My cat Sebastian is one of the most trusting cats I have ever met. Even if he is really scared of something, if I tell him it’s all right he will do his best to face it.
One example: EDITED (because I thought of a better example 🙂 )
Sebastian had a surgery about a year and a half ago. He had a long line of stitches (over 6 inches!) in a very sensitive area. For 3 weeks I had to clean it twice a day with hydrogen peroxide and then put on a salve. Needless to say Sebastian didn’t like when I put the peroxide on that raw skin (then again neither would I). And the first couple days he really fought me about it. But then I took a different tact. Rather then trying to pin him down, at the start of each session I took him on my lap and explained to him that this was the only way to make his big owie better. I kept telling him that momma loves him, and that I would never do anything to hurt him unless it was absolutely necessary, and that if he trusted me I could make his owie would go away. I’m sure he didn’t understand all of what I said, but he does know the phrases “big owie”, “all better” and “trust momma” and when you put them together they get the point across. Once I started doing that he would lay down on the floor in front of me and let me clean him with out struggling, I didn’t even have to hold him. I’m not saying he liked it, but he let me do it because he trusted me. The trust we grew during those weeks has made it possible for me to do just about anything to him or around him, I just need to say “trust momma” and he’ll do anything I ask of him.
Now for my current problem (frustration?):
Sebastian has developed a sudden fear of my bed. He has always slept with me, and when he is scared he always hides under the covers. The bed is his safety zone. It always has been.
But now for some unknown reason he won’t come on the bed. He isn’t even all that comfortable being in my bedroom. He’ll come in if I coax him, but as soon as I stop actively petting him and telling him that everything is fine, then he’ll high tail it out of there.
He was fine on sunday (when he woke me up at 4:30 [AM!] with a mouse he caught), but something happened sometime on sunday, and he didn’t come to bed that night.
The only thing I can think of is that the guy who mows my lawn came on sunday afternoon, and that is what scared him. He is always scared of the lawn mower, but recently he has been really brave and has stayed out rather then hiding. But on sunday he hid. I didn’t think much about it (he only started staying out about 2 months ago), and he came out, like usual, about 15 minutes after they were gone. I’ve tried really hard to think if there was anything unusual about him when he came out, but as hard as I’ve tried I haven’t been able to remember anything strange.
It took me 15 minutes to get him to come into the room last night. I sat on the edge of the bed and petted him for a while, but as soon as I put my feet under the covers he left and didn’t come back.
This morning I did a little bribing. He loves it when I read. He sees a book come out and he runs over so he can cuddle up to me while I read. So this morning I get my book out and sat on the bed. It took him a few minutes, but he came in the room. Then he paced around on the floor, whining because he wanted to be with me, but he didn’t want to be on the bed. After about 15 minutes, much to my surprise, he jumped on the bed. But he was only there for a few seconds before his fear took over and he jumped down and retreated to the doorway.
I kept telling him that he was being a very silly kitty. Every time I called him silly he would look at me and blink his eyes. Which is universal kitty-talk for YES. So he knows he’s being silly. But he’s still scared.
He has always been a scared of unfamiliar and new things. So I am used to dealing with that. If I see that he is scared of something I’ll slow down and let him sniff it and tell him that it is alright. And like I said, he is supper trusting, so most of the time his trust in me is bigger then his fear. But this time his fear is big. And I’m at a loss to figure out why.
I know that eventually he will be fine. The fact that he came on the bed, even if it was just for a few moments, was proof of that. It may take a week or so, but he’ll get there. I’ll just have to take it one step at a time.
The reason that he and I work so well is that I am always aware of him. No matter what I’m doing, part of my brain is always keeping an eye on him (and all my animals for that matter). So I know the instant he is afraid of something. And I also take active steps to avoid him getting scared in the first place. Like if I’m about to make a loud sound I’ll say the word “noise!” first. Then he knows it’s coming and he doesn’t have a problem with it. And if something does scare him I just tell him that everything is fine, and to trust that his momma. And then he relaxes enough to investigate whatever scared him.
If he wasn’t so trusting, and if I wasn’t so patient and understanding, I think he would be constantly hiding in fear.
So the next couple days will be spent trying to reassure him that the bed is in no way scary. I think I’ll try reading in bed again tonight. Maybe that will help. Keep your fingers crossed!