Nervous Cats Are Difficult To Train
Cats that were not humanised as kittens, ‘habituated’ to use the trainer’s term, to interacting with us find it difficult to differentiate between threatening situations and harmless activities. These fearful cats find new experiences frightening. And its not just cats that didn’t have lots of contact with us before they were seven weeks old, or cats raised by inexperienced mothers that produce a new generation of nervous individuals. We’ve known cats, born to competent mothers, raised in warm and caring human families that still mature into adults with nervous dispositions. Whatever the reason for their nervousness, these sweet, worried individuals spend their lives avoiding challenges. To them, your trying to train them is a challenge.
When presented with a new challenge, the introverted, or nervous or fearful cat will do one of two things. It either hunkers down, sits motionless and, as it were, buries its head in the sand, pretending that nothing is happening and hoping if it doesn’t move, the challenge – you asking it to do something – will go away, or it darts away and hides. Most cat owners we know find this distressing and many respond as we would if our kids behaved this way, with cuddles and reassurance. Unfortunately that rarely works. Don’t do it. An anxious cat wants to be left alone, either crouched frozen in its corner or under whatever furniture it has found. Leave it there. Put a few of its favourite food treats near it and leave the room. Your continuing presence will only be seen as a continuing challenge, especially if you look directly at the fearful cat. Forget about any type of training until your nervous cat is relaxed enough to allow you to be in the same room while it eats, then closer to the food bowl and, if you’re really lucky, beside it while it eats.