The Timid Cat
We all hope that our cat will be the loveable little soul that will want to sit on our lap for hours and have endless cuddles, but some of them are just not like that. The most important time in a cat’s life is the first 8 weeks. Any experiences in these first few weeks will form their characters. Hopefully they will become confident, affectionate and ready for anything. However, most of the time this is not the case. Kittens often come into a rescue situation either taken away from their mothers too early (before 8 weeks) or where they have lived rough and have had very little human contact. Some kittens may not be as confident and affectionate as a kitten brought up in the correct environment surrounded by kind adults and its own mother. Even hand rear kittens which you would think would be loveable can all too easily turn out to be aggressive. All advice given on this website is by expert cat owners. It is not in any way meant to be used in replacement to any vet or other professional advice. The owner takes no responsibility of any consequences due to any of the information held within the site.
Dealing with timid catsTimid Cats
Hand Feeding: Hand feeding is the quickest and easiest way to gain a cats trust. If proving particularly difficult use tuna, ham or prawns to get started with and then feed her normal cat food. As she becomes more confident move the food further away so she has to come towards you to get her reward. This method can also be used with cats that will not sit on your lap. Sitting on the floor at her level, offer her the food - then bit by bit start to move the food a little further over each time, so she has to put one paw on your leg.
She will probably take the food and withdraw which is fine, providing you rewarded her as she was coming towards you. Over time you then reward for putting two paws on your lap, until eventually she is sat on your lap before she gets the treat. Again - slowly does it. If she withdraws from you, then you have found her limit. Remember she must come towards you to be rewarded, if she backs off, then no food, otherwise you are reinforcing the action of moving away from you. Only reward for coming towards you.
Confinement: If you have a particularly nervous or timid cat, or if there are other pets in the house I would suggest putting one room aside to work with the timid cat. Set this up with her own bed, toys, litter tray, food, and a cardboard box as a safe haven. Do not place the litter tray near the bed or food. The cat is likely to be in here for a while, maybe even a few weeks, so make her comfortable. I would recommend leaving the cat carrier in the same room as the cat. Place the box in a quiet corner, facing the opening into the wall. Cats feel more secure in a small dark environment. Also if you leave the carrier out the cat will not be as fearful of it should you need to take her to the vet. It is quite normal that when you get a shy timid cat back home it will become even more introvert. It is important at this stage to allow the cat to come to terms with its new environment at its own pace. Never attempt to drag the cat out from wherever it has taken refuge. It may help to have a Feliway Diffuser in the room.
Bring food and sit in the same room as the cat and talk gently to her. If you cannot think of things to say, then take a book or magazine in and sit and read to the cat! The point of this exercise is that the cat gets used to your voice and has a pleasant association, realising that there is nothing to fear. In the meantime go to the cat every hour, with a very small amount of food. Give the cat a signal that you are there by using its name and talking gently to her. I usually use the phrase Papa-papa - which is Italian for food, but has a very soft gentle sound. Offer her the food from your fingers. If she hisses at you, then you are in her personal space, so back off slightly - you will soon judge how close is too close! You may find that the cat makes no attempt to eat in your presence - which again is quite common. In that case when you go to bed place a small amount of food for her to consume overnight and make sure she has access to water and her litter tray. Leave a few toys laid out in a certain manner, so you can tell if she has been playing during the night.
The cat needs to be hungry as we want her to respond to you with the food - her need for food, will overcome her fear for you so don’t be tempted to put a days worth of food down overnight. The following day try again exactly as before. When she does approach the food, give her another signal just before she eats - I say ‘Yeeesaa’ which again is gentler than saying ‘yes, good girl’ which doesn’t have the same soft tone to it. Every time you offer food, say papa-papa so she has a definite association with the sound and then the food. Even if she makes just a small movement towards you, give her the food, place it down on the floor so she can get her ‘reward’ - don’t forget the ‘Yeeesaa’ as she takes it from the floor. No attempt should be made to touch the cat at this stage. The initiative must come from the cat herself. She will let you know when she is ready to be touched. Any attempt to touch her now will have her running for cover again and you will have to start from scratch. Please don’t be in a hurry to make contact. She has to trust you first, and food is the way forward! Her motivation at this stage is hunger. She will not be interested in having any contact with you. When you are not there leave a radio playing in the background so she gets used to some noise and learns there is nothing to be fearful about.
However remember to turn the radio or TV off when you are working with her so she can concentrate on your voice.
Play Time: This is very important especially if your cat is used to going out and you are now going to keep it in for a few weeks - you must make the effort to play with her a few times a day so she does not get bored and frustrated. Use toys from a distance, for example the cat charmer which is a long piece of material on a wand which cats just love; fishing rod toy, anything that you can play with the cat from a distance so that she does not feel threatened. It is amazing how a shy cat can come out of herself when it’s playtime! Never use your hands as a plaything! Bits of screwed up paper, a cardboard box, a few leaves from outside, even a bowl of water with a few toys floating around in! See separate section on Play Time for more ideas.
Information taken from: http://www.caring-for-your-cat.co.uk/timid_cats.html
The information is the opinion of the writer in the link to the website provided and is not a substitute for veterinary/professional advice.
Purrs Owners and Staff are not responsible for the content and information provided through links to other web sites.