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Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 2:30 pm
Hey boys and girls
I have a question about the effect of fireworks . My cat is 2 years old now hes a male bog standard kitty ( not big standard in my eyes though ). He experienced fireworks for the first time this weekend by way of the neighbour's having a party ( we lived in the country last year so wasnt an issue), I did all I could to comfort him but they really messed him up , it's now sunday but he is still terrified, he wont go outside and is hiding in his little hideout in the house, he is eating and drinking ok however he isnt interacting or behaving in anyway normal, I'm trying not to mollycoddle him too much and am kinda letting him do his thing , is this the right thing to do or should I be more actively trying to comfort him , any advice would be great. Thanks in advance
Posted: Sun Nov 10, 2019 3:05 pm
I would give him another day or two to get over it, and then work on making outside feel safe and happy again. Use bits of the food he likes best, games with a feather on a string, sitting on your lap - whatever really makes him happy and relaxed. Start in a room where he is comfortable, and gradually move your games closer to the door, until eventually you are playing or sitting half in and half out of the garden, and then completely outside. It may take some time, but the longer and more often he goes on rehearsing fear of the great outdoors the more difficult it will be to overcome, so I would start soon, with lots of brief sessions a day. Don't force him - you need to rebuild his confidence little by little.
It is now generally accepted that comforting and reassuring an animal does not reinforce fear, although being anxious and fearful yourself may, so if cuddling makes him feel better go ahead. I would take care to find him a safe space before the next round of fireworks at New Year - white noise like a fan or tumble dryer can also help.
Posted: Mon Nov 11, 2019 7:09 am
I think the comfort advice has been misunderstood a lot, in the same way the positive/negative reinforcement training is misunderstood. Ignoring or rejecting an animal asking for reassurance can't be helpful. On the other hand dragging a cat out from under the bed to cuddle it is likely to be even less helpful. Respect, encouragement and responding to need, that's what I believe anyway. Respect for their need to hide, encouragement when they feel brave, and giving reassurance and affection when they ask for it.
As fjm says give him a little time to start feeling brave and encourage him, personally I don't use treats that way but my best encouraging voice. Cats need to check things out for themselves so I don't distract them from the inevitable cautious sniffing around after they have been spooked, the tail is your cue here. The tail will be down while he's unsure and it might flick up briefly sometimes to acknowledge your encouragement. While he is going around checking it's safe, I would sit on the floor in the middle of the room and give just one passing stroke when he comes near if his tail is up. I would then offer affection, toys or a treat once he is calm - usually you can see a sudden shift in body language. While he is hiding, talk to him in an upbeat but gentle voice any time you go into the room.
Most important of al is for you to be calm and totally unfazed, just acknowledge that something is going on and you hear it too. "What was that pusscat is there big lights in the sky, what a brave pusscat, oh yes you go hide sweetie there's a good pusscat" or whatever nonesense goes through your head. They don't understand the words but they can read intention and your tone of voice and lack of fear are really important. Do not feel sorry for him, do not get anxious for him - he will pick up your anxiety but not understand that it's for him and that will reinforce his idea that there is something to be anxious about.