Has anyone tried treating overly fearful cats or if their cat is timid has anyone tried to condition their cat to be less timid and therefore less fearful of stimuli that really shouldn’t cause a cat to run, freeze or become aggressive.
I am thinking of my elderly lady cat and indeed plenty of other cats who classically hide when a stranger comes into the house.
She has always run away into hiding when she hears tradesmen or workmen in and around my home. At the moment she hides outside under some dense bushes where she is positively invisible even when you are close to her. It can take a bit of an effort to get her to come out.
I have always accepted this behavior and been sensitive to it and indeed accommodated it. But I wonder if I should have tried to correct it. It is too late now, I feel, but it seems that timidity and shyness in cats is not uncommon.
Perhaps it is normal as they do live in a land of giants as I said earlier. It must be quite frightening sometimes. And fear is an important emotion in survival. I think we should expect a cat to be wary at least of a stranger.
However, some cat caretakers might find an overly fearful cat irritating or troublesome. Apparently the technique to train this response out of a cat is to introduce to the cat similar stimuli that make him or her frightened but which is in the cat’s comfort zone. In other words to introduce low level stimuli of the same type. If the cat accepts it without freezing, running or becoming aggressive a reward is given such as a favorite food and then the whole process is repeated but at a slightly more intense level thereby gradually densitising the cat to the stimulus that causes the fear.
It seems a laborious process to me and I don’t know how successful it is.
The type of stimulus that causes the fear can be very specific. It might be a particular kind of person for instance. My lady cat is more fearful of male humans – who are noisy – sensible I guess…
This would indicate to me that a specific experience has occurred perhaps during early stages (the first 7 weeks) that has altered the cat’s behavior. This would affect a naturally shy cat more than a confident one. And confidence comes it seems to me from good socialisation and ensuring that the kitten is not weaned too early (not before about the eighth week) and is introduced to other animals and people during these first 7 weeks.
My gut feel is to simply accommodate the overly fearful cat and make their living arrangements as free of stress as possible rather than indulging in training our cat.