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Urgent Consult, Please -- re: Scaredycat

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I'm temporarily sharing a house with my elderly parents, and between us, we have a total of six cats. Five of them coexist more or less peacefully (sometimes blissfully!), but then there's Abby.

All we know of Abby's background is that, at about 18 months, she was trapped and brought to a shelter, where she promptly delivered five kittens, one of whom is my darlin' Clyde. My mom and I volunteer at that shelter, and we tried to work with Abby as much as possible, to help her relax and become adoptable... but she remained terrified of (and hostile toward) everyone, human and feline alike.

After her brief and disastrous adoption to a crazy woman, we couldn't bear to see Abby go back into a cage, so we decided to foster her and see if we could make progress at home. My mom worked very hard at it, and has won an amazing degree of trust -- Abby plays with her now, and loves to be petted and brushed.

The catch is that Abby lives in my father's room, door closed, no other cats allowed. When Mom tries to bring her out to join the rest of the family, Abby hides. So Abby lives alone.

It's been three years now, and Abby is ours. The only way we would give her up is if we found her a quiet, one-cat household where she could be happier. But that's not being contemplated now -- the present issue involves my father.

My father is 85, and his thinking is going askew. He's confused and often angry, and he has come to profoundly resent Abby. So we have to move Abby out of his room -- the one place she feels safe -- and we have to do it TONIGHT. The only place for her to move TO is Mom's room, and that is complicated by the presence of our newest feline family member, St. John Dundee, a five-month-old kitten who was thrown out of a moving car at the age of six weeks. (He is miraculously unscathed, untraumatized... a wonderful little redheaded boy!) He is the first and only kitty ever to sleep with Mom, and she just can't put him out.

So the plan is for Abby to live in Mom's room, and for St. John to join them at night. This is slightly less alarming than it sounds -- St. John is so fast that he has several times slipped unnoticed into my father's room and spent up to an hour in there with Abby, and she doesn't seem to be as upset about him as she has been about our other cats... so they are at least acquainted. But still...

This will be a HUGE change for Abby, and we know she'll be panic-stricken. We have some Feliway and will spray the new room liberally. We also have some beech oil that seems to have a calming effect on two of our other cats, so we'll rub that into her eartips (and St. John's, too). We have a nice little kittyhouse shelter that Abby can retreat to. And Mom is prepared to sit up with them and try to keep things calm through this first night.


Should we clip their claws today for their mutual safety (we do not normally keep up with this, since they hate it so much), or would that only add to the trauma?

Can you think of anything else we can do to help ease Abby into her new room?

Thanks for any suggestions you can provide...
post #2 of 8
If you keep their nails trimmed on a regular basis, I would just skip it for now. Less stress.

It really sounds like you are doing a great job in preparing Abby.

One thing you might want to try is Vanilla. I take a dab of vanilla extract and place it under everyones chin. I do this about once or twice a month. It helps my female cat Trouble. She doesn't like cats at all and tends to be bullied by the others. I will also use it when introducing new cats and when we come home from vet visits.

Spray your Feliway at least once a day for a couple of weeks to help Abby's stress.

I wish you the best of luck!
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Eva -- I've never tried vanilla, so we'll add that to the mix. If nothing else, everybody will smell good! ;-)

As it turns out, my father has swung back to his calmer self today, so we aren't going to force the issue tonight after all. Tomorrow, we'll get a refill for our long-unused Comfort Zone diffuser (refills are so expensive!), and we'll put that in Abby's current room during the day, then move it along with her into Mom's room tomorrow night. That stuff works minor miracles on our other cats... I sure hope it does the same for Abby!

Thanks for taking time to read and respond to my long, long post. I'll let you know how things turn out.
post #4 of 8
Why not take the opportunity of your father's being in a calmer state today to introduce Abby to the room (possibly when St. J.D. and/or your father isn't around). Maybe feed her on the floor in there, play with her favorite toy (door open the whole time so she doesn't feel trapped - though she might run out). Guaranteeing your father won't be upset tonight, or on another night (or day) either may not be possible I imagine, and making the change under (your) duress may not be the best time.
post #5 of 8
Those diffusers are very expensive. I have found I can buy them from ebay for about half of what they cost at the store. Also Dr. Fosters on line sales them cheaper than the stores as well.

I figured the same thing about the vanilla, at least they smell good. It really does work for my cats. Or at least they make me think it does.
post #6 of 8
Is there a throw rug or other object in the room where Abby uses that you can move to your mom's room? Try to bring her scent with her when you make the transfer.
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
Bless your hearts! What wonderful ideas you've given me!

My poor father -- he has Alzheimer's. There are times when he just can't be reasoned with, and other times when he's so clearly trying very hard to be his best self, patient and kind like he used to be. I had a Big Talk with him the day I made my first post above, and at the time, he was just enraged... but ever since, he's been 95% wonderful.

So the move has not yet been made -- but we have put the diffuser in Abby's current room, so I hope she's getting all mellowed out. Tomorrow, we'll try the Room Introduction idea (thank you!)... and yes, she has a favorite fuzzy rug and a little kitty sofa she sleeps on, and those will go with her.

Abby is such a timid little girl... she'll lash out and hiss when you try to pick her up, but once you've caught her, she just rolls into a tense little ball in your arms and tucks her face under your sleeve to hide. How I would love to see her really, truly relax.

I so appreciate your input! Will report back...
post #8 of 8
The vanilla extract needs to be pure, not imitation. The places to put a dab or two are under the chin, between the shoulder and the base of the tail. Make sure the room you are moving her too has a good place for her to hide. She is going to be scared at the change in her routine, so moving any loose rugs, or bedding or anything that she lays on will help her acclimate. Once she begins hiding, you need to just let her be. Feed her, change her water scoop her pan on a strict schedule. Make sure the food and water bowl and the litter pans stay in the same place. She has to count on knowing when people are coming into her domain
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