September 24th – Success!!


Yesterday’s hurdle overcome was not a fluke! Last night Oliver came up to the top step, but was hesitant to come all the way into the room, so I helped him out a little, and that was all he needed! He hung out in the room with us like he always used to! I’m not sure what he did during the night, but in the morning I was surprised that he actually jumped up on the bed to come to see me! And the bed is directly under the ceiling fan! 

We have made it! It only took us 1.5 months to get here. He is now okay with the fan off and the light on the fan either off or on. Now me and my little Black Olive can enjoy our cuddle time like we did before. Everything is as it should be. Until next summer that is…..when the fan comes back alive!

It just goes to show that when working with cats, dedication and patience is all it takes!


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September 23rd – It’s happening!


For the last month I have been bringing Oliver up to the bathroom and letting him peak out the door at the fan. I was hoping this would allow him a better view from what is perceived as a “safe” place to observe the ceiling fan and realize it is not actually a large hawk that will eat him for dinner. (Tim’s hypothesis is that Winnie told Oliver the fan is going to suck his brains out so she can reclaim her upstairs territory.) In the past, when I would open the door entirely, allowing escape, when the fan was off, Oliver would slink quietly and quickly back to the safety of the staircase. With the fan on, he would bolt for it, completely freaked out of him mind.

Well, the weather is changing now, and I am hoping it will be cool enough to have the fan off all the time very soon. So, I have also been bringing Oliver to the top of the stairs and kind of holding him there, petting him, in view of the ceiling fan. He doesn’t fight me, but since he is in view of the fan, he tries everything he can to turn his head so that he can’t see it and maneuver a cleverly from my grasp, but not desperately. Oliver and I have been performing both of these activities together off and on. Over the last week I have tried to do one of the other once every day. And today we finally saw success!

I took Oliver up to the bathroom when I got home. The fan was off. I pet him for awhile and let him peak at the fan. Then I went out the door before him. As he began to slink out I started to talk to him and he slowed down and let me pet him. Then he went over to the top of the stairs and paused. And then, amazingly, he made the decision to turn around and come back into the room! Apparently, many new smells had entered the room since he had last been there because he proceeded to wander nervously around the room and sniff everything! I am so proud of him! It was kind of interesting to see where the new smells were though, like in my shorts drawer. The entire time, he kept looking up cautiously at the fan. I understood it to be similar to what I do when there is a spider on the wall. As long as it is not moving, I keep doing whatever I am doing, but keep on eye on it to make sure it doesn’t start walking toward me. I hope it wasn’t a one time thing! YAY! I totally did not have my camera though, bummer.

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August 22nd – It’s working!

ImageIt has been two and a half weeks since the installation of our ceiling fan; aka, the devil. Oliver still refuses to go all the way upstairs, but I have been working with him a lot in order to blur his invisible safety line and I have been rewarded handsomely!!

There is a spot in the bedroom that is directly over the bottom of the stairs where Oliver sometimes sits. On Monday (the 19th) I happened to drop an item in that exact location which caused a soft thump. The soft thump scared poor Oliver so much that he felt he needed to run away immediately. And run away he did; right up the stairs! He ran all the way to the top step before he realized what had happened and froze. Tim and I tried to coax him up, knowing it wouldn’t do any good, but trying nonetheless. Winnie, always wanting to be the center of attention, sat between us and Oliver trying to figure out what the heck this odd behavior we were exhibiting was. Of course, this did not help the cause, but instead gave Oliver one more barrier. He sat there for a couple of minutes and finally decided it was safer downstairs.

Since then, he has been going up the top steps more frequently. In the mornings we usually find him sitting on the second step, just one away from the very top, as he waits for us to come downstairs.

We have placed a stepping stool in the landing area so that Oliver can get up on the ledge to right side of the stairs to explore if he would like. Of course, the fan is visible from the ledge, so he may not be interested, but I am hoping the spot may eventually provide safer viewing in the future should he decide he is interested in such things.

Meanwhile, our space for walking on the stairs is getting smaller and smaller.

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August 19th – Baby Steps

ImageThe landing area has become a new playground for Oliver. He has the “Cat’s Meow” toy there to help build his confidence; one of his floor cardboard scratchers was brought down from upstairs; there is the ever welcome paper bag for sitting on and some small cat toys. Oliver still never chooses to spend time there on his own accord, but he does come up with me for pets and he will play with the “Cat’s Meow” when it is turned on for awhile. He is still very suspicious of the upstairs and continues to send wayward glances in that direction and nervously lick his lips even during a heavy purr.  There are seven steps from the landing up to the bedroom. He can sit on the first step for about 60 seconds during petting, and he has twice put his paws up on the second step to investigate something sitting there, like my book.

I have discovered that he is most deterred by the shadows the fan makes at night. So hopefully we can make more progress when the the weather changes and we can keep the fan off. Maybe he will think it is dead.

Fingers crossed.

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August 8th – The waiting begins

ImageOliver is getting more comfortable being on the landing. He met me up there several times today. Play time is still a little rough as he still associates the stairs with being nervous. But I assume that every time I get him to attack the feather on the stairs adds one more point to his confidence score.

At bed time I glanced over the edge and saw Oliver sneaking cautiously up to the landing area. I called to him and at the same time he heard a small noise of some kind, like an ant footstep perhaps, got spooked and ran back down the stairs.

