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Calm the Fears of Your Scaredy-Cat
Certified cat behavior consultant Marilyn Krieger has helped many felines overcome their fears, so few things surprise her. When she heard about a cat that was terrified of a couple's bedroom, however, she had to make a house call.
"They had a big dark ceiling fan and a white ceiling," she recalls. "The ceiling fan was freaking out the cat. That fan, when it moved, was like a predator from above."
According to Krieger, the scared cat hid under the sofa for days, which could have led to other problems. Dr. E'Lise Christensen, an animal behaviorist at NYC Veterinary Specialists, agrees. Says Christensen: "Some frightened cats may urinate or defecate outside of the box. Some can even become extremely aggressive when fearful."
The Connection Between Fear and Aggression
A 2008 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association looked at cat aggression. Fear, specifically from loud noises or interactions with other cats, was the most common motivator. The aggressive behavior was also often directed at the cat's owners.
"If you note that your cat is skittish, fearful or hiding during certain events, it's worth working on teaching it to be comfortable," advises Christensen.
Cat Behavior Training
To ease her kitty client's ceiling fan fears, Krieger painted the black fan blades white for less contrast and did desensitizing sessions. She coaxed the cat near the room with treats on the floor and moved the fan blades a little at a time. The cat slowly became used to the fan's movement, which also was now linked with something pleasant (a treat). Over time, the fearful association went away.
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