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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-30-2013, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Cat lives in fear

First, some background information:

Buddha is 6 years old. I raised him since he was 5 days old, with his four other siblings although three of them were adopted out. He was the biggest of the bunch. I raised and handled all of the kittens the same way, but Buddha was always very loving and affectionate, more than the others.

He has extreme fear of going to the vet. He goes ballistic when I try to put him into the carrier, like he is going to his death. He's been to the vet for emergency urinary blockages four times, all approximately one week stays, in the last four years. After the fourth blockage, he had the PU surgery. Before the blockages, I had been feeding him dry food. After the first blockage, I fed him prescription dry and wet food. After the second blockage, I fed him only high quality wet food. After the third and fourth blockage, I feed him Royal Canin Urinary SO wet and high quality (like Wild Calling, Dave's, Soulistic) wet food only with water mixed in. He also has two water fountains and access to five clean litterboxes. He has no trouble with going to the bathroom and leaves huge balls of urine, which is good.

I live with my parents right now and have been here for about 5 years. The first year years of his life I lived alone in a big apartment and the second year I lived in a big house with 3 other roommates. He shyed away from my roommates but at the time was not scared of them. Now living with my parents, he gets free rein of the house during the day and stays in my bedroom at night, along with my other two cats. All three of my cats get along very well. I had Bowie before I got the kittens and Izzie is the other kitten I kept. Buddha is not shy with my two other cats. He plays with them and sometimes tries to boss them around.

My parents have a cat who is coincidentally one of the kittens I fostered. When I was living alone, that was the only time Izzie and Buddha were away from their sister Petty. When I moved back home, Izzie and Petty did not get along and still do not get along. But my parents house is big and Petty has her territory and Izzie stays around me. Buddha gets along with Petty okay, but sometimes he chases her and bosses her around. During the day, Buddha sometimes wanders the house and does not just stay where I am.


Okay now for the problem:

Buddha lives in constant fear. He's great around me and is very possessive and clingy. He follows me around everywhere and will not let me do anything without vying for my attention. But for some reason he hates everyone in my family except for me. He can tolerate my mom, but he HATES my dad and my brother. He used to just run away from them when they came near him, but now he has started to hiss at them when he only sees them. About a year ago, he was able to sniff my dad and brothers hand, but then ran away. Now he just downright hates them and will not go near them and hisses like mad. I do not understand what happened between now and then. I do not understand why he is like this in the first place. There was no history of any trauma with other people that I can think of… When I was living alone, I always had friends over and he was fine with them. He was not lovey-dovey like my attention-getting Izzie, but he tolerated them. Now living back at home, he will sometimes only stay in my bedroom when I am at school or work and will not come out until I am home. He does get scared or nervous with loud or unexpected sounds like weather or footsteps.

The only time I have been away from my cats was for three days, when I went out of town with my parents. My brother stayed home and fed my cats. He said that Buddha ran away under the bed and would not eat until he left. Besides that, I have always been home (besides school and work).

As for solutions, I have had Feliway plugged in for about five months now. I just started giving him Pet Naturals Calming treats every other day. I also give him Cosequin every other day in his wet food. I test his urine pH at least once every two weeks, and it tests out 6.5. I play Da Bird with him every now and then and Cat Dancer. He loves those. He also loves the Yeow Catnip Banana. He has an interactive feeder than I put in either Purebites Freeze-dried Chicken or a few bits of dry kibble. He's very paw-sy and loves sticking his paws into the tubes to get a "surprise treat." When I am ready for bed, so is he. He usually sleeps either on a flat cushion next to me or in my arms with his head on my pillow.

I just do not understand why he is one way with me and completely a different cat with others. I wonder what made him scared in the first place. Could the vet emergency visits made him have stress and trauma? My dad is not a small man, maybe he is scared of his presence, although my brother is smaller.

Is there any other way to de-stress him besides giving him anti-anxiety or any other pills? I do not want to resort to prescriptions if it is not needed. Any tips would be appreciated!
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-30-2013, 11:41 AM
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Unfortunately I do not have many suggestions for you, other than to say that apparently between his health issues and the move back to your parents' home Buddha has become a lot more fearful and stressed. It's odd that he used to be better with them and now is worse, although on a smaller scale I am having the same issue with Mystique and my husband. When we first got her she was better with him than she is now - she quickly decided she was 'my' cat, but she would tolerate patting from him and not run away and now she mostly runs away when he walks toward her. Even if he is only walking past and not intending to go up to her. In my case though, my husband is quite boisterous and tends to do things like break into song abruptly, etc lol and I know he freaked her out several times by doing that so that may be where it comes from.

Have your father and brother tried getting down on Buddha's level and offering him treats and talking to him softly? Your brother did feed him while you were away I know you said, but at that time he was most likely stressed because you weren't there so he wouldn't have been receptive.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-30-2013, 02:50 PM
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Most of the time when the interactions between people and cats b ackslide its because the people start doing what comes naturally to us....which is exactly wrong from an anxious cats point of view.

