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Territorial/Skiddish Issues

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
Hey, I'm new to the website, so first off, hello to everyone. Thus far, the website seems to be very helpful and I wish I'd known about it when I first started getting involved with cats (if it was even a website at the time).

Typically, I'm very good at diagnosing common problems such as UTIs, etc.. And there have only been a couple of times in the past that I even had to resort to taking a cat to the vet for anyhting other than routine shots, etc... One of them was a UTI, but... regardless.

I'm a live-alone computer geek/graphics artist. I heard about a certain younger male cat that was at the local kill shelter, so I went to bail him out of that early visit from the angel of death. (twisted sense of humor, I know...sorry)

What is known of the cat's past: HE is just over 6 months of age. His mother had the litter he was in AT the shelter, and they went ahead with shots and fixing them when those times came because they assumed they would be able to find homes for all of them. He was the last one left, and they had decided to put him on death row. Anyway, I got him away from all of that. And just for future reference, his name is Bash.

He's a typical domestic medium-length coat tabbey. He looks as though somewhere down the line (not too far though) he could have some bengal in him. When I got him home, I set up the litterboxes (one upstairs, and one downstairs. I have a two story open loft apt. and he's free to roam). I got his food and water bowls out and filled. Opened the carrier door and let him be, thinking I'd let him explore on his own terms. Well, he never came out, so I eventually had to get him out. Then, he showed no interest at all in the location of the food, and he left some nice 3" long scratch marks while in a panic at the sight of the litterbox.

Well, all things into account, I picked him up and looked, and sure enough, his rectum was literally raw, and very very inflamed. I don't always have the money for visits to the vet, so I did as much research as possible, and using a combination of higher grade food, as well as some canned food, some over the counter anti-biotics and ointment, I got that all cleared up. He's eating and using the litterbox fine now. As opposed to literally LEAKING on my carpet because he was trying to hold it in from the pain, and crying out in pain when actually trying to go.

Now, my problem is that he's VERY skiddish, and has no desire whatsoever to explore the apartment. He literally stays ontop of my fridge all day long, only leaving to eat and use the box. When I walk into the kitchen, occasionally he'll hiss at me, but that instantly turns into him laying on his side purring in joy the moment I start petting him. I woke up the other day, and a cold front had hit during the night. So, I turned the heater on, and went to check on him. He was STILL ontop the fridge, shaking erratically from the cold, so I wrapped him in a fleece blanket that he now just uses as his pillow. Normally, I don't try to force anything onto a cat. That's the entire reason I like them. They've got personality that can't exactly be trained like a dog for example. BUT, I've had him a week now (the problems with his rectum were literally cleared up in 2 days... proving how much care the shelters actually show to animals). I've tried moving the blanket, and rather than stay with it, he kind of says, "screw it," and jumps back on the fridge. Anyone know of a way I might be able to passively suggest to him that he can play around and roam freely?? Like I said, he is rather skiddish. And is still not comfortable actually being picked up. Should I just give him more time, or is this something I should buckle down on now to avoid any potential future issues, and maybe block his path that leads to the top of the fridge??

PS: sorry for the novel, apparently i write blogs that are too long as well... lol
post #2 of 12
Aw, poor baby! Thank you for rescuing him!

Quick question - it doesn't seem like it - but do you have other cats?

That aside.... I think this poor baby boy just needs more time. He's known nothing but a shelter his entire life. I don't know how much attention he got there, don't know how much play time he got there. But he's used to having a VERY small territory. It really would have been best if you'd picked a small room in your home - or, perhaps, your bedroom, and just let him make the one room his own. In fact - this is what I think you should do. Just start over.

There are two issues here. His territory is too large based on his past, and it's freaking him out. And he hasn't been properly socialized, so you have to work with him.

As it seems you know, cats do not come pre-programmed to want love, they don't necessarily know what play is, and they are VERY oriented to territory. He won't explore until he feels safe - and apparently, right now, he's made the top of the fridge his safe place. ....and because he doesn't appear to have learned that "people are good," he doesn't understand what you want from him.

So where you need to start is by downsizing his territory from the whole place - but in a space that will make him feel comfortable enough to explore around him (unlike on top of the fridge!). Then you need to earn his trust by helping him learn that you don't want anything from him - you're there to take care of him and entertain him.

There are a number of things you can do to help your baby kitty. Well - this is what I would do.

