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A question about adopted cat behaviour

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Not sure where this goes...

I adopted Bailey about a year ago, all I was able to find out was that she was a stray, and pregnant. She had 10 kittens, and was fostered by the director of the local SPCA, at her home, with other cats and dogs. And once the kittens were weaned and adopted, momma cat was put up for adoption. I am guessing that she had her kittens in about mid November 2002, (from her records), I got her early February 2003.

She seemed to be very social, when I picked her up, from the beginning, she would purr and cling to my shoulder. And she has good litter box habits. I thought that meant that she had been a pet that got out when she was in heat.

But I am wondering if she may have been a stray for a while, because I am finding that she is very very skittish, and easily spooked. She will not sit on my knee, even though she sits and stares at me as if she wants to. I put treats on my leg, and only after months and months of work, she will not kind of rest against my leg. She was very frightened of people walking, and for the first while, I had to crouch down to approach her. She is very very fearful or cautious around clothing, and will not go into my bedroom. SHe does love being brushed, and we have long grooming sessions, where she purrs and rubs and rubs against me.

It doesn't make a lot of difference, of course, but I am wondering if this is a typical stray cat behaviour, and if I continue to work with her, will she gain more trust and confidence. I used to think that is was just her ingrained nature, and some cats are "like that", but now that I can see the changes in her confidence, I am wondering if she may come around and be more trusting.

One funny thing, we had a cat staying with us for a few weeks, and the cat used to chase Bailey up and down the hallway. I thought that Bailey was scared, then realized that she started the chase sometimes. Now she runs up and down the hallway every day, I think she is playing. She stares at me with big eyes, and takes off when I get close, and I thought she was being spooked, but seeing as she comes back for more, I think she is finally learning how to play!
post #2 of 5
Having brought in a lot of strays and ferals under a lot of different conditions (some brought in as adults, some hand-weaned orphans, some young kittens), I can offer that a lot of their behavior is based on their genetic temperament. Even within the same litter, where my socialization with all in that litter was consistent, they develop very different behaviors.

Muddy and Koko were hand-weaned from 10 days old. Neither are skittish, but Koko won't be held for the life of her while Muddy stands on his hind feet to be picked up and coddled. Their brothers (they live with friends) behavior ranges from "love me" slut to quiet observant introvert.

Samantha, Sebastian and Little Mom were adult ferals that I brought in about 14 years ago (they are all over the bridge now). Little Mom was the best lap kitty you could hope for, Samantha was skittish like your girl, and Sebastian was always half wild. All had the same life before arriving in my life and all had similar socialization.

Tigger and Eightball (littermates) are very opposite in behavior also, and Tigger shares the same highly skittish behavior as his sister Molly (lives with the neighbors). These were rescued at 6 weeks old, were absolutely loving and playful until they hit about 1-1/2 years old then went skittish on us. Eightball is far more outgoing, but won't have anything to do with strangers. (Tigger and Molly share a dad and appear to have a different dad than Eightball.)

Gaining their trust is the best thing you can do and sometimes it just takes a LONG time. You find ways of working with their individual temperaments over time.
post #3 of 5
Bailey may very well have been feral. She sounds like several of mine who were feral before I brought them inside.

Please read the story of socializing Lucky on this thread. You will see all of the best techniques to use to help a feral feel at home with a new family.

Thank you for adopting this special cat!
post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 
I have read the story of Lucky, and because Bailey was pretty social, I thought that she must have been a pet. She was in a foster home, so there was some socializing going on there. But the more I read here, I see some feral characteristics. For example, when she walks around the apartment, she often walks really low to the ground, very cautiously, with her head very low below her shoulders, and her tail down. And it was not until I had a perky young cat around that I realized that cats run around with their head up, and tail raised. (Sam never runs anywhere).

I'm just thinking that if she does have feral tendencies, there is more work I can do with her to make her feel more comfortable.

And I intentionally adopted an adult stray. I'm afraid of kittens, they have way too much energy for me.

eta: I am always just amazed at the dedication and work that you all put into rescuing and caring for ferals. You guys are heroes!!!!
post #5 of 5
Janet, she sounds to me like she may be a feral - or has feral tendencies because of having been a stray so long.

You know Boog's story well (BTW, I do have a kind of update on that. We kept making no progress with MCR so we called her adoptive mom to ask what happened to her. This was just a few days ago. She said she was adopted to an older woman in Portland, and supposedly she's getting in touch with her to put her in touch with us. We told her she had a week. That deadline is up this Sunday) - her behavior was quite different than all the other cats (all ferals). She is a great hunter, but never stalked around unless actually hunting.

Bailey's spookiness around people could simply be that she was abused by people. When we first adopted out Spooky to those horrible people, when we brought her back here she was terrified of bags and blankets for about a year. I think those idiots must have tried to catch her to put her in a crate by throwing blankets over her or something. It was literally a month ago that her behavior completely changed. She decided she trusted us, I think is what happened. She all of a sudden became a lap cat. We'd had long brushing sessions with her too, but otherwise she was completely skittish. Just opening the front door would send her scurrying to her safe place for at least half an hour.

Now she doesn't run to hide when we change the sheets. She doesn't run from the door, she doesn't run from grocery bags - as a matter of fact, the only time she runs is when she's playing (which she does a LOT of now), is totally on alert, and you take a step behind her and she didn't know we were there. It'll send her flying like a bullet - but not hiding! She'll come right back.

I so hope this happens between you and Bailey. Spook was only abused by those people for two or three weeks. If Bailey had been abused for longer, my thinking is it could take longer for her to overcome those fears with trust.
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