Q: We got our second cat last August, a beautiful female calico about 3 years old. Her name is Sweety. She has been abused in the past by the way she shies away from everyone but she will play with our other cat. We have finally got her to come out from behind the couch but she still won’t let anyone pet her. The last time my wife tried to pick her up slowly, Sweety ran like hell. She’s got to have her shots but we don’t know how to get her to the vet.
Dr. Nichol: You mean, “ran like heck,” don’t you? I thought so. You’re forgiven this time. You are doing the right thing by being patient with Sweety. While animal abuse is a tragic reality, it occurs less often than you may suspect. If your girl missed out on gentle human interaction until after age 5 weeks, she is likely to retain a lifelong fear of our species. Sweety may also be genetically programmed for shyness. She will always need special consideration.
Sweety needs to feel safe around people. Never allow anyone to approach or reach for her. Even well-intentioned movements could intensify her fear-based association with humans. Instead, sit quietly and silently drop bits of tasty food on the floor. If Sweety is brave enough to approach, she will be instantly rewarded. You can also reduce her fear with a twice daily chewable amino acid supplement called Anxitane. Your veterinarian can order it for you.
For Sweety to chillax for her vaccinations, your veterinarian can temporarily increase the Anxitane dose prior to her visit. If she needs something more potent, a prescription antianxiety medication like lorazepam may work better. Be sure to have Sweety travel in a carrier to prevent her from panicking in the moving car.
Pet Care milestone
Today’s Pet Care marks a milestone. It is the 900th consecutive column I have written for the Albuquerque Journal, dating back to July 1996. It has been a privilege and a labor of love to address pet owner concerns on behavioral and medical challenges. With the continued support of my faithful readers, I plan to continue pontificating for at least another 17 years.
Dr. Jeff Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). He cares for the medical needs of pets at the Petroglyph Animal Hospital in Albuquerque (898-8874). Question? Post it on facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109. Unpublished questions may not be answered individually.