To build relationships we like to give lots of eye contact - an anxious cat interprets this as a threat/warning.

We want to be greeted, so we'll move closer - a nervous cat will feel threatened if you move closer, let alone offer a hand...all while staring directly at him!

Even crouching down nearby our instinct is to block exits to force an interaction - from the cats view you are blocking off exits, cornering them, then invading their space while offering a threat.

See why it doesn't work and in fact gets worse?

Molldee, if you switch up a few things it'll help a ton. Rule one is for them not to stare at him! They can look briefly, but try to avoid eye contact and keep their face relaxed and calm. Slow blinks, yawns, and closing your eyes in his general direction are calming signals to a cat. If he returns them then he's feeling more comfortable.

Have your dad and brother feed the cats if possible. He already likes you, they need to become the 'ringers if good things' too! Ditto for treats, but they should be either placed on the floor away from him, or gently tossed nearby.

Lastly, play time! Start by doing this yourself, and then once he's excited get your brother or dad involved. If he's very anxious that builds up a lot of tension and play is a good way to release that pent up energy. Wand toys or laser pointers are my favorite, so you can really wave the toy but you don't have to move your body too much. Fir you that won't be a problem, but it may be for your family members.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-30-2013, 04:12 PM
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Great advice from Becky. I would add can your dad or brother feed him? That helps too. I would make it a last resort to put him on an anti anxiety med. Try the all natural Composure Liquid first, if you think he needs some extra help calming him down.

I have a niggling feeling maybe a male, when you had room mates, teased him when you werent there and it ruined his trust. My oldest son did that to my cat and he hid in the closet till he left. Then he was not a fan of men for years after that. Now my SO feeds him and he came around.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-30-2013, 04:24 PM
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I'm sorry to hear of the problems you're having with Buddha. I can understand why he is very fearful of going into his carrier, as he knows that takes him to the vet and he's had quite a number of procedures that have been terrifying and painful for him. You can try and retrain him to the carrier by leaving it open and throwing in treats or his favorite toy. Don't close the door on him, unless you're taking him to the vet.

librarychick has given you good suggestions for the male members of your family re eye contact and treats and play. By any chance were all the visits to male vets? Possibly he has transferred his fear of them to your dad and brother. Have they ever yelled at him or accidentally stepped on him that you're aware of? Quite a number of cats are quite unforgiving if that happens to them. I had a female that my hubby stepped on accidentally and he swore at her, and for 12 years she avoided him and would leave the room if he came in. I finally persuaded him that he should speak nice things to her in a sing song voice, and she came around in a couple of weeks and actually became his lap cat at times. I've found that an apology has to be made immediately if you step on a paw or tail, they know you didn't mean to hurt them and it wasn't on purpose and usually instantly forgive you....at least that's been my experience.

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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-31-2013, 01:11 PM Thread Starter
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My dad and brother have tried giving him treats and talking to him gently, but he runs away at the sight of them and starts hissing. He doesn't even give them a chance to be in the same room. Unfortunately my brother works 24/7. He's a manager of a PetCo (haha)! He's never home to feed my cats because he's either at work or out somewhere. My dad may not be receptive to feeding my cats because he's used to dropping down dry kibble into their cats bowl. I mix my cats wet food with warm water and add supplements (Cosequin for Buddha, EYL for Izzie, L-Lysine for Bowie) 3x a day, so my dad would be put off by feeding them.

Avoiding eye contact is great idea! I'll let them know and see if that helps. I slow blink to my cats when they're sitting on me and they reciprocate. It's pretty cool and I feel like I'm connecting more with my cats. I'll try to get my dad and brother to play with him, but he freaks out and hides whenever they're in the same room. Maybe Da Bird will draw him out.

What is the Composure Liquid? Is it actually helpful? The Pet Naturals Calming treats have helped on the days I give it to him (every other day). I'm going to start giving it to him every day though. He does seem to mellow out a little bit, but he still stirs when he hears random noises or when my dad or brother talks or comes in the room.

I always kept my room locked because one of my roommates always stole my clothes. So whenever I wasn't home, they were locked in my room (my good roommate had a key in case of emergency). But maybe when we had people over, they could of went upstairs to check out my cats.

All the vets he has seen were female, but I'm not sure about the vet techs or assistants. I don't think my dad or brother ever yelled at him or stepped on him by accident because he's always running away from them. My dad is really quiet and my brother is rarely home.
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-31-2013, 02:21 PM
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What if you did the mixing but your dad actually delivered the food?

And it might be worth trying Feliway.

Since it sounds as if your brother is out ost of the time, I'd concentrate on your father first.
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 12-31-2013, 08:12 PM
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Composure Liquid has worked for me with in 24 hours of being administered. I'm thinking its more potent since its liquid. But have heard good feed back with the treats too. Feliway in your closed room would be an added bonus with the CL. Having friends over in the room with your kitty is a great idea.
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