Very nervous cats

(15 Posts)

We adopted two girls from the RSPCA three weeks ago. We knew that they were both very nervous due to their poor start in life. One is starting to come out of her shell a little and will come to us a couple of times a day for petting and attention. The other one is still very scared and spends all day every day behind the sofa or a chair.

She comes out for food and water and to use the tray and most nights will sit in the living room doorway just watching us - although if we make any movement towards her she runs away. I just wondered if anyone had any advice? Are we doing the right thing by just leaving her to come out in her own time? According to staff at the RSPCA she quite liked to be picked up in a towel and held close to the body for 15/20 minutes. Should we be thinking about being more proactive or continue to leave her to settle at her own pace?

cozietoesie Sat 22-Jun-13 19:52:12

I always try to let cats dictate the pace - but having said that, I try to make their environment as welcoming to them as possible.

Are you a noisy and unpredictable household (eg with younger DCs grin) or are you structured and more peaceful? (They tend to like routine and calm, especially at the beginning when they're settling in.)

Generally a quiet house. No DCs. DH works away half the week so I don't know if they get spooked going from one person in the house with them to two.

cozietoesie Sat 22-Jun-13 20:35:17

Then I'd just let her make the running. You could always try to have some radio or music playing quietly as background noise when they're by themselves (some cats like that), talk to her using some same words for events like food (and use her name a lot), and see if you can make their food and bed routine as predictable as possible.

Otherwise - it will just take a bit of time. Do you know the details of their 'poor start in life' because they might influence the situation ?

She comes out and is watching you and is eating, pooing etc so those are all very positive signs. I'd just be as peaceful as you can and get on with your lives.

Best of luck.

smile

PS - and make sure they have toys around. If she sees the other girl playing, including with you, she might get involved herself gradually.

Lots of toys and available places to hide.

They came from a house with 30+ cats, all of whom had untreated cat flu. Most of the cats had to be put to sleep. The less nervous one has a stunted tail, the very nervous one has a cloudy eye.

cozietoesie Sat 22-Jun-13 21:32:47

Oh dear. So there's every likelihood that they weren't socialized to humans well - and how the very nervous one acquired a cloudy eye is anyone's guess. I think we can all imagine likelihoods.

You would be quite right to let them build up their belief in you at their own pace and real trust might be a little while coming. As I said, the fact that the nervous one is coming to look at you is a good thing and she'll see the other one getting affection and should learn from that also.

I would just go about your business but try to minimize unexpected loud noises and excitement where you can. (No wild, noisy parties till 4 am for a while!)

Well one you for giving them a good new home after what they've been through.

smile

cozietoesie Sat 22-Jun-13 21:33:59

Well done

smile

Fluffycloudland77 Sat 22-Jun-13 22:00:18

We had a shy kitten, she was a pedigree but was very reserved. She did eventually come round but was always slightly aloof.

I always find sitting on the floor reading a paper makes you irresistible to cats.

ZebraOwl Sun 23-Jun-13 02:03:15

You are really quite awesome for giving them a new home & for working so hard to make it a wonderful new home.

I also think you'll do best to let her come to you. My two came to me having only ever really seen one person (& not much of him) & I left it to them to decide how fast they wanted things to move. They were actually incredibly (almost ridiculously) quick about coming to me (possibly because they were only 8 weeks old & may have thought I was their New Mummy [not!]Cat) but Nijinsky was rather more wary than Balanchine & is still much shyer around new people. He seems to think if his brother's willing to trust someone they're probably okay, so hopefully your more wary kitty will do something similar in terms of being willing to trust her sister/friend/aunt/cousin's judgement.

Very!nervous cat might also be taking longer to adjust because of vision issues I guess?

I hope that both cats are happily settled with you soon. And again, you are awesome. Yes.

cozietoesie Sun 23-Jun-13 09:32:49

Good point about the possible effect of vision issues, zebra. That might indeed make her more nervy.

Thanks for advice everyone, and the kind words.

The RSPCA vet doesn't think there are vision issues but I'm not sure. You've really helped to reassure me that we're on the right lines in just letting both girls come out of their shells at their own time. My only concern is that we need to take them for a check-up for flea and worming prescriptions and I'm very worried that this will set them back weeks.

cozietoesie Sun 23-Jun-13 13:46:31

It has to be done, lurked, so I'd just go about it matter of factly. I think you might find that it will not be as bad as you fear. The vets and the carrier(s) are the 'bad things' so just go about that and when you go back home with them, let them out of the carrier(s) and put away, change into house clothes and immediately slip into your normal routine. (Except maybe time that day's feeding to give them their next meal or some treats once they get back.)

I know that Seniorboy, for example, dislikes the vets but I treat the whole thing as a required and clinical exercise. He hears my voice and knows I'm around but I save all the loving words for when he's back home - when it's out of his box, 15 seconds of checking that home is still home, and then back to normal.

Home is his safe place, you see? Hopefully your new girls will start to take the same attitude.

smile

cozietoesie Sun 23-Jun-13 13:53:38

PS - bear in mind that the first vet trip might be a bit hairy if it's the first time they've left the house since you got them. Their memory will have them being shoved in boxes and going from pillar to post so they won't have the confidence of most cats that this trip will end up in them going back to their home again.

The second (and any subsequent) vet trip should be better.

smile

GingerPCatt Sun 23-Jun-13 14:01:38

We adopted a semi feral kitten and it took him years to fully trust us. He use to hide whenever anyone came near him. He now likes a cuddle and a fuss but doesnt like to be picked up. He'll even let our toddler DS give him tickles. But he still doesn't like strangers very much.

blackbirdatglanmore Sun 23-Jun-13 23:45:03

I adopted two cats who were like this - incredibly nervous. One settled fairly quickly but the other (the male) was petrified.

He is now the most affectionate of the two and is so loving. My girl is nosy but my boy loves to sit with me purring away! Good luck! grin My boy now stays out in the open when I have guests which honestly never happened before!

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