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Discussion Starter #1
Hi guys. This is my first post, I think!

I have two cats, one male and one female. I think they were littermates or something because they get along fine. The shelter we got them from believes they were taken from a hoarding situation -- which probably is the cause of all this mess.

Two months ago we moved. Our cats before were fearful, but still came out when we were home and chilled out. They just hid when people were over, vacuum cleaners, etc.

I followed all the tips from the humane society during/after the move. They had their own safe space, no disturbances, etc. Two months later one cat comes out. She's a bit skittish, but gets better daily. The male has yet to come out. He hides 24/7. We'll hear him meow in the mornings from the basement and my fiance can go down there and pet him, but he hates me, hides from me and never comes upstairs. We're getting irritated of having only one cat and would like them to be more social and chill. We're at the point where we're discussing rehoming the male. Any tips or thoughts on things?

We cannot put him in a crate, hold him, pick him up or anything else because he "shuts down" and immediately freaks out and is scared. So a lot of the tips online won't work.
 

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It sounds like the male is more sensitive and may be picking up on your stress level. If you are getting more and more upset with the situation he is probably getting more skittish of you. I'm sure he doesn't hate you, he is probably just stressed out. He may actually be more stressed out about this than you are.

I would suggest limiting the area that the two cats have to roam and exclude the basement. As long as he has a place to hide he should be fine. Then just allow him time to get accustomed to the new surroundings. For some cats too much space in a new place can be frightening. He probably just needs time to build up his confidence.
 

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I agree with less space is more. Try putting the shy guy in a small room with his own box and bowls. Maybe a half bath. He can hear normal household stuff. He can sniff under door etc. visit him often. If he doesnt come around on his own you mite try short sessions of bundling him in a towel like a baby. You need to convince him you are not the enemy, but like with damaged people it may be a long road. patient
 

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I think the biggest thing is patience. Let him come to you, it sounds like he is really stressed out, and if you are stressed, kitties will pick up on that. Let him have his "space", be patient and I think given time he will come around. I also agree about excluding the basement. Please don't give up on him, I'm sure he will get better.
 

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How old is he? His age will have a huge effect on how I would suggest you handle this.

If he's under or close to 6 months you can be a bit more forward in how you deal with this. Kittens adapt fast, forgive fast, and learn fast. If he learns now that you'll give in to his wimpyness he may get stuck being terrified all the time. I'm not saying you need to make him 'man up', but the sooner you work to break his fearful habits the easier it will be.

Gentle coaxing would help, as well as teaching him that nice things happen outside his safety zone. Instead of bringing his food to him put his food 1 foot outside his safe zone, then leave him alone. Once that's not a problem move it 2 feet from his zone, ect. Try feeding him yummy wet food in another room entirely, if that room needs to be one with a door so be it. But good things outsite of his comfort zone will boost his confidence.

Setting up another safe zone would help too. One of the kittens I had adopted out returned to me at 7 months, scared of his own shadow. Once he felt safe in 'his' room I started bringing him downstairs for cuddle time. I'd set him on the couch and cover him with a blanket, making sure to leave a hole he could peek out of. After a few weeks of that he was running down the stairs to the couch, he was still scared a skittish, but he'd do it.
After that it was simple to get him more comfortable everywhere, I just introduced him to my boys and they had him playing in no time.

Since you have a braver sibling she'll help him come around once he's feeling a bit safer.

Now, if he's older you'll have to go slower. Still use the same methods, but be aware it will take longer.

I know this sounds silly, but any time I get a new pet I spend time with them in or near their safe zone and I read out loud to them. This does a few things. If you are reading your eyes are on the book/magazine. Most animals that we keep as pets (read: mammals) get nervous about too much eye contact, so averting your eyes helps a lot. When we read out loud most people naturally moderate their tone to neutral ranges. This way your voice can become a very calming sound and will ultimately help your pet feel safer around you. The last way it helps is by easing your body language. Reading is naturally a fairly low-key activity. You naturally shouldn't be jumping around, making sudden movements, or otherwise do anything that would startle the animal.

Since I did a lot of reading to the cats, especially the boys, when they were young they love it when I read to them! They snuggle up to me, settle in, and watch my face the whole time. It's a great way to bond with your pet and can really help them feel more comfortable, especially for pets who might not be used to human voices or movements.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Hey guys, thanks for the tips!

