If your aged cat's behaviour has changed, he may struggling with arthritic pain, as our behaviourist explains.
(Q) I moved house last year and my 11-year-old cat Eddie, and my other three cats settled in immediately. Sadly I noticed that when Eddie came in during the evening he no longer came to lie on my lap, but went and sat on a chair. He became more and more wary of me, and eventually he only came inside when I had gone to bed.
A visit to the vet confirmed arthritis and Eddie is now on Metacam. The vet wondered if his change in behaviour was due to pain. I now keep Eddie in during the day and he seems happy to sleep on my bed, but in the evening he literally races to the cat flap and goes out until I have gone to bed. He is eating well and hopefully is now more physically comfortable, but still seems scared of me.
Behaviourist Francesca Riccomini advises: Undoubtedly the pain associated with his arthritis would offer a reasonable explanation for this, as it is not uncommon for animals to associate discomfort with individuals that are nearby when they experience it.
Now Eddie is receiving the treatment he needs, you have a good chance of reversing his uncharacteristic behaviour - although it is important in situations like this to avoid pressurizing cats in an attempt to return to the easygoing relationship you had.
Building on the regime you have put in place by making sure you talk quietly and gently to Eddie, responding to every overture he makes in a low-key way that leaves him in charge of the interaction, while avoiding trapping him into close contact, is the way to restore balance in your relationship.
You may also be able to help by using some tasty food treats, tiny pieces of tuna or prawn for instance, tossing them to him when he is relaxed around you so you don't crowd him and Eddie develops positive associations with being in your presence.
Being patient and just gradually working through this sort of program usually yields results. The other aspect that may need attention here is vet visits, as you will probably need to go more often now and your progress may be undermined if Eddie gets upset and associates you with his negative emotional state again.