten because they were moving and couldn't have animals. So we said yes- we now have two kittens, one is a little older like 3 months and the 9 week old.  He was initially a little rough with the new kitten, but once again I explained that he could not be so rough that it could really hurt him.  He was doing really great with them talking and petting.  He would go to bed and the kitten would follow him and go lay on the bed with him.  At first it made me nervous because he was so small and I thought he could lay on him or something.  I would constantly check on them and everything was always good.  My son would just lay there and go to sleep with kitten on bed with him.  The other night I looked in on them and my son was sleeping but the kitten wasn't on the bed with him.  I didn't really think anything of it just thought the kitten was somewhere else.  After a while I had noticed that I hadn't seen the kitten for a while so I went looking for him.  I found him- under the bed dead.  I was horrified- shocked.  The next morning he said nothing about it so I finally asked him where the little kitty was.  He said I dont know so I told him he was in heaven.  He said "Was he under my bed"?  I asked what happened and he said the cat made him mad so he sat on him.  I asked what the cat did and he said he clawed me and he was being mean to me.  I dont know what to think about it if it was on purpose or if he knew the kitten would die or what? But he also doesn't act remorseful about it which concerns me. What to do?
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Member Comments (17)
by April2, Feb 18, 2009
I think a child this young does not understand death or the ramifications of his actions, hence why he didn't feel remorse. He's simply too young to understand that his actions could take the life of another. All of that is beyond his understanding. He didn't like the kitten scratching him so he tried to stop it. Simple as that. It's a harsh lesson but really, no four year old child should be left alone with a small animal, as you unfortunately found out. They don't realize their strength and don't know how to properly take care of a pet. It's probably like an interesting, moving toy to them and now in his mind, it's broken, like some of his other toys. He doesn't understand it being alive and now dead.
I wouldn't go on about it with him or try to make him feel bad. Just make sure from here out that he's always supervised with the other kitten and not ever left alone. Best wishes.
by Pauly3, Feb 18, 2009
Thank you for your comment.  Although it's a hard thing to take in- an animal in the hands of a four year old- I now agree with you that no four year old should be unsupervised with a small animal no matter how well they seem to behave with it. It's just hard to think of your child getting mad enough at anything that the result is death wether intended or not.  I do realize that he is only four and I hope this never happens again. It is my job as aparent to make sure the opportunity isn't given and in a way I blame myself for not being more responsible. The saying is live and learn and, sometimes, even for a parent the lessons will be learned.  Thank you.
by Sally44, Feb 18, 2009
My son managed to get the pet hamster stuck in a childrens teapot when he was around 3-4 years old.  He was trying to re-enact the doormouse scene from Alice In Wonderland.  He is also on the autistic spectrum so I think he also didn't understand the ramifications of what he was trying to do.  Thanksfully I managed to get the hamster out.
If you have the same problems when he is older ie. 7+ then this would indicate an inability to understand another person or animals feelings as well as not being able to predict outcomes.  That might need looking into.  But at his age I wouldn't be concerned, but I would make sure he didn't have access to family pets unsupervised.  At that age they don't see the danger in what they do for themselves or others.
by remar, Feb 18, 2009
He is 4 years old and I think you should be concerned. He understood that the kitten made him mad right? And sitting on the kitten would get back at it for making him mad. This concerns me that he shows no remorse and does'nt miss the kitten. I remember being 3 years old and my bird died,of natural causes, I cried my eyes out. I'm not trying to be harsh  but I would ask him if he's sorry for what he did, does he miss the kitten and did he know he was hurting it.
by flmagi, Feb 19, 2009
I have to agree with Remar. A child of 4 should be recognizing emotions. If you cry or get upset, does he react to your feelings? Like asking why Mommy is sad etc? Does he show recognition of emotions to tv shows? Anger, sadness, happiness?  Is his emotional reactions appropriate for situations?
He should, at this age, be able to feel the connection between anger and pain and the reactions it invokes.
I would be seriously concerned with what he may be seeing on TV or at home, in regards to how anger is handled.

by dai3symae, Feb 19, 2009
I also agree with Remar and flmagi, you should be concerned and get some help.  The Humane Society has information for parents on its website.
by lboogie7729, Feb 22, 2009
I would definitely be concerned. There was intention in his action, he hurt it because it hurt him, then he hid it and showed no emotion. It is actually amazing what some kids are able to understand at a very young age and I think that a child that is 4 years who gets mad enough at an animal to injure or kill it probably has anger and possibly other issues. You don't know if he was doing something to the animal to make it scratch him in the first place, it may have been just a kitten being playful but he may have been antagonizing it. I would not just dismiss it, having no remorse, guilt or sadness about killing an animal isn't something to blow off. It would be one thing if it was an accident, but he admitted what he did and hid it. I would talk to a professional about it, it sounds like there may be more to this and he may need help.
by mtgoat911, Feb 26, 2009
i have met with families that have delt with animal cruelty issues, honestly all the kids were abused in one form or another or had some type of developmental disibility
try to find a behavioral pedictric clinic, if you cannot afford one, you can call your local mental health center in the morning and ask them what days do they take emergency walk ins, sorry your family is going through this
by Sally44, Feb 28, 2009
I still don't think that at the age of 4, a child will have sufficiently developed Theory of Mind to have fully understood the implications of his actions.  
In this case the kitten scratched the child.  To stop it doing it again the child sat on the kitten.  How would a 4 year old child have enough anatomical knowledge to know that sitting on it would stop it breathing, that that would kill it, and that death is forever?
I have a smallholding.  And there have been some instances when either my actions or my husbands has accidentally resulted in the loss of an animal.  These are unfortunate accidents that as adults we have learnt from and would never make the same mistakes again.  But I am an adult, not a 4 year old child.
As a child (and I was over 4 year old at the time), I remember playing with my sister's hamster and throwing it up into the air because I thought it would like it.  Unfortunately I dropped it.  I put it back into its cage.  My mum found it dead the next day.  I hadn't intended to kill it.  I had thought the hamster would like what I was doing.  
I have also been on holiday to the seaside and seen fishermen feeding freshly caught fish to cats in the harbour.  
Although there is evidence of deliberate harm to animals escalating into harming of individuals, this is not what we are talking about in this case.  It was not intentional.
I think we need to keep this in perspective.