Scared Cat? Teaching Shrinking Violet Shy Cats

scared cat

Is your kitty shy? How do you bring her out of her Shrinking Violet shell? (Image copr. Missi Hostrup via Flickr, a picture of Tiger Lily)

Working with fearful and scared cats can be a challenge. Does Sheba hiss at strangers? Does Tom dive under the bed when the doorbell rings? Do your kitties attack other pets (or humans)? What can you do to stop bad behavior if even a mild correction sends the cat into fearful meltdown? Alexa posted her Ask Amy question to my Facebook page, and the answer is in today’s video.

Helping Shy & Scared Cats

We often feel that our fur-kids must have been abused and feel bad to make THEM feel bad. But they still need to know limits. One of my favorite ways to train is using positive rewards. Instead of waiting for kitty to scratch the wrong object and then interrupting the behavior–why not REWARD her when she scratches the RIGHT object?

Using kitty clicker training can also build confidence in shy cats by teaching them what happens is in their paws. Here are more tips for dealing with scared cats.

Stranger Danger & Fearful Felines

While a normal dose of caution keeps cats from becoming coyote kibble, extreme fear makes cats miserable and disrupts your happy home. A hiding cat may not bother you, constant anxiety increases stress that can make cats sick. For instance, stress can aggravate bladder inflammation (cystitis), which prompts hit-or-miss bathroom behaviors. Even when the bladder doesn’t hurt, anxious cats use potty deposits or will increase scratching behavior to calm themselves—sort of the way nervous humans bite their fingernails. Noises can scare cats, and this post about dog noise fear may help kitties, too.

scared catMore Tips for Helping Shy Cats or Stressed Out Kitties

Do you have a shy cat? How does s/he react to strangers or new situations? What tips have you used to bolster confidence? You can use scent enrichment to help reduce your cats’ stress. Are you concerned (like Alexa, below) about damaging your pet relationship during training? How do you avoid that?

Of course you can find lots more fur-kid care tips in the pet books. Many of the tips in MY CAT HATES MY VET! will also help. But I hope anyone with a burning furry question (or heck, ANY question! *s*) will share in the comments and perhaps it’ll be a future Ask Amy feature!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Why Cats Sleep So Much? Do Your Cats Sleep Under the Bed?

Do your cats sleep under the bed? Cats sleep a lot, often in unusual places. In fact, kitties sleep two-thirds-of their life away, up to 16 hours each day. That’s more than any other mammal, except for the opossum and some bats.

We don’t know why cats sleep so much. We theorize that predators with few natural enemies (like cats) sleep for longer periods of time. Some experts believe a cat’s need for sleep increases in direct proportion to the amount of energy kitty requires for hunting. Cat hunting behavior requires a lot of energy.

HidingCat

“You can’t see me!” Image copr. Amy Shojai, CABC

How Cats Sleep

While humans sleep in marathon eight-hour (or longer) sessions, cat sleep combines short and long naps throughout the day. Habits vary between cats but very old and very young kittens sleep more than robust adults. Sleep time increases on cold, rainy or cloudy days.

Two patterns of brain activity characterized the sleep activity of cats, like that of people and many other mammals. Scientists measured this activity with an electroencephalograph (EEG) that records waves or pulses of activity on a graph.

Kitty brains broadcast little bunched-together irregular peaks while awake. But when dozing, the cat’s brain produces long, irregular waves called slow-wave sleep and lasts fifteen to thirty minutes. He lies with his head raised and paws tucked beneath him as he dozes. Sometimes he actually sleeps sitting up, in which case his muscles stiffen to hold him upright. This way he’s ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.

why cats sleep so much

Karma finds weird positions for his cat sleeping.

Cat Sleep Positions

You’ll know when kitty moves from light into deep sleep: his body relaxes; he stretches out and rolls to one side. His brain patterns change and become smaller and closer together, and are very similar to his waking patterns.

During deep sleep (also called “rapid sleep” because of the quick brain wave movement) cats remain fully relaxed and hard to awaken. This phase only lasts about five minutes, and the cat then returns to slow-wave sleep. Thereafter, rapid- and slow-wave sleep alternates until he finally wakes up.

