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Q: I found a cat in the street that had been declawed and I took her in. She's very playful and adoring with me, but when anyone comes to visit, she hides. If I'm holding her before she realizes someone has come in, she allows the person to pet her, then hides under the sofa. Is there anything I can do to help her overcome her shyness toward strangers?

-- A.D., Las Vegas, Nev.

A: "Never force a cat who is afraid to interact with people," says cat behavior consultant Mikel Delgado, of Berkeley, Calif. "Parading her around for company doesn't allow the cat to make choices."

Of course, a little motivation never hurts. Begin with a visitor who the cat may be somewhat familiar with, and ask your guest to toss a few small pieces of cheese or another valuable treat just beyond the cat's reach from under the sofa. Another idea is to lure the cat into play with a fishing pole-type toy with feathers. Also, place an empty box in the room the cat is hiding in. Believe it or not, some cats will jump in an open box and "hide" there instead hunkering under the sofa.

Also, Delgado adds, consider managing your expectations, "This cat sounds perfectly affectionate and wonderful with you," says Delgado. "It's possible the cat may gain more confidence with strangers, but she may never be really outgoing."

e-mail: petworld@stevedale.tv

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