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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-19-2009, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Worried about new kitty...

Here's a question about a cat we got this week. The basics are this - the cat is probably around 8 months old, and we got her on Tuesday night from someone we know. She hides under the bed or the sofa whenever we are around and won't come out. While it has only been about 5 days, we are starting to become concerned that this behavior may be permanent.

Let me give as much history for this cat that we know. The cat was probably born sometime in August last year, and at least initially our friend's kids were interacting with it. But our friend's wife left him sometime early last fall, and took the kids with her. At this point we don't really know how old the kitten was that this happened. Once the wife and kids were gone, the kitten apparently lived in the basement and rarely came upstairs. Our friend also has an older cat that knew him, and that cat would come up interact - the kitten stuck to herself however, and avoided our friend when he was home. At first when we agreed to take the kitten we didn't know much about her behavior, but we started to have doubts when our friend had trouble catching her.

She is using the litterbox, and she comes out at night to eat, so it could be worse, I guess. When we do spot her, on the surface she appears fairly calm as long as we don't try and get too close to her, in which case she will start to back away. But forget about trying to pet her or touch her - that's too close. We haven't taken her to the vet yet - it would be traumatic for the cat and somewhat dangerous for us to try and catch her. She doesn't seem to have much interest in cat toys either. At the moment we are letting her have free roam of the house, but this sometimes means that when we get up she gets "trapped" wherever she happens to be at the moment.

At first we were concerned that she wasn't eating much, but then we realized that we had accidentally left a bag of dry cat food lying around that was left over from our old (deceased) cat, and we suspect that's what she is eating..

I guess I was expecting her to be pretty afraid when we first got her, but I was expecting that after a couple of days she would start to settle into the new routine and start to come out a bit more. But so far we haven't seeing any change in behavior, and the limited human interaction that she has had in the past concerns us..

At the moment we are trying to let her be and not stress her out any more than she already is, but at the moment I am wondering how long we will have to wait until she starts to behave more like a regular housecat. My wife is already thinking it might have been a mistake to take her, and is toying with the idea of giving her back...
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-19-2009, 09:42 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

I think you're on the right track, with letting her do her own thing and not forcing yourselves on her, but I think you'll have to be patient for quite a while longer. My two were raised in a very loving house and had constant human interaction, but it took about a week before I could touch them. It was probably another three weeks before I could walk right up to them and not have them back away at all. Your kitty, with her not-so-friendly history, will probably take a lot longer, but it's so worth it when they finally jump on your lap one day out of the blue and give you a kiss....

~Diana, happy mom to Fern and Fergie
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-19-2009, 10:43 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Some cats are just slow to warm up. My Himalayan is definitely like that, in any new situation. Just show her lots of kindness and patience.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-19-2009, 11:22 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

I disagree with giving this cat space and not forcing your attention on her. She is 8mo old and if you want to give her any chance at having a great life with people in general, and have her be a 'good pet' for your family specifically, you need to get her socialized. Now. Otherwise this behavior will become permanant and it will negatively affect her for her entire life, and it seems that you are her chance, right now.

I have fostered, tamed and socialized numerous cats/kittens ranging from completely feral, to raised-in-a-home but unsocialized to formerly a pet who was abandoned and needed to regain trust in people after having to survive alone for a period of time.

I use a method I call Kitty Cat Boot Camp.
There is one person here who does not agree with my method, but it cannot be argued that I get results and these results are able to make a better life for every cat that I have put through my intensive 'program'. This cat needs to be shown that a relationship with people can be better than what it is currently allowing and/or comfortable with remaining at.

I recently compiled all of my Cat Forum posts on the subject, editing it into a progressive format, outlining and explaining my methods for socializing cats and keeping the handlers safe. It is a lot of information, but it is also very comprehensive. I will post a few things here, for you to consider, and if you are interested I can PM you the entire document.

KCBC excerpts:
The Boot Camp aspect comes in because I am constantly working these cats and pushing them, pushing them, pushing them forward to make progress. I need to gain the trust of the cat and work diligently to not take back steps in that area. I also need to push the cat and show them the various ways I handle them will not take forever, will not hurt and may even feel good and they might like to seek that out. With each step gained in trust I push for something more, maybe letting me touch their belly or hold their feet or tug their tail or kiss their nose.... I work at it and push and push until all of their barriers just come crashing down and they no longer try to resist in any way because I have shown them I am worthy of their trust and confidence.