Interestingly, kittens fall directly into deep rapid sleep without this alternating pattern until they’re about a month old. Cat dreams are born during rapid sleep–twitching whiskers and paws chase dream mice, perhaps.

shelter catI’m Awake! Sorta-Kinda-In-A-Way…

The cat’s senses continue to record sounds and scents during up to 70 percent of sleep. That means cats awaken quickly at the squeak of a mouse or smell of a rat. A predictable pattern of blinking, yawning and stretching characterizes slower awakening. First the forelegs, then back, and finally rear legs flex and stretch in turn. Most cats also groom themselves briefly upon first awakening.

Cats are crepuscular creatures, and most active at daybreak and sundown. But they typically adapt to the humans they love, sleeping on the owner’s schedule. So they sleep when you are gone and spend more awake time when you are home.

Why Cats Sleep On You

…Because they can! For many of us, cats that sleep ON the bed with us…and on the pillow, on your head, on your chest, and pretty much in any position they want. Sleeping with us shows incredible trust and love. But today’s Ask Amy addresses those felines that prefer the company of dust bunnies to humans. What’s up with that?

Do your cats have weird sleeping spots? What’s the oddest place your cat likes to nap? Seren-Kitty used to cuddled up in her blue bed on the table beneath the stained glass lampshade. In her youth Seren hung out on damp towels on the tile tub surround in the bathroom. Karma-Kat stretches out on the carpet in the middle of the room and sleeps on his back. At night, he sleeps in the crook behind my knees. Oh, and do your kitties argue over prime sleep spots? And what about pet insomnia? Oy, it never ends!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How Cats Read: Why Do Cats Sit On Books?

Why do cats sit on books? Do your cats know how to read? Well of COURSE they do. I suspect our felines subscribe to the Kitty Manual on Rooling Humanz or wouldn’t have such a uniform method of intervention.

I had to laugh when I got the Ask Amy question: Why do cats sit on books and paper? We know they liked to climb on counters–but then they also find the morning newspaper and use it as a bed. What’s up with that?

Do your kitty friends do this? Sitting on top of books can certainly get in the way of reading. My Karma-Kat wants to prop his head on manuscript ages and even the computer keyboard, too, sort of cutting to the creation part of the book.

While cats sitting on books or lying on paper can be aggravating, it’s fun to figure out WHY they do it. Simply chasing them off elevates kitty stress, and we want to reduce stress, not create more. Once we understand, then perhaps we can find some solutions so we can read undisturbed.

Hey, and I hope if you enjoy the video at the bottom, you’ll Subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss out on new videos!

why cats sit on books

BONUS! Sitting on BOOKS in a BOX!

They simply sit on the page (or the E-reader) and absorb the text through their (ahem) nether regions. And Karma can even do that through the mailing packages, what a talent!

cats sit on books

Karma sits on books even once they’re in mailers.

Just check out Wall-E, in the picture when he sits on books “reading” my first-aid book. Kitties want to be prepared. 🙂  What do YOUR cats read?

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Why Do Cats Sit On Books?

Karma-Kat doesn’t limit himself to sitting on books, though. He has great taste in reading material. Here are a few examples of how cats sit on books and othe reading material.

why cats sit on paper

Karma likes music. Here, he sits on the cello score of Beauty And The Beast.

why cats sit on paper

Karma even enjoys original music. He “helped” me write the score for some of our musicals.

why cats sit on newspaper

“Reading” newspapers is one of Karma’s favorites.

why cats sit on computers

Sometimes Karma-Kat can’t wait for the words to be printed. He goes directly to the source–the laptop keyboard. (Of course, it’s warm there, too…)

So, truly, why DO cats sit on books, sit on paper, sit on computers, and really sit on anything their human needs/wants to see? That’s easy.

You’re focussed on that object, staring into space for hours on end, and paying attention to that THING. Your cat simply wants you to turn your attention to more important subjects–like the cat!

So do your cats sit on books–or other objects? Do tell! Oh, and here’s an ASK AMY video with more.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? 

NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Fear of Fireworks & Thunder? How to Calm Pet Noise Fears

Does your dog fear fireworks? What can you do for a cat or dog scared of fireworks? What about earplugs for dogs? Cats aren’t immune so Memorial Day (or graduation hijinks), New Year’s celebrations, July 4th fireworks, and thunderstorms can turn pets into shivery bundles of fur when BOOMS, bright lights, or even wind and rain noise fill the sky. Pets can be scared of all kinds of loud noises, and I get asked for advice all the time.

