Dear Cathy,

I have a 7-year-old cat named Squeaky. She was fixed as a kitten and is an indoor cat. She was the only cat for two years before we inherited a second kitty from my son. The second cat really brought Squeaky out of her shell. Both cats get along fine, but Squeaky is not friendly with other people. One of my sons moved back home and cannot get close to her. He loves animals and has tried to befriend her, but she won’t have anything to do with him. She is not a lap cat at all. She will sit somewhat close to him but does not want him to touch or pet her. She is like this with everyone. My son has been here for a year and a half and nothing has changed.

When I take her to the vet, she hisses and growls at whoever tries to get near her. She is very untrustworthy of everyone. Is there some kind of medication I can give her to become less hostile toward my son and other people? When I take her out of the house to the vet, it is like she needs a tranquilizer to calm her nerves. I realize each animal has their own personality, but hers is extreme with everyone except me. — Carol, Aurora, IL

Dear Carol,

You can talk to your veterinarian about anxiety medication for vet visits, but I wouldn’t worry about trying to make her a people pleaser there. Most cats are not excited about going to the vet’s office and no amount of medication will make her “happy” to go.

As for the home, there are a few things your son can do to help Squeaky relax in his presence. One way is through interactive play. Just like how a step-dad might build trust with his new son or daughter by playing catch, animals relax and learn to trust people who play with them.

Have your son get a fishing pole-like toy or a feather toy that he can use to entice her when she comes into the room. At first, she will be interested in the toy, but won’t approach. That’s OK. Let her watch. Do this for a few minutes a few times a day. Over time, she won’t be able to resist and should pounce and play with the toy.

In the feline world closing one’s eyes and blinking slowly around another cat or human also is a sign of trust. Throughout the day, tell your son to look (never stare) at Squeaky and do an exaggerated slow blink. You will know she is relaxing when she slowly blinks back.

Finally, tell him to never reach out to Squeaky. With cats, it’s best to let them come to you for affection.

Dear Cathy,

Our wonderful, sweet rescue dog, Pippin, has developed some sort of anxiety at bedtime. This behavior has come out of the blue. He is about 8 years old and we have had him almost five years. Until recently, he seemed to really love bedtime. He would jump into our bed and cuddle. When we turned the lights off, he would move to the end of the bed to sleep for the night.

He still jumps onto the bed during the day, but suddenly, he stopped jumping onto the bed at night and wants to sleep in the bathroom. When we pet him to comfort him, we can feel him trembling. During the day, his behavior is normal. The only other time we have seen this anxious behavior is in the car, but we chalked that up to some trauma in his life before we adopted him. We feel so bad for him. We hope you can give us some advice. He weighs about 18 pounds and is a schnauzer/Yorkie mix. — Harriette Westbury, NY

Dear Harriett,

When a pet suddenly changes a routine behavior, it’s time to take him to the vet for a health exam. Health issues can impact and change a pet’s behavior overnight, especially with older pets. In fact, sometimes the only way you know something is wrong with your dog or cat is that they suddenly stopped doing a behavior they always do.

Pain, thyroid and gastric problems, cancer, ear infections, toothaches, can all cause a sudden change in behavior. Often, dogs feel worse at night because they are less distracted. So, take Pippin to the vet and let me know what the doctor says. I am almost certain there is something going on health-wise.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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