Causes and Resolutions for Skittish Cats

Prince Fredward will pose now, but it's been a long road!
Prince Fredward will pose now, but it's been a long road!

Is Your Cat Skittish?

There are so many things that could possibly scare animals: loud noises, strange or new objects in a familiar home, an unfamiliar home, even unfamiliar or new pets. Here are the most common causes for a skittish cat, and ways to help make your cat more comfortable and sociable!

#1. A New Home

If you are introducing a new cat into your home, he may sometimes be hesitant to take a look around. The best thing to do is leave him be. We kept Prince Fredward in his cat carrier for a couple hours so he could just watch and listen. Then we let him wander. It's important to let your cat get used to his new surroundings and smells slowly.

If you already have other pets, then double check that they are locked in a room so that your new pet can become acquainted with his new home undisturbed. We have a small cocker spaniel, so she was just confined to one of our bedrooms.

Because I'm interested to hear from you!

Is your cat a scaredy cat?

  • Yes! Everything startles my cat.
  • Used to be! (S)he has settled down now.
  • Sometimes. I can never tell what about though.
  • Sometimes. Only certain things scare him/her.
  • Nope. My cat is the one who scares things!
  • Not at all. My cat is so laid back (s)he could sleep through a dog raid.
See results without voting

#2. Neglect.

If your cat was neglected or ignored at their previous home, they will expect the same treatment from you. This could lead to your cat being shy and unsociable. The best thing you can do for your cat is to make sure she always has food, water, a clean litter box, toys, and a place to scratch. When she knows she can rely on you to give her what she needs, she will be more willing to play with her toys in front of you, or even to let you play with her.

Prince Fredward hid from us at first. Everything we did startled him.
Prince Fredward hid from us at first. Everything we did startled him.

#3. Other Abuse.

While neglect is a form of abuse, as it denies a being its needs, there are other types. Both intentionally scaring your cat or physically harming him are indeed big reasons for a skittish pet. In fact, a cat that has been abused (including neglected) may become feral because of its lack of socialization.

My family adopted a wild cat in '86. She hissed if anybody came near her, and nobody was able to pet her. She had free reign inside and out. She kept returning to the house to be fed; however, so that was a good sign.

Do not try to catch a feral cat with your bare hands!
Do not try to catch a feral cat with your bare hands!
Use a cage or call a Humane Society to catch it for you.
Use a cage or call a Humane Society to catch it for you. | Source

Feral cats are a bit more difficult to socialize, as one can imagine. Some experts suggest a cage or crate so that your cat can slowly get used to what goes on in his home. He will be able to sit, watch, listen, and become familiar with your voices.

Once he becomes at least semi-used to the immediate surroundings, it's okay to move him to a larger room that will allow him to explore. Keep the cage nearby so he has somewhere to run when he wants to feel safe. Slowly expand his areas until he has free reign of the entire house. It will be a long and hard process; do not expect a quick fix.

The American Humane Society Traps Feral Cats

#4. Lost cats.

It is always important to keep in mind that the cat you are "rescuing" may already have a healthy and safe home! Some cats are just skittish because they know you're a stranger in a strange place, and they intend to go home after they're done mooching food. It's a good idea to keep an eye out for a while to see if the cat keeps returning and scrounges for food, and if she looks well-fed or not. Can you see the cat's ribs, or is she round and filled in?

If you think she is lost or ownerless, test how social she is. Put food out on your porch. Stay back but in sight. If the wild cat approaches easily and comes to you when called, she may already have an owner or may not have been on her own for long. Put up signs and an ad in the newspaper if you need to; this cat's owners may be looking for her!

If she is underfed, she will always appreciate any food you leave her.
If she is underfed, she will always appreciate any food you leave her.

#5. Loud Noises and Fast movements.

The reason your cat may be skittish may be as simple as the fact that he doesn't like how fast you move around him or how loud it is where you live. The TV makes a particularly loud noise, and he takes off running. You jump up from your chair in excitement, and he darts under or behind something.

I can remember having my phone right next to Prince Fredward on the windowsill. It vibrated, and he literally jumped straight up into the air, back arched, claws out, just like in cartoons. Whatever the action, chances are if your cat is reacting so strongly to your loud noises and fast movements, he is not yet used to you or his surroundings.

This cat takes her time getting used to the snow. Always let your cat have the time to adjust!

Keep in Mind.

