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My Pet World: When it comes to scared cats, take baby steps to help them adjust

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

A few weeks ago, we had to put down one of our cats due to health issues. He was nine years old and a companion of our female cat. To help our female cat, we decided to adopt another cat to be her new companion. We picked her up a couple of days ago and we secluded her in a room to introduce them gradually. The problem is the new cat has hidden in the room and does not want to come out. My wife and I go into the room several times a day, but she remains hidden. Our current cat is nine years old and the new cat that we just adopted is seven years old. How can we entice the new cat to come out from hiding so she can get used to us? We have several toys in the room for her to play with, but she remains hidden whenever we approach the room. – Dennis, Austintown (Youngstown), Ohio

Dear Dennis,

First, get both cats feline pheromone collars to wear, and put feline pheromone plug-ins in the room(s) where your new cat is currently hiding – and, in the rooms, where you want her to eventually visit, i.e. living or family room. Pheromones can help take the edge off and make changes easier for all the cats in your home.

Second, wait a few hours before feeding her and then go into the room with a high-value treat (tasty and smelly). Place those treats halfway between you and her. Then, turn sideways so you are not directly facing her and read out loud to her, so she is comforted by your voice, but not threatened by your presence. You also can tempt her with a laser or lure toy.

Once she is engaging with you, introduce her to the rest of the house – one room at a time. Put your older cat in her room with the door closed, so she can get to know the new cat’s scent and bring the new cat into the house so she can get used to her new surroundings without worrying about the other cat pouncing on her. Don’t just plop her in the middle of a room. She will feel exposed. Instead, put her in a cat carrier and place the carrier near a wall and preferably between two pieces of furniture. She will feel safer that way. (You can move the plug-in pheromones to whatever room you are introducing her to that day.) Leave the carrier door closed and sit a few feet away. Talk to her or read to her so she hears your voice and is comforted by the familiarity of that routine.

Each day, scoot the carrier further into the room, opening the door on the third or fourth day, so she has the option to come out. Use the toy/food routine described above to further coax her out of the box. Always have an open cardboard box, deep basket, or cat cave on the other side of the room, so she has the option to run into that hidey-hole if she panics once she is in the room. If after a week she doesn’t come out of the carrier, make sure it’s been six hours since she has eaten before trying again. Also, you may want to buy an Anxiety Wrap for cats to see if the wrap makes her feel safer and less anxious.

This process could take a few weeks, so supplement it by just sitting in her room and reading (out loud or silently). Cats are more likely to explore when they think they are being ignored. Make sure you have a super soft blanket on your lap to welcome her.

 

Dear Cathy,

Would you please educate your readers that adopting a pet is a commitment to care for the animal for its lifetime? I know there will always be circumstances when a pet owner can no longer care for or afford their pet, which is why we will always have pet shelters. What I don’t understand is why so many people, especially young adults, adopt an animal and then leave it home all day sometimes caged for long hours. It’s like they never even thought about how they would care for their pet when they work full time. There are too many unwanted animals in this country. We need to decrease the number of pets ending up in shelters. Pets are not disposable! -- Sharyl, Naperville, Illinois

Dear Sharyl,

Well said; you get the last word today. Thanks for sharing.

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(Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.)

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