The cats are both 3 years old.


We can't exclude the basement. That was their safe spot and that's where their litterbox is. We don't want to move the litterbox to risk them peeing elsewhere. And we just moved from a condo where we had to smell the litter. Now that we're in a house, we're so happy we don't have to deal with it.


We just want cats that aren't fearful. Even before we moved, we couldn't even walk by without him running. He gets so tense and fearful when strange people/things are around that I know he's gonna shorten his lifespan from it. We want kitties who aren't fearful. We want kitties we can have people over without them flipping out. We want kitties we can be interactive with. Like I said, we can't even pick them up without causing another panic.


We've given them months and months and the longer it goes on, the more we just want to be done with it. We've ignored them, we've tried to be nice and nothing. Maybe he's just too Unsocialized.
 

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Welcome!

I adopted 2 cats two months ago as well, and have the same issue with the older one (She's just 17 months). She comes out now but she is still scared of us and won't let my fianceé go anywhere near her. The only advice I can give is to give your kitty time and have lots of patience. I'm still going through it, but I have hope.
 

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Have you thought about talking to a cat behaviorist? There is a show on Animal Planet called “My Cat from ****”. Most of what they show seems like common sense but when you're in the middle of dealing with a difficult situation it's hard to know what to try.
 

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Have you thought about talking to a cat behaviorist? There is a show on Animal Planet called “My Cat from ****”. Most of what they show seems like common sense but when you're in the middle of dealing with a difficult situation it's hard to know what to try.
I've seen that show. All he really deals with are cats that are fearful/aggressive, aggressive or have peeing issues. If I could get a hold of him, I wouldnt decline free advice.

Call me old-fashioned. I grew up near farms. I am not hiring a therapist for my cat.
 

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I don't think I would hire a therapist for my cat either. :)

Do your cats like catnip? I grow catnip in my garden which is more potent than dried. I take a few leaves or sometimes bring in a stalk for them. They roll around on it and get totally mellow. I'm thinking that if you get him mellow he may let you pet him and/or play with him.
 

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Our youngest cat also used to be very fearful and to this day is not comfortable around visitors. The suggestion to use catnip is actually what really has helped her to begin to have more confidence in herself... Now if I can only get permission to post in the other forums to figure out the other behavioral issues she has. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I don't think I would hire a therapist for my cat either. :)

Do your cats like catnip? I grow catnip in my garden which is more potent than dried. I take a few leaves or sometimes bring in a stalk for them. They roll around on it and get totally mellow. I'm thinking that if you get him mellow he may let you pet him and/or play with him.
That's another thing that leads me to believe that these cats weren't properly socialized. They show no interest in catnip. We've given it to them, they sniff it and then ignore it.


He lets us pet him. Sometimes. Only at night, only when my fiancé is home or only when we feed him. He's afraid of toys, noises, if we sneeze, get up or anything, he runs.


We're so tired of having fearful cats. It's not getting any better. We wanted cats which were chill and are contemplating rehoming him.


Or, we were thinking of getting another cat. One which might be more relaxed. We're afraid if we get another cat, it might act like our old fearful ones, though. What do you guys think? Will that happen?
 

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Sorry to hear about your fearful cat :(

Feliway might help if he is stressed. It was recommended to me (my cat doesn't appear to be stressed but he had ringworm recently which suggests he is..)

I agree with librarychick's advice, I've noticed my (new) cat is starting to avoid my brother because brother tends to swoop down and pick him up and cuddle him a lot. I guess some cats just don't like being picked up :( my cat definitely doesn't like it, wheareas my friend's cat Siubao (also a former stray) could spend hours sleeping on a human lap.

All the best with both your cats, I hope they appreciate your concern and come out of their shells soon!
 

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Unfortunately not all cats like catnip. I think most do but my friends Abyssinian hates it.

Since you are able to pet him when you feed him, you could try tempting him with treats. First let him know you have treats by letting him smell them in your hand. Then try giving him a treat when he lets you pet him. Also praise him with a "good boy" for letting you pet him when you give him the treat. If he continues to let you pet him repeat by giving him another treat and praise. This works best if you make it a ritual at the same time every day, at least to begin with. I would suggest that you cut the treats into smaller pieces. This works similiar to teaching a cat to do a trick. When they do what you want they get a reward. This helps build their confidence and to form a bond with you.

