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Help! New kitty won't let us touch him!

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
My roommate and I adopted a 5-6 year old male cat from a very nice shelter two weeks ago. We picked him particularly because he was the most lovable and outgoing of a group of affectionate cats and was a favorite of several shelter employees. He was about one year old when he came to the shelter and has been living there for the last four years, so we recognize that when we brought him home he had to deal with an entirely new environment. After talking with friends who had adopted cats, they warned us that it could take him anywhere from a couple of days to weeks to warm up to us.
That being said, we have not been able to touch him since the first day- he hides behind the refrigerator (which we have now blocked off), under the bed, or in a corner. If we come near him, he hisses (now escalating into spitting and swiping), and if we walk into the same room when he is not in one of his hiding places, he runs off hissing. We know he's not a dog, so we don't want to force our cuddles on him, but we are wondering what happened to the cuddly cat who couldn't stop purring with us at the shelter.
Does he need more time? Are we being impatient? Is he so horribly traumatized that he'll never be the same again? Help!
post #2 of 17
Welcome to TCS! Bless you for taking in your new cat Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Contain him in the room he is currently choosing to stay in until he adjusts and comes out voluntarily (I know, a litterbox in the room isn't pleasant, but if it's too offensive, you could put it in a large cardboard box, temporarily, of course) . He needs time to explore the new territory and make it his - only then will he expand his turf (consider, if a cat in the wild goes to a new area, it confines itself to hiding, such as in a pile of lumber or under a sturdy clump of bushes, etc., for a few days before it gradually comes out to explore).. He may overwhelmed at the drastic change from living in a shelter to living in a house. Esp. if prior occupants had owned a dog, or other animal, that the cat will pick up the scent and that can cause anxiety (their noses can detect scents 200x fainter than what we can - so that's no reflection on the cleanliness of the place. Cats can sniff the tracks of a spider, after all).

2. Use only unscented cat litter as fragrance is irritating to kitty noses and also keeps the box from smelling like it belongs exclusively to them (scents are the territorial markers that cats rely on the most).

3. Try using a Feliway room dispenser, or spritz some Feliway in the corners of the room. You won't be able to detect it, but it often soothes cats.

4. Do not look him in the eyes directly (until he adjusts) and do not attempt to touch him. Let him come to you. For now, his survival instincts are firing off, and the direct look and approaches are those used by predators. Respect his signals asking you to "back off", such as spitting and hissing - he will replace them with purrs and headbutts when he has adjusted. Instead, try to nonchalantly offer a "teaser" such as a string, or a wand toy.

5. Consider adopting one of his closest shelter mates. He is also grieving for his other "family". If that is not an option, then I understand, but it would be a big plus for all of you in the end. Ask the shelter workers for a suggestion on a likely candidate. Was he a "greeter" at the shelter? If so, he probably is missing the social activity.

6. Check out the info here at TCS on socializing a feral. Many of the tips will apply to this situation.
http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=9
Otherwise, as a last choice, you could talk to the shelter & see if you could do an exchange for another kitty who might more easily adjust to your household situation. I can tell by your post that you are very dedicated to your cat, and I am confident that you will be able to work this out, but I don't want you to feel trapped by the situation either.
I am sure that you will get better advice than mine, when the others wake up & get online, but meanwhile sending calming and soothing prayers and vibes your new boy
post #3 of 17
Great suggestions!

When we adopted Maya she hid under the bed and not realizing what I was doing, I pulled her out. Luckily she wasn't traumatized by me being a bad daddy.
post #4 of 17
It takes time, my two that I adopted wouldn't come near me. I sat down on the floor to be at their level and swung a rubber spider on a string and just sat there dangling it. Eventually, they came over and started to swipe at it and gradually they came around. I also brought in a full feral cat that was 4 months old, he use to spit at me all the time. Very gradually he came around when he was sure it was safe. It takes time for them to trust anyone. Give it time, it will be worth the wait.
post #5 of 17
Thank you for taking in rescue from the shelter.
Two words "Be Patient"
I adopted a stray / feral cat from the outdoors. I gave her 110% of my
support. I new it would not been easy for her.
I kept in her a spare bedroom with her food, litter, water etc. and
got her medical help. She was in pretty bad shape, full of worms, fleas,
and very poor health.
She was terrified for a very long time. She trusted me, but was
just terrified of her new surroundings. They need a comfort zone, do
not offer a large area till he finds comfort, close doors or confine and
do a slow release to larger area.
They will come around. My cat was not comfortable for close to 1 year,
hiding under the dinning room table chairs lots of the time. I put a
jingle bell collar on her during the out times, so I could find her.
I removed the collar at night time and when I was not home.
It was funny, she learned she could not leave her room without me
putting the collar on.
She is a loveable cat now and the love of my life.
But she is still scared of the basement 3 yrs later.
post #6 of 17
Please be patient with the kitty.

