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Old 02-26-2007, 05:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help retrieving a scared cat hiding in basement?

A friend asked me for some advice, and I volunteered my 2¢, but would love to get your feedback on this. Somebody is bound to come up with something I missed!

Here's the dilemma:

"My sister picked up a new cat from the humane society a few weeks ago, it used to belong to some elderly lady who died. As soon as she brought it home it went straight for the basement and hid behind the heater, and there it stayed. She puts food and water down for it, and the litter box for the other cats are down there, but my sister wants to get it out of there. She's got a live trap big enough for the job down there right now, but the cat ain't having none of it. Any ideas on how to get it out?"
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Old 02-26-2007, 05:36 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Well, this may be a long-shot , but when Cinderella ran away, I got her as far as the porch and she wouldn't come in the house until I ran the can opener. She came running in.
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Old 02-26-2007, 07:23 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I guess the first thing I would do is not let the other cats down there. Give them a box upstairs for however long it takes. Then no matter how unpleasant the basement may be, she probably needs to spend some quiet time down there, softly talking to the kitty. Treats, tuna, chicken, lunchmeat, sardines are all good things to lure a kitty with. I've done things like create a trail...putting some sort of treat every few inches so they don't quite realize they're getting closer and closer. See if she can get her to follow a laser pointer.

She may need to wait a few days after banning the other cats before trying any of the other other ideas...
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I agree that the other cats should not go down there. I would treat her as if she were a feral. Go down to feed her alone. Sit in a dim light with soft music and treats or food she really likes. Move the food slightly closer to you every day, and have an interactive toy nearby. Let her make the first moves. When she comes to you, let her rub against your hand before you pet her.

It's better to have a slow introductory period among the cats. So, when she becomes friends with you, start putting her bedding upstairs and your other cats bedding down with her (so they get each other's scents). Do the exchange every few days. If you have a baby gate, use it after a week of the exchanging of bedding. Let them get to know each other that way. If there's hissing, it's not time to put them together. The kitty has been traumatized by being removed from her home and her owner, so please be patient!

(This is for your friend's sister, of course. )

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Old 02-26-2007, 09:47 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I gave him the link to this thread, I am sure he will find it helpful. This is how I replied... (I probably should have included this info earlier, but it is reassuring to see that others have similar feelings on the topic):

My best advice: Remove the food, and the other cats' litter boxes and keep the other cats out of the basement. Cats ideally only eat twice a day, morning and evening, so not leaving the food out won't hurt anything. When supper time comes, there are two options.

a) if your sister wants to invest the time in it, she can sit downstairs with a small plate of food (usually a strong smelling canned food is good for this) and try to bribe the cat to come to her for the food. It can take a long time - and the cat will probably be able to out-stubborn her if she's not very patient.

b) if it's more of a priority to get the cat out of the basement sooner rather than later, she can put the strong-smelling canned food into the haveahart trap and catch the cat that way.

Once the cat is caught, she can put the litter boxes and food back downstairs for the other cats, and her best bet would be to isolate the new cat in a room of its own. Continue feeding twice a day, and ideally sit in the room with the cat while it eats. The cat will come to associate her with good things, like food, which will make bonding easier.

Then it is best to introduce the new cat to the other cats slowly. She can start by taking a hand towel and rubbing it on the new cat, then rubbing it on the other cats so they get used to the new cat's scent. Another trick is to let them interact by playing with a toy under the door.

Once they get used to each others scents she can begin allowing supervised excursions from the "safe room" for about 10 minutes at a time, a few times a day, and gradually increasing the amount of time they are together, as well as the frequency of interactions.

Here's a website that explains introductions in more detail:
http://www.operationnoblefoster.org/multicat.htm
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at this point, my friend replied: "She's already tried the Havahart trap - it got set off but the cat wasn't inside, so I'm sure it got spooked and won't go anywhere near it again."
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you'd be surprised, but cats can be trapped multiple times, even though you'd think they would avoid the trap like the plague... and the trap is definitely the quick way.

If I were her, I would remove the other cats, all but one litter box, and the cat food first thing tomorrow morning.... then tomorrow when she gets home from work, put down the trap, bait it, and leave it... she should check it if she hears it go off, or right before she goes to bed. That would minimize the amount of time the cat would actually be in the trap if it gets caught.

The cat is more prone to go into the trap if it feels safe - no people or other animals around - and also a little bit hungry. While I would never condone depriving an animal of food for a prolongued period of time, it usually won't hurt for them to skip a meal. (Domestic cats are really quite spoiled. If the cat were a stray, it could easily miss several meals in a row.)

Now, if she isn't in a rush to get the cat out of the basement, she could follow the same steps, but instead of setting up the trap, she could sit downstairs when she feeds the cat (bring a book or something). Don't have her sit right beside the food, but across the room. Let the cat eat, then remove the dish, and each meal time sit slightly closer to the dish until the cat is no longer afraid of her. Given time, the cat will likely come out of its shell on its own, but how long it takes varies from cat to cat. I've taken in foster cats who were completely fearless, and I've taken in feral cats that took years to trust people.
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I agree with spending a lot of time in the basement enticing her with treats and soft voice.

But she didn't say if the new girl and and the other cats have "met" yet. If they have, and there is no antagonism, I wouldn't keep the other cats away from her right now. Matter of fact, if they are getting along, I would feed everyone some treats down there. It might actually help if she sees that the other cats interacting with 'their' person. I would still go down at least half the time by myself and without the other cats, because she's probably craving some one-on-one time like she used to have. She just needs to build trust and realize that she can transfer her affection to another human.

Now, if the cats have met and are not getting along, then I would agree to keep them separated for a while. But, she has to get to know them and it would actually be better in a place she considers safe. And, if the litter box is to remain in the basement, she'll have to have free access to that area anyway.

The key here is patience. I had a feral kitten in a basement for three months before she felt comfortable roaming the house with everyone. The only difference here is that this cat shouldn't be fearful, just untrusting. I would probably make attempts at contact much sooner than if she were feral. If she's used to being petted and cuddled, that might be all it takes to bring her around.
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Old 02-26-2007, 09:58 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Sounds like we're all talking pretty much the same things...hopefully some of it will work...
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