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Discussion Starter #1
My cat Jeffrey, who is about 10 months old, gets all jumpy once in a while and seems very frightened, for no reason that my wife or I can figure out. For the most part he is relaxed, rolls over on his back to get belly rubs, and has never experienced any type of trauma. But once in a great while he slinks around the house and jumps at every sound or touch.

He has been with us since he was 6 weeks old, when we got him off the street along with his sister. They have rarely been around any other people and never without my wife or I present, so at least since we have them, we know there has been no trauma. They are indoor cats.

His sister Lester never seems to get jumpy like this.

Is this normal? Could there be psychological reasons?
 

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In my experience it can be both....learned behavior and genetic. If one of the parents is a high strung, "nervous nelly", and the other is calm, laid back and outgoing, there may be a kitten in a litter who will inherit a nervous temperament. Especially in the domestic cat who has been born as a feral, a nervous temperament and quick reflexes are good for survival, as the cat is more aware and vigilant and gets itself out of danger sooner than a laid back cat. With purebred cats that are bred as much for their beauty and uniqueness but also for their health and temperament, you don't see quite as many skittish nervous cats. Most conscientious breeders handle their kittens from birth and make sure they are well socialized with other cats, dogs and people, so the environment in which they are raised is beneficial to raising an outgoing, laid back cat. This education of the cat carries on if it goes to cat shows. Unlike dog shows the owner is not at the end of a leash, the cat really shows itself. It needs to have a very calm and even temperament to succeed in winning its championship or grand championship. So shows are a way of testing a cat's temperament. If you've ever attended a cat show it is noisy, usually a big crowd of people constantly passing by all the bench cages, talking to the cats and their owners. Then the cat's walked through a lot of people to get to the judging ring, and is put in a cage behind the judge, the owner leaves, and then it's picked up by a complete stranger who feels the cat's bone structure and musculatore, stares into its eyes to observe color and shape, and checks its coat. At some shows this same cat may have to go through this procedure six times, if there are that many judging rings. Then if it's called up for "finals" (1st to 10th place), it goes through the whole judging procedure again. The goal of a good breeder is always to improve the breed and to be as close to the show standard as possible for that breed. Good breeders will try to breed the best to the best, and so the perpetuation of genes for a good temperament is carried on. Occasionally at cat shows you do see a few with a nervous temperament or one that becomes aggressive with the judge because they can't tolerate the noise or change and smell of other strange cats, but they don't usually make the finals.

Some nervousness/skittish is learned. Recently I moved house and my girl Alkee always was the door greeter, but she became quite upset with all the changes with the moving, and with a lot of work done on the new house, and workmen coming and going and now when she hears the doorbell ring, she takes off for one of the bedrooms to hide out until they leave. Never used to do that before.....so sometimes it can be a single incident that can set them off.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Well thank you for the great reply. Normally he seems so relaxed and trusting.
 

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Any chance there is a reason? Do you have a loud refrigerator? Maybe he was behind it when the compressor kicked on? Is it correlated with the season? Maybe he happened to be lounging by a radiator when the heat came on. It could be a normal household noise you take for granted that sets him off.

It may not be something that you can stop, but you might be able to narrow down a reason.

Or he could just be a nervous kitty that has become comfortable with you and just reverts back every now and then.
 

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I rescued a starving mother with two female kittens from the streets last summer and the youngest kitten, Sterling Silver, still acts like a nervous stray most of the time. She hides a lot, usually in the original quarrintine room or on the cat tree in the catroom, but comes out normall when food is served or when she wants to play. But if a human approaches her during this time, she will run back to one of her safe spots. She plays normally with her mother and sibling and other young cats I have, but she does not want to trust humans and has a very shy manner and will even run away from me if she hears me call her name. Sterling is just a nervous, cautious and shy cat.

Sterling was doing quite well and allowing me to pet her in January and February of this year and coming along fine with taming; very shy, but OK. But then she was scheduled for her spay surgery and she has regressed back to her sometimes hiding and not wanting to trust humans again. Her sis, Dora, regressed a little right after her spay surgery, but is now back to normal again, sleeping against me at night, coming around for pets and play and even coming closer to me when I call her. I know it is just a matter of time till both Dora and Sterling are completely comfortable with me and I can wait. Tux Cat, from the litter I socialed right before getting Rosie's babies, took two years to trust humans and is now one of my lap cats.

Some cats are just more shy, afraid or nervous than others.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
He seems to jump at various random noises, including ones he hears every day. But only when he is in that weird, frightened mood. Most of the time he is completely relaxed around people, and trusting enough to show his belly for a rub.

LaurulFeatherCat, I am sure Dora and Sterling will soon be very comfortable with you. My sister had a cat that hissed at everyone that walked by except for her. Eventually though, she started to come out of nowhere and sit on my lap, letting me pet her.
 

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two of my cats fear nothing and no one. the middle one that i've had since he was a kitten, was extremely friendly as well, but when he was 11 mos. old, a friend of mine took him to be neutered (i would have never had someone else take him, but i was ill for an extended period of time and he got overdue to be altered anyway) and ever since that happened, if he hears a man's voice, he runs and hides. particularly roman's--if he hears his voice i see a panic-stricken look cross his face and he will tear up everything getting to his cabinet under the sink.

i used to think it was only roman, but he hides from all male voices. i've given up trying to get him to get over it. as long as he doesn't hide from me, he's allowed to have his quirks. i've tried handing out treats to people coming in so they associate it with new people, but the other two always get them lol.

the other ones know no strangers.
 

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I have no doubt Dora and Sterling will come around. Never had a cat hold out for more than two years. I let the cat tame itself, let them make all the moves, let them decide what kind of interactions they want with me. Everyone but Dora and Sterling at this point are lap cats. I am in no hurry and will just plain enjoy it when it happens.

Some cats are just more nervous or distrustful. Others have had really bad experiences with humans before coming to me. I am really sad I will never have the financial means to tame any more strays now that I am handicapped and unable to work; but I guess I have done enough rescuing in my life and just need to rest on my laurels and enjoy my kitties. It will be hard to walk past them. Maybe in another year I will be strong enough to assit one of the local no kill shelters as a volunteer. Right now I just don't have the strength and endurance to do much more than sit around and pet cats; and do the litter and feeding for my own.

The future is the future and will come whether we want it to or not.
 
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