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Old 12-11-2009, 05:05 PM   #1 (permalink)
Tom Cat
 
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Default How to increase kitten's confidence?

I feel like I have been posting a lot of threads lately... but I guess I just have a lot of questions!

So as I'm sure many of you have seen somewhere, my boyfriend rescued a kitten a few weeks ago; I think this Saturday will make 3 weeks since he got her. She is currently about 15 weeks old, and she was found in the street. She spent the first week in his large bathroom, with a "safe box," LB, and all the necessary things. She has had free roam of his studio apartment for the past 2 weeks now. I should add that I really wanted him to get an older cat, given his inexperience (first pet other than fish!), but he fell in love with her, and he is willing to do all he can for her... except get another kitten. Its quite possible that she and ET will be spending the summer together, so I hope that she will be willing to have some cat-exposure in the near future. I also should add that she was found alone by the shelter at 6 weeks, so I'm pretty sure she missed out on a lot of confidence-building opportunities early in life.

She absolutely LOVES to be pet, held, snuggled... boyfriend says she purrs as soon as you look at her. The trouble is, she seems to have no confidence. He says that if you are at one end of the room, she won't come to you. It's as though she really, really wants to see you but is afraid that the boogey men are going to come and intercept her on her way.

HOWEVER, she is super frisky and does a really excellent job of entertaining herself; pingpong balls are her favorite. She will rocketbutt all around the apartment chasing things and having a grand old time... so she will explore and play, even in the presence of humans, but she doesn't know how to APPROACH them.

She does sleep snuggled up with him during the night, and will participate in interactive play with him. Its just this weird issue of approaching a human for affection.

Any suggestions? Is this a normal progression? Can we anticipate her to become more confident in the coming weeks?

I guess I am also concerned because she starts her string of vet visits very soon, so there will be lots of moving around in carriers and getting poked (and spayed!) by strange people. I'm worried this will set her off and back ten steps, even though it is of course necessary.

Thank you :-D

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Old 12-11-2009, 06:22 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

Some people on this forum may disagree with me, but kittens need to be with other cats/kittens to become properly socialized, and also not to be lonely and bored. When I volunteered for an animal shelter in my area, the shelters rule was no cats under 6 months of age could be adopted out unless the people adopted another cat with it or had a cat at home. This is in MOST cases, but not all, that the kitten will be a little bit skiddish around people and new surroundings, as they were not socialized with other cats, so they didn't get the confidence from being with them. If it is at all possible, your b/f should think about adopting another kitten for the one he already has, because at only 15 weeks of age, the kitty really should have a play mate, I mean, people can only be there and play with the kitten for so long, with work and a social life, most people can't devote the time to keep a kitten company. But at the same time, sometimes it can work out with just the one. But in my personal opinion I believe a kitten should with with another cat or kitten.
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Old 12-11-2009, 06:42 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

KatBudz, I am sure most people with agree with you, as do I. There is no substitute for another cat as a playmate. However, adopting another cat/kitten regretfully is not an option at this time... but rather than not save any at all, he chose this little kitten. We are doing our best to do right by her. Shelters here (fortunately or unfortunately) can't be too picky with who adopts their animals, since they are so overrun with decreased adoptions and increased surrenders. In fact, the place we got her from waived the adoption fee, because they are so desperate to move kittens

I guess I am hoping someone has suggestions on single-cat socialization, if there is such a thing. As I mentioned we hope that in a few months she will be able to spend an extended period of time (pending her health and a VERY slow introduction) with my 3 year old cat. I don't know if putting her back in the bathroom would be better, or if this is a normal progression for a feral kitten, or any other suggesions.
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Old 12-11-2009, 06:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

It is best to keep her confined in a smaller room until she gets more comfortable with her surroundings. Since your b/f only had her in the bathroom for a week, I think that is a little too short. So maybe try moving her into a smaller room and keep her there until she seems more confident and slowly intro her to the rest of the house.
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:16 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

She's gorgeous! I her eyes. She has the look of an intelligent kitty.
This is near and dear to my heart, as Arianwen had confidence issues when I first adopted her, and still does, a little.
One thing that has really worked well for her is hand feeding her favorite food. Find something that she really loves to eat, some food that causes your kitten to purr just by smelling it. Then offer it in your hand for some, but not all, meal times. Make her progressively walk greater distances to get the food from your hand. She will learn to associate walking to you with getting a yummy treat, and will gradually forget her fears.
Her fear may be due to an incident in her past, where walking to a human led to abuse, so be patient with her.
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Old 12-14-2009, 03:01 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

The best thing to do is offer play to draw her closer and good treats when she does come closer. She needs to learn that going to a person means Good Things; either playing, treats or massaging scrubbles. It could be that having access to the whole house was just too much for her confidence level and she needed a bit more time to adjust. She is reaching the age when a young cat has been weaned from its' mother/siblings and "kicked out" because the Mom will be raising another litter.

