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Baffled by my new cats

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
3 weeks ago I adopted 2 4 month old mixed manx cats from the local animal shelter. The cats constantly hide and runaway from me. I kept them contained in my guest bathroom at the suggestion of the vet. every night i got them out and handled them, and petted them until they fell asleep in my bed.

after a week of that, they seemed to be less timid and skittish, so i let them out to the rest of the house. I live in a 3 story townhouse. i shut off all the rooms with doors to make the place less overwhelming. now after a week, they still hide and act scared.

this is the first time i've had animals of my own (since i was a child). is this normal behavior? what can i do to make them more comfortable & less scared? will they snap out of it on their own? one of them i haven't seen for 2 days. i know that they are eating because the food and water is disapearing, and they are using the litter box as well. i just don't to have cats that i never see and that are scared.
post #2 of 19

Did your kittens exhibit similar behavior at the shelter? Perhaps they're a bit shell shocked. Some cats are highly motivated to be with their people and others prefer the company of other cats and some just want to be left alone. These differences in behavior are influenced by genetics and environment plus any learned experience.

I think I would start by asking the shelter workers how the kittens acted during their stay. Were they outgoing and friendy, or stand off-ish and shy? Knowing their background before coming to the shelter may also prove helpful, however, it is not always easy to obtain that information.

Since they are kittens, you have a better chance of helping them overcome any fears they may have of you, or your home. I think it was a good idea to close off some of the house. If the kittens are on the main floor that you are usually on they will accustom themselves to your movements, the routine of the house, etc. etc. Some cats hate loud noises. Mine, for instance, like it very quiet when they eat! Even after 7 years, if they are eating and someone rings the doorbell, whoosh, they're gone. Fortunatley, they return quickly, once they realize there is no danger. I think mutliple cats also create a chain reaction to unknown or known threats. If one runs, the other sometimes think, oh gee, maybe I should run too. It depends on the situation. I have one little girl that grew up in a shelter for 4 months of her life and now, after 2 years, she still jumps off my lap if my husband sneezes (he is loud!) However, she is much better. She immediately comes back to my lap. I will never know if it was the shelter experience or genetics with her but I just try to comply with her needs. We keep noise levels down as best as any household can, no sudden movements and nothing ever by surprise! Plus she always has an escape route. She has her own bed and her own cat scratching post. I accept the fact that if she needs to jump off my lap and run and hide for a minute and then come right back, so be it. She is a very cautious kitty.

Try to give your kittens some extra time to adjust to their new surroundings and you. Never force the kittens before they are ready. You don't want to take one step forward and two steps back. Patience is the key. One more thing that may help immensely -- Playtime is very important to kittens. It gives them a chance to practice their hunting skills, release pent up energy, build a strong bond with you, plus it's fun. If you can, set aside 10 to 20 minutes a day just for playtime. Any of the interactive play wands (Da Bird, Cat Dancer), or those wands with feathers on the end are very good for play. (Just don't leave the toys out with the kittens unattended). Experiment with different toys. Maybe one will like to run and chase and the other retrieve scrunched up pieces of paper. Paper bags are great hiding places too.

I hope this has been helpful. I think in time your kittens will come out of their shells. Good luck and all my best in health and happiness.

post #3 of 19
It's funny I should come across this! I have 2 Manx cats but they are all Manx with tails. They are brother and sister. They were the same way as kittens. They werent handled enough at a young age. They have become alot more friendly, but still at 3 years they get scared pretty easy. You have provided these guys with a chance to know love. Give it lots of time and lots of love and they will come around!
post #4 of 19
Manx are very, very shy cats and they need time to get to know their people and feel safe. As Sandie said, her cats are still shy and I hardly ever get to see them when I visit her. If you can, you need to contain them in one room (not a bathroom) for awhile - if you have a spare bedroom or computer room where they can feel safe and really get to know the room. When cats come out of a shelter they tend to have agoraphobia (fear of open places, or in this case, fear of being free). While you certainly do not want to cage them, you need to limit their space. however a bathroom tends to be cold and uniniviting, so try to find a bedroom for them. For about a week let them get comfortable in that room and go in there and handle them as much as time allows. Then, open the door - they will come out when they are ready. They will be okay, you picked a really shy breed. Look up info on them on the internet and learn about them. Just keep loving them, they will be fine, honest!
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
thanks you guys. i asked the people at the shelter about the circumstances leading up to them being at the shelter and it was an 'owner can't keep'. as far as behavior at the shelter the lady i spoke to didn't know.

as far as playing with them, last night one of them played (i had the stick with the feathers on it) for the first time ever. in the past they have always been too jumpy to play. they would run away when i pulled anything out. so i have scattered balls and such all over the house and i can see that they are playing while i'm gone because it's always in a different place when i get home. my tabby (cracker is her name) i haven't seen since thursday night. i just worry that she's never going to come out around me. i can't handle her and show her love if i can't find her.

business is sending me away for 2 weeks at the beginning of april and i'm not sure what to do with the cats. is it better to put them in a kennel, or just have a friend come over and tend to them? i'm thinking having a friend come over because i don't want to freak them out again.

