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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-18-2010, 11:36 PM Thread Starter
 
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Help: My Cat is Skittish

My fiance and I have had two cats for the past 5 years. The female is younger and has always been skittish around everyone except me. We recently bought a house and then a few months later rescued two puppies as we are also dog lovers. My skittish cat now hides up in the bathroom in a corner behind her litter box. I love her to death, but my fiance never has and thinks that she deserves a better home because all she has ever done is stayed away. Should I suck it up and realize that she does deserve better than what I can give her, or keep working with my fiance and my cat so that we can get them to talk more. Any ideas would help a lot because I feel like the worse mom in the world!
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2010, 01:01 AM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

Welcome to CatForum and I hope we can help you with your kitty.
First, I want to apologize because I am going to say some things that are blunt. So: "I am sorry."

Right now, your kitty's best chance at a happy life lies with *you*.
You are the only one she appears to trust and if you try to re-home her at this time, you will be removing her from everything she feels comfortable with and I feel it would push her even further into emotional withdrawl and unhappiness. If you do want to rehome her, I think you will need to dedicate quite a bit of time and effort at socializing her so she *can* be re-homed. Everyone wants ready-to-go kitties. Very few people *want* to start out with a challenging cat like your kitty appears to be. Granted, she may prefer a quieter home, but again ... I just can't see her losing the only person she trusts and going to a completely strange place as beneficial for her. I could be completely wrong. She *might* do fabulously, but I think the probability is much higher that she would regress and retreat even further.

I think your kitty needs to gain more socialization skills.
Socialization, acclimatization, conditioning, coaxing and de-sensitizing are all terms that can be used interchangeably. The end-goal is a cat who has learned how to accept being handled and has achieved a level of confidence when encountering new situations because of their mastery of these socialization skills in small steps.

Socialization is simply teaching how to behave in various situations and giving them opportunities to learn to like and/or accept new things with interest instead of fear. Cats who increase their socialization skills become relaxed and confident over time. Cats who have little socialization skills and are nervous and withdrawn do not get better on their own. They have to learn these skills. We have to teach them these skills. These skills have to be introduced in small increments with patience and persistence, mastering the small steps before moving to the next one ... and when finally viewed as a whole, you and the cat will have achieved a monumental accomplishment.
This is like ANY skill ... the more you practice, the better you become and the more confidence you exude with each step mastered.


I tame, socialize and foster feral, semi-feral and poorly socialized cats for public adoption. My methods work and create cats who are confident and relaxed, able to be handled by many members of the public as they search for *their perfect cat* to live with them in their homes. I firmly believe that everyone can create their own perfect cat, even with a cat described as yours ... but fascilitating those changes does not happen overnight. It can take quite a bit of time but the rewards are outstanding when you have a relaxed and confident cat ... and you know you helped bring your cat to that level of confidence within their life.
Are you willing to commit? Would you like to learn more?
heidi =^..^=

ps, I hope Merry (Mitts & Tess) sees this, she will be able to add invaluable information as she also does feral taming and rescue.



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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2010, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

Any help that I could get her would be appreciated. She came from a bad kitten hood and because of that I never hold her as she does not like it, I allow her to jump on my lap for pets and that's about it. Any tips on getting her to start coming out would be great!
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-19-2010, 01:39 PM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

In short: You have to treat her and handle her like the cat you wish she would be, because if you want a friendly cat, you have to handle them.

What you have done by not handling her has allowed her to remain exactly as she was then - an unapproachable cat who does everything on *her* terms and not yours. This isn't necessarily a bad thing you did, you simply thought you were respecting her boundaries. What happend though, is *she* had no incentive to expand her boundaries and you didn't teach her to expand those boundaries to include all the other Good Things being a cat in a loving home can be for her.

What you have to do now is expand her boundaries by introducing new things in small increments and incorporate those new things into your every-day interaction with her.

Start out slowly by petting and scrubbling/massaging her. Does she *enjoy* being petted when you pet her? If she does, slowly increase the amount of time you pet her. If she wants to leave or jump down, gently restrain her from leaving and pet/massage her for a few moments longer. Slowly increasing the amount of time you handle her during each session.
Depending on her reactions will determine how fast/slow this goes. She will most likely be nervous at first because this is something new and she needs the time to think about it; that it didn't hurt, you didn't restrain her forever and eventually when she works past all of her 'panic-thoughts' she can realize that "Hey! That felt Good!" When you see her begin to relax with the new level of handling, you hold steady for a bit so the new behavior becomes 'set' and then you push it forwards just a little bit more ... slowly and steadily increasing what she considers "normal" within her life until finally *everything* has now become 'normal' for her.

