My Cat's Afraid of Our Bed. Why?

CatChannel and CAT FANCY cat behaviorist Marilyn Krieger, CCBC, explains how trauma can affect cats.

By Marilyn Krieger, CCBC | Posted: July 7, 2011, 3 a.m. EDT

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Q: Our cat, Scooter, is an 8-year-old, indoor-only cat. One year ago, we had him declawed. After returning from the vet, he ran into our bedroom and crawled under the bed, hiding for several hours. Our cat managed to chew one of the bandages off one paw; I had to remove the other the next day. Since then, he will go into the bedroom several times each day and stare under the bed. If we place him on the bed he freezes up, gets tense and acts jumpy. He will eventually crawl off the bed slowly. If we place him in bed with us he will crawl out as soon as he can. Once he is off the bed he looks under the bed for a few minutes and then leaves the room.
How can we change his behavior?  Do we need to pull the bed out of the room to show him nothing is under it?

A: Your cat’s response of hiding under the bed when you brought him home after he was declawed is understandable. Often, cats experience post-operative pain and trauma after cat declawing procedures. 
Scooter took refuge under the bed after the painful surgery, forming a fearful/negative association with the bed. One year later, your cat probably doesn’t remember what the initial trauma was, but the association is still there.

You can gradually change your cat’s negative association with the bed. Instead of picking him up and placing him on it, influence your cat to want to be on and around the bed. Start by playing with your cat using a fishing pole toy. Encourage your cat to chase the animal on the end of the pole by dragging it toward the bed. If your cat resists going into the bedroom or near the bed, don’t force him. Instead, play with him in an area where he feels comfortable. Then, gradually decrease the distance to the bed by dragging the toy closer to it.

Cat clicker training, a reward-based training system, can also change Scooter’s association with the bed, by reinforcing him when he’s on and near it. After the initial step of pairing the sound of the clicker with a highly desirable treat, the click becomes a communication tool, reinforcing your cat for desired behaviors. Click and treat for every small step Scooter makes that brings him closer to the goal of jumping up on the bed. Good stuff happens to your cat on and around the bed.

If your cat resists and won’t go into the bedroom or on the bed, don’t force him. Proceed slower, with time and patience he will eventually enjoy his time with you in the bedroom.

Declawing often is a painful and traumatic procedure that can also lead to behavior problems such as litterbox and aggression issues. Many alternatives to declawing include training, providing appropriate furniture to scratch, SoftPaws and periodically trimming the claws.  .
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Reader Comments

Lisa    schenectady, NY

8/4/2011 2:32:17 PM

You caused the problem with the awful declawing..the vets in my area refuse to do it as all should. After 8 years you take his claws out... why? Your furniture must be more important then the welfare of your cat...You should be ashamed of yourself and i feel sorry for the poor cat

=FD    =FD, MA

7/29/2011 12:04:56 AM


LO    P-, MA

7/27/2011 1:12:14 AM


Janie    Windsor, ON

7/22/2011 4:41:35 PM

I'm not surprised this poor cat is traumatized, there is a reason declawing is illegal in some counties. Whenever I started to read this I knew what was wrong with this poor cat. No true animal lover would get their cat declawed.

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