It is always important to keep in mind that every cat acts differently. Just because your old cat loved to be rubbed on the belly does not mean that your new one does. Just because an older cat preferred to jump up onto the counters doesn't mean that every one of your cats will expend this energy.

Because of this, pay close attention to how your cat reacts. If she jumps or is startled, chances are she doesn't like what you're doing. Her ears go back? She doesn't like it. She mewls loud and long? She doesn't like it. If your cat purrs, she likes it. Flicks her tail so that it is lying on top of you or touching you? She is indeed comfortable with you. There are a bunch of ways to see what your cat is and is not comfortable with; you simply need to pay attention.

If the cat looks at you suspiciously, don't count on him sticking around.
If the cat looks at you suspiciously, don't count on him sticking around.
Just because a stray cat looks cute from a distance, it doesn't mean it's comfortable with you up close!
Just because a stray cat looks cute from a distance, it doesn't mean it's comfortable with you up close!

Other Things To Help Settle Your Cat Down.

The above list consists of specific solutions to specific problems. The following bullets may also help to calm your cat down.

  • Routine. If she knows what to expect, she will become comfortable with it and fall into the routine with you.
  • Treats. These are special because they are not part of the routine; plain and simple. Once you find a brand your cat likes, he will come just because he heard you shake the package.
  • Patience. Your cat will do things on her own time, not yours. Always remember this. Do not force a cat, or I can guarantee you will find yourself scratched up. If you wait patiently, and sometimes with seeming disinterest, the cat will come to you if the motivation is there, (i.e. a treat in your palm).

Above all else, only take on the responsibility of a cat if you have the means. This includes enough money to buy what it needs as well as the time to spend with it. It is unfair to both you and your pet if you are unable to take care of it.

© 2011 Jennifer Kessner

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Comments 57 comments

Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Great information....I had a cat that was abused as a kitten....and it never ever became a friendly cat....which was very sad....voted up

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

That IS very sad. I'm sorry to hear about your cat. Sometimes I think people should have to acquire licenses to have a pet. I hope that this information and further research will help if you ever are in the same situation!

Silver Poet profile image

Silver Poet 5 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

Cats are wonderful animals. It's a shame to see them neglected. Good hub.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

They sure are. It is a shame to see. Even just to know about. I'm hoping that hubs like these will help to either keep people from abusing their pets, to help people with adjusting to a new pet that had been previously abused, or both. Here's to hoping. =)

Kate H profile image

Kate H 5 years ago from Upstate New York

My cat was traumatized soon after I met him. I had to drive out to pick him up 4 hours from home. So as a three month old kitten, his first experience with me was in a noisy car on the noisy highway, with my ex boyfriend who insisted on keeping the music too loud! My kitten was very upset and when he got home he hid in his carrier for an hour before I had to coax him out. He spent the next three night crying for his family. it broke my heart but I kept getting up and cuddling him close until he calmed down. Now he is the most confident and content cat I've ever met. He does still look a little freaked when he hears a loud noise but he doesn't hide, and if I tell him "it's ok" he usually calms back down. This was a nice hub and I'm sure some people (and cats) will benefit from reading this. Voted up!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Kate H: Sounds like your cat is in good hands! =) I'm glad he's turned out okay. Thanks for reading, and for the comment and vote!

Lucky Cats profile image

Lucky Cats 5 years ago from The beautiful Napa Valley, California

Your little Prinze Fredward is this much information and great tips and respect for our feline friends..excellent source of step by step ways in which to introduce new kitties to home, kitties to new home and new animal pals, how to handle ferals and shy kitties and so so much more. GREAT!!! Thank you. UP Awesome, Useful Interesting Awesome and Beautiful because you have care enough to have taken the time to learn about the cats in our lives. AWESOME!!!!!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Lucky Cats: He is awesome, isn't he? =D I love him to death. Thanks for all the votes! ^_^ I can only hope that those who read this will keep it in mind when the situation arises. =)

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

Super informative. Thanks, I voted up and useful. However, my ragdoll cat doesn't get scared of anything except for storms. Everything else...he couldn't give to sh*ts. :)

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thanks for the vote and comment as usual, Kitty! =) It's good to hear about your ragdoll. Sounds like he must know he's safe in your home!

FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

My cat was abused before she was rescued. She is a friendly cat. But she had to be adopted out to homes with no mean or children. Loud cars or motorcycles scare her even if a few streets away.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Stories of abuse are always so sad. =( I'm glad that your cat has a loving home now! Prince Fredward prefers the backyard whenever we go to bask in the sun. I'm pretty sure it's because of the noisy street. Thanks for the comment! =)

carcro profile image

carcro 5 years ago from Winnipeg

Really good points on skiddish cats. I can't imagine abusing any animal. They return so much love in return, it just doesn't make sense. Our cats are so spoiled, but I wouldn't have it any other way! Voted Up and Interesting!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@carcro: I can't imagine ever abusing an animal either. Glad to hear about your spoiled cats! =P I think it's difficult NOT to spoil them! Thanks for reading and the votes! =)

Nat Amaral profile image

Nat Amaral 5 years ago from BC Canada

Very well written. My heart went out to these little critters. It's always sad to hear about them being abandoned or abused. No animal, big or small, deserves this kind of harsh treatment, and I agree with Meisjunk: it's hard NOT to spoil any cat! Especially when they're extra friendly and cuddly. LOL!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 5 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Nat: Haha, thanks, Nat! =) Friendly and cuddly is very hard to resist. Thanks for stopping by!

Sarah 4 years ago

my cat edgar charlie just got moved in my moms house yesterday and my mom is so mad that i ''pester'' him.

he's cute but he won't come out from under my mom's bed.

poor edgar charlie. what should or shouldn't i do?

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi, Sarah. Edgar Charlie sounds like he's been through a rough time. If he's only been at your mom's house a day or two, then he hasn't had time to check out the rest of the house. He's hiding under your mom's bed because that's where he feels the safest.

I know it's difficult, as the only thing you want to do is help the poor guy adjust (I've been there!), but right now the best thing is to leave him alone.

Cats aren't like dogs when it comes to territory. Instead of immediately sniffing everything out, they stay to where they know is safe and then slowly venture farther and farther with each exploration.

Go on with your day as usual. Edgar Charlie will begin to see that he is not going to be threatened while under the bed, then he'll feel safe in your mother's room as a whole. Slowly, he will creep out of the room and make his way around the house.

As long as he knows where the litter is, and as long as he trusts that he will always have food (and that the food will be in the same place!), he will feel more and more comfortable venturing everywhere.

As he becomes comfortable, you can see if he'll come to you. Rub your thumb and forefinger together and tsk or cluck at him. Talking to him in a low, soothing voice will also make him feel like you're safe.

But keep in mind to not startle him! If he comes into the living room, but it's his first venture into the living room, he will probably ignore you. Leave him be for a while at first. If he settles down or even comes to you, then definitely encourage him! Put out your hand, palm up, and let HIM make the first move to touch you before you pet him.

Every pet is different, but Edgar Charlie just needs time to adjust. Good luck! I hope he settles soon.

annie 4 years ago

My gigi is only skittish for other people.. she comes out of hiding for me, and sleeps with me like a happy cat does.. she survived a bad hurricane while having to live in a garage thru it, then lived in a tree stump for 3 days after she escaped the shelter of the garage I tried to give her. She is TERRIFIED of plastic bags.. I think my sister caught her in a plastic bag... Gigi loves me though, and she always will !

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Awww, poor Gigi! =3 I bet she's uber grateful for you! I'm glad you were able to give her a better opportunity. Thanks for sharing your story! ^_^

traviswatters76 4 years ago

i have a cat that i got from an abusive roommate the cat is still scared and runs from every thing but he loves being out side he keeps coming back to me though so i hope for the best.Any tips?

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 4 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi! I commend you on adopting the cat. =) Yeah, few of them don't like the outside. xD Mine are actually only allowed out when they have my supervision (I worry too much! haha), so it's like another type of treat to them. I'm glad you do let him out. =) I'm sure that's one of the reasons he feels safe with you.

Keep in mind that the way a cat acts around you is a reflection of how you act and how comfortable your cat is with all of it. This includes how fast you move and how loud or abrupt the sounds you make are.

Because his previous owner abused him, he is probably expecting the same treatment from you. It will take a lot of time, but please keep being patient with him! I'm sure he'll become more and more comfortable as time goes.

