Join Date: May 2008
Location: St. Albert, AB, Canada
I think it depends on what you mean by reassurance.
A few people have said that if you are calm your pet will be calmer (generally), and if you are nervous then they will be too. I'd like to explain this a bit.
Think of the last time you spent some time with a person who was having a really good day. They are all excited, and happy, their movements are fast and broad. How does your behavior change? Generally if you are around someone who is happy/excited you will tend towards that sort of behavior too. Unless of course your day has been awful or you don't really get along with the person.
If you go spend time with someone who is ill do you jump into the room, run laps, speak loudly and gesture quickly? No! As people one of the social skills we (most of us) have is to match our level of intensity to theirs. This works double for pets because people have an option as to how we behave. If you are too nervous or angry ect you can make a consious choice to relax. Pets can't, so their instincts tell them to match the level of intensity that you (their bonded friend) is at.
The other thing I would like to say is that you have to be careful how you use your body and tone. If your cat becomes nervous about something and you pick them up quickly, pat them frantically and say "Oh honey you're ok, baby's gonna be fine." In a fast anxious...almost whiney voice you are not communicating calmness and that everything will be fine. In fact that sort of 'reassurance' actually convinces your cat of the opposite. Things are scary and bad.
What I have done is when my cats are nervous about something I adress it, go up to the person (if I know them) or thing, and 'interact' with it/them. This has led to some very funny scenes in out house with me petting/feeding the dishwasher, a chair, a balloon ect. It has worked though because now when 'scary' things happen my cats look at me and if I'm not worried neither are they. Generally speaking of course.
All that being said sometimes they need physical touch to be reassured, or even just your presence.
One of my favorite memories with Jitzu was that type of a breakthrough. Up until this particular day Jitzu had been gradually gaining trust in me, she would cuddle sometimes (briefly), she would accet treats from me and not run off to eat them, and she would follow me around the house sometimes.
This particular day our room mate was moving in, I had asked him to let us know before he came in so I could put the cats away safely, but he didn't. I woke up at 10am to hear lots of loud banging and I frantically dressed and ran downstairs, worried that Jitzu, who was terrified of most people, would have had a huge setback. Instead as soon as I called her name she ran TO me. She chirruped and asked me to pick her up, snuggling right into my arms. This was something she had never done, her typical response up until then was to lash out violently in fear.
I cried. That was a huge breakthrough for her and one of the best moments in our relationship.
Doran also looks to me for reassurance. When he gets his shot he's a very good boy...but he has to have his arms around my neck and his little face burried inder my chin. Our vet said it was one of the most unique things he's ever seen.
So I do think they need reassurance, but they also need us to be calm and collected to they can recognize when something is truly wrong, as opposed to a dish dropped on the floor.
...ferals are a different story though as their instinct is usually to flee and it would have to take a lot to overcome that!