No, this is not a power trip on my part to do this so quickly. The reason I work through these steps so fast, is I want to get to as high a plateau as I can take the cat and hold them there as long as I can to reinforce these ideals and embed these feelings of trust within the cat before sending them to the adoption center. If I take my time and 'work only at what the cat thinks is a sufficient pace'...I would not be able to help as many fosters as I am able to.

Key elements of this program are patience, persistence and consistency applied in an advance/retreat method. You need to advance to make progress, but you need to retreat before you've reached the cat’s maximum tolerance level.

I advocate pushing the cats' comfort boundaries little by little but being relentless and persistent in getting forward progress. You need to advance to make progress, but you have to watch the cat and retreat before you have reached the cats' threshold level of tolerance for the action. Watch the cat and continue to work up to their known limits, but then use your judgement to determine if the cat is ready to be pushed just a little further. (This section, I feel, pertains particularly to your new cat) In addition, you sometimes need to push a cat who has “stalled” in forward progress beyond their comfort zones to make that cat see and accept that what you are doing is good and not harmful. With this in mind, I feel it is important to mention how detrimental it is to allow a cat to call-the-shots without pushing them beyond what the cat believes is good enough. It is up to us to push beyond those barriers and show the cat a human/cat relationship can be better. Every cat who is fostered with me is worked through these progressions so I am assured of covering all areas and creating a confident cat who can become a family pet.


*I guess that explains the philosophy of the methods I employ. If you are interested in learning more, please let me know.
Heidi =^..^=



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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 09:13 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Heidi n Q
I disagree with giving this cat space and not forcing your attention on her. She is 8mo old and if you want to give her any chance at having a great life with people in general, and have her be a 'good pet' for your family specifically, you need to get her socialized. Now. Otherwise this behavior will become permanant and it will negatively affect her for her entire life, and it seems that you are her chance, right now.
Thanks for the response. This is kind of what I was thinking we ought to be doing, but given her current situation, about all we can do is find her and talk to her a bit without getting too close. I have been doing this some, but I can't really tell if it is doing any good or not.

In theory we can work to try and reduce the distance when we talk to her, but given the nature of some of her hiding places it is sometimes hard to do. For example, when she is under the sofa, she is more or less the width of the sofa away from me. Sometimes I can move around to the end to get a little closer, but if I am not careful she will just back away to the other end. I need to go and find her before I go to work, I guess.

Somewhere I was reading that it isn't good to maintain direct eye contact at this stage, and that extending a hand to her would be seen as threatening. Does this match your experience?
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 12:52 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Quote:
Originally Posted by toonces33
Somewhere I was reading that it isn't good to maintain direct eye contact at this stage, and that extending a hand to her would be seen as threatening. Does this match your experience?
Yeah, I have found that to generally be true. Of course, not all animals react in the same ways, but there are various patterns and you have picked up and pointed out two major ones. This makes me feel good because I feel it shows how receptive and perceptive you are to the cat.
The eye-stare is usually seen by cats as being predatory and threatening. To get around this, I will sometimes catch the cat's gaze and then sort of 'slide my eyes down/away' and/or blink slowly at the cat and turn my head away. This is 'cat speak' for "I trust you enough to NOT watch you every moment you are near me". Success in taking baby-steps forward is if you can blink at the kitty and get them to blink back at you because they are telling you that they now don't feel the need to be wide-eyed and wary when around you. Another physical cue to help everyone relax is to take a big breath and let it out, like an "oh, ho-hum" bored sigh. (sighing is only done when we/animals are not on 'high alert', so this is another signal to allow the cat to relax)
The hands coming near, that is just threatening to them because it is invading their personal space and it usually causes them to either retreat or defend.

