Help, My Cat's Afraid Of Her Bed!

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Cats tend to move their sleeping locations around from time to time. It’s believed that their instincts tell them to do so in order to make them less vulnerable to predators. But what if a cat starts avoiding her favorite sleeping spots? Roy D. writes:

Two months ago, our cat Esmeralda, aged 18, was getting up off her cushion when her back leg seized up badly. She couldn’t put any weight on it , was almost falling over, and it was obvious she was in a lot of pain and distress. We took her to the emergency vet who said she has arthritis. In the next couple of days she responded well to the medication she was given. What is puzzling us is since the incident happened she will only walk around the lounge ( where the incident happened ) but she will not settle at all, she won’t lie down on any of her beds , covers, or cushions, the only thing she will go on is a little cover in the hallway! It’s upsetting to see her there when she has numerous beds , covers, e.t.c. indeed she needs to be warm for her joints! How can we get her to settle with us in the lounge? I wondered if she is afraid in some way because she was taken poorly in the lounge, but it’s not like she won’t come in at all, - she still has a walk around it . I would be grateful for any advice. Thank you.

Roy, it's not uncommon for a cat to associate pain with a particular location or even a type of place. We once helped a cat with dental issues accept her food in a bowl again. She had associated the bowl with her dental pain and would no longer eat unless her food was put on the floor in another room. It sounds like Esmeralda is experiencing something similar with her former sleeping spots. Her pain was so severe that it looms large in her memory and springs back to mind every time she's near one of her comfy beds.

The first step is to wash the beds and remove any odor they might have. I'd suggest washing them at least twice in an enzymatic detergent. Nature's Miracle makes a product called Laundry Boost for the purpose of adding enzymatic cleaning to an existing detergent. Any similar product would help to remove any odors that Esmeralda might associate with her painful incident. 

 
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If she still won't accept any of the beds or cushions, ditch them altogether and get her something new. We particularly like the AmazonBasics 20" pet bed (see our full review HERE). Make a big fuss over it when you present it to her and put it in one of Esmeralda's favorite sleeping locations. Be sure to rub it generously with your hands to get your scent all over it too. 

You may also see some success by choosing a bed with a microwavable heating pad. The one we've used is from a company called Snuggle Safe. The pads are solid but they come with a cover and can easily be placed underneath an existing bed. The warmth may attract Esmeralda more than the bed itself. It may also sooth her more.

 
 

One other method is to offer Esmeralda treats when she gets into the bed you’d like her to use. Start by treating her when she gets near the bed or rubs against it. Then offer the treats by placing them in the bed. Esmeralda will slowly begin to associate the pleasure of the treats with the bed.

It may take her some time to accept that not every cushy surface will hurt her. If she continues to walk away, don't fret. She may well come back and use the new bed on her own terms when she's good and ready. Remember, cats generally like to relocate their prime sleeping spots every so often. She'll do what's most comfortable for her in the long run. Good luck!