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QUESTION: Hello-

I am going to try to sum this up the best that I can.  My daughters and I have an adopted 11 year old hunting dog, my daughter has an adopted 7 year old domestic short hair cat named Nala, and this November a friend asked if we would please take in a 4 year old domestic short hair cat named Ringo who's owner was in dire straights.  I of course said yes, and we rushed up to get Ringo.  My daughter adopted Nala from a rescue shelter when she was a baby and Nala has grown up in a house with another dog and an older cat, so she's been raised with other animals and is used to all of the commotion.  Lucy, the dog, was adopted from a home where the owners could no longer provide for her, and they also had cats and another dog, so she was also used to commotion.

Ringo, apparently, used to be an outside cat. Her previous owners had just gotten her comfortable with human presence and touch, although she had a habit of hiding quite often.  I'm assuming that's a 'feral' thing.  Ringo was very comfortable with her other feline housemates and would snuggle with them on the couch and beds.  Ringo would not actively seek out human contact, but by the time she left them, would not avoid it either.

Now, we got her in November, and when we got her home it was a disaster.  I tried to ease her into our home, but Lucy, for 11, is very rambunctious.  Ringo retreated to our basement and we kind of lost sight of her.  I knew she was eating, drinking and using her litter box.  My daughters and I would go down and talk to her, keeping her alert to our presence in the house.  I would hear her talking through the vents at night.  Occasionally, she would venture upstairs late at night.

Recently, two weeks ago, when I was feeding Lucy and Nala in the morning, she suddenly appeared at the top of the stairs (we keep the basement gated to keep Lucy out of the basement)meowing.  Ever since then, she will either come up in the mornings of her own will, or sometimes when called for breakfast and dinner.  She eats behind the baby gate with her 'siblings'.  But, with the slightest move she darts back down the stairs.  She is far more tolerant of my presence and my oldest daughter (she's 14) then my youngest.  Some days she will sit on the top most step and look out the back door.  She never comes upstairs fully unless it's night time and quiet, and never any further than the kitchen.

I guess I understand that she will probably never be as snuggly as Nala, but how do I help this baby?  We want so desperately for her to be a part of our family.  She's made great strides all of a sudden, but we need direction!  We just don't know what to do to help her further.  She's been spayed, and front declawed.  She's had two litters prior to being spayed.  Down stairs she has her own litter box, bed, and toys.  I've moved her food and water to the top of the kitchen steps though, and only feed her up here with us in the kitchen.  I want her to associate food with me and the kitchen.

Can you offer any further help?

Thank you!

ANSWER: Holly,

First of all, so far you have done everything right!!!!! It sounds to me as if Ringo has made tremendous progress. Ringo has had her whole world turned upside down and you have left her to her own devices. She may never be as accepting as Nala, but she certainly needs more time. As for human, most cats are suspicious of younger children because they are so unpredictable.  Also, you do not know what kind of encounter Ringo has had with younger children.

Cats do best when they deal with things on their own terms. Having her eat closer to where the rest of the household is a good move.  By letting her choose how far and when she will come up, you are letting her set the pace of adjustment.  This is a good thing. If Ringo thinks she is progressing because she wants to, the outcome will be better. Cats do better when no one tries to force the issue!!!!

Your patience and perseverance will win out in the end. So keep doing what you are doing and let Ringo choose when and how she wants to interact. At some point you may be able to move the gate further into the kitchen and see if Ring moves further into the kitchen.

Please let me know how it goes.

Best regards... Norm.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thank you!  I don't really have a question, I just wanted to give you a quick update.  We went on vacation and Ringo had a huge set back.  Our other cat, for some reason, didn't get her medication and marked the entire upstairs area.  It took us over a week to get Ringo to show herself again.  But she did.  She is eating with everyone again.  And the best part, at night (late, around 10 or 11) she will come all the way into the kitchen and either sleep in front of the sink, or prowl the kitchen.  Sometimes she will interact with Nala, the other cat.  They will hunt bugs together, or lay down and do that flirty thing that cats do.  Now, she still will not let me any where near her, and will dart off if I move or come near her, but I consider this a huge improvement most nights I stay up late just to watch and talk to her.  She'll tolerate me talking to her, if it's in a more quiet tone.  She has become more tolerant of my youngest daughter as well.  I am just trying to figure out how to get her to the vet.  I have come to the conclusion that she will not be as aggressive with the attention that our other cat is, but I am hoping she will get comfortable enough, eventually, to come all the way into our living space to a window seat to enjoy the birds, or sleep somewhere soft.  I hope.

Thank you again!

Answer
Holly,

Many, many congratulations on the strides you have had in socializing Ringo: you have done great!!!!!!!

In time Ringo will warm up to you, as long as you never force the issue. Again, you need to let her make the first move when she is sufficiently comfortable.

Getting her to the vet will be a struggle as she may not trust you for a while after that.

I really appreciate the update.

Best regards... Norm.

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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.

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