1) Forget time. Clocks don't exist with cats.
2) Purchase Feliway spray or a plug-in diffuser. This is a synthetic hormone that mimics the "friendly" markers in cats' cheeks. It will help put him at ease.
3) Consider purchasing some Rescue Remedy flower essences for him. They can be purchased here:
4) Pick a small room or your bedroom - or since you're a graphics artist, maybe the room where your computer is. Put kitty in the crate and move him to the room AFTER putting some toys in there, his food, a cat bed or blanket or whatever, two litter boxes, a couple of cardboard boxes on their sides - maybe with the top flap hanging down, a cat tree if you have one or want to get one. If there's a table, put a cloth over it so he's got a tent to hide in if he needs or wants to. Spray the feliway around liberally - but not near his litter boxes or not near any scratching posts.
4) Start over.

Kitty needs to feel safe in his space, and he needs to trust you - and he's just in too large a space, I think, right now.

Spend as much time in the room as you can. Spend a lot of that time ignoring the kitty and just getting used to you, the new place, the new smells, the new sounds &etc.

Get a couple of t-shirts really good and sweaty. Put one of these under his food dish. Put treats out for him (you don't necessarily have to stand there and watch him eat them) each morning and each evening on the other one. This will help him come to associate you with good things.

And.... I'm going to provide two links - they're about socializing ferals and are a bit repetitive, but I think it will really help you with your boy. - I know this thread doesn't seem like it at first, but it has more good ideas. Just keep reading.

Hope these ideas help!

post #3 of 12
Oh - forgot to add - when he's comfortable with you and the room, then just leave the door open. He'll explore when he's ready.

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thank you very much... I hadn't even considered the space differential as being the driving force here... Unfortunately, my apartment doesn't really have "rooms" exactly.. its a 2 story fully open loft (which probably makes the space thing even worse on him)... Why we graphics artists can't get normal apartments is something I've never understood...

My only real options would be closets, one of which holds my clothes and some equipment... (I also work on digital video and photography as well). I'll see if he can handle the 2nd floor a little better, its not quite as big. Plus, my bed, dirty clothes, etc are up here for him to lounge around on.

I'll also be giving that scent a try (i'm not looking at the name right now, but the one you mentioned using after they've been in a shelter). He isn't exactly feral. Well, at least not to the point of actually being hostile. Like I mentioned, he'll be skeptic until I start scratching his head, at which point he basically melts, for lack of a better word. So, somewhere, there is a very affectionate side of him.

I'm sure this a constant topic of disgust on this site, but the more I think about that shelter the more it infuriates me. I realized his bowel problems in no time, and they'd had him since birth. Which also leaves me wondering what low grade food they're shoving down the animals' throats. The ONLY reason they vaccinated and fixed this litter was because by city ordinance, they can then adopt the cats/kittens out and charge money for it. In fact, I had to pay $75 to get him off death row. Money well spent, that goes without saying, but considering that they were about to just kill him?? I send a lot of my work to be printed large scale at a sign shop here, and the woman who I typically deal with breeds labs, and participates in all of the K9 rescue programs in the area. This shelter will not even allow people in the groups she's in to adopt dogs from them. They once told her they would not allow her to adopt a certain dog out, that she had to bring someone NOT in a rescue group in. She left, called a friend, they met back at the shelter, and the %@(#(%& there had put down the dog as soon as she left... what kind of sick @(%#&% finds pleasure in that???
post #5 of 12
I know what you mean about shelters. It can be so heartbreaking and so frustrating what goes on. On the flip side- they're often under-staffed, with a difficult budget. But why they wouldn't let rescue groups adopt or take the animals to get them adopted? You'd think they'd be grateful for the help.

And I agree - I'd go for moving him up to the loft. Maybe call around to a couple of stores that cell refrigerators or large items and see if they've got any large boxes you can pick up. Maybe construct him a kind of "kitty condo" out of large boxes - something that you can see into and he can see out of, but it feels like a small "room" inside of the loft for him. ?????????

Check out the 3rd pic down in the first post of this thread:

I envision something kind of like this, but surrounded on three sides by walls and or cardboard. ????

post #6 of 12
Originally Posted by finchx6 View Post
He isn't exactly feral. Well, at least not to the point of actually being hostile. Like I mentioned, he'll be skeptic until I start scratching his head, at which point he basically melts, for lack of a better word. So, somewhere, there is a very affectionate side of him.
I agree he's not feral, but he is clearly undersocialized. A lot of the techniques that you use on feral cats are the same ones that you use on undersocialized cats. They key is for him to gain trust in his environment then his trust in you. After that it sounds like the love-bug in him will take over.

