Guest Blogger: Christine Line, Animal Friends' Communications Team
What's something you're afraid of? Maybe you shudder at the thought of a snake (if this is you, sorry for mentioning it!). Perhaps you hate heights or get scared in the dark. But did you know your pets can have phobias too?
Your dog, cat or rabbit can get scared just like you do. Common phobias in dogs and cats include the fear of thunderstorms and lightning (or anything resembling them), strangers, water, appliances you use in your house, etc. My cat is really afraid of balloons – he won't even go into a room with a balloon in it.
Whatever the phobia, if your pet has one, what can you do?
1. Figure out what the phobia is. It may be really obvious, like with a thunderstorm, or it may not be. Is your pet just a little anxious, or she become upset and destructive?
2. Know your pet's "safe spot." It's where animals go when they are scared. Maybe it's under a bed, down to the basement, or in a quiet room. Make sure the "safe spot" has blankets or a bed and a favorite toy. Chances are your pet will feel safer when he or she is surrounded by comfortable and familiar things.
3. If you can, try to distract your pet with treats or play. Don't yell at your pet, and don't try to comfort her either. Comforting or babying your pet can indicate that her fear is justified, and may only reinforce her phobia.
4. Remain calm. Your pet can sense your nervousness when you anticipate a storm coming, a stranger visiting, etc. Again, you don't want to reinforce your pet's anxiety.
5. If you're worried about the seriousness of your pet's anxiety, talk to your veterinarian. There are lots of options to try to help calm your animal's fears, but you shouldn't try them on your own without talking to a professional first.
Above all, be patient. Just like fears stick with people, they don't go away overnight with animals either. Lots of love, staying calm, and positive reinforcement can do wonders.