A new environment is scary!


Even a cat that's been used to you for a while can change in a new place, Hennessy's a very confident kitty, but when we moved he hid for a few days and was scared, probably due to a scent in the new place. After that, though, he was back to his old self, loving and cuddling.
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by catsknowme View Post
Welcome to TCS! Bless you for taking in your new cat Here are some of my suggestions:

1. Contain him in the room he is currently choosing to stay in until he adjusts and comes out voluntarily (I know, a litterbox in the room isn't pleasant, but if it's too offensive, you could put it in a large cardboard box, temporarily, of course) . He needs time to explore the new territory and make it his - only then will he expand his turf (consider, if a cat in the wild goes to a new area, it confines itself to hiding, such as in a pile of lumber or under a sturdy clump of bushes, etc., for a few days before it gradually comes out to explore).. He may overwhelmed at the drastic change from living in a shelter to living in a house. Esp. if prior occupants had owned a dog, or other animal, that the cat will pick up the scent and that can cause anxiety (their noses can detect scents 200x fainter than what we can - so that's no reflection on the cleanliness of the place. Cats can sniff the tracks of a spider, after all).

2. Use only unscented cat litter as fragrance is irritating to kitty noses and also keeps the box from smelling like it belongs exclusively to them (scents are the territorial markers that cats rely on the most).

3. Try using a Feliway room dispenser, or spritz some Feliway in the corners of the room. You won't be able to detect it, but it often soothes cats.

4. Do not look him in the eyes directly (until he adjusts) and do not attempt to touch him. Let him come to you. For now, his survival instincts are firing off, and the direct look and approaches are those used by predators. Respect his signals asking you to "back off", such as spitting and hissing - he will replace them with purrs and headbutts when he has adjusted. Instead, try to nonchalantly offer a "teaser" such as a string, or a wand toy.

5. Consider adopting one of his closest shelter mates. He is also grieving for his other "family". If that is not an option, then I understand, but it would be a big plus for all of you in the end. Ask the shelter workers for a suggestion on a likely candidate. Was he a "greeter" at the shelter? If so, he probably is missing the social activity.

6. Check out the info here at TCS on socializing a feral. Many of the tips will apply to this situation.
http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=9
Otherwise, as a last choice, you could talk to the shelter & see if you could do an exchange for another kitty who might more easily adjust to your household situation. I can tell by your post that you are very dedicated to your cat, and I am confident that you will be able to work this out, but I don't want you to feel trapped by the situation either.
I am sure that you will get better advice than mine, when the others wake up & get online, but meanwhile sending calming and soothing prayers and vibes your new boy

This is excellent advice!

I don't have anything else to add, except just give him time: he'll come around. Cats have to do things on their own terms. He's been through a lot, so it may take longer than usual. Just be patient, and let him come to you when he's ready.
post #8 of 17
Bless you for giving him a home. Things will get better. It takes time.

Great suggestions already posted. Feliway is a good idea.

Give him a room to adjust. An extra bedroom or your bedroom. Just keep the door closed until this becomes a familiar place for him.

Give him the same litter and food that the shelter used for now. You can change that later.

Spend time in the room and ignore him. Leave him the choice to come to you. It will happen. He is just scared to death! Work on your computer, read (out loud), watch TV, etc.

Feed him and clean the litter box at the same times each day. Routine will help him.

He has been in prison most of his life and it will take time to adjust. It must be at his pace.

Hang in there with him and he will reward you many times over.
post #9 of 17
Also great suggestions above, the only other thing I could think of if it wasn't mentioned is would it be possible for someone who he knew from the shelter to visit. Reassure him and give him some confidence. I'm sure this was mentioned but the best way to introduce a new kitty to the home is one room, one person, litter, food and water. Till they become comfortable in that environment, then slowly open up more territory. Happy Holidays and best wishes!
post #10 of 17
Some practical tips:

a) Lie on the floor next to the bed he's hiding under. Do NOT reach for him. Just talk to him, hang out, entice him with a tempting toy like a kitty fishing pole or laser toy or kitty treat.

b) As he starts to get a little braver and maybe come out to play with the toy, RESIST the tempation to reach for him. Let him come out a few times and start walking closer to you.

c) Once you get him out and sniffing around, hold out a hand with curled fingers and your index finger just slightly more outstretched. Don't reach for him, but extend your hand a bit. The idea is to get him to come sniff your finger like another cat's nose. I have a scaredy cat feral who now lets me pet her, but this is still my first approach. I call it "sniff the glove" in honor of Spinal Tap.

d) Once you've gotten to the sniff the finger stage, you might try petting him. Don't go for the head. Try to make the first approach to his back. My scaredy cat feral recoils if you go for her head.

e) You have to get on the floor. Scaredy cats don't react well to giants bending over and grabbing at them.

