Before we start this week’s post, we want to apologize for the lack of a column last week. You see, Mama was in the hospital, and because we didn’t have our secretary and keeper of our passwords, we couldn’t write it ourselves. (Don’t worry, she’s much better now!) So, on to this week’s advice!
Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
My husband and I had Jag, a male solid black cat, as a service animal for 9 years. But he got sick and we had to let him go in June. Recently our son surprised us by bringing us Cleo, a female, solid black cat that is almost 3 years old. We have had her since January 8, and she took a liking to me right away. But she won’t give my husband the time of day. This past week she was in heat (we were surprised that she wasn’t spayed) and it was hard to see her go through this. Now that her heat is over, I am wondering how can I get her to like my husband before the end of January’s foster parenting trial. I want to keep her and get her spayed right away, but in order for her to live her life here with us, she needs to friend up with my husband. My husband is type 1 diabetic and has other disabilities, so do I. My husband wants to love her, and even tries to call her to him, but he is in a BIG power wheelchair and it seems like this could be the reason she won’t come to him. When he is in his hospital bed, he tries to get her to come up and visit with him, and she won’t. My husband’s feelings are are hurt badly, because Cleo will be friendly to other people that come into our home to visit but not to him. Can Cleo sense that my husband is upset about her not being friendly? My husband has given up trying to get her to like him. Once she gets spayed (if we keep her), could she become friendlier and grow to like my husband? Should I ask my husband to wait for her to get nice to him? I really want all this to work out. Do you have any comments that I could give to my husband that could get him to give Cleo more time to like him? PLEASE HELP ME to keep us all three of us as a family.
Thomas: Well, Margaret, it’s hard to see a cat fear one of the members of your household, and we think we have some ideas for you.
Bella: You’re probably right that Cleo is scared of your husband’s power wheelchair. But we think we can help him with that, too.
Tara: We’re not sure what level of disability your husband has, but if he has some use of his hands and arms, he could get her interested in him by playing with a “thing on a string” toy. That would allow him to bond with her and let her stay at arm’s length from his power chair until she gets used to it.
Thomas: Basically, what you want to do is get Cleo used to your husband as a source from which all good things flow. So if he’s able to do so, he can prepare Cleo’s food, even if he can’t put it on the floor himself.
Bella: If your husband isn’t able to play with thing on a string toys or feed Cleo, then there are some other tricks to help your cat fear your husband less.
Thomas: If your husband can’t feed Cleo or play with her, perhaps he could try tossing her some of her favorite treats. The best way to get a fearful cat closer to you is through allowing her to have a choice. So if he tosses her a treat some distance away from his chair or his bed, then allows her to eat it, Cleo will start to realize that your husband has good things to offer her.
Bella: Once he gets Cleo to eat a treat at some distance from her, he should try tossing the next treat just a little bit closer. Each time she eats a treat, he needs to give her lots of praise. Gradually toss the treats a little bit closer and a little bit closer. Once she’s eating right next to his chair or his bed, he should try putting the treat on the bed itself and seeing if she’ll eat it there.
Tara: This is going to require patience, and it’s unlikely that Cleo is going to come to love him in just a few days. But if he sees some signs of progress, maybe he’ll relent and feel like it’s okay to let her stay.
Thomas: You’ll also want to make sure that Cleo has some high places where she can watch your husband and get near him without necessarily interacting.
Bella: So, to help your cat fear your husband less, we’d recommend that you get some cat trees. Get one that’s about three feet high and put it near your husband’s hospital bed. That way, she’ll be able to be with your husband at a level where he can see her. And having her own space will give her the time to get used to your husband’s chair and hospital bed.
Tara: Also, having cat trees and window perches around will help Cleo to be able to stay out from under your husband’s wheels, which will make her feel more confident.
Thomas: It’s possible that getting her spayed will make her more relaxed around males of any species, but we wouldn’t count on that as a cure-all.
Bella: That’s right. What you and your husband need is patience. And the more Cleo sees the two of you together, the more she’ll come to realize that both of you are all right.
Tara: It’s never easy to watch a cat fear you, so we really feel for your husband, too. Did you know I was quite a “scaredy cat” when I first came to Paws and Effect HQ? It’s true! And it took me almost a year before I would even come out from hiding, much less sit on Mama’s lap. Now, I just can’t get enough of lap time with Mama. But it took her lots of time and patience.
Thomas: We hope that your husband will try some of these tricks to get Cleo to like him. But please encourage him to be patient. With his big power chair and his hospital bed–which probably also is noisy and moves in ways that a cat could find scary–it’s going to take her some time. But we know she’ll come to love him, too.
Bella: What about you other readers? Have you had a cat fear you? If so, how did you win him or her over? Please share your tips in the comments!