General Question

Jude's avatar

Will this kitty always be skittish?

Asked by Jude (31993 points ) April 14th, 2011

My sister received a kitten about a month and a half ago. The kitten is now 8 months old. He was sick when she got him, but, now, is in perfect health. He has been neutered, as well.

The thing is, he has bonded with my sister and follows her everywhere she goes. My sister said that “he is a big suck and loves to be around me! He loves to have his belly rubbed and he loves to snuggle”. With my niece, though, the kitten runs away and hides under the bed. This has been going on ever since they got him. It could just be the sound of her voice, and he’s off running. She has never mauled the kitten, nor shouted at him. Crap, she’s not even able to get close to him to pick him up.

He is also skittish of new people, and my sister’s husband. Although, if my sister’s husband calls him, the kitten will come. It’s just when you go over to grab the kitten, he bolts.

The kitty was found in a barn. Perhaps, feral? I don’t know.

Just wondering, is he ever going to calm down and let others come up to him to pick him up? It makes me sad for my niece, as she would love to be able to spend time with him.

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26 Answers

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I don’t know if he will change or not.
When my female cat was about 8 months old,she went through a stage where she was alittle sassy.She grew out of it and now is extremely affectionate.She still isn’t crazy about strangers handling her but that’s ok.I don’t want her to go with strangers. XD
If I were the niece,I would be the one who feeds him and would also try to play with him.

Jude's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille Getting her to feed him is a great idea. :) He loves “The Feast” (Fancy Feast wet food). Maybe, she should be the one who gets it for him. Thanks, lucyloo!

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

@Jude -I hope it helps.I know I am friendlier to people who feed me.XD

Seelix's avatar

One of my cats hates people and runs away from them, and my other cat loves everyone. It’s hard to say how kitties will turn out.

I agree with @lucillelucillelucille‘s suggestion that your niece feed him and give him treats. That’ll help him trust her. Also, if she’s young, he might just be uncomfortable around her because she moves too suddenly or otherwise scares him. I’d suggest that when she approach him, she talk softly to him, get down on the floor and crawl toward him, anything that’ll make her seem less terrifying :)

Jude's avatar

Thanks, @Seelix. :)

When the kitty is in the same room as my niece, and is sleeping, my niece will walk about quietly. She is really good and patient about it all. One time, my sister brought the kitty to my niece to hold. My niece sat perfectly still on the edge of the bed and held her arms out (my sister said that my niece’s arms were out straight/all stifflike). When she got the kitty in her arms, her face turned red because she was so excited! haha.. She got to him for a good 20 seconds, then he wanted down.

marinelife's avatar

Maybe. How old is your niece? Is she old enough to learn patience? To sit very still and wait for the kitty to come to her? To have a kitten treat in her hands?

Jude's avatar

@marinelife My niece is 8. And, yes, she is able to sit very still. She quiets her voice, as well, when she is around him.

I will suggest to my sister to get Maddie to feed the kitty. Also, to get down on the floor and offer him treats.

Any other suggestions are welcome.

Seelix's avatar

Having Maddie play with him might also help him learn to trust her more.

A toy that she can use and still be far enough away so as not to make him run would be good – try a long shoelace (still Magrat’s favourite toy), one of those toys with a plastic stick with a feather thing tied to the end, or a laser pointer. You can get laser pointers at the dollar store – just make sure she knows not to get the laser near kitty’s eyes. Even a long piece of string with a crumpled piece of paper tied to the end will work.

If the kitty likes to be brushed, that’s something else Maddie could do to make him comfortable.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Every cat has it’s own personality. My guess is that is this cat’s personality and it is not likely to change much. I have had needy cats, fraidy-cats, and mellow cats. We have a cat now that is a biter. Not the “attack” kind of bite, but wanting to play. You can’t even pet her because she will turn her head and start biting – making it impossible. She is the only cat I have had that picks up her toys in her mouth and carries them around the house with her. She is a funny little cat!

WestRiverrat's avatar

It took my mother’s cat about 7 years to learn to tolerate me to the point that it wouldn’t disappear every time I visited. The cat may just need a LOT of time to get comfortable with the niece.

