Do cats benefit from reassurance? - Cat Forum : Cat Discussion Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 02:13 PM Thread Starter
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Do cats benefit from reassurance?

And if so, then can you give some examples of acts of reassurance you've found helped your cat?

I was wondering because I noticed in the last couple days that Prince will cry for my help to get down from the trees in the park, he's afraid to come down, then I sit on all fours beneath him under the tree and call him (to jump on my back), that moment he stops crying and comes down the normal way (doesn't jump on my back).

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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 09:11 PM
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I've never been one to get into the whole "aura reading" hokey-pokey junk, but I do know that cats can empathize to an extent about the 'vibes' we send as we interact with them. If you're calm, they are more likely to be calm. If you're scared or nervous, that gets them upset. This is for just about any situation. Granted, if you're at the vet and your perfectly fine, they'll still be scared because THEY don't know what's going on, even if you do. All they know is they're being poked and prodded, and don't realize that it's for their own good.

Anyhoo... if you talk softly and move slowly when he gets all riled up, I'm sure he can sense the fact that you're telling him things are safe and okay.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 09:37 PM
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My ex husband and I raised our cat from just a day old. He was bottle fed and hand raised and whenever he got scared he'd run STRAIGHT to one of us and put his front paws up on us to be picked up. He still does that and he's almost 10. He has to have his head up on a shoulder and our arms wrapped around him and he'd be quiet no matter what situation he was in.

When MOwMow gets really scared he only wants to hide. There's nothing I can say or any way to hold him that he feels safe. If he's just unsure, he'll take my reassurance and come to me when I call him...but he's ready to run if he has too. An example is if he sees a large down outside the apartment window. If I'm not standing with him he'll run away from the window and hide. If I'm there he'll lean against the hand I have on him and watch the dog cautiously. If I move the hand away he'll move closer until he's touching me again.

Vivid Dawn, that would probably explain why he is so afraid of my ex. My anxiety level climbs a LOT when he's here and MOwMOw probably senses that.
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 11:11 PM
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I absolutely believe cats can be comforted by us. How much is dependent upon the cat and its relationship with its owner.

An example: Someone knocks on my front door and all six cats freak, race for my bedroom, then turn and freeze at the doorway waiting to see if they should run and hide under my bed or relax and come back out into the main part of the house.

If I speak softly and reassuringly as I head slowly for the door, they will almost immediately relax. If I say nothing and walk to the door normally, they'll all be hiding by the time my company comes in... except for Ralph, who loves greeting company.

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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 11:24 PM Thread Starter
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That reminds me that when my strays stop eating because they hear a noise, I say soothingly "it's ok, go on eating, it's just a (whatever it is)" and they automatically go back to eating.

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Her Royal Highness Princess Gatita von Meouw, Nikita Duchess of Meouw and
His Highness Cuchi-Cuchi, next in line for the throne of Prince von Meouw.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-05-2011, 11:35 PM
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It is true that it depends on the individual cat and the relationship with the owner. When the upstairs door is knocked on or the bell rings, Paizly will growl and head off to her corner (if she's not already there), despite what I say or do about it.
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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 02:54 PM
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Oh for sure, whenever my cats get nervous, I always tell them, "It's allll safe... no worries..." as soothingly as possible until they do the slow eyeblink (then staying half-closed) thing back at me.

Sometimes I'll do the slowblink to them too, with a little "hey it's OK!" meow to get them to meow/blink back...
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 08:31 PM
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I have a way that I say, I'ts all right bud.

I do believe its effective, of course it could just be my soothing tone.

When we were at the vet last, the girl who picked him up really annoyed me and him. So much so he took a lil back off swipe at her then walked to me. She went to pick him up by his neck which I firmly stopped right then and there.

No matter the thought on it, I just do not like a 16pd cat being held by the scruff of his neck.

Anyways, he was pretty annoyed and I just soothed him by reassuring him and it seems like he calmed quickly (but again it could just be my tone) - I did have to explain to this gal that you just need to tap your shoulder, say up and he will jump up...duh. lol

Last edited by marie73; 03-28-2011 at 11:41 AM.
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 08:54 PM
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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!
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 03-08-2011, 09:00 PM
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I definitely use my voice a lot--and like librarychick said, there is a huge amount to be said for tone and action when being reassuring! I also read something somewhere somewhen about the physical ways in which cats are reassuring to eachother, and I try to mimic that with my kitties--with Wicket, in particular, he responded to my looking him straight in the face and slowly blinking my eyes at him, which apparently is a kitty way of saying "I'm really relaxed and chill right now." Now he'll do it back to me!

We had to take Atlas in to have an ear checked out on Friday (he had the last of a 3 week bout of ringworm that he picked up at the shelter and was the reason we got him 3 weeks later than we wanted--they wanted to make sure he didn't fluoresce anymore) and it was really gratifying to see that when they went to check him out he ran straight to me and climbed up under my chin. Once he was there, he purred like mad and then with a little talking to, was totally fine with pats from everyone there, but it was sweet the way he thought I was going to protect him from the big bad vet techs (who had looked after him for almost half his life!)--so I guess I am reassuring in some way! But there isn't anything in particular that I do on a regular basis. Then again, I have two pretty relaxed cats, so someone who has more anxious kitties might have a better answer!
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