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Dr. Kara
Dr. Kara, Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 16309
Experience:  Over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian.
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Hi, my female cat Judy went missing for 10 days. When she

Resolved Question:

Hi, my female cat 'Judy' went missing for 10 days. When she returned home a few days ago, we noticed dramatic changes in her personality. She has always been a very friendly, loving and out-going cat. But now she refuses to leave the living room, where she is always hiding. She trembles when we lead her to the kitchen (near the garden), she pees on the carpets, furniture and even our laps because she won't leave the living room and go to where the litter tray is located. We have other cats, and another 'Eddie' went missing for a week also and came back a little nervous, but not like Judy. She was also severely underweight.
Around the same time another of our cats 'Herbie' had his back foot mutilated in (what the vet suspects) was some sort of trap. Another cat in our local area has sustained the same injury. We have reported all incidents to the RSPCA and our local police, but we are puzzled as to how to help our little Judy.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Kara replied 3 years ago.
Hello, my name is***** and I have over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian. I am so sorry to hear about Judy's behavior and I agree that she sounds terrified, and thus unable to function normally. Whatever happened to her makes her no longer feel safe and her deep anxiety is now interfering with any sort of normal interaction with you or her being able to leave the only place that she feels safe.

We cannot hope to get her behavior back to normal until we can get her feeling less anxious.

For now I would put her litter box in the quietest area of the living room to get her using it again. You can put a food and water bowl in another spot in the living room. I know that this isn't something you'll want forever, but she needs a little TLC now to regain her confidence.

To help ease her stress you can try using Feliway sprays or diffusors. These are synthetic pheromones which mimic those produced by cats to mark areas as safe, and many cats find them soothing. Start by using either of them in the room she has chosen as the safest, the living room, and as she starts to feel better you can use them in other nearby rooms to encourage her to leave and explore.
You can also use pheromone calming collars along with the spray or diffusor. See this link for some examples: http://www.amazon.com/Sentry-Behavior-Pheromone-Collar-Inches/dp/B0026JAKWG

If these measures aren't enough you can try a homeopathic calming oral medication called Bach's Rescue Remedy along with the pheromones. See this link for further information: http://www.bachflower.com/Pets.htm

Don't push her to leave or interact, let her come to the realization she is safe and is able to trust again.

If she isn't progressing you could discuss oral medications with your veterinarian as well, such as fluoxetine or amitriptyline as calming agents to decrease her stress. These don't necessarily need to be forever, just long enough for her to relax and learn she is safe and then slowly withdraw them.

For now I do not recommend letting your cats out without supervision. I don't know what is going on, but they certainly don't sound safe.
Best of luck with your girl, please let me know if you have any further questions.
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