Q We got our rescue cat October 2015 as a 7-month-old kitten. As soon as she got in the house, she went under the bed and came out only to eat and use the litter box. A year later, she still hid under the bed but came out more often to snoop around the house. As soon as anyone moved though, she raced back under the bed. Since the beginning of this year, she comes out at night and sleeps in our bed with us. At daybreak, she is back under the bed again until nighttime. When we are watching television, she comes into the hallway and starts “talking” to us. But as soon as one of us gets up, she is back under the bed. I have a bag of treats, and when she hears me open it, she comes running toward me. Sometimes, she stays out, and we play a little. She does not play with any of the toys we bought her. She lets us pick her up, but not for long, and she does purr. She is not curious about anything, — open bags, crawling things, etc. We do have a Chihuahua who has no interest in her. Sometimes they both end up on the bed at the same time with no conflicts. Is this something that is going to last forever with her?
Las Vegas, Nevada
A I appreciate your patience with this sensitive soul. Believe it or not, I don’t think her anxieties will last forever, even though it has been two years so far. She has actually made progress, so here are a few more ways to keep things moving.
Place plug-in feline pheromones around the house or get her a feline pheromone collar to wear. All animals emit pheromones, but when cats smell cat pheromones, it can trigger an endocrine response that calms them and reduces anxiety.
Next, when she starts “talking” in the hall, open her treats and call her to you. Do not go get her, since it startles her. Instead, make her come all the way to you. Place a hideaway-type cat bed near or on the couch that she can dive into quickly if she is startled. That way, she doesn’t have to start all over again from the other end of the house.
Finally, cats feel safer up high, so if you can afford it, buy her a tall scratching post with a hideaway hole located at the top for your television room. Leave a few liver treats in the hole to encourage her to climb up. If she doesn’t discover it on her own after a week, gently place her in it. She needs lots of hiding places around the house, so she can explore safely and learn there is nothing to be afraid of in your home.
Q My 8-month-old puppy has started to show aggression. He growls and tries to bite when you try to pick him up or put him on a leash. Treats are not working. Suggestions?
A If this is a new behavior, take him to a veterinarian to rule out a health problem. If he is not fixed, get him fixed right away.
After doing these things, he needs to learn who is in charge, and that only comes from consistent training. Right now, your stubborn little guy has learned he can control the household with a few well-placed growls and snaps. But you can begin to reshape his responses by training him to “sit,” “stay,” and “come” when called. The more you train him to listen to your simple commands, the less likely he will behave this way.
For example, instead of picking him up, walk over to him, then turn away, slap the side of your leg to get his attention, and say “come” to get him to follow you. Puppies love to follow people, especially if their voices sound happy. When he moves from his spot, you should be able to pick him up with no issues.
Once he learns to come when called, call him to you at least 10 times a day, always giving him a treat to reinforce the behavior. This repetitive behavior teaches him you are more important than his spot.
If these things don’t help or he gets worse, please find a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist to evaluate his behavior.