HOW TO HELP THE FEARFUL CAT
Fear and anxiety are unfortunately powerful forces that threaten the semblance of peace within your feline friend. Not only do they have a negative impact on behavior they can aggravate or cause serious health conditions. Fear in itself is an innate, protective emotional reaction.
Cats may be startled by a number of perceived dangerous stimuli like new environments, people, situations or objects. Usually, they display higher levels of comfort when surrounded by familiar conditions and individuals. Other disturbances like chaotic events occurring near them, trips to the veterinarian and even alarming sounds can jolt their peace of mind.
Primary socialization, limited exposure, traumatic experiences and genetics all contribute to embedding fear within your cat. Due to these provocations, cats have developed a threefold response mechanism i.e. the “3 F’s”: Fight, Flight and Freezing. Respectively in each stage, they attempt to evade danger by fleeing and hiding. When that fails they respond with defense mechanisms like aggression towards the threatening entity. When they become very jittery they can lose bladder and bowel control.
You will have to ignore your maternal instincts as efforts to lessen the distress or forcing them confront their fears, will only magnify the terror. After encountering an upsetting occurrence, they will hide for some period of time. It is recommended that you leave them be and let them return when they are at ease.
STEPS TO HELP:
- You might need a behavioral consultation in extreme cases, but on your own, you should be able to identify the fright invoking source. As an owner, your intervention will involve identifying all possible factors causing your feline companion to stress out. Normally body language and vocal indicators will help narrow down the list of suspects.
Behavior Modification Therapy.
- Cues include flattened ears, trembling, widened eyes, salivation or fetal-crouched body stances. If you spot your cats eyes dilating, piloerection, twitching whiskers, and sweaty paw pads then the dread has set in.
- Upon sensing these palpable signs, you may want to err on the side of caution by taking your cat to the veterinarian. A comprehensive medical checkup will help determine possible illnesses and pains that are triggering the shift in behavior to timid or aggressive.
- Prevention techniques have proven to be effective in general. Try not to endanger your cat's well-being by avoiding frightful circumstances, people and environments.
- Maintaining a sense of normalcy in times of worry will assist in alleviating the fear quicker. Do so by not deviating from their everyday life patterns; access to water, unaltered feeding schedules, and available litter boxes.
- Monitor their appetite, hydration levels and elimination for any anomalies.
- Do not bother or try to persuade them to come out from hiding, but when they do emerge, reassure them with treats, petting, and grooming.
- Step-by-step desensitization/counter-conditioning works wonders as it is a long-term solution. Slowly and from very far away, expose them to the object of their fear. Simultaneously use positive reinforcements like encouraging words, distracting toys and treats. Conduct this experiment in short periods. Recognize however, a sign of fear means you’ll need to start over. This process will take time and determination as you can go only as fast as your cat will allow.
Things to Avoid:
- Pressuring them into confronting straight out the frightening culprit will intensify the problem.
- Punishment of any sort is counterproductive.
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Photo By: Oliver Schwedener Unsplash