Q & A: Hiding indoors

Q: I’ve tried almost everything, but my eight-year-old female cat, Dolce, has been hiding indoors ever since the guy living near me brought a Pit Bull home. What should I do?

A: I’m answering this under the assumption that the dog is a neighbour’s and does not have access to your cat – if your cat and the dog are on the same property, I would strongly recommend contacting a professional behaviourist through the Animal Behaviour Consultants of SA.

Cats can easily be spooked and stressed by new animals in their immediate environment, simply because they do not know whether the new animal poses a threat to them or not. This reaction may be more extreme in some cats, such as those with a nervous temperament or those who have had either no experience or a bad encounter with other animals in the past.

Firstly, do not force your cat to go outside – allow Dolce to take her own time. Secondly, ensure that your home is a safe haven for her. The safer she feels at home, the safer she will feel outside the home. Make sure her litterbox is in a quiet area; provide her with plenty of options for food and water bowls and comfy sleeping areas. Play is a great way to help a cat relax and improve her confidence – so get out her favourite toys and make play part of your daily routine. Thirdly, invest in a pheromone diffuser or spray that can be used in her favourite room. Pheromone products are great for helping cats feel soothed and safe.

Lastly, keep some of her favourite treats handy – any time she seems interested in going outside or does venture out, put a treat in front of her. Don’t use the treats to lure her out, as this can constitute force. The treats are simply to reward her for showing any interest in the outdoors. If you continue to experience this problem, please make contact with a qualified cat behaviourist.

Katherine Brown, behaviourist

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