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4 year old son killed kitten
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4 year old son killed kitten

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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17 Comments Post a Comment
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203342_tn?1328740807
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.
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Avatar_n_tn
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.
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470168_tn?1237474845
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.
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Avatar_f_tn
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.
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306455_tn?1288865671
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.

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479581_tn?1317761088
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.

http://www.hsus.org/hsus_field/first_strike_the_connection_between_animal_cruelty_and_human_violence/children_and_animal_cruelty_what_parents_should_know.html
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693583_tn?1376061660
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.
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Avatar_f_tn
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
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470168_tn?1237474845
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.
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Avatar_f_tn
Sally44. Please read the original post again. The boy said the cat made him mad so he sat on it.I believe he knew he was hurting the kitten. How is this child going to handle things later in life? What about when he starts school and someone makes him mad? Would you want your own child to be going to school with a child who kills a kitten because it made him mad? Please think about that. His parents are right to be concerned. I would be devistated if my child did something like that. And the boy knew what he did was wrong by hiding the kitten. I really hope the parents get some help for this boy. Remar
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Avatar_f_tn
This is an early warning sign get him some help NOW.
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Avatar_f_tn
i would smak him he should not hurt a animal smak him
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi, I just read your post.  I am not trying to excuse what your little boy did, but is there any chance that someone might be bullying your son?  I have been told when a child is a victim of bullying, sometimes they will pick on someone or something that is smaller and defenseless.  I was bullied incessantly by my stepfather and my older, much bigger step-sister as a child while my mom stood by and did nothing, and I didn't kill any animals but I remember being filled with absolute rage at the age of 4 and beyond.  Is there any chance at all that someone is bullying your son?  You may want to ask him about it.  
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Avatar_f_tn
People saying be alarmed he did it dont understand child development. He is too young to fully understand permanence and death- he cried and tried to fix it. They forget they are not toys or stuffed animals but real living creatures. He was sweet to try and fix it by bringing in mommy cat. Love and hold him and praise him for trying to fix what went wrong.
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Avatar_n_tn
Here's an interesting article.  It may help you to navigate this issue.
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Disturbed by a high pitched cry, three year old Christopher's mom walks in to the living room to find him swinging their new kitten around by the tail.  Five year John's babysitter witnesses John repeatedly blowing a loud horn into his dog's ear, laughing at the animal's obvious distress.  Ten year old Liam's older brother discovers him holding a lighter flame to the family guinea pig's foot.  

Since the 1970"s, research has consistently reported childhood cruelty to animals as the first warning sign of later delinquency, violence, and criminal behavior.  In fact, nearly all violent crime perpetrators have a history of animal cruelty in their profiles.  Albert deSalvo, the Boston Strangler found guilty of killing 13 women, shot arrows through dogs and cats he trapped as a child.  Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold boasted about mutilating animals for fun.

At the same time, most parents have been upset by some form of childhood cruelty to animals - whether it's pulling the legs off of a bug or sitting on top of a puppy.  We struggle to understand why any child would mistreat an animal.  And when should we worry?  Where's the line between a budding serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer and normal curiosity and experimentation?  

Motivations Behind Animal Cruelty

Most commonly, children who abuse animals have either witnessed or experienced abuse themselves.  For example, statistics show that 30 percent of children who have witnessed domestic violence act out a similar type of violence against their pets.  In fact, the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is so well-known that many U.S. communities now cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviors.

While childhood and adolescent motives for animal cruelty has not been well-researched, interviews suggest a number of additional developmentally related motivations:

"Curiosity or exploration (i.e., the animal is injured or killed in the process of being examined, usually by a young or developmentally delayed child).
Peer pressure (e.g., peers may encourage animal abuse or require it as part of an initiation rite).
Mood enhancement (e.g., animal abuse is used to relieve boredom or depression).
Sexual gratification (i.e., bestiality).
Forced abuse (i.e., the child is coerced into animal abuse by a more powerful individual).
Attachment to an animal (e.g., the child kills an animal to prevent its torture by another individual).
Animal phobias (that cause a preemptive attack on a feared animal).
Identification with the child's abuser (e.g., a victimized child may try to regain a sense of power by victimizing a more vulnerable animal).
Posttraumatic play (i.e., reenacting violent episodes with an animal victim).
Imitation (i.e., copying a parent's or other adult's abusive "discipline" of animals).
Self-injury (i.e., using an animal to inflict injuries on the child's own body).
Rehearsal for interpersonal violence (i.e., "practicing" violence on stray animals or pets before engaging in violent acts against other people).
Vehicle for emotional abuse (for example, injuring a sibling's pet to frighten the sibling),"
Animal Cruelty:  Are There Types of Abusers?

