Sound Phobia and Hissing Kitties

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By Alana Stevenson

Q: My cat is neurotic. We have had him since he was about 3 months old. He’s about 6 yrs. old now. A friend found him in a dumpster. He has always acted rather fearful at sounds or movements. I thought maybe a dump truck came along and scared him once? I had the vet check his ears thinking maybe he was sensitive. His ears are normal. He’s very jumpy. Breaks my heart. He’s otherwise very loving and sweet. Any thoughts? – Catherine

A: Is your kitty fearful with just sounds or the movements and sounds of people in the home? This is best addressed by a consultation to determine what can be aggravating his fears. Cats like warm and soft surfaces. I have seen many cats restless or antsy when they don’t have warm, plush surfaces to lie on i.e., wood floors without rugs, no cat condos or quilts on chairs, or when weather is chilly. Often heating pads and Sherpa fleece beds will make kitties relax more, including skittish ones. Being higher up sometimes can help cats, so if he hides under the bed or is on the floor a lot, increasing his vertical territory and inviting him up on higher surfaces can boost his confidence. You might also be able to muffle noise by drawing curtains or closing blinds during parts of the day or leaving some background noise on, such as a television or music. Kitties also do best with free feeding. If a kitty is fed restricted meals or is hungry, any restless behavior will increase. How people hold and interact with him, or how they have done so in the past, can also influence or modify his behaviors. Pharmacological medication, prescribed by a veterinarian, might help if he is overly apprehensive and skittish. You can also desensitize him to noise. This means exposing him to sounds at levels that don’t frighten him, and then gradually increase the volume or duration of those sounds when he feels comfortable and relaxed. Feliway plug-ins may help by taking the edge off a little bit, but won’t address or remedy the underlying cause.

Q: We recently got a new kitten. We also have 2 other cats, 10 and 13 years old. We’ve had the kitten for almost a month. They seem to tolerate each other, but every now and again, they’ll hiss at each other. Anything I can do to help them get along? – Celeste

A: Feed them together (at distances they are comfortable). Make a note of when and where they hiss and who is hissing. This will help you trouble shoot and verify the cause.  What you do is dependent on which kitty is hissing and what the other cat is doing at that time. Hissing means a cat feels upset or uncomfortable. Read this article on hissing to help: The Hiss. If both cats look at each other and hiss at the same time without growling, the easiest thing to do is to put a positive spin on things. Distract them and redirect them with treats, reposition one of them, and baby talk to them. Reorient their focus and redirect them to alternate, enjoyable behaviors.

Copyright © Alana Stevenson 2012


Alana Stevenson can be contacted through her website She provides consultations by phone and Skype.

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