any input would be great!!! i'm totally lost here
post #6 of 19
I would definatly have a friend come over a few times a day or spend a few hours there if possible. Putting them in a kennel will probably make them regress. They have been traumatized by loosing their first home already. I would also leave a tv or radio on. I am going away for 4 days this weekend and I have someone living here to take care of mine. Of course I have 11 cats that are staying home and the dog. Give them some time and they will come around. It has been a rough road for them so far.
post #7 of 19
Thread Starter 
so i just did some reading up on the manx breed and all the websites say that manxs are friendly, affectionate cats that get very attached to their owners. after 3 weeks one of my cats still runs away and only lets me pet her if she's trapped. i'm really getting very discouraged. the other cat will be affectionate one minute and run from me the next. it's like they don't remember me. i'm at my wits end.
post #8 of 19
Don't give up hope! Manx are supposed to be very loyal cats but usually to one owner or family. However, you have gotten cats who are now traumatized and afraid they will be thrown away again. It is going to take some time and patience on your part. I would really try putting them in just one room, and come in to see and play with them several times a day. Then when they get more comfie, give them some more space. It will take some time to undo what the prior owners did. 3 weeks is not a very long time. It may take a few months for them to feel secure.
post #9 of 19
Please follow Sandie's suggestions as to (a) putting them in one smaller room and spending time with them, (b) having someone come over to care for them (do not put them in a kennel or you will have to start from ground zero when you get back) and (c) do not get discouraged. Something happened to these cats - they had a home, you do not know how they were treated - someone threw them away - they ended up in a cage - they need time to trust that you won't throw them away too! Also, too much room is scarey for them, if you confine them in one room they will get to know everything in that room, be more comfortable with their surroundings and be more comfortable with you around their familiar space. Try it and do not get discouraged!
post #10 of 19
Thread Starter 
I just called the animal shelter again to see if i could find anyone to shed some light on my situation. i got someone who remembered the cats and she was able to tell me that they had basically been wild. part of a litter from a stray cat, who was later hit by a car. they have never lived in a house or been around humans on any consistant basis. she suggested that i contain them again and only feed them when i'm in the room with them so they will start to associate me with food. that way they will have a positive association wiht me. so when i get home today i will corral them and start back at square one.
post #11 of 19

Sounds like you may have a couple of feral or semi-feral kitties on your hands. If you want to learn to work with them, try this cat site. It has some wonderful suggestions. Just be patient though, as it won't happen over night.


Good luck and keep us posted.
post #12 of 19

There is an article in the March 2001 Cats Magazine entitled, "How to Tame a Wild Kitten" that may be helpful. Their web site is: http://www.catsmag.com. Good luck and let us know how it is going.

post #13 of 19
Thread Starter 
thanks for all the tips you guys! i really really appreciate it. i think that the cats are semi-feral. when i have them contained, they hiss when i come in the room initially, but they can't wait to be petted, and immediatly start purring. starting today i'm bringing the food into them and taking it with me when i leave so they start to make a positive association with me. every night i'm going to take them out and just pet & play with them. they will play, which is a good sign. the article i just read (thanks kathleen!) says that it takes a while to get feral kitties to play and when they do it makes them more self confident and less frightened. so i'm very thankful that my cats will play with the feathers and things i've bought.
post #14 of 19
Hang in there and your cats will come around. One of mine was a feral but, once she got to trust us she has become the sweetest, most loving (also pushy) cat you can imagine. You have done a wonderful thing taking two cats from the shelter and they will come to love you and appreiate all you do for them
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
i know this is an old thread but i wanted to post an update. for the past 6 weeks i've been keeping the kitties contained during the day and taking them out at night, playing with them and trying to get them used to me. i take them out for 12-14 hours on saturdays and sundays as well. cracker has been coming out of her shell and she will jump on the bed when i call her and let me pet her. she likes the attention. however barrel spends most of her time under the dresser. slowly she's been coming out more and playing with her sister. she still runs from me & won't let me pet her. however....

today we had a breakthrough!!!! while cracker was rubbing my legs and letting me pet her, barrel came over and wanted to be petted as well! i feel like i've won the lottery!!

she has come over to me numerous times today for pets. it was all i could do not to cry. i have had moments of such pure frustration that i couldn't imagine this day ever getting here. i know that i still have a long way to go but today has been the most satisfying day since i got them. just wanted to share that with everybody
post #16 of 19

What great news. So happy to hear that the kitties are coming around. I have to commend you. You hung in there for the long haul and it looks like it is paying off. In this "throw away" society many people would have given up -- nobody on this site -- but I've heard some sad stories.

Good work. All my best in health and happiness to you and Cracker and Barrel (great names!)


Kathleen Tuttle
post #17 of 19
Good for you and wonderful news for your cats. You hung in there and now it sounds like you have two happy cats. It is wonderful when they come around, isn't it?
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
i can't even begin to tell you how great it feels!

i wouldn't have ever given them up. i had resigned myself to sharing the house with kitties that never came around and were scared of me if it came down to it. that was the committment i made when i brought them home.
post #19 of 19

By golly I think you've done it!! Sounds like your kitties are finally coming around. It's a great feeling. I wish I had more time and room to work with feral cats. Keep up the great work. It will be worth it!
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