Congratulations for adopting him. I've volunteered in shelters. They are not all the same and most suffer from poor management and lack of funding.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 
First off, Laurie (if I may), I've been building computers for myself since age 13, AND, I'm a designer for a living... and I LITERALLY would have NEVER thought to build something like that using nothing but rubbermaid and tupperware products. That is by far one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. One of those, "why didn't I think of that???" things...

I might be running to walmart for some plastic storage bins soon.. heh

And 2nd, very good point about the differences, yet also the similarities between the two. He isn't exactly feral, but like you said, I should definitely angle my efforts to more along gaining the trust of a feral cat, rather than disregard it and just sit around hoping he'll eventually learn to trust me. I think some of the suggestions Laurie gave could help immensely, such as putting clothes under or near his bowls, etc...

I really appreciate all the help. Definitely going to have to frequent this website when I'm taking my smoke breaks.. lol
post #8 of 12
Originally Posted by finchx6 View Post
First off, Laurie (if I may), I've been building computers for myself since age 13, AND, I'm a designer for a living... and I LITERALLY would have NEVER thought to build something like that using nothing but rubbermaid and tupperware products. That is by far one of the coolest things I've seen in a while. One of those, "why didn't I think of that???" things...
That's my name!

We've been building kitty condos and mazes out of cardboard boxes. We had a baby kitten that had to eat kitten food, but we didn't want the adults to have at it, so we bought a huge rubber maid bin, cut a small hole in it that only kitty could get through. Box was large enough the adults couldn't get their arms in far enough to reach the bowl of food.

....and we didn't think of anything like that either! Isn't it the coolest thing?

But yeah - I agree with Amy. I think a little reading up on socializing ferals will give you lots of good tricks to help bring out that lover that's hiding inside your kitty!

post #9 of 12
A cat tree would be a big help I think, because he probably was kept in a cage at the same height as the fridge, and is therefore used to seeing the world from that viewpoint. If you can find a tree with a perch and/or 'box' at that height, then use something with obvious projections and odd angles to make the fridge inaccessible, you could hopefully keep him from being up there all day, but still give him his comfort zone.
post #10 of 12
Poor little guy! It's sounds like you have the right touch to bring him out of his worries.

His own territory and routine will help him. There's nothing to be nipped in the bud; he can only move out from a sense of security, so that, and affection, is what you can provide. Let him move out at his own pace, and any time you miss him, just go over and show him so.

Talk to him a lot, they learn to translate from our body language that way.

It sounds like you two were meant for each other.
post #11 of 12
Thread Starter 
Just an update on Bash. I just received another cat (or I should say, KITTEN...of extremely young age) to take care of. I work with a woman who adopts out cats that have been found/saved/rescued, etc... Well, I got her here, and let her out of the carrier, and Bash literally INSTANTLY, let down his guard...almost entirely. He walks about freely now, and has actually been taking care of Shrimp (what I've been calling the baby) to an extent and watching out for her. He still SLEEPS on the fridge, but the entire rest of the time I'm up and about, he is as well. So, unfortunately, Bash is now leaving. I mentioned to the woman I work with back and forth what had happened when he met shrimp, so she found a permanent home for him... I knew he wouldn't be here forever, but I always hate that drive to her place to drop them off... She does a VERY good job of finding homes though. She informs the soon-to-be slaves of exactly what the cat is like, shows pictures, informs them of the cat's past. Then she visits their home for inspection to be sure they have everything in order and whatnot. And Bash's new slaves have been given the OK, so I guess I'll be dropping him off tomorrow. I've already told the woman that with Shrimp being so young (I've posted some questions in the kittens forum that were answered very quickly, and thank you, btw) because I have never taken in a kitten quite this young. So, with any luck, I'll be able to get and keep her healthy, but she won't be leaving. I'm going to be her permanent slave as long as I can give her enough care to live through the next month or so. Its funny, I mentioned to Bash's new owners over the phone that he (and shrimp) both enjoy hard rock, and industrial metal. Nine Inch Nails in particular. I put in their latest live concert DVD, and both were glued to the edge of the couch... But I've found Shrimp is also a huge trance fan... Paul Oakenfold to be more precise. She's claimed my computer's subwoofer as her place of meditation any time I put his music on. -hence the picture I got of her earlier today next to one of my computer speakers and a spindle of CDs- It almost looks like she's trying to impersonate a DJ...
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 
and why is it anytime I mention to soon-to-be cat owners that they enjoy a particular music genre or artist, I get the "o...k........" reaction?? As if they're trying to tell me I'm not all there mentally...
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