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New cat, from a bad home.

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hello! Dante's Mom here! Dante is my 1.5 year old Siamese mix who I just love to death! He's my baby and I just don't know what I'd do without him!

Let me try to make a long story short, and get to my question:

My roommate and I got Dante and another kitten (Luna) from the same litter and raised them together. We read a lot on how to raise them and teach them to behave and I'm proud to say that they are both extremly well behaved cats. The never claw anything, never bite or scratch, they understand that human hands are not for playing, they don't whine or beg, they listen when we tell them no, etc. Dante will even lay still while I clip his nails, and when I had to put meds down his throad he was fine with that,too. (I totally disagree with that article that says you should not use the squirt bottle method to train a kitten - it worked great on mine and they both LOVE water!)

Anyway, in November (shortly after Dante and Luna's first birthday) I moved across the country and we had to seperate the dynamic duo. Luna did not take it well, but Dante seemed okay.... but I think a large part of that was that Luna was still in the same house while Dante was in a completely new environment.

Okay, so after being in our new place for about 2 months and Dante being an only Cat, my best friend asked me if we would adopt her cat. We had been thinking about getting Dante a playmate b/c we knew he had to miss his sister (they were SO close!) so we accepted. Now, this new cat (Lily) is the problem.

We again read what we could and did a nice slow introduction of the two. That went fine and they do not fight and they even sometimes play together! It's not Lily's interaction with Dante that is the problem... it's her interaction with US!

Lily came from a home with three large dogs. They got her as a kitten thinking that she would grow up with the dogs and get used to them, but she never did. She spent the first 2 years of her life hiding under everything afraid of the dogs... until we took her. Now she is very skiddish.... and as you can imagine, scared! She gets along okay with Dante now but she ducks and runs and hides from us. Sometimes when she WANTS attention she will jump up on my lap, but after about a minute she runs away. She will rub up against my legs a lot, but if I bend down to pet her she ducks and runs away. If you try to pick her up, she will bite you. (we don't do that anymore.) Sometimes she will allow you to pet her when she's laying groggy on the bed, but other times she will bite you and run away.

We're doing our best to take things slowly with her... petting her when we can in short spurts, half picking her up (with her back paws still on the ground) and such, but it's been almost 3 months now and she's not coming around much. I'm worried that if a day were to come when I would have to put medication down HER throat, I would never be able to do it... and if I had to get her into her cage to go to the vet? forget about it!! I have to take her in for shots soon and I have no idea how I'm going to do it, or how the vet is going to feel when she bites her!

I'm just not sure what to do. I guess we're doing the right thing by slowly trying to get her used to us and gradually getting her used to petting and picking her up and such, but it's been rough. Especially with Dante and Luna being such great cats! It's been hard on ME to have a pet that wants nothing to do with me. I've even considered giving her back to my friend, but the poor cat had a miserable life there plus I don't want to traumatize Dante again by taking this sister away from him, too.

...any suggestiuons??

(Thanks so much! Sorry this is so long!)
post #2 of 11
I can't say this for sure, but it sounds to me like Lilly has a history of abuse. Maybe not horrible, awful, life threatening abuse, but not a good life nonetheless. I have to wonder how your friends tried to get her used to the dogs? Maybe they picked her up and put her in the midst of them when she was already scared of them? I don't know, but for some reason she doesn't trust hands reaching for her. It will take a while for her to get over whatever caused this mistrust in her, but with time and patience it can happen. The fact that she ever comes up to you for pets is a great sign that she's starting to trust you!

The best advice, though very difficult to do, is to ignore her. That's the best way to show her that you aren't a threat to her. Tend to her needs, but otherwise don't approach her or reach for her. If she comes up to you for pets, give her a few strokes and that's all. Try not to get her to the point where she feels she has to bite.

As for catching her for the vets, I totally understand. Our little girl, Ophelia, will NOT let me pick her up for any reason, and has definite opinions about what she will and won't do. Going into the carrier is on her "Won't Do" list. What we do it get her isolated in one room, come armed with towels, put the towel over her completely and then pick her up to put in the carrier. (Hopefully without too much chasing around and traumatizing...we've got a system down now.) Once the towel is over her and she can't see, she relaxes and we can pick her up with no problems.

Hope this helps!
post #3 of 11
I hope Hissy sees this and responds.....she is the expert on socializing skittish cats. I know that one of her strongest suggestions is to simply ignore the cat! Instead of seeking out the cat and giving her attention, just ignore her until she comes to you to ask for love. When Hissy replies, she will be able to better explain what to do.

