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My poor terrified cats...

January 26th, 2008, 10:57 AM
We have two black cats, brother and sister. Both have been neutered and have been living with us since they were 3 months old. (They're coming up to 3 years old now.)

We got them from a 'Cat Lady'. You know, one of those old ladies that have a million animals running around the house. She probably had about 30 cats of various ages, all living in the same house and all eating from one bowl. We had originally gone out there to pick up one cat but when I saw the overcrowding I was ready to turn around and leave. However, she eventually found the cat she was willing to part with. The poor things, both of them had been left in a room and forgotten about, for two days! After that there was no way I was leaving them with her and we took both home.

The first few days were awful as the two little guys were so frightened of everything around them (and the two of us!) that just getting them to eat was a major success. At that time we were living in an apartment, but have now moved to the country.

They both love it, run around outside a lot and catch everything such as shrews, mice and moles. They are also a lot more relaxed. Both sleeping on the bed at night now, but...

They are still absolutely terrified of us. They can't be picked up - both hate it - and won't have much else to do with us. If we're lying down in bed they'll come and want to be stroked and lie down and sleep by us but that's it. We've never even spoken harshly to them and have tried everything we could to try and make up for their first 3 months.

The little guy seems to sort of trust me sometimes, and the little girl absolutely loves me at night - but in the harsh light of day they're both very scared of us.

Any advice on how to get them to trust us more?

January 26th, 2008, 11:26 AM
I got Linx from one of the no-kill foster situations in Montreal, at some lady's house. She must have had 20 cats in one bedroom! But everything was super clean.

Linx was terrified of everyone and everything at first. He hid in the hall linen closet for two solid weeks and would only come out at night to eat and potty.

I literally ignored him the first few weeks. Didn't talk to him, didn't reach out to pet him, didn't try to get closer to him. I let him call the shots. I thought by ignoring him, he would come around on his own terms.

Then one day while I was watching CNN, he jumps in my lap!!

Since then he's a cuddle kitty and loves to be petted and loved on.

January 26th, 2008, 11:44 AM
My cat Charlotte was left mainly on her own for the first few months of her life, when I got her she did have human contact but not a whole lot of cuddles and such, and potato chips had been her main diet:mad:
From the time I took her in she would not allow anyone to hold her, touch any part of her body other than her head, and she would actually chase you down and give you a swat on the heels if you walked by her and stroked her body:laughing: In the 18 years that she lived with me she would sleep on the bed, cuddle up next to me for short periods, but any attempt to stroke the fur would result in her jumping down and going off some other place to continue the nap. She would never let me pick her up either, sounded like a bag pipe going off if I had to carry her for any reason:laughing: We always used to say, "Don't squeeze the Charlotte":D I know that if she had been socialized to humans at an earlier age all would have been normal, but the window of opportunity only lasts for so long and in her case could never be back-tracted. Maybe your cats are in the same boat, loving but from a safe distance.

January 26th, 2008, 12:01 PM
Three years is a long time to wait for that first hip check, but things still might change. They were probably feral to begin with and the lady who scooped them up didn't have the time to socialize them, which is one of the downsides of having too many cats.
The fact that they go outside and even catch some of their own food :sad: is probably not helping. I am not suggesting you lock them up - too late for that - but making them stay inside for part of the day and at night and getting into some play - laser tag or crunchy balls or plain old string, anything which interests them - it might help move things along. Play is a great bonding technique. Don't be put off if they give you the cold shoulder at first - what? me? play with you? - in the end, they won't be able to resist. The more they are around you, the more they will see your uh, entertainment value :laughing:
Thanks for rescuing them.

PS Enjoying being picked up is at the far end of acceptance. Sometimes you get there, sometimes you don't.

January 26th, 2008, 12:17 PM
I too have 2 cats that were rescued from being fed to a boa constrictor...My female is perfectly fine but her brother is the scaredy cat! He would pee at the site of a man...hide, was sad,,,but after about 8 months he learned to be accepting of us I guess and he rolled over and exposed his belly for a rub and has been a wonderful cat. He is still scared of load noises and HATES and I mean HATES to be picked up. Actually only I can really pick him up without a horrible cry but only for a short time.

So patience is a must and I agree with Badger on restricting their time outdoors and try to make them like it inside.

Thanks for saving their lives!


