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Cat afraid of people

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

First of all thanks to everyone that reads all of this, I'm afraid it's gonna be a long post.

Let's start from the beginning. I picked up a cat from the street around six years ago. She decided to adopt me. One sunday morning I woke up and there she was, staring at my window. After around 8 hours I couldn't resist anymore and brought her in, she had not moved in the whole day, she was sitting on a motorbike, looking up.

The first thing I did was taking her to a vet. He told me she was in perfect health, around 3 months old, and most probably had been on the street for no more than a few days.

But very soon I realised she was not "normal". That time I took her into my apartment was the only time she allowed anyone to grab her (she may have problems, but she's smart ). The main problem seems to be that she's extremely afraid of being touched. During the last 6 years she's only got love and attention and there has been some improvement, but very small. Before, she wouldn't allow you to touch her and would be as far as possible from you. Now she comes close to you sometimes, you can see she wants you to play with her or wants to rub against your leg, but she can't. As soon as you make the slightest movement she would start hissing and running like mad. It's very difficult to describe on a post how scared she is, but you can feel it very clearly when you see it.

Three years ago I had to move from Spain to London because of my work so both of my cats went to live with my parents. Both of them and my grandmother are crazy about cats, so no problem at all with that. Marlene, because that's her name , adopted my grandmother as her new owner. She is the only person that has the privilege of being approached by Marlene, but she cannot touch her, if she tries Marlene will bite her.

We all got used to her and there has not been major problems apart from the fustration of not being able to "cure" Marlene further, no matter how hard we tried. But things have changed recently. The other day Marlene got into my grandmother's bedroom at night and scratched her face while she was sleeping. As you can imagine the poor woman got extremely scared. She is now getting very old and not in perfect health so she felt helpless while the attack lasted. It's possible that Marlene was sitting by her on the bed and got scared when my grandmother moved while asleep, but the problem is we don't really know.

Do you think she may be turning more aggresive? Any tips on her behaviour and how to handle or improve it?

If you need any more details just ask, the post is already too long and I didn't want to make you read a book


post #2 of 8
Hi Alex,

Welcome to the board first off. What you are describing is really a normal feral cat reaction. If a litter is born in the wild, in the time frame of 2-6 weeks of age, if they are not introduced to humans, they have no concept of us, and therefore go through life extrememly skittish, scared, or aloof of many who come into their life to "save them."

The latest attack though, has me concerned. When was the last time Marlene went to the vet? It is entirely possible she is ill in some manner and you just don't see it yet. Cats are experts at masking pain, they learn how to do that early, or they become someone's lunch.

I have 8 cats, all ferals. At any given time, although they are socialized, I know they might bite or scratch me (some of them) others, who have been raised by us and bottle fed will not. I have some that will be sleeping in our lap, hear a phantom noise, spring into action, and leave behind a shredded leg because their claws were engaged.

I know it is a difficult concept for some cat owners to accept. But petting is an experience and an emotion that "we" crave. Some cats, just aren't used to human touch, and therefore feel vulnerable and will not respond in a positive way. I don't know how you have tried to "cure" her. Whether you would scoop her up and hold her even if she protested so you could get your pets in, but that won't work. What does work is to ignore her. It is hard work to do, but let her make the overtures, and the first time she bumps against your leg, don't bend over and pet her- she will swat at you, and she will hiss. She is bumping you to mark you with her scent, to make you her comfort zone. Experience has shown me with the type of cat that has Marlene's personality, three bumps, is deemed safe to pet. By then there is enough scent on you for her to feel comfortable. Do not swoop down and pet her. Instead, sit on the floor, do not look into her eyes and hold your hand out and low in front of her. She will approach, sniff, hiss, (you keep still) when she nudges your hand- go with the nudge, touch her briefly, get up and leave the room.

I know it sounds nuts, but it does work. I have been using this system with the cats that come here for years. We had one fella in our rafters for over a year, and when he finally decided to come down and join us, he turned into the best loving and wonderful lap cat ever. You can see his picture in Fur Pictures Only Forum in the thread Ferals Before and After.

I encourage you to stick around, go in the Feral Forum pop that forum back to the beginning of it's origin and read the many stories placed there of people who have gone through the same thing you are now with Marlene. But I cannot stress enough that a vet visit, would be a very good thing for her right now.

Good luck!
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hi hissy,

Thanks for the welcome and the reply

I'm going to take Marlene to the vet, just in case. As it's impossible to hold her it's very difficult to know if she may have some pain. She looks perfectly normal, but you never know. The nurse is not going to be very happy. Last time, around a year ago, Marlene scratched both her arms quite badly (and I had warned her to be VERY careful)

When I said we tried to "cure" her I mean we tried to make her see we don't want to harm her. What we do is ignore her completely unless she comes to us, which is not often. In those cases I try to hold my hand in front of her, let her smell it, and very slowly try to pet her. Normally she will start complaining right away and then u better stop. But even this procedure is not safe. Sometimes as soon as you hold your hand in front of her she will try to scratch you.

I was wondering if she may have had a really bad experience when young. Do you think she may have been hit or "tortured" in some way? When I took her to the vet, just after adopting her, the vet told me that she was not a street cat. She was perfectly healthy, clean and well fed. I don't want to think what someone may have done to her

In any case I'm going to have a good read through the feral forum

post #4 of 8
It is entirely possible she was abused, scared, tormented while living in the streets. I rescue abused and abandoned cats and some of what I have seen would make your heart weep. Kids especially can be very cruel to a small kitten. If possible before you take her to the vets, get a bottle of Feliway spray and spray the inside of the pet carrier really well. Put a small amount of vanilla extract under her chin, to help her not get buggy over the stress smells she will encounter when that front door opens. Also invest in a feliway Comfort Zone room Diffuser by Farnum Pet-works quite well


Best of luck! And I am going to move this to the Feral Forum so you can hear from all our feral experts who have undergone this same type of treatment from their strays.
post #5 of 8
oh wow you sound like you have your hands full Alex....my heart goes out to you both. You sound like a very warm and sensitive person to have so much patience and love towards Marlene. She is a very very lucky little cat to have you as her owner. I pray that she does learn to realise quite soon that you do only want to give her loads of loving attention. I hope it all works out.

It breaks my heart to think of people abusing cats or any animals...makes my blood boil with such anger....it is basically the same as hurting a human baby to me cause they really are so helpless and defenseless.

I couldn't give you any advice for your problem...but wow Hissy sure knows what she is talking about and hope it works for you both.

Welcome to the board and please keep us informed of what happens with Marlene.
post #6 of 8
Welcome Alex

My 3 years old cat is scared of ppl too she runs when
company comes over,she's always been this way.
When they leave she comes out again
post #7 of 8
Hi. My first cat, Isaac, who passed away a few years ago suddenly began attacking my grandmother after she had lived with him two years. I later found out that he had diabetes and needed insulin shots.

My thoughts were that he was attacking because he felt sick or weird due to his high blood sugar level. Maybe he blamed the feeling on her because she was "new" or maybe he attacked her because she was the weakest human.

Anyway, maybe your cat is sick or feels bad and is doing the same thing.

hope this helps

post #8 of 8
Another thing that people tend to forget about is, is that petting some cats for any length of time causes them to be overstimulated or even sexually aroused, even if they are fixed. Having short sessions of petting- no more than a minute in length, and gradually working up to longer will work. But petting is really a response we crave, and not all cats need to be petted to feel loved.
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