Kittens of this age, instinctually, have to "do-or-die" and if they don't become independent and resourceful, they will expire. Unfortunately, we can't tell these kitties that since they now live with us they don't have to do that, so we simply have to take that into account when we work at socializing them. Socializing just means you are getting the kitty prepared for her life with humans, helping her to trust and enjoy our company. Take every opportunity to snuggle and smother her with handling and affection, as much as she can stand. Every experience is a building block for more positive experiences as she walks her path to being a relaxed and confident companion.
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Old 12-14-2009, 01:17 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by KatBudz
Some people on this forum may disagree with me, but kittens need to be with other cats/kittens to become properly socialized, and also not to be lonely and bored. When I volunteered for an animal shelter in my area, the shelters rule was no cats under 6 months of age could be adopted out unless the people adopted another cat with it or had a cat at home.
I do agree w/ you that kittens are FAR better off w/ companions, and single kittens often drive owners nuts as a consequence.

However, most of the most important inter-cat socialization skills take place in the litter. Kittens who lose their litter early (before 8 weeks at BARE minimum, and 10-12 is better) may have issues relating to other cats (and to some degree to human beings, in that they will not know not to bite hard, etc).

My point really is that true socialization, as regards other cats, really is accomplished in the 5-12 week period. Cats who got that time w/ the litter will usually have no problem getting on w/ other cats (assuming carefully done introduction, etc.) later on, even if they lived w/out other cats for a while.

Quote:
If it is at all possible, your b/f should think about adopting another kitten for the one he already has, because at only 15 weeks of age, the kitty really should have a play mate, I mean, people can only be there and play with the kitten for so long, with work and a social life, most people can't devote the time to keep a kitten company. But at the same time, sometimes it can work out with just the one. But in my personal opinion I believe a kitten should with with another cat or kitten.
I agree. It is VERY much best, and I, too, know rescue groups that adopt kittens out ONLY in pairs unless the adopter has a kitten under 5 mos at home already. Otherwise, the return rate is just too high.

That said, plenty of people DO make it work, and AS LONG AS the owner is willing to deal with the fallout (annoying kitten at 2 a.m., kitten-attacks from all angles, bored-kitten-shredding-couch), there's not much one can do about it.
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Old 12-15-2009, 04:59 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ETrescued
The trouble is, she seems to have no confidence. He says that if you are at one end of the room, she won't come to you. It's as though she really, really wants to see you but is afraid that the boogey men are going to come and intercept her on her way.
On of my cats was the same way when I adopted her, but she was 6 or 7 years old. The problem might be a matter of signals your boyfriend is sending. When humans see something they like they tend to look into the eyes and smile and maybe extend a hand out. When you do that the cat sees another animal making a challenge (staring) and being aggressive (bearing teeth, reaching out).

In order to avoid the mixed message have him try to communicate like a cat. Look at the cat briefly, then squint and look away (known as "blinkies around here". Keep hands down or even behind the back. It still might take a while. My cat is the most social and friendly cat you will ever meet, but it still took 6 months for her to get the confidence to jump on my lap.

And as others have said, treats will be a big help too.
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Old 12-16-2009, 02:14 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

Thanks for all the great advice!

Woodsman, I know for a fact that he was staring the kitten straight in the eyes, thinking nothing of it. The don't stare/slow blink/look away trick I was aware of, but it didn't cross my mind to remind him. I think that after I posted this thread that thought came to me, and when I brought it up to him he admitted that he did it! I'm sure that contributed to at least some of his fear. He now avoids staring.

He reports that everything is going well... she loves toys and is very interactive. And she sleeps right up by his head I guess she does still get spooked when he enters the apartment or if she hears a loud noise, but I guess that is to be expected. I'm traveling home over the holidays and will be seeing her (and him!) then, so I will be curious to see how she interacts with me. She's also getting spayed too... do you think that will result in some regression?

Here's a recent pic he emailed me. Sorry for the poor quality- its a camera phone! But I can't believe how much bigger she's gotten... she's about 15 weeks now.



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Old 12-16-2009, 02:17 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: How to increase kitten's confidence?

Yeah, he's probably trying too hard. Cats especially know when you're doing that and get suspicious. And the blink/look away thing is crucial!
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