by Sam Mazzotta
Dear Paw’s Corner: Yesterday, we had a pretty big thunderstorm roll through. My 8-year-old cat, Sphinx, is normally never afraid of anything, but for the first time, he hid underneath the sofa, and even after the storm passed he stayed underneath the coffee table and wouldn’t come out. Why would he suddenly be afraid when he wasn’t before? —Claire A., Utica, New York
Dear Claire: A sudden change in be- havior may warrant a trip to the veterinarian. This can rule out any physical causes for the change in behavior, such as a silent infection or a chronic condition. Cats may seem aloof and re- silient to us, but they are actually creatures of habit—much more so than dogs, who thrive on applied structure, like walks at the same time each day. Cats develop their own daily routine: when they eat and drink, when they patrol the house, where they sleep at different times of the day.
Any change in that routine can be very upsetting to them, but most still won’t let you know it. (Some will—they might turn their back on you, meow incessantly, or even, when deeply ag-grieved, leave a special present right where you can find it.)
Observe Sphinx as much as you can, and think about any changes to the home. Did you recently rearrange furniture or install new flooring? Did a family member leave or did a new person move in?
To reduce his anxiety, spend more time playing with Sphinx. When a storm rolls in, place one of your favorite old shirts next to him wherever he is hiding. Speak to him calmly during the storm. If his anxiety doesn’t improve, or begins to get worse, talk to his veterinarian about temporarily giving him anti-anxiety medication.
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