Your cat and your child can develop a close and wonderful relationship. Take the time to demonstrate to your child the correct way to interact as soon as he or she becomes aware of the cat. Provide your cat with areas of safety and refuge. With a proper introduction and training, the blossoming relationship can start your child on a lifetime of showing tenderness toward animals. From the cat’s point of view the key to initiating and establishing a good relationship begins with trust.
Create Cat Safe Zones
The cat needs places in the home that she can count on to be her sanctuaries. Her feeding station and litter box areas should be located where she can use them without being disturbed. If your children are too young to understand when and where the cat needs to be left alone, then you’ll have to create areas that only your cat can access. This may include putting the litter box in a room with the entrance blocked by a baby gate raised a few inches off the ground. This way your cat can go under but your children can’t get through. The food and water bowls may have to located on an elevated surface out of a child’s reach. Just be sure your cat can easily climb or job there.
Cats feel more secure when they have elevated locations to avoid interaction or even just for napping. A cat tree is beneficial to the environment to provide easy access vertical territory. Window perches are another idea. You can also create vertical territory by installing cat shelves and cat walkways on the wall. Make certain all shelves and walkways are sturdy and covered in non-slip material. If your cat feels she has choices when it comes to engagement or avoidance, it help reduce stress.
As you look around your home, see what areas need improvement to ensure your cat has options for escape, vertical territory, and the ability to use her resources undisturbed.
Follow Feline Etiquette
There’s a universal way cats who are familiar with each other use as an opening greeting. They’ll slowly approach each other and engage in an initial scent investigation through nose-to-nose sniffing. It’s after this that they’ll determine whether to interact more or back away. If your cat is approaching, have your child extend his index finger out front. If your child is the one doing the approaching, show him how to walk up to the cat slowly. If he runs, the cat may interpret that as being chased and run for cover. It’s important to show your child how close to get to the cat before sticking out his index finger. He shouldn’t hover over the cat but just present his index finger close enough so the cat doesn’t have to get up to sniff it but not so close that it’s an intrusion on kitty’s personal space. As an adult and as someone who knows your cat’s body language, it’s also important for you to make sure the cat’s body language reflects an openness for this potential interaction. If your cat’s ears are flattened back, if there’s any growling or display of defensiveness, then this isn’t the time for an attempt at physical contact.