You are here:

Cats/Skittish kitty

Advertisement


Question
Close to a year ago, my mom and I adopted a 2yr old female tabby from the SPCA who had gone through a lot in her short little life. All her teeth but her canines had to be pulled, she's missing the tip of her tail, her tail was broken in two places, she's had two litters, and when we got her she was still underweight (she's a decent weight now). When we got her, she was an extremely skittish cat and wouldn't come near you unless you were sitting and even then would dash off if you so much as shifted. You also couldn't pick her up without her tearing you to pieces. I've been working with her since we got her and have gotten her to where she'll come part ways to greet me when she sees me (I still have to sit down for her to come over) and she no longer runs off when I shift to a more comfortable position (she still backs off though). I can also pick her up for very short periods of time (as long as I'm sitting) and not look like someone tried to stuff me through a shredder. When she's in her comfort area, she'll roll onto her back and rub and purr against me but no where else and with no one else.
It seems I've hit a wall though. If I walk towards her, she'll run off, if I try to stand up carrying her she'll start to struggle, if I raise my hand to scratch my nose she'll jump and back off. She hasn't seen a vet since she's left the shelter because I'm worried about how she'll react to the vet. This can't go on forever or even much longer. Is there anything you can recommend to help my poor Faith trust people again? She doesn't hiss at people or swat at them but she will tear them to pieces trying to get away.

Answer
Megan,

Congratulations for being an angel and rescuing this kitty!!!!!!!!!!!!

My first question is had the SPCA spayed her before you got her? If so, that's a good thing, if not, she needs to be spayed.

Cats always like to feel that they are in control. They react badly to negative reinforcement.  What this means is that cats do better when something is their idea (or you have convinced them it is their idea). Cats always do better with positive reinforcement techniques, e.g. clicker training (check out: http://www.clickertraining.com/). I would recommend this method of training for your kitty, as it has had an excellent success rate.

Is there something food your cat thinks is the greatest treat in the world?  If so, this is what you can use for positive reinforcement.  Some examples are a good meat baby food (just meat and broth or gravy), freeze dried cat treats and the like usually work well.  You can try a couple of treats and and see what seems to work best.

What I would do is to not approach your kitty but wait for her to come to you.  If she wants to be petted, she will invite you to pet her.  This way she thinks it is her idea to have you give her attention and not the other way around. If she asks you to pet her, give her a treat. This way she has a double win, she has "trained" you to pet her on demand and to giver a treat as well.

Another resource for ideas in cat socialization (complete with videos) is:

http://jacksongalaxy.com/category/cat-behavior-and-care/

To me, Jackson Galaxy has got a fabulous understanding of cat behavior. He is the host of the show "My Cat from Hell" on animal planet.

It will be a fairly long road to socialize your girl given all that she has been through, but you have already made excellent strides in getting her to trust you.

Please let me know how things go.

Best regards... Norm.  

Cats

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Norman Auspitz

Expertise

I can answer most non-veterinary questions about cats. My particular expertise is pedigree cats, breeding and showing. However, I am versed in feline behavior, cat breeds and their characteristics, general feline husbandry, and the like.

Experience

I judged for the Canadian Cat Association from 1975 until 1982. I am currently an approved allbreed judge for the Cat Fanciers'' Association (the world''s largets cat registry), and have been judging for them since 1991. I have been breeding pedigreed cats since 1971 and have been exhibiting pedigreed cats in shows since 1970. I obtained my first pedigreed cat in 1970 and have never looked back. In 1971, I obtained my first Abyssinian which has become my primary breed. In addition, I have bred Manx and Persians. Currently, besides the Abyssinians, I am also breeding Maine Coons.


Organizations
Cat Fanciers'' Association, inc. (CFA) and the Manx, Maine Coon, and Abyssinian breed councils. I am currently Abyssinian breed council secretary.

Publications
Cat Fancy Magazine, The Abyssinian Chapter in The Cat Fanciers'' Association Complete Cat Book, and Articles for various editions of The Cat Fanciers'' Association Yearbook

Education/Credentials
I received a B.S. from Drexel University in 1968, a M.Math from University of Waterloo, in 1970, a Ph.D. from University of Waterloo in 1975, and a MBA from McMaster University in 1980. I received my approved allbreed judging status in the Cat Fanciers'' Association in 1999.

Awards and Honors
We have produced a number of Cat Fanciers'' Association (CFA) National winning Abyssinian and Maine Coons. We have produced a number of Abyssinian and Maine Coon Distinguished Merit females (an award for a top producing cat), including the first Distinguished Merit Abyssinian in the red (sorrel) color. I am the CFA Abyssinian breed council secretary and belong and/or hold office in a number of cat clubs. I am also a member of the CFA Judges Association.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.