Shoot!
I've got to leave for an appointment and I'll have to come back to this later.
Sorry!
heidi =^..^=



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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-22-2010, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

Thanks for the replies. Here is more background: We had a cat and wanted another one. We rescued this second cat (Pandora) when she was a kitten and she lived in our apartment. She is skittish but would come out of her shell and 'demand' attention numerous times daily... that is not the issue. The issue is, our lives have changed a lot in the past few years. We've since bought a house and have two puppies. Pandora is terrified of the puppies and literally spends all day in an upstairs bathroom, in a corner behind the covered litter-box. That is her life. She comes out when the puppies are put away, but they're always out when we're home since they spend most of the day in their cages. If we try to bring her downstairs, she just scratches the ** out of us and runs back into the corner. We never see her; she never sees us.

We've tried to introduce them but she wants nothing to do with being anywhere near them. The puppies we have are very energetic and just want to play, which scares her and she runs away. Our other cat has made amends with the puppies and spends the days/ evenings with us; the puppies have also gotten used to him and for the most part, leave him alone.

My thoughts are it is no way for her to have to live. It cannot be healthy for her to sit by the litter box for 12 hours a day. I am trying to keep the cat's best interests in mind thinking she would be better off with someone else, who doesn't have dogs and where she can feel comfortable socializing. I am trying to keep her best interests in mind...
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-22-2010, 10:39 PM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

Oh, I understand that you've got her best interests at heart. You would like for her to have a comfortable life where she isn't hiding in fear of puppies and/or looking for aproval to re-home her. IMO, a shelter is not going to be the place to help her because she appears so withdrawn. She needs dedicated one-on-one time with either a foster care-giver or ideally a permanant home with someone who will dedicate time/effort to help her gain confidence and come out of her shell. If you can not help her gain confidence then I think it would be best to find her a home that doesn't have the challenges (active puppies) your home has.
My only caveat is to find her the *right* home, one that will be patient with her as they help her to become more confident. I also agree that some cats like your kitty is described can/will *thrive* when their environment changes. I hope she is such a cat. Good luck finding her a home that will allow her to be who she is and one that will help her work past any handling issues she has.



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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-22-2010, 11:08 PM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

Quote:
My thoughts are it is no way for her to have to live. It cannot be healthy for her to sit by the litter box for 12 hours a day.
You are absolutely right, this is no way for her to live. But she does not have to live this way in your house. By patiently working with her, you have a good chance of turning Pandora's life around for the better. Do you love her enough that you are willing to do this for her? Because if you give her away, there is a big chance that she will just wind up being euthanized at some shelter. But if you are willing, keep reading...

Heidi - aka The Tooter (sorry ) is a great cat lady and knows pretty much all there is to know about them, and I agree with her advice, but me, starting off as a dog person, would also spend a lot of time working with those pups to help teach them how to behave around Pandora so that she will eventually see them as friends instead of scary, obnoxious monsters!

You said you've tried to introduce them, how did you do this?

First, we all know how exuberant puppies can be. When you are ready to start re-introducing Pandora to the pups, make sure you have first spent a LONG time exercising and running those pups around outside, so when they come inside and see a cat, they won't be AS inclined to go crazy trying to play with her.

You should also put the pups inside a crate at first so that Pandora can come out of her "corner" and eventually start to investigate without being overwhelmed. Use her favorite treat (like tuna) to praise her during the times when you are trying to socialize her with humans and dogs alike. This will help reinforce the idea that she has nothing to be afraid or skittish about and will also help to associate the pups with yummy treat time.

Once you have spent a lot of time working on just you and her, and then introducing her to the crated pups, eventually you should close Pandora, Pandora's favorite treat/toys, one puppy and yourself in a neutral room. Keep the puppy on a leash and constantly praise Pandora, and offer her treats especially when she displays any kind of non-skittish behavior around the dog. Also, keep in mind that you want to strongly encourage her, NOT force her to do anything. If she gets way too freaked out, calmly adjust the situation by backing up a step or two in the socialization process.

Be persistent, consistent and very patient and I'm sure you be able to make a lot of progress with Pandora. Don't give her away
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-22-2010, 11:15 PM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

My Best Friend The Nosy offered great advice, advice which I admittedly overlooked, not having much experience with dogs. I hope you can get things to work or find your kitty a better home.



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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-23-2010, 01:52 AM
 
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

The best home for your cat is right with you. I don't think anyone should give up their cat.
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 02-23-2010, 02:19 AM
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Re: Help: My Cat is Skittish

If nobody rehomed cats, a lot of us here wouldn't have our cats. Cinderella and Cleo were rehomed, and I rehomed a cat that was mean to Cinderella. All three cats are in a much better situation and are in loving homes.

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is what's best for everyone, including the cat.

Cali, Cinderella, Cleo and Charlee

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Always in my heart, my lovely Cinderella, running free at the Bridge.
Always in my heart, my sweet Cali, running free at the Bridge.

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