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Elevator behavior

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 
Welcome to TCS, Marilyn!

I live in a three story townhome which has three floors. Running through the center of the house is a circular plastic tube that serves as a vacuum elevator which I need to get from floor to floor.

You are probably unfamiliar with a vacuum elevator but the noise it makes is that of a giant vacuum cleaner. The elevator is centered so that the stairways are clearly visible from the elevator.

Cat 1. Persi, aged two, male, brought him home as a kitten. After a few days of shyness over the giant vacuum cleaner monster, Persi adapted and now considers it absolutely great sport to race me up and down the stairs. Remember, he can see me in the tube and he can also see which direction I am heading and he can beat me every time. This is probably not normal behavior but one that I more or less expected and I am so happy to have a cat that treats the vacuum intruder like a dog might. So, no problems with cat 1.

Cat 2. Alley, aged 4, female, rescued cat, background not available. The vacuum monster has been here for four months now and she shows no sign whatsoever of being less afraid now that she was on day one. When the vacuum starts up and Persi begins his little game with me, Alley is fleeing for the nearest hiding place which is as follows: Floor one, the office bathroom, floor two, under the living room couch, floor three, in a dark closet which is left open just for her. I am home during the day and Persi is by my side all the time but I never see Alley. She stays hidden (normally in the dark closet) until bedtime which she somehow knows signifies that the elevator is not going to be used any more that day. She then jumps up into bed with us (us being me, wife, and Persi) and becomes the most loving cat imaginable. Until the following morning when she quietly retires to her closet for the remainder of the day.

We only have one litter box, located on the first floor and both cats use the same box. There has never been an accident. Alley will very nervously run as fast as she can down the stairs to use the box and then run back up to her closet.

We feed the cats the same diet 24/7. We keep their food supply on the first floor, far removed from their litter box. Alley eats several times a day, running down and back up each time.

Of course I have thought about moving everything up to the third floor, but would I not just be encouraging her behavior? If she never had to leave her closet on the third floor I am sure she would not. It seems to me that the present scheme at least gets her out during the day and if I am lucky I will catch a glimpse of my poor little fraidy cat.

That's it, Marilyn. Hope you can help out. (Not using the elevator is not an option.)
post #2 of 2
Let's try to desensitize her to the noise.

Next time the vacuum elevator is on, make a recording of it.
Then, when the elevator is quiet, turn the recorder on, volumn low. At first you might want to leave it on for about 1 second... on low... You want to gradually build up, playing a little bit louder each time, and a little bit longer. When Alley is showing no nervousness around it, praise her. If she is nervous, you're proceeding too fast, and need to step it back down. BTW, clicker training really helps change this type of behavior. This could take several days to a week, or even longer. Yes, you still need to use the elevator during this time, but maybe try to keep it to a minimum...

BTW... I do recommend cat boxes on each floor.

Marilyn Krieger, CCBC
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