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Adopting a very 'Scaredy Cat' - all advice and tips welcome

(24 Posts)
PawsandWhiskers Sat 11-Jul-15 20:59:27

I'm looking for words of wisdom and reassurance.....

I haven't lived with been a willing servant to a cat for many, many years. This was the cat I grew up with, from when my parents got him as a kitten, when I was 5 until he passed away when I was 20. He was the most loving, placid cat (although not always the sharpest tool in the box) who lived for cuddles, laps, food and comfy beds.

I have always wanted a cat of my own, but have moved so much for work over the years it's never been the right time. I am now hopefully settled where I am and have finally bit the bullet and got permission from my landlord to get a cat.

I was clear in my own mind I wanted a rescue cat rather than a kitten, but had a mental checklist that it should be between 1 and 6 years old and that it must be affectionate. I also thought it would be nice to get a black/black and white cat, as I know they tend to get stuck at rescue centres for the longest time.

Following a visit to a shelter last weekend, I have found my cat, she is black and white, but she is 9/10 years old and is absolutely terrified of me (and everyone else), she at one point literally climbed the walls to get away from me sad. She clearly hates been in the cattery, and I have fallen hook, line and sinker in wanting to give her a loving home.

I'm getting my spare room ready as a safe space for her when I bring her home a week today, but I'm just worried I won't be able to make her happy (I do realise I am hugely anthropomorphising here. blush)

I know the answer is time, patience, love and more time, but am panicking that it won't be enough....please share your stories on how you've successfully settled in a very frightened and timid cat....

redbinneo Sat 11-Jul-15 21:05:29

"I know the answer is time, patience, love and more time, "
You know what has to be done, so just do it, you won't regret it.
I hope you and the lucky cat have a great life together.

littleladyluna Sat 11-Jul-15 21:36:16

Her immediate reactions are ones you should ignore, and you know this already.

My mum moved house with our Siamese a few years ago, she hated other cats so when a beautiful skinny tortie stray girl appeared in the garden she was incensed! Tortie cat was scared of her own shadow and wouldn't come near anyone, so she was left food by the back door and would eat after we went inside. Once she crept inside on her belly looking for food and completely freaked out when we found her in the living room - complete panic which resulted in a broken lamp when she attempted to escape.

Siamese girl died a few months ago, and in her grief my younger sister put extra efforts into taming tortie girl. In four months, she is transformed. She still prefers outside living (she's always had an insulated, weatherproof cat igloo provided by my soppy mum), but will curl up next to my sister on the sofa in the early evening. The vet has estimated her to be about 15, so no spring chicken.

Good luck, it can be done smile

chockbic Sat 11-Jul-15 23:18:09

We had a rescue girl, although younger than yours. She was very timid to begin with. Also she would cower when we moved, the rescue said it seemed she had been hit before. With time, she came around, her soft little purrs and padding on our laps.

Let us know how you get on star

thecatneuterer Sat 11-Jul-15 23:19:45

Most of my cats started off like this. All but a very few have come round. In most cases it takes around 4 to 8 weeks, in a couple of cases it has taken a couple of months and another two took around three years! But those that took a long time were really properly feral.

I generally start them off in a dog pen somewhere busy in the house - the kitchen or living room, with an igloo bed inside or cardboard box they can hide in. That way they can get used to everything without feeling too threatened or escaping.

But a spare room would be a fair second choice. And yes the answer is always patience and to let them take things at their own pace. And it's so, so rewarding when they finally come round.

Good luck!

perfectlybroken Sat 11-Jul-15 23:26:21

I fell in love with my cat (no longer in the mortal realm) when I first saw him in the rescue shelter, like yours he wad terrified on everyone and everything. He was 8 years old, and not blessed with good looks but I just loved him. He spent the first week hiding behind the tv, I just let him do whatever if he was comfortable doing. Over the weeks and months he turned into the most loving and affectionate cat, with me and a select few others. But I liked it that we had a special bond and he didn't just go to everyone.

givemushypeasachance Sun 12-Jul-15 09:45:18

When I adopted my pair last summer I'd not actually seen Monty, as he spent the whole time hiding in a box in the pen when I visited. All I'd glimpsed were some glaring yellow eyes! He wouldn't come out of the carrier when I brought them home, until I eventually tipped him out (he'd been sick in there so wasn't staying in it all night) then he relocated to hide down by some shelves. Where he stayed for the next 24 hours. I just went for the ignoring approach - so sitting in the same room but utterly ignoring him, not even looking at him. Eventually he would venture out to eat when I was there, so long as I wasn't watching. After that it was still a gradual process - it took about two months before I could touch him without him flinching away. I discovered after a while that hand feeding cooked chicken was a good way to bribe him to come closer - I had to start by throwing it to him, but the lure of tasty chicken eventually got him coming closer. And he liked playing with fishing rod toys - it kept me a safe distance away, but was still fun! The rescue centre advised that touching him with the stick was a good first step to getting him used to being touched, without a more threatening hand being directly involved. There were a few hiccups along the way but after a couple of months he got bolder, mellowed and now he's a little tart of a cat who loves to rub around my ankles and chew on my fingers and is generally a bossy so-and-so. He still doesn't like being picked up and is skittish and timid around strangers, but he's a very happy chap.

twinkletoedelephant Sun 12-Jul-15 10:00:24

We adopted a scardey cat Percy he was shaking in the shelter and all we could see was his nose dd decided there and then that he was ours and he would be coming home with us.... He spent 15 days in the cupboard under the stairs coming out only to eat and use the litter tray if it was silent in the house... (Tricky with a 5yr old and twin 2 yr olds in the house ). Then on day 16 he just came out rubbed himself against the children in turn then fell asleep on my lap. He was the most patience cat I have ever known he would jump in dd buggy and allow her to push him around would come up to bed with the twins every night and sit listening to bed time stories he would scare away the monsters so dd finally slept through the night .