Good luck. He'll come around.
post #11 of 17
I'd suggest ignoring him as much as possible. If you don't make any moves towards him, he'll come to realize that you are not a threat, and then feline curiosity will kick in.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by hwc View Post
Some practical tips:

a) Lie on the floor next to the bed he's hiding under. Do NOT reach for him. Just talk to him, hang out, entice him with a tempting toy like a kitty fishing pole or laser toy or kitty treat.

b) As he starts to get a little braver and maybe come out to play with the toy, RESIST the tempation to reach for him. Let him come out a few times and start walking closer to you.

c) Once you get him out and sniffing around, hold out a hand with curled fingers and your index finger just slightly more outstretched. Don't reach for him, but extend your hand a bit. The idea is to get him to come sniff your finger like another cat's nose. I have a scaredy cat feral who now lets me pet her, but this is still my first approach. I call it "sniff the glove" in honor of Spinal Tap.

d) Once you've gotten to the sniff the finger stage, you might try petting him. Don't go for the head. Try to make the first approach to his back. My scaredy cat feral recoils if you go for her head.

e) You have to get on the floor. Scaredy cats don't react well to giants bending over and grabbing at them.

Good luck. He'll come around.
I would also add the following: make a trail of treats from the place he is to the "outside world"; at his own time he will eat it and come outside.

Pet him with a wand toy on his/her cheek - it releases pheromones.

Think like an afraid cat against the giants: At least in the beginning, pet him with one hand, (always at floor level), so he is not afraid of you picking him up.

On the same token, they are usually afraid of mouths - keep your face away from him, and blink constantly... when talking to him.

Also, when you are lying down on the floor, pretend to yawn and turn to the other side - lay there for a while not interacting with him... He will know soon you are not a threat; and that is all it boils down to!

Don't be discouraged... the rewards are amazing... Good Luck!
post #13 of 17
Excellent advice from everyone else. Yes, ignore him, talk gently to him when you're in the same room, and just be patient and let him come to you.

If your cat was in a cage environment for four years, then the new big space may just be scaring him right now. Let him stay in whatever hiding space he feels comfortable in... eventually he'll come out and explore his territory, little by little.

It may take many months. My cat came from a shelter and it was a similar situation. All the cats in the shelter cages seemed terrified and freaked out, but my cat seemed happy and relaxed in his cage. It was when I brought him home that he started acting strange -- sitting frozen in one place for hours, hiding under the bed, howling at night. I think he may have spent most of his life in cages, and a big apartment was scary to him.

But gradually he came out of his shell. Now he trots to the door when I come home, is very cuddly and affectionate, and can often be seen lying splayed in the middle of the living room with his belly exposed. He went from being very scared to completely at home and confident.
post #14 of 17
Once you get him to the stage where he is comfortable roaming the house, you will probably have the most success when he is on a chair and you can get next to him on another chair or, even better, the floor. Don't reach for him. Just try to lie down on the floor and then scoot closer to his chair. Once you can do this, you can let him sniff your finger and try for the petting action.

My feral kitty now has a "petting place" on a stool next to my computer chair. She hops up on the stool, just at arms length and lets me pet her. She even let my wife pet her last week for the first time. She didn't know it was my wife at the computer!

She will occasionally hop over into my lap to sniff a finger, but she won't stay long. Hopping up on the bed next to me is still pretty infrequent.

It's rewarding to make progress, but it takes a lot of patience.
post #15 of 17
One of my cats was extremely skittish when I brought him home eight years ago. It was about a year and a half before he'd let me pet him for more than a second. Now he's achieving mushball status - he'll sleep with me, he greets me, and he likes to sit on the bathtub and be scritched when I (sorry if it's TMI) am on the toilet.

I've noticed he's most affectionate when I'm in more submissive positions (eg, lying in bed and i guess, haha, on the toilet -- although how he knows that's different than regular sitting, I don't know.) He'll tolerate but not enjoy being picked up or lap sitting.

Like people have said, patience is the key and confining him to a room that he feels is his will probably make him feel more secure. Feed him and talk to him (and coo at him) but let the physical overtures come from him. He'll probably turn back into the mushball he was at the shelter; he's just freaked out right now from the transition and doesn't feel like he has any control over his environment. Giving him a spot that's his should help a lot.
post #16 of 17
Thread Starter 
The kitty is still lurking under the bed, but my roommate and I are very comforted by all of your sage advice! We'll continue to give him his space and to be patient with him while looking forward to the day he comes out to play!
We'll let you know how he does!

-TheBear's "Moms"
post #17 of 17
Sending prayers and vibes that he comes out soon Will be looking forward to "good news" updates, and hopefully pix
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