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Unfriendly kitty became unfriendly cat -- help!

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone,

Does anyone have any tips on how to make an unfriendly cat friendlier?

About a year ago our family adopted a kitten, 8 wks old, who has been scared of us ever since. The only one she lets pet her is me, and even I cannot pick her up. We are not manhandling her at all -- we have tried to give her space, to be calm and loving around her, and still she has not grown out of this. She is scared of loud noises, my husband's foot steps for example, and runs skittering away. But in the morning, she comes into my bed and licks me and lets me pet her -- so, go figure! It is as if she has an insecurity problem, a lack of confidence.

The hard part is that my children would just love to have a kitten they can hold and pet, and are so envious of their friends' cats who allow them to do this. What can I do? The pet store recommended Feliway. A friend who is a homeopath recommended some kind of homeopathic medicine. One site on the internet recommended frequent picking-up and hugging -- but that just made her more skittish. Any other techniques out there?

Thanks
post #2 of 14
We have five cats in our family's two households, and not a lapkitty in the bunch. Most of them are very affectionate -- they just don't want to be held, and especially not picked up and carried.

The only thing that occurs to me is that your kitty might do better with a companion. I know my parents' oldest cat, Dylan, was impossible to pet when he was three or four months old, because he was trying to demonstrate his dominance over us.

When he was six months old, we brought home a companion for him, and within a month, he had settled down considerably -- because he now had someone he could dominate. That allowed him to relax and give the humans dominance over HIM, which is apparently a prerequisite to affectionate behavior, at least in alpha males. Now Dylan is 18 pounds of mush! :-)

Since your kitty is a girl, all that may not apply -- but if I were you, I would find her a companion and see if that helps. You might want to consider a male slightly younger than she is, and gentle in demeanor.

Aside from that, I don't know what to tell you... and I'll be interested to see if others have some ideas. Good luck!
post #3 of 14
I've heard rescue remedy is supposed to help skittish cats... I've never tried it myself though. Good luck!
post #4 of 14
I don't know how old your children are, but young children can do some damage to kitties simply in their exbuberance of embracing the kitty. Your cat sounds like a typical stray, and you really can't make this kitty accept your handling, pets, and hugs. The best thing you can do, is just ignore this cat except for seeing to the basic needs. They tend to relax a lot quicker and come around better if they feel like the pressure is off and they don't have to perform.

We had one cat who lived in our rafters for over a year. When I finally quit trying to make him do what I wanted him to do- he came down on his own and is still very much a part of this household and our biggest lap kitty.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks, but what is rescue remedy????
By the way, she was not "rescued"; she was adopted from a cat clinic that took in a litter of cats that was not wanted. But maybe this remedy would be helpful anyway. I am kicking myself now for not adopting one of her siblings at the same time. My children are young, 6 and 9, but are gentle with her -- because she doesn't allow much else, anyway!
Thanks for all the replies. Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.
post #6 of 14
Is the kitty spayed? Often unspayed females will act like that. Could your children engage her in play (NOT with their hands, but with a cat dancer or a shoestring?) That will help her get more used to them and realize they are not to be feared. Sometimes it takes a while, and it's hard for kids to be patient, I know. They could sit in the same room and read to her, talk to her softly, and not grab for her. Also (of course not too much), I've found treats go a long way toward gaining a cat's trust. My cat likes to eat deli turkey, but I'm not sure how good it is for them. Good luck!
post #7 of 14
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic mix that is supposed to calm kitties down. I didn't mean to imply that she was rescued.... just that it is reputed to help ALL kitties. If you look at the advertising booklet, they have a story about a cat similar to yours. The family started giving the cat Rescue Remedy and he calmed down enough to start socializing. I think you put a few drops in their water every day. And I know this sound <i>really</i> off the wall, but you could try singing a lullaby when you are around her or playing soothing music. I work with a lot of very scared cats at the Animal Shelter here and they seem to calm down when I sing.
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kaleetha
Rescue Remedy is a homeopathic mix that is supposed to calm kitties down. I didn't mean to imply that she was rescued.... just that it is reputed to help ALL kitties. If you look at the advertising booklet, they have a story about a cat similar to yours. The family started giving the cat Rescue Remedy and he calmed down enough to start socializing. I think you put a few drops in their water every day. And I know this sound <i>really</i> off the wall, but you could try singing a lullaby when you are around her or playing soothing music. I work with a lot of very scared cats at the Animal Shelter here and they seem to calm down when I sing.
ABSOLUTELY!!! I work with horses with varying degrees of issues being saddled and/or having their feet picked. Singing works WONDERS. For some reason they seem to particularly like the "Edelweiss" song from "The Sound of Music!" They also like the "B-I-N-G-O" song and the Alphabet song. Go figure.
post #9 of 14
Hello!