I share this information twice a year in time for July 4 fireworks, and the New Year fireworks. With the holidays winding down, and a new decade looming, it’s still important to pay attention to pet safety. Check out these holiday safety tips that work other times of the year, as well.

Noise Fear A Common Problem

Up to 20 percent of dogs fear noises, and pets scared of thunder also fear fireworks. The typical reaction is to hide or run away from scary noises. More pets become lost on July 4th than any other day of the year. Fireworks fears can destroy your fun holiday celebration, when pets panic, break through windows or escape fences. Learn how to find lost pets here.

scared dog Trembling, crouching, and lip licking can be signs of fear.

I’ve got my furry wonders microchipped, and they wear tags on their collars. But in order to be found, the pet has to be willing to come to a stranger. Terrified pets don’t think. That part of the brain shuts off during panic, and cats may dash through doors or scale fences. Frantic pups pull down window blinds, collide with screen doors or crash through windows, while others simply shiver and moan.

Even safely contained pets feel worse with each noisy boom. You may not see quivering scaredy cats, but the stress from noise phobia increases risk of hit-or-miss litter box behavior. Find out more about cat fear here. It’s vital to learn how to calm thunder phobias and noise fear in pets.

scared cat Scared cats crouch and may hide under the bed.

6 Ways to Calm 4th of July Noise Phobia

There are several ways to help reduce noise and fireworks fears in dogs and cats.

  • Behavior help with counter conditioning and desensitization
  • Happy smells with pheromone therapy
  • Comfort clothes that snuggle the pet
  • Muffle the noise
  • Training & brain games to distract
  • Antianxiety medications

Behavior Help for Dog Fireworks Fears

It can take weeks or even months for desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques to teach fearful pets that noises won’t hurt them. Behaviorists recommend desensitizing pets by exposing them to recorded sounds of the scary noise played at a very low volume and rewarding him for staying calm. Gradually, you increase the noise level, to help the pup “get used” to the noise–desensitize him–so he can learn to tolerate it.

Densitization programs for fireworks fears and storm phobias are not particularly realistic for most pet people. Pets suffering from storm phobias also may react to the sounds of rain. Even the sensation of humidity or barometric pressure can trigger behavior problems, and you can’t do much to control humidity or barometric pressure.

If you start counter-conditioning your fur-kid as a baby, it can help him stay calm during all kinds of scary noises, from thunderstorms and gunshots to fireworks fears. I’ve done this with both Magical-Dawg, Bravo, and even Karma-Kat. Each time the loud noise caused a “startle” or flinch reflex, I threw a  PUPPY-PARTEEEEE! And I’d exclaim, “WOW, WAS THAT LOUD, WHAT FUN!” and treats rained down everywhere.

Happy Smells to Calm Dog Thunder Fear

Comfort Zone with D.A.P. (dog appeasing pheromone) is an analog of the pheromone mom-dogs produce to calm nursing puppies. It calms the fears of dogs of any age, from puppy to aging oldster. Pheromones are chemical substances made by the animal’s body that act as a form of communication that, when inhaled by your dog, talks directly to his brain. It comes as a plug-in product, or spray that can be spritzed on a collar or bedding.

The Sentry Calming Collar for cats also employs a pheromone that calms fears in nursing kittens and works on any age cat. Cats also benefit from Comfort Zone with Feliway. That’s an analog of the cheek pheromone that tells cats their environment and territory is “safe.” Feliway also comes as a plug-in or spray. For sensitive cats, getting them “drunk” on catnip or silvervine-type products may help reduce kitty fear.

july 4 Get kitty “drunk” on catnip…

The nice thing about pheromone products is they won’t “drug” your dog or cat into a magic cure. It instead helps put a damper on fear long enough to “think” so that your behavior modification/training techniques can work. You’ll need to have the pet wear the collar or have the product plugged in for several days in advance for it to offer your dog or cat the best benefits. When the weather report indicates thunder in the offing or fireworks are scheduled, plan ahead with these products.