In the meantime, please know that things will get better, though she may never be the lover that Dante is.
post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys! I really appreciate your advice. I think I see how ignoring her could help in some situations.... that is kind of how we have gotten her to stop biting us so often. If she even looks like she's about to strike, we just pull our hand back and walk away. She doesn't try to bite us nearly as often as she once did, but then again we don't try to pet her as often as we first did either. We're starting to learn the circumstances that she will allow us to pet her and we avoid those that she usually strikes in.

...but as far as ignoring her the rest of the time: That wont make her feel neglected? She came from a home where she didn't get much contact with anyone because she always hid from the three large dogs. So we thought that if we try to give her love by petting her and showing her that we can touch her without hurting her that it might help her see that we mean no harm. Maybe I'm overthinking the whole thing.... It just seems that since the biggest problem is that she doesn't want much to do with us, ignoring her would only encourage that...??

She has this strange habbit that anytime I go into our spare bedroom/office and sit down at my computer, she jumps up on my lap. EVERY time, no fail. She wont sit though... she stands there akwardly and lets me pet her, usually for about 7 or 8 minutes, which is a record for her by FAR. This seems to be the ONLY place that she will be loving, and she only does it to me, not to my boyfriend. Even if he sits in the same chair. I've been trying to take advantage of the situation by touching her feet and tugging a little at her collar (man it was SO HARD to get that on her!) and even picking her halfway up and then setting her back down. She'll mostly let me do these things - but only when she jumps up on my lap in THAT chair. Anywhere else, forget it. I'll try to sit down on the floor with her or on the sofa and she ducks when she sees my hand coming and then splits. Does anyone have any theories for this strange behavior?

When lotsocats said "she may never be the lover that Dante is" it almost brought a tear to my eye. He is such an increadible animal and I am so lucky to have him. I'm spoiled by him and heart broken that Lily acts like a sterotypical "cat." I'd like to think that it was my upbringing that made Dante as cool as he is and that I can do the same with Lily, but after a few months I'm starting to wonder if Lily will ever be a loving animal.
post #5 of 11
Lily could have several problems that are all human related. Even though they got her as a young kitten, that does not mean that at the crucial age 2-12 weeks of age that she was handled by humans and got used to that type of interaction. If she wasn't exposed, she has no human socialization skills and that could play into her behavior.

You need to take her cues from her. If she doesn't want to be picked up, don't pick her up. If it comes down to her being sick and you have to put meds in her, cross that bridge when you come to it. If she bites when you pet her, stop petting her.Petting is an emotion we crave as humans, some cats just simply do not know how to respond to it, or it overstimulates them and makes them aggressive. If she is not spayed, get her spayed, that will help as well.

If you know that she is healthy, then just ignore her. That includes the occassional times she comes out and headbumps you (at first) IGNORE her. Nothing gets to a shy cat more than being ignored. See to her creature comforts, but ignore her otherwise. If she hides, let her hide, don't stick your head under the bed and tap the floor and ask her "Lily are you okay?" Just leave her be, let her have her secure place where no one bugs her and she will come around. But it will take time.

Another thing to consider is there might be old pet odors in your home that you are not aware of, and they probably belong to a dog. Also when you go outside, do you have contact with other dogs? If so, be sure and take a shower and change your clothes before you even try to have any interaction with her.

I have 12 cats, 1 dog and 2 horses. All my animals get along with each other, since we rescue abused animals, occassionally a new one will come into the house.It takes time and patience, but eventually the new animal be it a cat or a dog, comes to accept the way of things around here. None of these animals comes to us in perfect condition. We have learned over the years of working with them to work with them not against them. I have learned to put away the water bottle, the scare tactics and just learn about the animals and most importantly listen to them, for they are great teachers.

Good luck!
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Hissy - Thanks so much for your advice. I really think you're right that Lily did not get the kind of love and attention she should have when she was a kitten. No doubt about that. That's why we decided to take her. Don't get me wrong, my friends love their pets and they are healthy animals... but in my opinion they have too many for their busy lives and the animals don't get the attention they should. And Lily most definately did not because she just hid all of the time. Now the have a newborn baby. When they asked us to take Lily we couldn't say no.... that poor cat was miserable and we wanted to help her.

