My Cat Fears My Fianc?

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, discusses how to build trust in your cat when living with new people.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: August 20, 2010, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: I've recently moved out of my parents’ house and into a new apartment with my fiancé, taking one cat with me. Her name is Suzy. She has adjusted fine to the new apartment with only one exception: she has a fear of my fiancé. If he walks into a room she runs and hides and won’t come out. When Suzy hears his car outside she will also hide. I find this very odd considering she didn't act like this toward him in my parent's house. What can I do to ease her fear?

A: Cats need consistency and typically do not adjust easily to new changes. Your cat has to adjust to both brand new living quarters and to your parents not being a stable part of her life any more. All the new changes are overwhelming.

Ease the transition and help your cat accept your fiancé by changing her fearful and insecure feelings toward him into a trusting relationship. Start by having your fiancé take over the daily care and feedings. Additionally, if Suzy enjoys playing or being groomed, he should play with and groom her. Whenever your fiancé sees Suzy, he should toss her a treat that she covets. These activities will help your cat view your fiancé as someone who provides everything good and fun and is worthy of her trust.

Suzy’s association with the sound of your fiancé’s car can also be changed from one of fear to acceptance. Strategically locate treats in covered containers throughout your apartment. Ask your fiancé to call you prior to his arriving home so that you are prepared to give Suzy a treat at the first sound of your fiancé’s car. Stop giving her the treats when the engine is turned off. With a little time and persistence, she will no longer run and hide when she hears his car.

Putting Suzy on a consistent schedule will also help her adjust to the changes. She should always be fed at the same times every day. If she enjoys being groomed and loves to play, schedule regular sessions with her at the same times every day.

The way your fiancé approaches Suzy may have to change as well. Approaching Suzy in a way that will allow her the choice of interacting on her terms will help build trust. Instead of approaching Suzy to pet her or pick her up, ask your fiancé to extend his index finger towards her at her nose level. He can sit a few feet away or across the room from Suzy. If she feels like socializing, she will come up to your fiancé and touch his finger with her nose and then turn her head until his finger is on her cheek. After this formal greeting, your fiancé can pet her on the head and neck. Formal greetings, where Suzy has the choice of interacting with your fiancé, will encourage her to feel more secure and trusting, helping her to accept your fiancé as a permanent part of her world.

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Reader Comments

XS[P    X;, MI

9/9/2010 1:17:17 AM

DCP

PFE    PFE, MA

8/27/2010 12:46:12 AM

KFG

Evelyn    Beamsville, ON

8/23/2010 10:41:44 PM

Good article.

Anon    City, CA

8/23/2010 7:23:15 PM

Good article.

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