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Old 01-01-2013, 03:33 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default My cat is terrified of everyone!

My boyfriend and I have two cats who just turned 1 recently. They are brother and sister from the same litter. We got them when they were about 6-8 weeks old, not sure the exact birthdate.

The boy cat is TERRIFIED of everyone except for me. He likes my boyfriend enough but is completely attached to me so he doesn't pay much attention to him when I'm around. My girl cat is the polar opposite - she loves everyone and is the life of the party! From the time we got them, boy kitty was the more shy one. He became attached to me very quickly, probably "adopting" me as his mother, and trying to suckle my fingers which he did for about the first 4 months. (Girl cat didn't do this at all). Whenever anyone comes over he runs and hides in the closet and doesn't come out until they're gone. When my mom comes over I bring her to the closet so she can see him, and as soon as he sees her he shoves his head under clothes and makes himself dead weight so I can't pick him up.

It especially makes me nervous when we go away. We went away for 3 nights for New Years. A family member stayed in the house to catsit. Kitty barely showed himself for the entire time we were away, only coming out to eat and then quickly running back into hiding. It just makes me so sad to know that my little guy goes through this every time we go away. He's a very skittish cat in general. When the cleaning lady comes (once a month), or whenever we vacuum, he hides in the closet and doesn't come out for 3 hours. He must have an overactive nervous system or something!

I can't help but wonder if he's like this because I coddle him too much, like he only feels safe with me. Does anyone have any advice on what I can do to make him less anxious? I'm not interested in putting him on valium or anything like that.
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:42 PM   #2 (permalink)
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More than likely it's just his temperment. Cat siblings can have different fathers (I've heard) so the genes may be totally different. We used to have the sweetest black and white. She was a stray we took in while stationed in Sicily and just adored her. She got pregnant before the vet came to the base to have her spayed and had 3 kittens. We decided to keep the female kitten thinking she would be just like her mother but boy were we wrong! We loved on her from day one, but she never liked to be held or even touched! Was hissing at us since about 2 days old!!! She was always in indoor kitty but acted almost feral at times. We were told that her father was most likely a feral kitty. Not sure how true that was but it explained alot. For 12 years she was an exercise in unconditional love before she died. I'm sure it's nothing you are or are not doing - that's just the way he is. Don't fret too much. He may come around, but then he may not.
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Interesting! I doubt they have different fathers because they have almost the exact same markings (grey tabbies) but you never know.
The thing is, he is the absolute sweetest kitty to me, and to my boyfriend in small doses haha. He really is very loving. He's not mean to other people, he's just scared of them!
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:46 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Also, what I would do is just provide a quiet place for him to retreat to in the event of company, cleaning ladies or other obvious distressing things, and just advise everyone concerned that he may or may not be seen for awhile. Hopefully others will chime in. Best wishes!!
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:49 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Is your boyfriend a live in boyfriend? If not then maybe the fact that he comes and goes is the reason that he's bonded so much with you. We have 6 cats and one of them can barely tolerate my husband (and we've had her 6 years now)! My husband doesn't mind though, he knows cats pick their people and obviously your little boy has chosen you!
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Old 01-01-2013, 03:54 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Yes we do live together. I think that's the only reason why he tolerates him at all, otherwise he would probably just treat him like he does everyone else!
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Old 01-01-2013, 05:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I agree it's most likely his temperament. Some cats are simply more high strung than others just like people. Our black male cat Sasha is like this. Whenever anyone comes to visit, he hides. He used to sleep on me as a kitten, but then has gravitated towards my oldest daughter since she's home more often and feeds them. He started ignoring me altogether a few months ago. I asked her to simply put him down whenever he sat on her lap and I was home. She repeated this mechanically without ever scolding him just sort of ignoring him and putting him down. Eventually, he began coming to me on his own for pets and head rubs.

Whenever people come over that are repeat visitors (people that we trust), I close all the doors in the bedrooms so he can't hide and is forced to interact. He now sits atop the cat shelves in the livingroom and watches from afar. He is slowly making progress, but he had to be strongly encouraged or else he never would've done it on his own.

I started doing this because when we went away for 10 days last year, he didn't eat for almost 4 days because he was terrified of the cat sitter coming into the house. It was very distressing for him, the sitter, and us trying to manage the situation from another country. After we got back, we've been slowly working with him to desensitize him to being around people without freaking out entirely.
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Old 01-01-2013, 08:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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That's what we did with the cat sitter, closed all the doors to the bedroom so he couldn't hide. I was worried that if we left it open he'd hide in his spot and not even come out to eat. He still finds other spots to hide, but where he's more visible. Once while we were away he dug up the carpet to hide under it. That's a good idea to close the doors to the bedroom while people are over. I'll try that!
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Old 01-02-2013, 04:34 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I suspect that's just your boy's temperament and I agree with dweamgoil that for a very shy cat that he should be "encouraged" to be more outgoing by becoming more habituated to whatever it is that frightens him, such as people coming to the door or whatever. A large dog crate draped partially with dark blanket is good to have to train the cat to get used to things that bother it. Make the crate comfortable with a cat bed, litter and food. Always put the cat's food in the crate and feed it treats in the crate so it has good feelings about it. Eventually it may seek out the crate on his own as his safe haven.
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Old 01-02-2013, 05:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I agree that he does need to get a little more comfortable, but you have to be very careful about how you do it. If you force him too much, or go too fast you could actually make him worse rather than better.

Start by picking one of your friends or family members. This person needs to be naturally calm, able and willing to follow directions, and patient. Have them come over fairly regularly, but come in without saying anything; new voices can be very scary for nervous cats. Have them sit on the floor in a room where he has very few places to hide, but has plenty of room to avoid the person. The person is just going to sit on the floor and read...or sit and do nothing.

Since you're the person he trusts you'll do all the work in the beginning. place lots of yummy treats on the floor all around this new person (who will hold extremely still and be very quiet, and not look at the cat at ALL.) and then bring him onto your lap near, but not facing, this person. pet him, feed him treats, but hold him in your lap. When he stops fussing or acting anxious let him go. if he sits still as a rock you're waiting for him to either accept a few treats or relax his muscles a bit, maybe close his eyes or snuggle into you.

As soon as that happens you can let him out of the room or into his favorite hidey-spot. NOW that he's hidden the guest can get up and leave or go into another room and start acting like a normal guest.

Do this until he will walk around the room, ignoring this weird person-statue, and maybe even sniffing them. When he gets there you can get the person to hold treats out to him, still without looking or trying to touch him. When he'll take treats from this one person start all over with someone else.

Work slow, and it'll build his confidence.

One other thing I did with our nervous kitty was taught her a few easy tricks that helped her know what to do when she was nervous. If she was reaching up to sit pretty, or following her touch-stick, or doing a sit she felt much more comfortable than if she was left to choose what to do around people she didn't know or trust.

Torri will always be shy, and it will always be my job to make sure she feels safe. I usually just put her away in her safe room when we have people over. We have quite a few friends who have never seen her because I either don't know them well, don't trust them to follow my directions, or simply have the wrong personality traits to be calm and gentle with my sensitive girl. I'm ok with that, Torri is sweet and nice to me and my BF; I don't care if she likes other people.

She's come a long way in the past few years, so as long as you work with Kitty he should mellow with age.
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