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I have two cats, both male. Both are very playful and active. Yesterday when we got some new groceries, we got a broomstick which came wrapped in a red plastic and thus there was long red shaped thing on sofa. One of my cats who came to sit next to me got a little spooked looking it and I found it very funny. I tried pranking my cat with that thing and he kept jumping and running. Within a minute I stopped when I saw he is not getting used to the thing.

This happened last night and he is still sitting in a corner in our balcony. We took him out for a walk, he was active there. It's as if he is scared of everything at home now. That broomstick has been thrown out. I just want him to get back to his normal talkative, meowing, active self.

What can I do?

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I think getting your cat's behavior back to normal would require basically two things.

Firstly, the cat surely needs some reasonable amount of peaceful time to have its mood stabilized and to get itself comforted and convinced that there is no more lurking danger in its surroundings. Please consider the fact that while for you it was an obvious joke/prank and at no time did you intend to harm the cat, from the cat's perspective the fear stimulus was as real as it was in case of a true predator encounter. It is only my guess, but I think the reason for the cat being seemingly unreasonably scared of that long red shaped thing could be its similarity to a snake. According to one study mammals are born with strong, fearful repulsion to snakes because avoiding venomous and lethally dangerous animals like snakes was crucial for survival.

Please emphasise with the cat: imagine that one day you were chilling out in your home - the safest and most secure place you know - and suddenly something resembling one of your greatest innate fears seemingly comes into existence and intrusively follows you for a minute, then disappears without any reasonable explanation - I guess you would surely need a fair amount of time to recover your sanity and peace of mind. Of course it is a greatly simplified explanation but nonetheless I think it's valid and visualising.

If you were to prank a person, you would be able to explain afterwards or it would even become obvious itself - and even then, some purposeful evil pranks are capable of causing long lasting trauma if the person being pranked hasn't had their emotional development matured yet. On the other hand, there is no way you could explain your cat that it was just a joke and there was never a danger in your home to begin with. And as crazy and unreasonable it might sound, your cat is currently in fear because it's absolutely sure that there is a large red snake with fishy and probably murderous intentions hiding somewhere in the house.

Secondly, it is important that you won't be scaring your cat like that again in the future, because you would risk causing remission of this behavior and making the already primed trauma more severe. I could somehow understand that it is maybe funny, maybe hilarious observing cats' exaggerated reactions to seemingly harmless stimuli and why would it encourage people to annoy their cats like that, but please consider the fact that it is not the best thing for their mental health.

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