Do you have a cat/dog brush? I encourage you to use it! Grooming is one of the best ways to bond with your cat. Has he never seen a brush or is uncomfortable with them? I still encourage you to show it to him! No fast movements, and let him think like he's the one deciding it's okay to use the brush. XD Hold it still and let him come to it and sniff it, and gently brush him once to see how he reacts. He might swat at it or try to bite it, but you can keep him occupied with your other hand and pet/rub his ears or something. And if he's too uncomfortable with it, let it go for a day or two and then try again. =)

Remember to always be gentle and calm, especially when speaking directly to him and when cuddling with him. And good luck! ^_^ I wish the best for both of you.

crazybeanrider profile image

crazybeanrider 3 years ago from Washington MI

Absolutely awesome hub, so much information packed into this hub. I so enjoyed reading everything about what makes your cat scared. I had a cat (Sully) that was skittish, I believe it was a bad experience after getting spayed. She is sadly not with me anymore. My 18 year old is so laid back. Thank you so much for a great read. Shared on twitter as well.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Glad you enjoyed the article! =) Thanks for reading and for sharing as well.

Yeah, laid back children and teens always seem to help out. I was actually babysitting recently, a 20-month-old. Besides the fact she's convinced the cat is a "puppy," XD she's listened to everything we've told her about petting nice. And Prince Fredward has been a champ. He runs away if she squeals or moves too fast, but he always comes back (too curious for his own good and not at all shy), and then he wants to be social again, so he's learning quickly that the little girl just wants kisses and pets. Again, it just shows how much he's improved! I think he would have bitten and howled and scratched if I'd been babysitting right after we adopted him from my grandfather.

tvfor200 3 years ago

My departed cat was the best because he had the same traits of a dog. I would call him puppy. He did have a problem when I had a group over...really didn't have too much use for them and stayed away. Although if only a few people were over he would make an appearance. He did have one problem and that was with storms...actually could see his demeanor change and would have an accident. Don't have a clue what happened in his youth. My problem is...I would love to get a new kitty but am so afraid of getting a skittish cat and so want a clone of my last cat. There will never be another Gator!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Every cat has a different personality; that is definitely a fact! I encourage you to still consider it. =) Prince Fredward has come such a long way; very little scares him, and nothing that I do startles him at all (not even splashing water on him! He gives me the dirtiest glares though). XD

You can find a new companion without forgetting or loving your previous cat less. Hearts grow! Yours would expand for another addition to your life; believe me. =) Either way though, good luck!

Jess 3 years ago

Just got a munchkin cat who is 7 months old, had him for 2 days hasn't eatin, drank or went to the bathroom and she preferres to hide then to let me love on her what shall I do

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Awww. Give her a couple of days to acclimate to the living space. Is it large? It might be a good idea to keep her in a bedroom or bathroom for a couple of days if that's the case. Less to get used to, so there is less stimulation. Have you tried different kinds of cat food? It could be she just doesn't like that brand. Where did you adopt her from? If she's not used to being inside or being around people, it'll just take her a while. =) Be patient and gentle with her, and if you do decide to keep her in the bedroom or bathroom at first, make sure she has plenty of water, food, and her litter box in there with her, and even a little box with a towel for her to snuggle in. As for getting her to eat, if she's nervous, she may just not be able to get herself to eat because of that. Try enticing her by putting some gravy over the dry food a time or two. And definitely let me know how she does! Good luck!

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

Our cat is skiddish and we have no idea why. We have had him from a baby he use to sleep on my head. We will not snuggle with us. We can only pet him in places he has picked out, the bathroom, the pantry and in front of my keyboard. We hate that he doesn't like to snuggle. We love him and I believe he loves us. Good information on your hub voted up.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi, Moonlake! Thanks for the comment. It could simply be your cat's personality. We had a cat when I was younger that was much more hands off. She didn't let us touch her tail or paws or legs or belly or anything like that. It was only the head, ears, and her back if she was in a good mood. And the times we were allowed to pet her was if we were upset (she really couldn't stand for any of us kids to cry) or if we were about to fall asleep. Just respect your pet's choice of intimacy, and it could be that he'll become more comfortable with things later on! And good luck. =)

moonlake profile image

moonlake 3 years ago from America

I meant to say " he will not snuggle with us." He does love to be combed in fact he begs to be combed.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Oh okay well that's good! =) Grooming is a very important bonding time for a cat and their owner.

NickyMa profile image

NickyMa 3 years ago from Petaluma, California

I had to give my kitty to a friend for 6 months while I moved and traveled. My friend just gave him back due to the fact that the cat and him have never gotten along. As soon as he saw me he was sweet, loving... But now he's soo skittish. The other problem is that he was always an outdoor cat and now due to my apartment he has to be an indoor cat. for the first week he has been cuddling and cautiously playing maybe an hour total a day but mostly sleeping. I want to make this work but I'm afraid making him stay inside will hurt him more than help him. How much he sleeps, how little he actually wants to be touched... I don't have any other pets either and I work. Is this ok for an indoor pet? Are his reactions common or is his behavior something I should be concerned about? This is my first time caring for an indoor cat and I need him to be happy! Any advice?

