Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a cat, Boo, who is about 2 years old. I found her in my backyard when she was just a kitten: she still had blue eyes and could barely walk. I think she was abandoned by her mother because she was very small and had a cold. During this time, she was loving towards everyone, and especially my dad when she was old enough to go into heat.
But when I had her spayed, everything changed. She now hates my dad and almost everyone else. My sister and I are the only ones she likes and will be affectionate towards, and she tolerates my mom. But everyone else, she hisses at if they so much as stand near her, and sometimes she’ll swat at them, especially if they try to pet her. Sometimes she’s in the fearful aggressive position, but other times she’ll just be lounging and will hiss.
Why the change in behavior? My dad feeds her in the mornings so that’s not a possible solution. Neither is a behavior consultant because my family things it’s “stupid and unnecessary” though I would love to have her looked at. I’ve tried (at the advice of my vet) calming collars and those calming aroma plug-ins but they are no help whatsoever. I currently have two dogs that she tolerates, and will affectionately rub against and a third temporary dog. The third dog is a recent addition so it’s also not the source.
I think it could have something to do with my dad being a generally loud person, as she also severely dislikes other loud people. But that wasn’t a problem before she got spayed. I love my Boo, and I hate that everyone else only sees her as evil.
Siouxsie: Well, Haley, we know how heartbreaking it can be when your kitty does a 180 in her personality, but we think we’ve got a couple of solutions for you.
Thomas: First of all, if you don’t have any high places like a nice, tall cat tree or some wall shelves, you need to get some. A cat that lacks confidence — and it sounds like Boo is lacking confidence after her experience at the clinic — needs places where she can get out of the way of dogs and feel like she can watch her territory from above.
Bella: Besides, tall cat trees are fun because you can run up and down them and goof off and play catch with your toys and jump on top of other kitties …
Siouxsie: Hey, knock it off!
Bella: I already did knock it off. See? My favorite mousie is on the floor right over there!
Siouxsie: That’s not what I mean, and you know it. Now, get serious because we’ve got work to do here!
Thomas: Anyway, Haley, having some high places is a great start. I’m talking like a seven-foot-tall cat tree, like this one Mama got for us!
Bella: I remember that cat tree. It was super-fun! And I was sad that Mama had to give it away when we moved across the country, but I’m glad Mama got us another one almost exactly like it.
Thomas: You can also get shelves to install on the walls, and suction cup-mounted window perches. Basically, try to create a “highway” that Boo can use to get around the house without having to be on the ground.
Siouxsie: It doesn’t have to be expensive to do stuff like this. Here’s a great how-to article on building DIY cat shelves.
Thomas: And here’s a great IKEA hack cat tree.
Bella: And here’s another cat shelf tutorial.
Siouxsie: You’re also going to want to play with Boo more. Playing builds confidence and it makes a shy kitty feel like she “owns” the space a bit more.
Thomas: Use an interactive cat toy and move it around like prey. Also, make sure your dad plays with her. You want her to start associating other good times with your father so she doesn’t feel so fearful around him.
Bella: By the way, if you want some tips on how to play with Boo LIKE A BOSS, check out Mama’s article on Catster.
Siouxsie: You can also coax her up the cat tree or onto her cat shelf by using an interactive toy.
Thomas: So, Haley, if you give Boo some nice, high places and a “freeway” around your home so she doesn’t have to get cornered by dogs or visitors, that should help her to calm down a bit.
Bella: And playing with her every day will also boost her confidence. Try these things and let us know how it goes.
Siouxsie: How about the rest of you readers? Do you have any other tips for helping a frightened cat calm down and feel confident again? Please share them in the comments.