what you are describing sounds much like our cat Abbigail, especially back when she was younger. She may only pick one person (probably picked out you) that she will trust and let in. I think she probably has developed some fears and anxieties that may never be 'fixed'. Abbigail is still skittish sometimes and still runs away sometimes. We have had her since 1990 (since she was a kitten), according to the animal shelter we adopted her from she had been traumatized by being thrown over a fence into a backyard with dogs. I wish I was more patient and kind to her back then (I was a teenager)..but thru growing up and all we have a very special bond now. I sing to her too, sometimes singing her name and making up some song, sometimes singing the same melody or words to her again, and also I started about 6? years ago trying to hold her (put her to wear she is up on my shoulder like you would when burping a baby) starting out just a few seconds then slowly progressing the time, and she enjoys being held now. She comes to me for affection on her terms. She has gained confidence, she went into our wooden fenced backyard, went thru a hole and went walking around the neighbors yard and then the other day went into the yard by herself and walked around...she is also showing confidence around our puppy Alexis as well. I would talk with her like she understands me and try to comfort her by saying "It's OK" if she seems unsure. She loves routine. Anyways, hope all this rambling helps. I think it just takes time, patience and lots of love. Letting her have a space she can go and trust she won't be bothered would be great, our cat's space is under the computer desk.
post #10 of 14
This might just be your cat's personality. We got our girl, Gracie, as a kitten and she was never a lover. She was very playful and curious and we let her play rough. Stupid us, I know... but it was sooo cute seeing that little kitten bite our hand!! Well, she never grew out of it. She doesn't like to be pet or picked up. She's just not affectionate and if we do pet her, she'll give us the normal warnings and eventually bite (not hard, but hard enough!!). That's just the way she is.

I'd suggest getting another cat as a companion. We took in a stray, Gary, and it has really calmed Gracie down. Gary is a HUGE lover so when we feel like loving on our kitties, we love on Gary and not Gracie.

I know you're aware of the obvious, don't let your kids play rough with the cat, yada yada yada. Maybe your cat just wants a cat friend?
post #11 of 14
I agree, maybe she may need another cat as a friend or at least as a confidence booster....i don't think our cat had that much confidence going outside until Alexis our puppy came and loved playing outside. I think getting a cat that is not dominant but gentle in nature would be good and also one that loves to play and doesn't have the same trust or anxiety issues. That way your children will be happy having a cat they can play with but also understanding that cats are not like dogs!
post #12 of 14
When we first got PJ, we couldn't hold her. It took about a year, maybe a little more, to figure out why: we weren't holding her the right way. What she wanted was to be held kind of over the shoulder - back paws on an arm, front paws hanging over a shoulder, head next to mine - like the baby burping position someone mentioned below.
We're not sure what happened to her previously, but we think she had been abused, particularly in her face, and maybe someone held her in a certain position while doing that. We've found that holding her over the shoulder allows her to crawl over and escape very easily if she wants or needs to.

So, you might want to try some different holding positions - and give her treats after any type of holding, even for a minute, or any type of petting session. PJ now screams at my fiance' to be picked up, and she could be pet for HOURS!
post #13 of 14
hi,
i have the same problem with raoul. raja and samurai love to be held, in fact, raja will whine until picked up, but raoul wants to chill. he doesn't let anyone pet him unless he is sleepy. for a while he was hissing at everyone who was within 5 feet. i finally left him alone and within weeks he let me pet his face and rub his back. but he does not like to be held still.
i know it is difficult for kids to understand, but let them know she is nervous and they should try to be patient. i am sure your kitty will come around and your children will have a lovely pet.
in the meantime, suggestions of getting another cat are good. i think cats come in pairs!!!
good luck i will send you and your cat warm thoughts!!!
post #14 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by kluchetta
They also like the "B-I-N-G-O" song and the Alphabet song. Go figure.

... since it's about a dog!
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