I'm not aware of any formal typologies that exist for children who abuse animals.  However, as a rule of thumb, it may be useful to use the following guidelines in trying to assess whether or not the problem is serious or can be easily addressed.  Caveat: These are general guiidelines and each situation should be evaluated individually..

The Experimenter:  (ages 1-6 or developmentally delayed).  This is usually a preschool child who has not developed the cognitive maturity to understand that animals have feelings are not to be treated as toys.  This may be the child's first pet or s/he doesn't have a lot of experience or training on how to take care of a variety of animals.

What to do:  To some extent, of course, this depends on the age and development of the child.  In general, though, explain to the child that it is not okay to hit or mistreat an animal, just as it's not okay to hit or mistreat another child.  Humane education interventions (teaching children to be kind, caring, and nurturing toward animals) by parents, childcare providers, and teachers are likely to be sufficient to encourage desistence of animal abuse in these children,

The "Cry-for-Help" Abuser:  (6/7 - 12).  This is a child who intellectually understands that it is not okay to hurt animals.  This behavior is not due to a lack of education' instead, the animal abuse is more likely to be a symptom of a deeper psychological problem.  As previously noted, a number of studies have linked childhood animal abuse to domestic violence in the home as well as childhood physical or sexual abuse.

What to do:  Seek professional assistance.  While I'm a big believer in parents' abilities to weather many of the normal ups and downs of childrearing without professional assistance, this is an exception.  It is not "normal" for a child this age to intentionally mistreat an animal.

The Conduct-Disordered Abuser:  (12+)  Teens who abuse animals almost always engage in other antisocial behaviors - substance abuse, gang activities, Sometimes the animal abuse is in conjunction with a deviant peer group (an initiation rite or as a result of peer pressure), while other times it may be used as a way to alleviate boredom or achieve a sense of control.

What to do:  Get professional help immediately.  If possible, enlist the support of friends, family members, even teachers.

The Bottom Line

Every act of violence committed against an animal is not a sign that a person is going to turn out to be a homicidal maniac.  Particularly with young children, whose natural exuberance and curiosity can lead to some unpleasant experiences for their pets, it is fine to shrug off an occasional lapse in judgment while continuing to educate the child about humane animal treatment.

However, locking a pet inside a closed space, violently lashing out at a pet after getting in trouble with a parent, or taking pleasure in watching an animal in pain are all "red flags" that signal the need for professional intervention.  This is particularly true when the child has the cognitive maturity to understand that what s/he is doing is wrong - and repeatedly does it anyway.
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Avatar_f_tn
Sorry to say this, but your son's a sociopath/psychopath since he lied about killing an animal and showed no remorse for it. He intended to hurt it at the very least, and would have realized it was dead when he put it under his bed. Sociopaths/Psychopaths always start with animals as victims before they move onto humans.

Don't leave him alone with any animals or vulnerable individuals (like children younger than him). This behaviour is a HUGE RED FLAG. Do not ignore this.
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973741_tn?1342346373
That is an interesting read.  I also think that young kids and tiny animals often don't mix.  We went to visit a friend yesterday that has a young kitten, just 8 weeks old.  Cutest darn thing I've ever seen.  her daughter who is 5 was manhandling that kitty like nobody's business.  holding it by the neck, by the paw, sticking her finger deep into the kitten's mouth, etc.  The mom said to me before we stopped by that she wasn't sure about the kitten because it had bitten her daughter.  Um, yeah.  The daughter was not meaning to hurt the kitty but was just too young to be handling it.  

We didn't get a puppy until my youngest was 6 and I always supervised interaction.  We got another puppy when my son was 8 and that was even better.  he understood WhY he needed to be gentle.  

don't know about the poster of this thread as it is old and agree that a classic sign of an emotional disorder is harm to animals, but also parents need to be mindful if there child is mature  enough to be handling a small, young animal.  
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