Ask the Veterinarian/Scared Cat

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Question
I have a cat that is 7 years old. I have had her since she was 5 weeks old. Recently,  she has become quite scared of plastic bags and some other noises. As far as I know she has never had a bad or traumatic experience with bags. This is a new behavior that started about 5 months ago.  When a plastic bag is shaken or moved around she flies out of the room.  Nothing has changed in the house.  Nothing has changed with her food.  She was recently given a physical by our vet and checked out fine.  Is her changing behavior due to getting older?  Something else?  We try to be quite when using and handling plastic bags.  I don't like that she gets scared.  I don't want her to be anxious.  How can I help her?  What can we do?  I appreciate your time and help.

Answer
I would start out working to desensitise her to plastic bags. For a period of time while you are working with her, keep any plastic bags out of the house so you don't have any backwards steps. Just keep one plastic bag you can use for training. Then when she is eating, gently rustle a plastic bag far enough away from her that she barely even notices. Over time you can decrease the distance between you and her while you are doing the rustling. She will gradually build up a tolerance for the noise. You can also record the sound of rustling bags to play as background noise while she is relaxed, so you can keep the volume low to start with.

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Eloise Bright

Expertise

I am a vet with a special interest in dermatology, particularly allergic dogs and cats, behaviour and acupuncture. I work mainly with dogs and cats. If you are wondering why your pet is still itchy, despite good flea control, or why your dog licks his feet, I may be able to give you some solutions. I'm currently very passionate about behaviour and am doing some further education in this area. So if you have a troubling behaviour with your dog or cat, such as barking, leash reactivity, anxiety or a dog who is a little wild and difficult to control, I may be able to help you with some solutions.

Experience

I work in an area of Sydney where we see lots of allergic pets. I think behaviour problems are very common and I help a number of owners find solutions that will restore peace to them and their pets. Currently I enjoy answering questions, providing advice and writing pet care articles for www.lovethatpet.com

Education/Credentials
I graduated as a vet from Sydney Uni in 2006 and have since been completing my Masters in Small Animal Practice and am also updating my skills with a behaviour course through Sydney Uni.

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