AR-News: (NM) Patience and Calm Will Help Kitty Overcome Fear
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Animalara2003 at aol.com
Mon Dec 1 03:14:59 EST 2003
By Dr. Jeff Nichol
For the Journal
Q: One night my 2-year-old female Burmese kitty was skittish and hiding,
very unusual for her. The next night she flew through the house screaming and
hissing at the back door. We saw an opossum at the door hissing. My kitty
wouldn't relax for days. The vet gave her Valium. She was fine until she looked
into a dark picture and saw her reflection. She went crazy!! Again screaming and
hissing and urinating while she was running. Tonight for no reason, she went
crazy again. I don't know what to do.
Dr. Nichol: Your cat's panic must be unsettling for the whole family.
While a little fear is normal, some cats have a harder time because they are
genetically shy. That possum looked and smelled really strange. Now your kitty is
hypervigilant, waiting for terror to strike again.
You can turn this around but you must act quickly. Contact your animal
control department or a local feed store and rent a Have-A-Heart trap. Bait the
trap with some tasty garbage and humanely catch yourself a varmint. A scenic
drive to the national forest will be this pest's one-way ticket to a new life.
Next, fear-proof your home. Cover anything reflective with paper so that
nothing can scare this poor cat.
Your kitty needs to feel safe. Medication can make a big difference, but
be careful. A physical exam and lab profile are both important. Provided she's
healthy, adding the antianxiety drug clomipramine will allow her to be
gradually weaned off the Valium— a drug that can interfere with learning and
possibly damage her liver.
Learning is your cat's ticket to a better life. Reward her with a treat—
only when she's calm. If nervous or frightened, she must be removed from the
threatening situation but not comforted. Any response from you will be
considered a reward; you could get more fear, not less. As this girl improves,
gradually remove the paper from the reflective surfaces in your home. If she's calm
when she sees her reflection from a distance, reward her with a treat. Very
slowly reintroduce reality.
Counterconditioning like this takes time. If you need guidance, you are
welcome to contact me again. Be patient and you will both win. You are a caring
Q: Can you get sick or contract a disease from sharing things with your
pet— for example, a Popsicle, or a dog kiss (letting him lick your face)?
"To cherish what remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal is our only
legitimate hope of survival." -Wendell Berry
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