January 26th, 2008, 12:40 PM
My parents once rescued a couple of wood-pile-kittens. The male became fairly trusting and would jump onto mom's lap but didn't like being picked up. THe female was sad, because you could tell she longed to cuddle and purr like her brother, but she just didn't dare!

At the first occasion, she disappeared out the door and would only accept to eat on the kitchen door steps, then she disappeared completely. The male stayed around as an indoor-outdoor cat whiule she was there, but when she left, he was only around for a few more weeks and disapeared too.

I do wish Dr.Doolittle really existed, so we could 1) know what our pets think and feel and 2) explain to them that we only want their best.

In the mean time, just love them, feed tham, protect them, and let them cuddle in bed with you since that is the only cuddling they like.

January 26th, 2008, 12:48 PM
Badger gave great advice. And she has tons of experience with cats. She is a kitty :angel: as a matter of fact. Rescues all the time. I am pretty sure if it's about cats, she's dealt with it. ALL of the ladies have great advice.
My experience with cats is that they call the boundaries. It sounds like they trust you enough to sleep on the same bed as you. In fact, it sounds like they let you do everything but pick them up. That ain't bad. ;)
Some of mine love their cuddles, others are a little more standoffish. I let them decide if they are in the mood or not. Yeah, I am one of those "cat ladies." :o I spend a good part of my day sitting with the kitties in their home and letting them come to me. At some point of my visit they all do. They all get their love, but not all of them get picked up. Some just don't like it. In fact, one tenses his whole body if I try so I don't.
With cats you take what you can get.

January 26th, 2008, 05:03 PM
Cats do call the shots and for that reason, they need to be the ones that come to you on their terms. A lot of their personality is based upon their first few weeks of life and how momma reacts to humans/other cats, situations, etc. If she was afraid because she was feral, the kittens may fear humans too, even if they have never been abused, it is just what they learned from their mom. If this is the case with your boys, they will need lots of patience from you to get them to gain their trust so you can pick them up. Bet you have their love though;).

I got Snowball at 6 wks from the local shelter, he trusted nobody but me and it took many years of love to get his total trust.

Some are lap cats, some love from a distance, some just take time to come around.

January 26th, 2008, 06:25 PM
I brought Oksana home at about 8 weeks from my vet. She and her siblings had been abondoned. She was never abused and mine is the only home she's known. Up until she was about 4 or 5 months, all she wanted to do was cuddle and sleep on my lap and always be carried.

Now at 10 months, she's VERY independent. She likes to be the "watcher". If I pick her up she'll put up a fuss, and I pet her on HER terms.

I've got 4 so very different personalities in my home and I've learned that cats are just these mysterious creatures.

I think your cats love you and love where they live. The fact that they do come to you and sleep by you says a lot to me. I don't think they would be that close to you in their most vulnerable state if they didn't feel comfortable around you.

January 27th, 2008, 02:32 PM
Your cats have come from a stressfull environment, where they were just existing. We call these type of people "collectors". Since the woman had no time to pet them, cats usually become semi-feral. I guess you did not know that they needed to be petted by all your friends and family from the time they came home with you, to socialize them. If they don't like to be picked up then don't try it. Even at 3 it might still be possible to socialize them, but maybe not, it all depends on the cats. I found males easier to socialize that females. When they are lying on your bed, pet them very gently and approach cautiously and progress from that. Get some toys and see if it would help. I have heard that totally feral cats were socialized, ( but this does not happen often) and you have to have a lot of patience. Good luck and let us know what happened.

January 28th, 2008, 05:32 PM
My brother is a cat person- loves all cats, and all cats seem to gravitate towards him.

He got these two cats from a farm- they had way too many kittens and these two were smaller and starting to starve (one dish of cat food, so many cats...) so they asked around for anyone who wanted cats. We picked them up and they hid for the first 2 weeks we had them, and then for a year or so after no one could touch them- maybe a quick scratch behind the ears, but nothing else. My brother finally said "this is ridiculous, they have to learn we won't hurt them." He started holding them on his lap even if they tried to get down and talking gently to them and petting softly until they settled. Once they settled and started purring, they were let down. He only had to keep this up for about a month - usually once or twice in a day.

Now he has three lap-cats - the original two and another kitten from a similar situation. Tey love all people, and want nothing more than to cuddle or get carried around the house like a baby. They just learned that being touched by people didn't hurt.