Comfort Clothes to Calm Dogs Scared of Fireworks

Fearful cats and dogs may instinctively look for tight-fitting cave-like places to hide. They often squeeze between furniture and the wall, and dogs try to hide their eyes in your armpit. This applies a comfortable “hug” pressure sensation that seems to calm them, so let your pet seek his own shelter. If kitty dives under the bed, leave her alone. Shut the door and be grateful she’s not outside running for the next county!

Another option is The Anxiety Wrap that applies even pressure to the dog’s body and helps him better manage his stress. A similar product for both cats and dogs that applies pressure is the Thundershirt Jacket for Anxiety. They make these now for cats, too, and the snug vest helps pets calm down during stressful events. Your pet may also benefit from a weighted blanket to snuggle under.

Some dogs benefit from the Storm Defender Cape that reduces static electricity from thunderstorms that prompts some behavior problems. In addition, the Calming Cap seems to help some pups through stressful, anxious situations by hiding their eyes. A new product called The Rein Coat combines a harness, rain-shedding properties and calming relief for anxiety, fear, and aggression and fits dogs (and cats) from 5 pounds to 250 pounds. Because each Rein Coat is custom fitted, it’s a bit pricier than other options.

thunder fears Dogs frightened may not know how to find their way home.

Muffle the Scary Fireworks Noise with Earplugs for Dogs

Cover up the sound with white noise. Use a white noise machine or a radio tuned to static works well.

Play soothing music. Certain types of music can prove calming, by “entraining” the pet’s heart, respiration, and brain waves to slow down and match the soothing rhythm. Harp music has a unique sedative effect on pets because the rhythms and sounds mimic brain waves and help calm the fear. Harp music may prompt you to nap, too. I’m a fan of PetPause.

earplugs for dogs Ear protection for dogs can help muffle the noise of fireworks.

Earplugs for dogs that mask the sound may also help. My veterinarian once told me that when a client’s dog went crazy after they moved near a gun range, the phobia calmed during treatment for an ear infection because the thick ointment muffled the sound. He suggests cotton balls or earplugs as a temporary solution to help muffle the noise. Ask your vet to show you how to safely place anything in the dog’s ears, though, so you don’t damage the pup’s hearing and plugs are easily removed after the upsetting sounds subside. I wouldn’t attempt this with cats, though. Rebecca Sanchez says CrittEar products work great for her furry wonders!

Earmuffs designed for dogs are another option. Hearing protection for dogs can help, but you will need to get your dog used to wearing such things in advance of the noise.

Calm Fireworks Fears with Training Games

If you engage the doggy brain, your pet won’t be able to think and perform obedience commands and panic at the same time. If he has a special toy, ask him to find the ball, or play fetch. Maybe offer a treat-stuffed puzzle toy to reward your dog for staying calm.

The best option is to prepare weeks or months in advance and counter-condition fearful pets to potentially scary noises so they learn to associate something good–a happy game or car ride–with it instead of fearful feelings.

Engage The Brain

The brain can’t think when in a state of panic. But the opposite holds true as well—when thinking, the brain won’t go nutso and turn your pet into a shrieking escape artist. So just before the fireworks start, drill your dog—or your cat—on favorite commands and tricks with lots of special yummy rewards or games. Continue the games throughout and throw a happy-dance party for him staying calm.

Dogs can’t panic when using their brain for something else such as “work” so give your dog a job to do just before and during the thunder and lightning display. Drill him on obedience commands and special tricks, or ask him to play fetch and carry around a favorite toy. That engages his brain into productive activity rather than thinking about the scary noises.
lost cat

Reduce Noise Phobia With Medication

Avoid giving your dog or cat a sedative, because it won’t reduce his fear. He just won’t be able to do anything about it, which can make his anxiety even worse. Your vet may prescribe anti-anxiety medication based on your individual pet’s needs which may also help with separation anxiety.

Supplements containing CBD oil may prove helpful to reduce fearful behaviors in dogs. Just do your research to be sure the product is safe for your pets. Learn more about CBD oil for pets in this article.