If I had gone to the shelter on my own I may have overlooked him and taken a cat that seemed friendly and my family would have missed him in ours lives. He sat with me while I grieved for my mum would listen to me when I tried to come to terms with both my twins having disabilitys.

He was in the cupboard for 15 days but will stay in our hearts forever

sparkysparkysparky Sun 12-Jul-15 16:19:52

Look at Jackson Galaxy videos on YouTube for ideas on helping a scaredy cat.

sparkysparkysparky Sun 12-Jul-15 18:05:30

And you are fab for taking an older cat. I have a colleague who did that when her old boy died. You are both heroes to me.

Butterflywings168 Sun 12-Jul-15 18:21:50

Aw thanks
I felt like that when I first adopted Madame ButterflyCat. She wasn't as terrified but was definitely nervous
I thought she hated me and I wasn't making her happy but giving her a miserable life.
She is currently curled up asleep next to me on the sofa, having finally graciously allowed me to Mumsnet. I had to chuck her off me this morning to get up. grin
Once scaredy cats decide you are their slave to chill out they are often very loving and affectionate.

changingagain Sun 12-Jul-15 18:37:05

It may be easier than you think. Ours was about a year when we got her. She was terrified of everyone at the shelter and would bite anyone who got too close, including me and DH so the staff were pretty surprised when we said we'd take her. Within half hour of getting her home she had checked out every corner of our flat and was curled up on DH knee purring. She was still nervous of being approached for a few months and even now, 5 years later she will hide from most visitors but it's clear that her main issue was that the environment of being in a shelter just wasn't good for her.

PawsandWhiskers Sun 12-Jul-15 21:45:50

Thanks for your advice everyone flowers and the stories of your fabulous cats!

So....I went up to the shelter today to sit with her to try to get her vaguely used to me. I'd been told that she had bonded to two of the animal care assistants, and that she had even been known to sit on their laps. One of these lovely ladies was working today, and showed me a picture of SoontobePawsandWhiskers Cat on her lap. Poor SoontobePawsandWhiskers Cat has been in the shelter for six months or so, and the photo made me believe it will take time, but I can do this.

She suggested I sit on the floor with a blanket on my lap and she would call SoontobePawsandWhiskers Cat and see if she could get her to come and say hello. Much to my amazement this worked! I was sniffed it, had my hand bunted for strokes and then my very scared cat climbed on my lap for about ten minutes grin. She then sat beside me for another ten minutes or so before wandering off to have a wash. I'm so happy and I luffs my cat very much....

I know she is going to be so frightened next week when I bring her home, away from the environment she has known for the last six months. And as the poor thing is incredibly hand shy, it going to take a while to build up her confidence, but I had the best day today!

Fluffycloudland77 Sun 12-Jul-15 21:55:56

Oh that is such good news, she'll be delighted to be out of the shelter and have a whole house to command.

PawsandWhiskers Sun 12-Jul-15 22:02:46

I think she is definitely going to rule with an iron paw!

LittleCandle Sun 12-Jul-15 22:09:09

I'm sure she will come round. Be matter of fact about things - don't tiptoe around her. I rescued two boys when I lost my dear little cat. They were 6 and had been in and out of a cattery before finally being given up completely about 3 months later and had been in the rescue centre for 3 months. All i saw was a pink nose and persuaded the helper to bribe them out with food. I brought them home a few days later and they hid for months. I moved about 6 months after getting them, and our new house had a cat flap. Being allowed to come and go as they please was the best thing, and Candlecat 1 now asks for a cuddle most mornings. Candlecat 2 only likes a cuddle at the vet.

dun1urkin Sun 12-Jul-15 22:14:04

Ooooh lovely grin
One of ours was v scaredy. He spent the first few days on top of the kitchen cupboards. He was utterly silent for months I can still remember his first meow and was visibly scared of most people, esp men.
He's a noisy, cuddly, bolshy, friendly lump of loveliness now. It did take a long time years, sorry of tiny steps forward in building his confidence. He's like a different cat these days. He and the other one had also been waiting for their parents to come and choose them being me and DH for 6 months. We suspect from their behaviour other one was v bitey that they'd been abused sad but they have had 12 happy years with us now smile

dun1urkin Sun 12-Jul-15 22:32:04

Here he is sleeping on his cushion. The sofa is too uncomfortable, cushion is REQUIRED

PawsandWhiskers Sun 12-Jul-15 22:42:03

He is lovely dun1urkin

Of course he needs a cushion, it's every cat's right to have a cushion of his/her own grin

PawsandWhiskers Sun 19-Jul-15 18:50:04

Well she's home - and settling in much better than I could have hoped forsmile A minor pee accident last night but she's doing brilliantly.

Fluffycloudland77 Sun 19-Jul-15 19:43:11

I'm so pleased you've got her home. Has she purred at all?

PawsandWhiskers Mon 20-Jul-15 07:33:50

Soft gentle purrs, think she is very happy to be out of the cattery

Fluffycloudland77 Mon 20-Jul-15 07:50:50

She must be, she looks very relaxed.

PawsandWhiskers Mon 20-Jul-15 08:05:57

I know, if I move too quickly or reach out when she's not expecting it she runs away and hides- but I can normally coax her out. The rescue weren't really sure of her history - all they knew is her owner was taken in to a care home, and the house was sold, and she lived in the garden for six months being fed by a neighbour. She's lived at the shelter for another six months, and when she first came in it took them a good month before they could examine her properly as she was so scared and just went into attack mode. But clearly she was someone's beloved pet on the past as she's definitely happy with home comfortssmile

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