I guess I should be thankful for the progress she has shown and just hope that her socialization skills come around, too. She does not hide all the time anymore, and now she sleeps ON the bed rather than under it. When she runs from us, she is getting to the point where she will just run into the other room, but not under something. I guess that is am improvement! She is active and will play with her toys and with Dante, and she charges around the house and bounces off things in fits of energy like any other cat. She really loves to chase the laser light pen, a favorite of both our cats. It does seem like she has adapted to her environment and is comfortable in our apartment.... I guess that's what makes us all the more frustrated that she has not adjusted to us. She's doing so well in every other aspect. It's hard not to take it personally!

Darnit why can't cats just talk to us and tell us what their problem is! =P

As for the carrying case, we bought a top load one and actually got her in it once (when we were working on introducing the two). She would NOT go into the front load one.. I was scared to try again because she got REALLY upset when we tried so that's why we bought the other one. I like the towel idea - I'd also have to put on a sweatshirt and thick gloves to protect myself! The real trick might be when we get her to the vet... but I guess they have professionals there that can deal with her. The good thing is that she's really small... I'd guess about 7 lbs full grown. (Dante is 14 - they are quite the odd couple!) Again, I'm so spoiled with Dante. I get out his cage and show it to him and he walks right in and lays down. He's such a good boy - there are no words to describe him.

Oh, and yes she is fixed and microchipped and all that jazz and Dante is fixed as well. But Lily is overdue for her 2nd year shots. Her old "mom" has yet to send me her records but I keep bugging her about it.

The ignoring thing is going to be difficult, but I will try and see how it works. I trust your opinion since it seems like you are the expert on the subject!

Thanks so much!!!!!
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
OH, and the pet odors thing! Eek! We just volunteered at the humane society to walk the dogs and help socialize the cats (ironic, huh? hehe). Is Lily going to freak out everytime we come home smelling like other animals? (I don't think we've ever had contact with other animlas and been around her in the past.) I hope that doesn't make things worse. Shower and change clothes - check! We'll try to make sure we do that before we get near her. Dante doesn't care. He likes everyone and everything... we even took him to my mom's house and introduced him to her cat and he liked him!

I'm sure I'll be asking for your help again in December, too... we hope to buy a house and move. And most likely shortly there after we plan to get a puppy. We are confident that Dante will be fine, but the fur might fly with Lily. Oy vay... not looking forward to that!
post #8 of 11
Prior to putting her in the carrier, spray the inside with Feliway spray, then put a dab of vanilla extract under her chin. That will keep her calmer and away from all the stress pheremones she will get hit with the minute the door to the vet's office is opened. Also cover her carrier once she is inside, with a dark cloth. I also take a pipe cleaner and stick it inside the slats, twist a lightweight toy around the end (that is inside the carrier) and the secure it outside. This is a stress toy that hangs over their heads, and when they are stressed, they reach up and bat that, versus attacking the first helpful hand that reaches in to get them.
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Great tips, thank you!
post #10 of 11
The real trick might be when we get her to the vet... but I guess they have professionals there that can deal with her.
Please, please, please be careful of these "professionals". My RB Shalimar was scared to death of the vet. She turned from a loving gentle kitten to a cornered tiger. At first I didn't know how to deal with her so I let the professionals do it. They pulled out this thick leather glove covered with cat hair. I don't think they've cleaned it in 10 yrs. So it was also covered with hormones. He grabbed her by the scruff of the neck and held her off the table while the vet gave the shot. I screamed louder than she did when he pulled that stunt. A friend of mine showed me how to control a cat that night. And that professional never touched her again.

Put the cat on the table and using your body weight, arms and hands, limit her movements. For the vet to examine her head, put her tail against your chest, lean forward and put your forearms on either side of her body. Using your hands, cup her head but keep your fingers under her chin. Reverse the position to examine the back. For the belly, sit her on the table, with one hand, support her behind the front legs at her scruff and the other hand cup the head and chest to lift her to a begging position. This position also allows for examining the front legs.

post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 
Sandy - Yeiks! I'd never take my cat back to a vet that acted like that, either. I have a rule about vets... they have to be very gentle and loving with my animals (treat them as I would) and tell me/them how beautiful they are. If they don't do either of these things, I go elswhere. *I* have been to a bad doctor and I'm not about to put my "kids" through the same thing. My current vet went on for about 10 minutes about how strong and muscular Dante was and how handsome he is....she even called in one of the other doctors to "see the pretty kitty!" And she was very gentle in examining him and didn't even charge us for the office visit - just the meds. I think she's a winner... but Lily will be the true test!

Thanks so much for the lesson on how to deal with her on the table - I will print it out and keep it for when I have to take her in for her shots. It's not going to be pretty, that's for sure!
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