I wanted to be upset with this development, but I have decided to be glad it had happened. The worst thing, I have decided, is that Oliver gets too comfortable in the downstairs area and loses interest in coming upstairs at all. Once he gives up, and I am the only one trying, there is likely to be no progress at all.  I recognized this episode as an attempt from him to face the fear. Although it was unsuccessful, at least he is trying.

There are two mind sets in which he approaches the landing area:

1. With me sitting there he is thinking about being loving and purring and his mind is in a more relaxed state. In this mind set, every once in awhile he glances up to make sure the monster isn’t coming to get him, but he is pretty much thinking about avoidance. This mind set helps to blur the invisible line (visible to him only) where the safety zone ends.

2. When he approaches the landing with nothing but thoughts of advancing forward, his mind is in a determined state. Nothing but his fear and his invisible safety line and curiosity to approach on his own accord and see if he can get a smell of some kind from the scary beast.

Both of these mind states are important for his advancement. I will help him blur the safety line, but he has to cross it on his own accord and at his own pace.

My goal is to get Oliver so comfortable on the landing area that he comes up there all the time. It would be wonderful if he would begin to sleep there at night. Once I see that he is comfortable in the space, I will move the food bowl to the landing. As much as I want to move it now to force him up there more, I feel it would be cruel and counterproductive. Having patience sucks.

I am going camping for the weekend, but Tim will be home.  I know I am worrying about the situation more than he is, so I am hoping that with me gone Oliver will worry less, but I’m not crossing my fingers for a miracle.

I dreamt that I woke up and saw Oliver sitting at the top of the stairs.

My cat is afraid of the ceiling fan.

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August 7th – Progress

ImageI don’t believe it!

Oliver is yowling at the bottom of the stairs when I wake up. I call to him and start going down the stairs. He sees and hears me coming and actually begins to run up the stairs to meet me! It’s so cute I almost start crying. Of course, he gets almost to the landing and begins crouching, realizing what he is doing and beginning to become nervous, licking his lips. But he stops and allows me to pet him there on the stairs for awhile, just short of the landing. I am so close to erasing what I made worse! I caused the fear of the landing. If I can just get him back to being comfortable on the landing, I will be forgiven and we can really start working on the fear of the fan.

Playing with the feather toy is more successful today also. Oliver is actually running up a few steps to get the toy! I am so excited that I over-do it again and make another mistake. Recalling what I read about some cats being afraid of the sound of the fan when it is turned on, I drop the feather toy and go upstairs to turn off the fan. I am hoping I can get him up far enough with the distraction of the toy that he will go forget about the fan, and I don’t want the sound to scare him away.

Unfortunately, just the act of me going upstairs made him nervous. His play time became distracted. I should have just kept doing what we usually do. The change is what made him nervous. My worries are making him worried.

I was rewarded, however, when later that night Oliver did decide it was okay to come up and sit with me for awhile on the landing. I have learned the best time to do this is when he has not seen me for awhile. So when I came home from classes (I’m a second time college student) I went up the stairs and called him first thing. He laid down and enjoyed himself in between nervous looks up the second flight of stairs and licking his lips. He cannot see the fan from the landing, but he knows it’s there.

He did not stay for long, but I was satisfied.


My cat is afraid of the ceiling fan.

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August 6th – Change and acceptance


Oliver has begun to accept that he will be spending most of his time downstairs from now on. He is beginning to become more interested in sitting in some of the places where before we would only see Winnie, like on deflated paper bags. Luckily, Winnie does not seem to mind too much. Maybe this temporary situation will bring them closer together?

I make my first smart decision today, and then several more smart decisions after that.  First, I decide to put myself in Oliver’s position. Using my own fears to help, I envision the fan as a huge spider on the ceiling and immediately I know that I will no longer pick Oliver up and force him up the stairs against his will. That behavior certainly would not help me approach a large spider. Then I decide that there has to be food involved. Oliver has to have motivation to spend time over by the stairs, and as much as I would like to think his love for me is enough, I know something more primal has to be involved. If it were a spider, instead of a ceiling fan,  I would not go near it just to pet Oliver, but I might risk it if I were hungry.

I move Oliver and Winnie’s food bowl over to the bottom of the stairs to begin work on a positive association. Oliver is already comfortable here at the bottom of the stairs, but my aim is to reinforce the comfort and slowly move the bowl up. (I have to make a deal with Tim-my boyfriend- that if he accidentally knocks the food bowl over because it is under foot that I will clean it up. Worth it!)

I maintain the idea that most of our petting will be on the stairs and that I will give him the “relax” treat on the stairs too. The hallway and stairway is also where we usually have playtime. I get out the feather toy and Oliver does seem interested. Winnie, as usual, is ready to kill. Oliver typically allows Winnie to hunt until she is somewhat tired and decides to take a break and then he plays awhile. But today his heart was not in it. He lay down and watched by the food bowl. I took the toy upstairs, but Oliver did not follow. I made noises to attract him, but he did not budge. I hung the toy over the edge and he looked at it, but still did not go after it. So I let Winnie kill it and drag it back to the hallway.

Although the playing was not a success, I do feel better today because I know what I have to do. Both Oliver and I have accepted this new arrangement and now we can begin to move forward. At bed time the treats are given in the hallway and pets are given on the stairs.

I start sitting up on the ledge and calling him, but he doesn’t come. I move down the stairs and call him again to say goodnight. My heart melts when he makes the decision to come up four stairs to get love. It doesn’t last long, but now I know I am doing the right thing.  When I go to bed I look down to see he is actually sitting on the second stair! Hooray!

Finally, I am able to sleep.

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