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Hiding Under the Bed
|Wednesday, May 09, 2007|
|Dear Cat Coach,|
My new little female kitty is hiding under the bed. She only comes out at night to eat the food I leave out for her and to use the cat box. If it wasnt for the reduction in food and the increase of materials in the litter box, Id never know I had a cat at all. Ive decided to name her Shadow since shes spending her life lurking in the shadows under my bed. I got her from a local Feral Rescue group last week. They claimed that she was rehabilitated. If this is what a rehabilitated cat is, Id hate to see what an un-rehabilitated cat is like. Since she is still young, about 5 months old, I am holding out hope that she will become an affectionate little cat that may eventually sit on my lap. Am I wishing for too much? Or am should I accept the possible reality of having a shadow living under the bed?
Perplexed and Saddened
There is hope! The trick is patience and bribery. Shadow may never be a lap kitty, but chances are shell eventually decide its to her benefit to not spend her whole life hiding under a bed.
The first step is to make sure there are no other cats with her in her room. Its important that she bonds to you and not to another cat. Your next task is to convince her that you are the great provider of everything thats important mainly food. The free-feeding has to stop. Instead, provide her with 2-4 meals throughout the day and lots of snacks. Start by placing the food a few feet away from the bed. Talk to her when you put the food down. Spend lots of time in the room with her, talking to her, singing, reading a book or just sitting quietly. Every time you go in the room throw a treat near the bed. Dont ever chase her or try to force her to come out of her hiding place. When shes feeling safe shell venture out on her own.
Clicker training is a wonderful tool for changing a fraidy cat into a cat with confidence. Go to the local pet store and buy a clicker. If the clicker sound is too harsh and frightens Shadow, then click the end of a ball point pen instead. The first step is to encourage Shadow to associate a treat with the sound of the clicker or ball point pen. Do this by clicking once and then immediately follow the click with a treat. Every time you give Shadow a treat it should be preceded by a click. Soon Shadow will start to associate you and the clicker with something delicious to eat. After Shadow associates the clicker with a treat, encourage her to touch a target. Use a long 3-foot stick to start with. Each time Shadow touches the target stick click and than treat. As she becomes more comfortable with touching the target stick, gradually shorten it. Eventually you should be able to lead her with it. Clicker training builds from there, shaping behaviors, building confidence and mentally stimulating the cat. I highly recommend Karen Pryors book Clicker Training for Cats for a more complete description on how to clicker train a cat. By the time you start training Shadow to sit or shake hands she will prefer to spend her time on top of the bed instead of under it.
Patience is important. Success does not happen overnight. Its hard to predict how long it will take until she decides you are worthy of her trust and will venture out from the safety of her hiding place. With work, patience and bribery she will eventually be won over.
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|Category » Marilyn Kreiger|