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by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS

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Body Language

Fears and Phobias Places

 

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 Feline Fears of Places


What is it?

Cats can become afraid of places such as cars, the veterinary practice or rooms that the cat associates with a loud appliance or a traumatic experience such as a bath. Some cats vocalize, others freeze, others try to fight or escape. Some cats do combinations of these behaviors. A distressed cat yowl in the car can be unsettling for cat and people.

What to do

First, teach the cat to come and sit for a treat. Any time the cat is showing mild fear, you may be able to distract the cat by instructing him to come and sit for a treat.

To help a feline face his or her fears, it helps to establish baby steps from a place where your cat has no fear to the place that triggers your cat's fear. The goal is to help the cat become more comfortable step by step - not all at once. You want to help the cat relax when the fear is mild.

Try to end each training session on a good response and after a positive experience.

For example, establish all the baby steps prior to the cat being afraid in the car. Perhaps, the first step is get the cat comfortable being in a car carrier or kennel. After the cat is "kennel trained" then try moving the kennel when the cat is inside. Use treats and praise to reinforce relaxed, calm behaviors. Over time, you will be able to carry the cat inside the kennel to the car without the cat showing fear.

Be careful not to reinforce fearful behaviors with the intent to comfort the cat.

Eventually the cat will be able to accept treats inside the car, then baby step by baby step become comfortable with car sounds such as doors closing and the engine being turned on and off. Make the first car trips short ones like around the block. Set up the cat for success.

Similarly a cat that is fearful of a particular room, may need to be taught to sit in the doorway for food and treats. Then when the cat is comfortable, raise the bar to being a step or two inside the room to receive the treat or meal.

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