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gondwanalon's avatar

Do you have advice for the owner of a very timid cat?

Asked by gondwanalon (16282points) April 12th, 2018

I adopted this very shy but friendly cat from the SPCA 2 weeks ago. I call him “Uahi” (Hawaiian for smoke). I was told that he’s 3 years old but my veterinarian thinks he’s half that old. Veterinarian said he’s healthy. He eats, drinks, poops/pees (in litter box very well).

He has shown no aggressive behavior (snarling, hissing, catching or biting) to me or my other male cat (They touched noses and pretty much ignore each other.

I’m retired and spend at least 4 hours a day with him (when I can get him to come out of his covered bed). The best times are in the morning and at night.

The least little thing will freak him out. Like rain on the roof, the sound of a door, toilet, a broom sweeping the floor. He also panics for no apparent reason at all. During which times he darts back into hiding and won’t come out for several hours.

For short periods he can be very friendly butting his head into me, rubbing against me. But no purring at all. Sometimes he will play with a toy mouse and feather on a string toy.

I let him do anything he wants to do. Unfortunately he mostly wants to hide. I tried to bribe him to come out of hiding with special cat treats (he won’t touch them).

I’ve never seen a cat so shy. I’m trying to get him to relax with very little progress. Every day it’s like starting over. It’s like he forgot about all the fun things that we did together the day before.

Any suggestions? Ideas?

Might he be less shy in a year?

Is this as good as it gets?

Thank you.

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8 Answers

janbb's avatar

Beautiful kitty! My hairdresser, an experienced cat owner, recently adopted two kitties – one of whom was very shy. I think he basically did what you are doing, was friendly but not obtrusive, and the cat became more outgoing over a matter of months.

gondwanalon's avatar

Thanks @janbb
Forgot to mention that a sure way to get him out of his hide bed is with catnip. I’ll use more in the future.

Zaku's avatar

It’s only been two weeks. Adopted cats can take longer to adjust, and some cats continue to adjust for years after.

I would make sure he has good hiding places, and/or one really good hiding place where he’ll feel super safe, and just keep being nice and being available for time together but not pushy about it, and give it time. Like, make a habit to hang out on a sofa a room away from the great hiding place, and see if he shows up more for company.

I would expect him to get slowly friendlier over time, and more and more as time goes by.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I just got a two year old female cat with much the same behavior. At first she was intolerant of being held. She has been on my lap twice, for a minute or so each time.
I have not pressed her for any contact. I do sweet talk her a lot. I tell her, with sugar in my tone, how pretty she is, and what a good girl. She eats that up, rolling on her back and looking cozy. Sometimes she reciprocates by rubbing up against my legs.

It is a process with many pets. You shopped him. He needs time to observe his environment, you, your habits, your personality.
He will ease into things eventually. Your best thing is to constantly tell him what a good boy he is, and strong.
Do let him know your rules. He probably knows you are alpha, and feels afraid of doing anything to annoy you. Curb wrong behavior without being loud or aggressive. Just letting him know “that” is off limits will let him know what you expect.

Years ago I had two male cats, and they were just like Oscar and Felix in that they were different as they could be. One was a lap cat, a lover, always purring and snuggling. The other was macho and aloof. They found a way to be friends all the same. It did require an adjustment period though.
The main thing is, you don’t need to let him know that you want him to like you. He needs to be repeatedly reminded that you like him. The tone in your voice is major. When he feels enough love coming from you, he will demonstrate, in his way, his own feelings.

gondwanalon's avatar

Thanks again you all!
Uahi was a little more active this mornig. He went back into hiding at 10 am. I’ll leave him alone to do and act as he wants. I know enough about cats to accept that they’re all different and like people you can’t change who they are. He is nervous, shy yet can be very friendly when he feels at ease. I suppose that people who know me well would say that about me. HA!

janbb's avatar

@gondwanalon You remind me of something. A neighbor and I had Cocker spaniels years ago. They were a loud, boisterous family and their dog Jenny was jumpy and in your face. My family was quiet and quite reserved and Prince was very laid back and never barked!

Inspired_2write's avatar

Perhaps its fear of a new home that scares him until it can relax with the daily new sounds.
All cats are nocturnal..perhaps its up all night as you sleep?

gondwanalon's avatar

@Inspired Good points. I’d like to think that he’s prowling the house all night if he get exercise and stimulation.

I wonder if he spend a long time in the Humane Society. That could be traumatizing being stuck in a smal cage with lots of strange people coming and going.

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