Traveling Cat May Associate “Grandma” with Trip

By Cathy M. Rosenthal | October 14th, 2021

Plus litter box problems with a dog in the house and a mean cockapoo

scared cat hiding (Credit: rawpixelimages dreamstime) “why is my ‘grand cat’ afraid of me?”

In this edition of My Pet World,” animal advisor Cathy M. Rosenthal calms a concerned grandma – “why is my ‘grand cat’ afraid of me?” Plus a cat owner struggling with balancing her kitty’s needs with her dog’s interest in the litter box, and a mean cockapoo who just will not get along with other dogs – including his littermate sister.

Dear Cathy,

My kids have a two-year-old tabby they have had since he was a kitten. When I visited, he was not afraid to be around me. They brought him to visit me last year though, and he was so terrified he hid under the bed most of the day. When I wasn’t around, he ventured out to be with them. The next time they visited, he did the same thing. He hid when I came into the room. I visited them recently and he sniffed my hand and immediately hid under the couch. I speak sweetly to him and try to play with him, but he will not come near me. They are concerned because he doesn’t eat normally when I am around either. He is accepting of other strangers. What is up with this? I have had two cats and know they can be finicky, but this is my “grand cat!” Please help.

– Meredith, Huntington, New York

Dear Meredith,

He wasn’t afraid when you initially visited him. The fear seemed to develop after they travelled to your house. He may have been traumatized by the trip and now associates your scent with that journey. Buy some feline pheromone spray and spray it all over your legs and lap before every visit. Then ignore him unless he approaches you for attention. Do not touch him; only speak to him. Do this for a few months and I think he will become a lot more trusting and relaxed around you.

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Roommate will not clean out this litter boxDear Cathy,

We have a 10-year-old tortie named Daffy. She started pooping outside her litter box sporadically over the last six months. Her litter box is in the basement on a dresser so our dog can’t get to it. Daffy has no problem jumping up there. She does her business in the litter box most times, but once a week, she poops in the living room. We brought her to the vet, added a bigger litter box, sprinkled catnip in the litter, but she still does it. I thought about adding a litter box upstairs, but that would be a problem with the dog.

– Brenda, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Dear Brenda,

Even though Daffy has never had trouble jumping up to the litter box, she is 10 years old and may be developing arthritis, so I would get her checked by a vet. She also may be constipated. Sometimes, constipated cats won’t poop in the box. If she is, add some wet food to her diet or water to her dry food. You also can give her over-the-counter hairball remedies to add fiber to her diet.

If these things don’t work, then place a second litter box upstairs and on the floor. You can keep your dog away by putting a “Door Buddy Latch” on the door of the room where it is located. This is a simple, inexpensive device that allows the cat to pass through the door but keeps the dog out.

You also can buy a feline pheromone collar for her to wear while you go through this process (they last about 30 days). Feline pheromones mimic a nursing mother cat and sometimes this can calm an anxious cat if something else is bothering her.

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Dear Cathy,

We have two 2-year-old cockapoos, one male and one female, who are littermates. The male is the problem. Both my wife and I have scars where we have had to separate the dogs. The male is aggressive. When we let them on the bed, if he is lying on one of us and we move, he growls and then goes after his sister. He pushes her out of the way if she is getting attention. If she jumps in someone’s lap, he pushes her out of the way even if someone else wants to hold him. He has growled and tried to nip other dogs when my wife shows them attention. He hogs the treats and toys. He was removed from daycare because of his aggressiveness towards other dogs. We have tried two trainers but without success. Based on his behavior, he seems like he needs a one dog family where he gets all the attention.

– Larry, Virginia

Dear Larry,

Trainers can’t always help in these instances. Please find a veterinary behaviorist or an animal behaviorist who can observe his triggers and write a custom plan for you on how to manage him around other dogs and people. There are definitely things you can do to manage him, but a specialist is needed when dealing with aggression.

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 Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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