A natural supplement of melatonin may help–a substance similar to a chemical produced in the brain that helps regulate sleep. Melatonin helps reduce the panic attacks in noise-phobic dogs, but it won’t sedate the pup. It lasts several hours with a cumulative effect over several days. Plan ahead for known scary events like 4th of July. Find products with Melatonin in health food stores, pharmacies, and some supermarkets. Always check with your veterinarian for the proper dosage for your size and breed of dog.

Make It A Safe Holiday!

Whatever you do, be sure that your precious pet stays safe. Bring outdoor pets inside the garage or the house during the July 4th or New Years Eve celebration. Provide a crate or confinement in a pet-proofed room.

Move horses into securely fenced areas—or better—barns that will safely contain a frantic animal without the chance of injury. And just in case, microchip all your precious pets or have other permanent and reliable identification for recovery if they do the desperado dash when the rocket’s red glare fills the sky.

Just as car rides soothe human babies, a road trip may soothe pets that enjoy the car and take their mind off the noise. Just be sure your cat or dog LIKES car rides. Safely secure him in a carrier or restraint in the back seat during the ride.

Find many more tips on dealing with fear in the books ComPETability (Dogs) as well as ComPETability (Cats).

Do your dogs — or cats — become terrified over fireworks or storms? How do you manage the problem? What has worked for your pets? I hope you’ve never lost a dog or cat but if you have, what steps did you use to be reunited? Please share–it could save somebody else heartache.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? 

NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Spay-Neuter Pets & Feline Fix By Five Months

Spay neuter pets? Kittens and puppies and litters, oh my! It’s kitten season (and puppy season, too), that time of year when a feline fix by five months will save you and your pets a LOT of headaches. It’s all about spay and neuter, and the benefits gained for everyone.

But a recent survey sponsored by the Feline Fix by Five Months awareness campaign shows that not all veterinarians are aware of or have implemented this new approach. Responses from more than 200 licensed veterinarians in the United States were captured as part of a blind survey to determine attitudes toward spaying and neutering cats.

feline fix by fiveSPAY NEUTER SAVES PETS LIVES

Animal advocates have been preaching to the choir for years. The American Veterinary Medical Association (among others) endorsed a consensus document calling for the sterilization of cats at five months of age or younger if they are not intended for breeding.

According to the survey, 31% of respondents use age and gender to determine the best timing for sterilization. In fact, 61% advocated for spaying female cats at five months or less. But 57% wait until boy cats reach six months or older to sterilize.

When asked why they wait, veterinarians believed performing the surgery before six months of age puts cats at risk for urinary tract disease, blockages, and bone and joint disorders. “None of these concerns are supported by veterinary research,” said Dr. Philip Bushby, DVM, MS, DACVS, veterinary medical advisor to the Fix by Five Months campaign.

Esther Mechler, Program Director for the Feline Fix by Five campaign says the survey provides valuable insights for the program. Using this data drives increased awareness by sharing expert studies that undercut myths about future health risks. While there is no one-size-fits-all situation, it’s clear that the benefits far outweigh the consequences.

What Is Fix By Five Months?

When I first worked as a vet tech *mumble-mumble* years ago, six months of age was the standard “fix pets” date. In the years since a number of studies have supported performing the spay-neuter on much younger animals. Some shelters recommend and perform sterilization on 8-week-old babies once they reach a certain weight (often two pounds or more). These surgical techniques are safe. Pets recover more quickly, and the benefits of relieving cats and dogs of reproductive angst are immeasurable.

The Marion’s Dream FELINE FIX BY FIVE program suggests simply dropping the 6-month age to 5 months also makes a huge impact for good.

WHAT ABOUT DOGS SPAY-NEUTER?

Yes, dogs are different. Sure, “fixing Fido” before a litter-ary mistake is ideal. There are some canine-specific issues, though, that don’t apply to cats. For one thing, dogs don’t get pregnant as early as kitties can. Nor do they go in and out of heat as frequently. I cover some of these issues in the Ask Amy video, below, and you can read more about dog neutering pros and cons here.

If you have a furry baby in your future–c’mon, you KNOW you WANT to adopt!–please prepare yourself for a lifetime of love and fun. One of my care manuals like COMPLETE KITTEN CARE or COMPLETE PUPPY CARE offers all the guidance you need to start off on the right “paw.”

ASK AMY: SPAY & NEUTER INFO

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pets Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give-aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!