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Hi all,
It’s coming up to the 4-month mark with my Inky. He is a feral kitten and about 7 months old. After 4 months living with him, he is will:

1) sleep on the bed with me
2) allow hand feeding
3) sit within a foot or so of me at a table
4) meow to me (started after about 2 months of silence)
5) follow me around and study everything I do

All good progress. But he still will not tolerate being touched, and he responds with swatting and retreating if I try even to slowly touch a paw with one finger.



Anyway, does anyone have advice on how to break through the touching barrier? I don’t have a spare cat to use as a role model ….



Thanks!
 

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Cleo has been with me for three years and still doesn't like her feet touched. At all. Not for one second.
 

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A lot of cats don't like their feet touched, if that's actually where you're trying to pet your cat it could be part of the problem. Try getting low to the ground or even lay on the ground near him, do not make any fast movements, and don't aim for Inky's feet, maybe closer to his ears instead. If Inky doesn't want you to move any closer, leave your hand where it is. Repeat this often and one of those times he might actually allow you to pet him.
 

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Cleo didn't like being touched anywhere when she first adopted me. For a long time, it was just her little face she liked having scratched. Now I can pet her everywhere except her legs and feet. Tonight, she laid on her back and let me rub her little belly, first time I can remember her doing that.

Baby steps....
 

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Nebbie will let me pet her "regular-like"...most of the time. But never the feet. Which is really annoying, as I want to put on Soft Paws because she's started scratching at the carpet near the litter box (I have a plastic mat that goes out from under the box, but she likes to scratch even past that!)
 

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A cat's feet and legs are *vital* to their survival and the instincts to protect them and other vital areas are very strong. It takes a cat who is very comfortable, confident and secure with itself and its' surroundings before most will allow their feet to be handled. This is a major reason why clipping nails can be such an ordeal for so many people and their cats.
...and no matter how trusting and confident a cat becomes ... some just *cannot* override that instinct to protect their feet/bellies.
I would begin touching by reaching to touch/pet their shoulder or hip while they are distracted with eating. Some cats are preferential with how close they allow a hand and where they allow it: some prefer head/shoulders only, some prefer further away from their head like at their hip/rump. You'll have to experiment to see what your kitty prefers.
 

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What I would do personally is approach Inky slowly and confidently. If you are nervous or tense he will feel this and think that there is a reason to be afraid and match your mood. Don't look him in the eyes, if you really want to be 'kitty polite' then you can turn your head slightly away. Staring him in the eyes in cat lingo is a challenge and will make your approach threatening to him. Hold out your hand to Inky and see what he does. If he sniffs you and seems curious about your hand try touching him somewhere whether on the head, shoulder, etc. If he runs away that's ok, if he invites you to pet more then, of course, pet more :) If when you hold out your hand he shrinks back afraid or hisses, flattens his ears, starts swishing his tail wildly, or bites/swats at you then he is not feeling too great about the hand at the moment. Simply put your hand down and walk away. This isn't a bad thing and don't feel bad if this happens. Do this several times a day. Always approach him and allow Inky to "invite" you to push his boundaries a little further. He will begin to trust you more and more and look forward to your touches more and more. I personally don't recommend forcing your touch on him in any way. This can build distrust and set you back instead of moving your forward. You are wanting to build his trust in you and to communicate that you are not a threat to him. I have tried this approach with many cats, my toughest being semi ferals from a major hoarding case (they had 125 kittens alone) and this group I worked with were all 8+ years old. This worked wonderfully with them and I developed a close bond that many didn't share with them. With those of us that took this approach these cats allowed themselves to be carefree and longed to be rubbed and pet. If these older guys can turn around then I have no doubt Inky will as well!
 

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Today for the first time Prince let me pet his belly and caress his leg and foot. He was quite sleepy, and that helped. I remember when I first met him, he wouldn't even let me rub under his chin - only his forehead/top of head.

I once read something that I loved and that proved very true with my colony strays, so I copied it. Unfortunately, I don't have the name of the person who wrote it (it was a poster in some internet forum), but here it is:

"A lot of cats seem to have a problem with the "giant" human reaching down scaring them. I think they know it's the same loving person, but just can't fight their instinct to run away. It takes time, but they learn. Sometimes it takes longer for them to learn to control the instinct to run than it does for them to learn to trust you".
 

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just like the saying, good things take time.

i was lucky with pretty girl. since i had spent a lot of time with her and her babies while she was still in my colony i was actually able to pet her within a month or so of her coming inside to stay. now that we are about 10 weeks in she will come out of her dog crate and sit on my lap, let me rub her legs, occasionally rub her belly and even pick the boogers out of her eyes.

now if only she wanted to come out of her crate to stay. she is still a little too scared for that but i am patient.
 

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Oh, that was John who said that.

"A lot of cats seem to have a problem with the "giant" human reaching down scaring them. I think they know it's the same loving person, but just can't fight their instinct to run away. It takes time, but they learn. Sometimes it takes longer for them to learn to control the instinct to run than it does for them to learn to trust you".
 

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Thanks, Heidi. I'm glad I can mention the source. It's so beautifully written that I sent it to my cat-loving friends too.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for all the comments. Actually, he won't tolerate being touched anywhere on his body, and the reaction is pretty much the same no matter where i try to touch him - a half-hearted swat and then run away. He just seems to hate seeing my hands.
I have tried brushing with a long-handled brush (something like a comically oversized toothbrush), but he just grabs the brush and chews it vigorously.
 

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Today, after 4 and a half months feeding and caring for this strays' colony, giving them all my attention and sitting with them for hours some days, one of the strays (who NEVER let me anywhere near) came up to me and rubbed her body against my legs. I had given up already, because I had done everything I could think of to get her to let me touch her. She likes to accompany Prince and me on our strolls for hours, but ever since I met her she calculates very carefully the distance she'll keep herself from me (about 1.5m). I'm still in shock, because I confess I hadn't believed it much when everyone kept telling me that one day it'd happen. Congrats to her for taking her time to trust!
 

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I also want to say that during all this time, there was very little visible advancement with her in the sense of touch. I had lately assumed that she would never want touch. Turns out she was desperate for it. She rubbed herself against me because that's what she sees another cat do to me, and I'm sure it's her compromise (for now), where she can touch me and be in control of when, how much, etc. She still won't let me touch her, but now I'm optimistic.
 

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congratulations! it is an awesome feeling isn't it.

i just had my first touch with bootsie, one of my colony last week. just like you i have spent tons of time with my guys & gals. while it was only a brief pat of my hand with his paw it nonetheless made me a very happy guy:)
 

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Congrats to you too!
 

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Thank you Heidi. One of the things I love about this cat is that she's old, which goes to prove that with their prudence and our love and care, strays can have a long, meaningful life... Prudence is a trait of cats, and I think we shouldn't teach them otherwise... Another thing I've learned is that we can't rush them. Everything they do is in their own time.
 

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When I first brought Juno home she didn't want to be touched at all. She would do what I call the straight armed slap to anyone that got too close to her, just SLAP! SLAP! SLAP! several times in a row then turn and run like heck. Slowly she would tolerate more and more touching and she seemed to want to be in the same room more and more. Finally on Christmas day of 2009 she actually jumped up on my lap, then sat an purred while I pet her for a little bit. I was totally shocked and it didn't happen again for a long time. I guess that was my Christmas present for the year.
She continues to get better and better, though. Now she runs to greet me when I come home from work every evening. She still doesn't want to be picked up and cuddled, but maybe some day. Some cats just need to take it very, very slow.
 
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