My Cat's Reacting to My New Clothes

CatChannel behavior expert Marilyn Krieger discusses why cat may be bothered by new items.

By Marilyn Krieger | Posted: May 21, 2010, 3 a.m. EST

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Q: My cat Oreo has been freaking out and acting scared since I have got some new clothes. I need to know what to do because he is clawing us and he thinks the clothes are going to get him. What would cause that to happen? Do you have any ideas to help?

A: Oreo’s reactions to your new clothes could be caused by a number of factors. You could have accidentally startled him with a sudden movement while either wearing or carrying the clothes. Another possible trigger is the smell from the new apparel.  A mixture of chemicals is commonly used for “finishing” fabrics. These chemicals are used for color fixing, disinfecting, wrinkle control, etc, and their smells may be offensive to your cat. You may want to look into the possibility of some of these chemicals being potentially harmful.

There are a couple of actions you can take to help him change his reactions from fear to neutrality and acceptance. If your new clothes are made of a fabric that is washable, consider washing them as soon as you bring them home to help remove the chemicals and their odors. If it’s the sudden movement and color of the new clothes that frightened Oreo, you can desensitize him by first laying the new garments out on a comfortable surface where he is used to lying, such as on a bed or sofa. Next, gently pet Oreo with a towel and then transfer his smell on to the scary clothes by rubbing the clothes with the Oreo-scented towel. Don’t force him to investigate the new clothes. Instead, encourage him by placing favorite treats next to the clothes. After Oreo is comfortable around the clothing, lift up a corner of the garment and let him sniff it. At this point you should be able to move the garment and hold it up without Oreo reacting in a fractious and fearful manner. 

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Reader Comments

;S    ;S, MS

6/9/2010 2:27:56 AM


gg    la, CA

6/5/2010 8:04:32 PM


Jennifer    Salem, OR

5/25/2010 7:57:48 AM

My cat reacts to anything new--clothes--especially library books by "giving it the business" meaning that she marks, rubs on, lays on, until it is hers. I just bring home new library books and dump on the bed and then when she is done I can read them without her interfering.

;SD    ;DS, MN

5/25/2010 2:38:03 AM


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