Have your niece pretend not to notice the cat when it first comes into the room. Don’t try to force the relationship. If it is like most of the cats I have known, it will eventually get tired of being ignored and make the first move.

amykloster's avatar

Typically cats keep the same personality for a while. Sometimes they mellow out when they get much older-like 8 plus. It could be too, that if your niece is young that the cat is simply a bit afraid of children. I would give it time. It may just be the transition that is bothering him as well. So, you will know what his personality will be after he has calmed down with the new owners.

gailcalled's avatar

Let her give him the juice at the bottom of the human tuna fish or salmon can. Have her give him a daily lo-cal kitty treat.

Milo practically sings an aria when I prep these two items for his delectation.

Jude's avatar

Thanks, @gailcalled. :)

gailcalled's avatar

Thank Milo. As usual, I am simply the messenger.

Mariah's avatar

I don’t know if he will become friendlier, but I do know that it’s possible. My dear kitty has done just that. She is 12 years old now, and had always been quite shy, but in the past two years or so, has become extremely snuggly (especially with me :D ) and much friendlier. She is still wary of strangers, but is much better about it than before.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I had a one-woman cat before. She liked me and only me. When I was a teen we had a cat who only liked my mom. Sometimes that is just the way they are. Cats are such individuals.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

That’s pretty typical of a reformed feral cat. We had tons of feral cats on the farm. If you got to them when they were very young, you could tame them but they usually only bonded with one person. They wouldn’t have much to do with anyone else unless that person made a major effort to win their trust. The feeding idea sounds excellent.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Yeah, if he wasn’t socialized properly, that’s always going to be an issue. However, he’ll probably start to like other regular people – like the niece, the husband, close friends, etc. But it might take some time. I would suggest that they basically ignore the kitten, putting contact all on his terms, save for giving him food. One friend of mine got my little scaredy cat (same issues) to be in the same room, and then be a couple feet away, and then even get some good petting in by feeding her bits and pieces of the roast beef sandwiches she’d get for dinner.

SpatzieLover's avatar

I have two “shy-er” cats and two outgoing cats. All of them were taken in from outside/adopted from (actually taken away from) others.

Of the two shy cats: Treats (especially freeze dried salmon or spoonfuls of fancy feast) do make them socialize more with other family members.

Kids are always an issue with shy cats. To have your niece gain & hold a bond with this cat, she will need to spend at least 10mins per day each day working towards having the cat come to her. Kids often go to cats. Shy cats do not prefer this act. They need to be in control of their relationships/socializing with others. The cat needs to want to come to her.

Your niece should have a little basket or box filled with goodies such as: string/yarn, freeze dried treats, glitter balls…then she should take time to sit on the floor and call the kitty over with a treat in her hand.

Once or twice a week, she could also be the cat nip provider. After the cat nip is given, she could be the designated one to play with kitty (as long as kitty doesn’t get too wild/out of control).

In a week or so, the kitty should already be noticeably looking forward to playtime with your niece. Sometimes it takes a bit longer, so persistence is key in developing this bond.

If it goes well, the cat could learn to come when called (all of our cats do), and sit when asked (two of our cats do…one shy, one not) just from this regular play session.

gondwanalon's avatar

The bottom line up front is: What you see is what you’ve got.

It is possible that early in your cat’s life that someone was mean to it and your niece reminds of that mean person. It could be her voice and or her mannerisms. Whatever the reason for your cat’s skittish behavior, it is doubtful that it will change anytime soon. In a decade or so he may mellow out and be slightly more trusting.

tinyfaery's avatar

Training works with cats. Try the book Starting From Scratch. My once feral cat now comes to ask for love.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@tinyfaery There seems to be a few books with that name, but I can’t find the one on cats – link please?

tinyfaery's avatar

Author is Pam Johnson-Bennett

Link.

Jude's avatar

I’ll keep you all posted on how he does. I will forward these suggestions to my big Sis.

Thanks!

Coloma's avatar

Give it time. 6 weeks isn’t very long.
My two new ones that were 10 and 7 months old when I got them, and are now 22 and 14 months old, have finally become really friendly with company. I was worried for awhile that they were going to be fraidy cats around company.

My daughter and her bf have spent time playing with them and giving them treats and now, after 6 months or so they both rememebr and come out to visit when they are here.

I’d encourage your niece to be the keeper of the Pounce jar and the laser pointer and the catnip spray. haha

jerv's avatar

Cats sometimes bond to just one person. I had a few like that, and it took a while for some of them to not run from other people. While Slagathor eventually warmed up to my wife, there was never any doubt that she considered herself my cat.

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