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Dealing with a Scardey Cat

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
We got BoBo from the humane society about a year and a half ago... I would say he was about 6 months then, so he would be around 2 years old now. He has always been a "fearful" cat.... hides anytime we have company or run the vacuum, but is getting worse. We moved to a new home in November (app. 4 months ago) and he was slow to adjust... he hid under my Mother's King size bed for 3 days and even after that he was rarely seen. Over time he did become adjusted to the house. He has become accustomed to spending a lot of time in my bedroom... I keep my bedroom door shut and he sleeps on my bed. It gives him a sense of security, but I am beginning to wonder if he is spending TOO MUCH time in his secure environment.

About 2 weeks ago, I was leaving my room and took him with me. As we stepped out of hallway, we arrived in the living room and noticed Mom had left the front door open as it was a nice day out (she left the screendoor closed though). BoBo freaked out! He made a beeline back down the hallway and demanded to be let in my room! Ever since then, everytime he hears the front door open, he gets scared and runs and hides...

I have never seen a cat soooo scared and really wonder if I am doing him a dis-service by letting him hide out in my room!

post #2 of 10
Some kitties just don't need a lot of territory. But there are a few things I think you can do to help.

I don't know where you're located, but if you're in the U.S. these things are easy to order - if not, I'd check with a vet to see if they're familiar with the products.

I would purchase either Feliway spray or several plug-ins (or both - a plug-in for the room and spray for the rest of the house). Feliway is a synthetic hormone that mimics the "friendly markers" in cats' cheeks and helps to ease stress.

I would consider purchasing Flower Essences - I would go for Rescue Remedy. Not all cats respond to them, but those that do usually really respond.

Both can be purchased here: http://www.catfaeries.com although there are definitely cheaper places to purchase the Feliway.

I would leave your bedroom door open as much as possible, but I wouldn't carry him outside the room anymore.

If your kitty likes to play with a wand toy, I would definitely play with him at least twice a day for at least 15 minutes each session. I'd stick to a schedule about it as best you can. After he knows to expect it, I'd give it a few more days, and make the play sessions get near the bedroom door at first. When he's OK with that, then toward the end of a play session just outside the door. When he's OK with that, then a little bit into the hallway, etc. Slowly help him enlarge his territory with play. This may take weeks or months - because it's been 4 months now, and it isn't likely his behavior will change overnight.

I'd also start putting treats out for him on something like a blank piece of paper. Something really visible that contrasts with the floor. Leave them near the bedroom door at the same time in the morning and evening. Then start leaving them just outside the door. Then part way down the hallway. Etc.

If you have a stereo in the living room (any room that is NOT your bedroom), maybe consider purchasing harp music for rescued animals. It REALLY seems to help ferals - and your kitty is acting very much like a rescued feral kitty. It'll help him hear something comforting that's not in your bedroom. Here's a link for that: http://harpist1.tripod.com/id32.html

I wouldn't push him too hard, but I would try taking these steps to help ease his fear. There is absolutely nothing wrong with him wanting to live in your bedroom. But if you can help him understand that the rest of the house isn't so scary - just a very little at a time, not all at once, he might decide to expand his territory.

You may also want to consider putting out a bunch of boxes on their sides around the house. Kitties universally love boxes - and then he's always got a "safe" place to bolt if he gets scared. Just having "safe houses" around may help him get out and about more. Especially if you have one in your bedroom and kind of incorporate it into your play sessions, he'll come to associate "good things" and "fun" with boxes - and when he realizes they're around the house, that may help too.

Hope these ideas help!

post #3 of 10
The thing with rescue pets is you never know what happened to them, what they're life was like before you got them. Maybe he was scrounging on the street as a young kitten and is fearful the open door means he might end up back out there. Ya just never know.
post #4 of 10
Originally Posted by Brokenheart View Post
The thing with rescue pets is you never know what happened to them, what they're life was like before you got them. Maybe he was scrounging on the street as a young kitten and is fearful the open door means he might end up back out there. Ya just never know.
I don't think cats brains work quite that way. Outside = new, and for this cat new = scary. More of an immediate fight or flight response.

Don't make too much of a big deal of it and allow your cat to wander the house at night when it's dark and quiet. Chances are he'll feel more secure in the dark and gain some confidence once he knows the layout of the house better and his scent is all over it.
post #5 of 10
I absolutely agree with what Laurie has stated. I too have a scaredy cat who took months to come out of our bedroom after we moved. Some cats just take a little longer to gain trust in their environment. Don't force things on him and he will adjust when he is ready.

(and btw, my scaredy boy is sitting on my lap as I type this - way far away from the bedroom)
post #6 of 10
i have a very nervous kitten too. fine when it is just us but as soon as any company arrives or the front door is opened, he will take flight. i just try to make sure that he has a clear path to his safety zone (under my bed) and would never force him to be in a room with strangers. i think the advice given in this thread is spot on. and remain calm even when he isn't. speak in low, gentle tones to him which should help in some way to soothe him.
post #7 of 10
One thing that might help you accept who he is might be to know that... he looks like he might have a lot of Russian Blue in his make-up (I had one like that), and they are naturally very skittish cats. It's nothing you've done, or even anything much that's happened to him in the past necessarily (if my theory's true), just that it's natural for him to be very sensitive and timid, and he'll do much better (though don't expect radical change) if you treat him very gently, don't force him into scary places, don't expect him to be someone he isn't, try to not make lots of sudden moves or sharp noises around him, and he'll become more secure as time goes on.
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for the advise... I don't mind him in my room, but was becoming concerned that I might be enabling his fear. My bedroom door is always kept shut, because of a different problem (whole different story there) and don't really like to leave him in there when I am not home. I work the midnight shift so he almost never is in there at night.

I do however make sure he is in there if someone is going to run the vaccuum. He still hides under my bed when he hears it, but only for a short period of time... as opposed to hours when he is not in my bedroom.
post #9 of 10
no, i think it is really important for them to have somewhere that they feel safe, a bolthole. it may take some time but i'm sure with your patience and love he'll be ok.
post #10 of 10
Most kitties hate vacuum cleaners. That's completely normal.

I have a cat that is very bold - if he knows and trusts you. With strangers he'll hide in the bedroom, if strange people are outside or come too close to the bedroom he's starts growling. Again, this isn't too strange for a cat. I've had others that have done the same.

He sounds like a normal skittish cat and as long as he does leave the room some (you said he's out at night), you shouldn't worry too much. Try leaving your bedroom door slightly open at other times if you can or call him out everyday for a treat in the kitchen with you.
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