I can tell you are frustrated but I hope you can keep the two cats together because separating them may be even more traumatic for him.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Sibling cats suddenly fighting

Hi guys,

I posted earlier about one of our fearful cats. He came out yesterday when I was home alone and actually sat up on the couch with me and just hung out. It was great and he was pretty chill.

The problem is is that our other cat (the braver one) usually lays with me. She came up to the couch after 15-20 minutes, jumped up and it was almost instant that they started fighting. This was all out clawing, screaming, feral fighting. I jumped up, yelled and they bolted downstairs and stopped.

The night before, they were getting into hissing contests, doing the dirty stares at each other and generally acting like they hated each other. We've never seen this out of them before. In the two years we've had them, they have NEVER fought. Suddenly, over the course of two days they're almost out to hurt each other.

The only thing I can figure is that the cats are territorial of us. The braver cat prefers me and won't go near my fiance. However, the fearful one likes my fiance and the fearful one generally avoids me. Has anyone heard of this before?
 

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Have you considered individual play time? I mean, get a toy that is special to each of them, different toy. Put it away. It should only come out when it's individual play time-may be about 20 minutes a day each. Both of you (you and your fiance) play with the cats at the same time. Treats to end the play time. This will teach the braver cat that the fiance is not a bad guy and will each the fearful cat that you're not a bad guy either.

Also, is there something that you and your fiance can do with the both of the cats together that is fun and rewarding? Such as meal time?

And, when you yelled, you made the more fearful cat even more fearful. It could be that they are fighting because the bolder cat feels threatened that the fearful cat is getting guts.
 

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That's great news that your shy guy came to hang out with you. I don't think it was such a bad thing to stop the fight that way since it was unexpected. You were simply protecting them from each other and letting them know that fighting isn't allowed. It does sound like the braver one is jealous but this is probably more about insecurity after moving to a new home.
 

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The not liking catnip thing has nothing to do with them being unsocialized- it's a genetic thing.

The fact that both of them have sat up on the couch with you separately seems like it's not that they're unsocialized or feral. They're both stressed, and the more fearful one is especially stressed. Cats HATE change, and a move is one of the biggest changes you can pull on a cat.

It's a pity you yelled (I know you were worried about them getting hurt), because it seems like the fearful cat was getting around to overcoming his fear of the new territory and was trusting you. The yelling just ended the couch time with you as a negative experience. Cats do fight like that, even ones that like each other. They're at an age where their adult personalities are developing, and they may be figuring out which cat is the dominant one. Unless there's blood, I would recommend letting them fight, because there's not much you can do to stop it. If you do need to stop it, I suggest filling a can full of pennies and shaking it loudly, or clapping your hands loudly. Or you can use an interactive toy, like Da Bird, to distract them and burn off their energy.

Where are they fed? If everything is in the basement, they don't have too much incentive to come up and check out the rest of the new house. Definitely keep water down there for them, but see if they can have some tasty meals/treats just outside the top of the basement stairs, and then slowly move those treats/feedings closer to the kitchen or living area as the days progress, if the feedings go well. That will help them associate the new home (and you) with good things.

Also try Feliway plug-ins and Bach Rescue Remedy (Original Bach Rescue Remedy now alcohol free for Pets). I've heard great things about those on here. They should help with their stress and fear. Feliway plug-ins are 50% cheaper on Amazon.com than they are at Petsmart, too!

The worst thing you could do for that cat is rehome him, to be honest. He needs someone to be patient with him and accept him for who he is. When we adopt pets, we don't get a guarantee for the type of personality they will have. In fact, cats often go through phases--in 5 years, those cats could be the friendliest, most outgoing cats. Cats are very sensitive to human emotion, and the cats are definitely picking up on your frustration and negative feelings, and unfortunately, it's probably adding to their stress and adding to the fearful one's wariness of you. I know how frustrating it can be- one of my cats is currently peeing on the living room carpet, and it's driving me nuts. But neither of us would be on here looking for help if we didn't care for our cats. :)
 
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