Simple changes can help turn shy guy into Confident Cat

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Q: We're looking for a way to calm our cat's fears. We captured Chase at 6-weeks, and he was just under a pound. If you're sitting on the sofa, he'll come to you and you can pick him up. But you can't just pick him up from the floor. He will come when called to get to his morning turkey. Otherwise, he spends the day under the bed and disappears if we have visitors.

Our other cat, Sadie, is happy to see people. The two cats have their spats, but get along, sharing food bowls, water and litter. Any ideas how to help Chase to be a cuddlier cat? -- M.J., Cyberspace

A: "It's not realistic or even fair for you to expect Chase to be like your more outgoing cat," says New York City-based certified cat behavior consultant Beth Adelman. "It seems as if Chase is actually quite social with people he knows, as long as it's up to him to initiate the contact, which isn't unusual for any cat."

Adelman notes that when you're on the same level as Chase he's more tolerant of being picked up. If possible, consider sitting on the floor and waiting until Chase lands in your lap. You could entice him with that turkey.

"The key is allowing Chase to feel he's in control, which helps to make him also feel safe," Adelman says.

Scatter some empty "safe" boxes around the house, particularly near the bed Chase hides under. Perhaps he'll hop into the boxes rather than scooting under the bed.

Give Chase his own food dish, which will enhance his feeling of safety. And provide at least one more water bowl. With two cats, ideally there should be two litter boxes (in two or three different locations).

To boost Chase's confidence around visitors, have guests walk into the room where he's hiding under the bed, and every 30 minutes or so, toss bits of turkey toward the cat. As he demonstrates more confidence, have visitors to toss the treats farther and farther from the bed. The hope is Chase will eventually associate the treats with your guests. (Don't overdo it, though, or you'll have a confident, but obese pet!)

Q: Molly is a calm dog until guests arrive. She jumps on visitors to the point that we have to take her away. We tried a training class, but instead of Molly being trained, we were. Our 4-month-old grandson can't visit with Molly due to the dog's behavior. How can we calm down our Labrador? -- P.B., Cyberspace

A: There's a communication gap here. Your overly-friendly dog merely wants to greet visitors the only way she knows how. At this point, all you're teaching your sociable dog is that when people visit, she's banned. She may grow to resent visitors -- an all-together different thing than what you want.

Dogs greet one another face to face, and they do tend to get excited, hence the jumping up to get into the face of human visitors. I certainly don't want your grandchild to be knocked over by an exuberant dog.

All Molly needs is training. Teach her to sit about three or four feet from the door when there are no visitors. Once she has that down, have some visitors arrive at the door. Start with people Molly knows, like your spouse or a neighbor, before advancing to strangers Molly may get even more excited about.

Put a leash on your dog and tell her "sit." Step on the leash, so every time Molly tries to jump, she's instantly self-corrected. When she finally calms down, offer a special chewie as a reward, or stuff low fat peanut butter or low fat cream cheese into a sterilized bone or Kong toy to keep her occupied.

If the first dog trainer failed, try another, as long as the trainer uses positive reinforcement.

Also be aware that Labrador puppies require plenty of exercise. Molly may have tons of pent-up energy!

Q: My 12-year-old cat developed a hump on his nose. It doesn't hurt him. He also has runny eyes and reddish brown stuff comes out. I can't afford a veterinarian, so I hope you can help. -- E.S., Woodbury, MN

A: It's impossible to discern what the problem is without actually seeing the "hump" or growth on your cat's nose. Dr. Sheldon Rubin, a Chicago veterinarian, suggests that -- assuming your cat wasn't stung by an insect -- he could possibly have cancer. A diagnosis is dependent on many factors, most obviously the kind of cancer that might be involved.

The runny eyes may not be related to the hump, and could be a indication of a feline upper respiratory infection.

Rubin volunteers at Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society, where low-cost veterinary care is offered, and many communities have similar clinics.

Q: I don't want to declaw my 6-year-old cat. I've purchased all sorts of scratching posts but he won't use them. What can I do? -- D.P., via cyberspace

A: I'm glad you don't' want to amputate your kitties toes, which is what a declaw really is.

Position those scratching posts adjacent to where the cat is currently scratching (presumably your furniture). Entice him using an interactive toy with feathers. When the cat bats at this, he'll deposit his scent on the post, further enticing him to return there. Timing is important. Try this technique when your cat is excited. Another good time is when you've just arrived home from work after a long day. When the cat does scratch the post, offer treats and praise.

Simultaneously, make the things your cat is currently scratching less attractive by placing plastic chair runners or cat mats (both nubby side up) over them.

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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