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How can I give a timid, gentle cat more confidence?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
We own two inside cats. One is well-adjusted and gregarious, the other is timid and is usually never seen by visitors. The latter cat, an interesting chocolate-colored mixbreed named Kona, is very gentle and friendly around family...unless a loud noise or sudden movement startles him. Then he's gone like a shot to a hiding place.

Okay, a little history is in order. Kona was rescued as a kitten from a feral environment in Hawaii. One problem is that he was 10 weeks old when this happened. The group that rescued him did a wonderful job of socializing him with children and older people, but those feral instincts prevail.

Kona's safe haven is the master bedroom. His favorite place to hide is on a blanket under the bed. He used to spend almost the whole day there, until we moved his food and litter into the opposite side of the house. Now he seems more eager to solicit attention, but stalks around the floor of the house like it's a jungle and he's prey. Just as a side note, the other cat is not aggressive toward him, nor is any member of the family.

What can I do to give Kona confidence and stop him from bolting at any sudden movements?
post #2 of 9
Im going thru the same thing..I adopted a 6 month old DSH from a shelter..he was deathly afraid of me and my adult son..he would hide under the dresser in my bedroom or the bed..it took 10 days to build up his trust in me to have him come halfway out from under the bed to let me pet him...unfortunately I had to break that trust and "grab him" as he needed to go to the vet for his kitten exam, rabies shot plus he was sneezing and had a discharge from his nose..

The vet is sure he is feral ..its been 12 days since the visit to the vet and he is showing more and more trust everyday..it helps that I have a 4yr old male cat because they get along great..he uses their litter box and the scratching posts in the house and eats when the other one eats...those were the things I was worried about so Im happy...I know its just a matter of time til he fully trusts me..be patient and in time yours will too
post #3 of 9
Whether they were born feral or not, all cats have their own personalities. Some will always hide from strangers, and others will be outgoing. I've socialized feral born cats from the age of 10 days to 2 years old. What I found is that their behavior is driven from genetics as much as environment.

What helps when you socialize any skittish cat is to remember what cats like and dislike. The more things you can give them that are things that they like (or make them comfortable), the more outgoing they can become.

I'll use my (OTB) Eightball as an example. He was feral born but rescued at about 5 weeks old. He was extremely skittish all his life. My best friend used to joke about never knowing what he really looked like, cause all she ever saw was his back end running away from her. My friend is an outgoing person, with a loud personality. When she realized that what Eightball needed was to keep to his daily routine (cats LOVE routine), hated loud noises, sudden movements, and anything towering over him, she would sit still on the sofa watching TV in the evening, and he would come out and sit next to her. Eightball's routine included TV watching in my lap on the sofa in the evening.

I also boosted his confidence by doing simple things like feeding in a place that was higher than the other cats. Height is another important things to cats, which is why you see cats in a multi-cat household competing for the top of a cat tree. Each of my cats gets fed wet food in the evening in their own bowls. For years, Eightball ate with some of the other cats on the floor, while some of the other (special needs) cats ate on a table, counter, etc. Within a few weeks of moving his bowl to the higher ledge of the counter (higher than the rest of the cats), he actually became more generally relaxed. I raised his stature in the house, and it gave him more confidence. It made him feel more special.

If you have good friends that are cat people, ask that they remain quiet and calm in your house. Ask if they would sit on the floor at his level and entice him with toys or food. He may never come out for all people, but you can expand his universe of the people that he "accepts". With some cats, that's all you will ever accomplish.

Above all else, have patience with them. They do things on their own schedule and not yours. Eightball was 12 years old before he came out to sit next to my friend. We celebrated that night.
post #4 of 9
Thanks for your post Momof...it made me feel better about what's going on integrating the new kitten into the household with my adult cat..in just the past few days the little guy is now letting me pet him (when he wants to be pet) and surprisingly he was on my bed this morning and let me pet him for about 5 mins..
heres my problem now..jealousy shown by the adult cat..Im trying my best to make things even between the two of them but I have to show a little more attention to the little one so he wont be so skittish..
The adult cat doesnt take his jealousy out on the little one, he takes it out on me..he acts aloof towards me..an example was tonight when I was brushing him..the little one was interested so i brushed him for a bit..the big one got up and walked away..I know they have a keen sense of smell..should I get a different brush for the little one?
post #5 of 9
I've noticed that my timid cats have gotten more social as they get older.

When my RB kitty Chynna was young, she was always in hiding when people were over. As she got older, she started to come out more and more. She lived until she was over 18 years, and for years before that she was Miss Social Butterfly. Even loving going to the vet because she loved the attention they gave her. She also greeted people at the door so she wouldn't miss out on any lovings coming her way!!!

Abby has been the same way. She hid all of the time. She's almost 13 now and even when I have people over, while she isn't all over them, she is at least in the same room after a few minutes.
post #6 of 9
I have one that is afraid of people (besides our household) also. I have found that cats are usually more confident when up high. Do they have a perch or anything up high in your living room? I guess it doesn't bother me if mine is skiddish of other people. We have her for our enjoyment not our guests. If she' more comfortable in the bedroom when you have guests leave her there. IMHO Mine also cannot tolorate children They will send her to the back of the closet.
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by glenman12 View Post
Thanks for your post Momof...it made me feel better about what's going on integrating the new kitten into the household with my adult cat..in just the past few days the little guy is now letting me pet him (when he wants to be pet) and surprisingly he was on my bed this morning and let me pet him for about 5 mins..
heres my problem now..jealousy shown by the adult cat..Im trying my best to make things even between the two of them but I have to show a little more attention to the little one so he wont be so skittish..
The adult cat doesnt take his jealousy out on the little one, he takes it out on me..he acts aloof towards me..an example was tonight when I was brushing him..the little one was interested so i brushed him for a bit..the big one got up and walked away..I know they have a keen sense of smell..should I get a different brush for the little one?
Sounds like progress to me.

For the jealousy thing: it will work itself out. Spend extra time with both of them right now - your adult to make sure he knows you still love him, and the little one to keep up his socialization. They are both adjusting right now. A little extra love goes a long way with cats.
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Momofmany View Post
Sounds like progress to me.

For the jealousy thing: it will work itself out. Spend extra time with both of them right now - your adult to make sure he knows you still love him, and the little one to keep up his socialization. They are both adjusting right now. A little extra love goes a long way with cats.
yes, still making progress..some days more than others..if Im sitting on the couch, every now and then he'll come and lay between my feet..Ill bend over and pet him and he loves it..but his trust factor only lasts a minute or two and then he bolts..the jealousy part with the adult is almost non-existent now..
post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by glenman12 View Post
yes, still making progress..some days more than others..if Im sitting on the couch, every now and then he'll come and lay between my feet..Ill bend over and pet him and he loves it..but his trust factor only lasts a minute or two and then he bolts..the jealousy part with the adult is almost non-existent now..
That sounds very encouraging!

Remember he is also still very young, and his attention span is about the size of a pea. He might be bolting partly because he has more interesting things to do. The fact that he is walking up to you is a great sign that he is adjusting. Keep your patience up, don't force yourself on him, and he'll be sleeping in your lap before you know it.
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