I would recommend putting this cat in a bathroom or small room with only ONE 'hiding place', and that hiding place must be a place that you control and have access to at any time in case of emergency. This doesn't mean you disrespect her space, but I feel you do need to have a place where she has absolutely NO place to make herself inaccessible to you. You allow her one place to call her own and feel safe within, that you have easy access to, and you begin by "bearding the lion in its' den".
I begin by using a chicken mixture and place some on the ends of my fingers and stick my hand into the cat's "safe place" and offer it to them. I do not take my hand all the way to them, I go in about halfway. They can hiss, swat, yowl or do whatever...but when they begin to smell the delicious food, it usually wins out over their defensive behavior and they will come forward to taste/eat the food. Eventually, feeding the chicken 'treats' in this manner, they become more comfortable and will move towards the front of their safe/cave in anticipation of more delicious food.

Would you be interested in me sending you the Kitty Cat Boot Camp program that I compiled?
There is a lot of information I would like to share with you, but it is too much to put here, and it would be time consuming for me to break it down and post it in little pieces.
Let me know if you would be interested.
heidi =^..^=



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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 02:04 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Heidi n Q
I would recommend putting this cat in a bathroom or small room with only ONE 'hiding place', and that hiding place must be a place that you control and have access to at any time in case of emergency. This doesn't mean you disrespect her space, but I feel you do need to have a place where she has absolutely NO place to make herself inaccessible to you. You allow her one place to call her own and feel safe within, that you have easy access to, and you begin by "bearding the lion in its' den".
I begin by using a chicken mixture and place some on the ends of my fingers and stick my hand into the cat's "safe place" and offer it to them. I do not take my hand all the way to them, I go in about halfway. They can hiss, swat, yowl or do whatever...but when they begin to smell the delicious food, it usually wins out over their defensive behavior and they will come forward to taste/eat the food. Eventually, feeding the chicken 'treats' in this manner, they become more comfortable and will move towards the front of their safe/cave in anticipation of more delicious food.

Would you be interested in me sending you the Kitty Cat Boot Camp program that I compiled?
There is a lot of information I would like to share with you, but it is too much to put here, and it would be time consuming for me to break it down and post it in little pieces.
Let me know if you would be interested.
I was trying something like what you suggest with food on Sunday - I was using treats. It seemed like she started inching towards my hand, but I apparently got too close and she swatted at it with her paw and I got a couple of scratches to show for it.

Yes, the KCBC thing would be interesting and helpful. I will send you a PM with my email address.
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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-20-2009, 04:03 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Oooh, I'm sorry you got scratched. She sounds like she is very reactive and quick to swat. I've sent you a PM and an email is on the way with the Word document attached.
heidi



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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-21-2009, 09:31 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Heidi n Q
I would recommend putting this cat in a bathroom or small room with only ONE 'hiding place', and that hiding place must be a place that you control and have access to at any time in case of emergency. This doesn't mean you disrespect her space, but I feel you do need to have a place where she has absolutely NO place to make herself inaccessible to you. You allow her one place to call her own and feel safe within, that you have easy access to, and you begin by "bearding the lion in its' den".
We were talking about this last night - trying to decide which room to use, and what we would need to to to prepare it. In some ways the kitchen would work well for us, but there isn't a door there so we would need to set up a (fairly tall) barrier. We have a spare bedroom that we could use as well, but we would need to remove some stuff from it to get it set up. We have a guest bath, but that seems kind of small.

This morning I was looking high and low for her. No sign in any of the usual spots - I was starting to wonder if she somehow got outdoors. My wife suggested looking under our own bed, and there she was. It surprised me a lot that of all of the places to hide in the house she would choose one that is so close to where we were all night, so this seems like progress. When I talked to her this morning I seemed to be able to get a bit closer than before - she didn't seem panicked, and the only notable expression on her face was a yawn. She still wasn't quite ready for me to touch her though..
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 04-21-2009, 12:43 PM
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Re: Worried about new kitty...

Ah! Well, a yawn is a good sign.
I know bathrooms are small, but ALL of my fosters start in there. I leave a scratcher and toys in there, and visit them frequently so they aren't bored to tears. There is a window available for them to look out, if they are big enough to jump up there. Until the cat will come to me when I call (food) I do not allow them out of that bathroom because I don't want them getting under my bed where I can't reach them.
When they come for food, I begin to let them out into the bedroom when I am awake and they are only put back in the bathroom when I sleep. When they have worked through progressions of handling, enough to where I would be able to continue the process out in the rest of the home and not have the cat hide/inaccessible to me, that is when they can be allowed the run of the house.



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