We had the same problem with our 3-year-old daughter and our cat. We begged her to be gentle. We tried to show her how to pet the cat, play with him gently, etc. We punished her with timeouts (and I admit, a spanking on more than one occasion) and nothing seemed to work EXCEPT….. we did a complete turnaround and if she did anything even remotely hurtful to the cat, we made a HUGE fuss over the cat and completely ignored her, e.g. “oh, poor kitty! Are you okay? Poor baby! You got hurt.” It drove our daughter CRAZY and she stopped tormenting the cat within just a few days. Then, we really went out of our way to give her MEGA praise when she would treat the cat well. If we saw her petting the cat gently or playing with him nicely, we really played up how wonderful that was and would sometimes even surprise her with little prizes — “wow, you are so nice to the kitty — how would you like a sticker.” At Thanksgiving, my family was talking to us that we should give away the cat because of how our daughter was treating him. At Christmas, my family was praising us for getting our daughter’s behavior with him completely under control. It was a frustrating experience, but we are at last a family at peace!
WHAT WOULD YOU DO?