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Aw, the poor baby!

Now, this is a much longer reply than I had expected it to be (so brace yourself! XD), but I do hope it helps!

I don't want to say anything bad about your friend, as I don't know anything about them, but it sounds like they were either verbally abusive by yelling or physically abusive by swatting at your kitty. If they never got along, your pet may have done things like scratch furniture or meow or spray (urinate) just to annoy your friend, and it doesn't sound like your friend reacted well.

He was sweet and loving because he remembered you and is glad you're back! It's also completely possible that he acted out with your friend because he was pining for you.

Whatever the case, just keep doing what you're doing and let him sleep when he needs it, and love him! If he’s sleeping that much, it might be because of a couple different reasons.

Just pay attention to these possibilities:

1) He might be at his most active early in the morning before you wake up and then during the day when you’re gone at work, so what you see is him resting when you come home. Or he may be just active at night while you’re sleeping, so you only see him sleeping while you’re up. This is fine and normal.

2) Another possibility is that his 6 months at your friend’s was super stressful, and he’s still recuperating. In that case, rest really is just the best thing for him. The fact that he’s resting so easily just shows he feels comfortable, safe, and trusting of you. (So you’re doing it right!) How long have you had him since getting him back?

So when do you notice that he’s most active? Do you notice if he’s up and about at night? I know you had him before, but the separation has changed you both. It’ll just take time for him to get to know you again and the new apartment for the first time, and it’ll take the same for you to relearn his habits. =)

Now for your question about him having to be an inside cat now. Trust me, he’ll adjust. Did your friend let him outside? It could be that he’s had the past 6 months to readjust to being an inside cat already. Find out what kind of toys he prefers and then make sure he has plenty. He will be just fine learning to occupy himself while you’re gone.

(I don’t know if it would be possible financially or allowed by your landlord, but if you want, it might be a good thing to get him a companion. But wait until he’s a little more comfortable/settled in and that way he won’t think you’re replacing him. Again, up to you, and he’ll be fine either way.)

Now onto him not letting you touch him. From what you say, it sounds like he was super cuddly before your friend had him? It sounds in that case that your friend was physically abusive. One of the most important things for pets is to teach them that hands are sources of comfort and gentleness. Does he not come to you when you call? There are a couple techniques that I’ve used on Prince Fredward that have definitely helped, so here are a couple tips:

1) If he doesn’t come to you when you call, sit on the floor for a while at a time when you notice he’s up and about. Put your hand out, palm up, and rub your fingers together while calling him or tsking. The palm up is non-aggressive, and the tsking will get his attention. Do it a couple of times and then ignore him. Let him decide when it’s safe to come to you. Wait a couple of minutes, look up as if you only just see him for the first time, say hi and just start talking to him and put your hand out again to call him. Be patient and take little breaks between calling him where you just ignore him and do stuff on your own time. Bring a notepad and pen with you to the floor to doodle, etc. Just the fact that you aren’t being forceful or pushy will make him feel more comfortable coming to you. (And having something with you might perk his curiosity, and he might have to come see what you’re doing just because!)

2) Learning what he likes to play with will make a huge difference. Does he like hard toys like balls with noisy stuff in the center? Does he like soft toys like plushy mice? String? Pen light? Experiment! =) He may have a preference.

3) Other types of bonding time will make a huge difference as well. Have you ever groomed him with a pet brush? (You can get a simple wire pet brush for a $1 at most stores.) I encourage you to try it! If you haven’t groomed him before and he seems to be afraid of the brush, just hold it still and near him, and let him sniff it before you try to go at it. Brush him once and let him smell it again. It took a couple times to get this calico I’d been pet-sitting to get used to it, but once she learned it was a source of comfort and pleasure, man did she always want it!

Basically, it sounds like you’re doing the right things. He must notice this too since he feels comfortable sleeping while you’re there. Give him some time to readjust, try the techniques to get him more comfortable/used to hands, and just keep loving him. And talk to him! Honestly, I talk to Prince Fredward so much it probaby looks worrisome. XD But he always pays attention and answers back. =) You’re doing good! You two will be fine. =)

Definitely sending good luck your way, and please let me know how it goes!

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

How wonderful that your family included a feral in your family. We have several recovering ferals ourselves. My husband and I feed (as well as vaccinate/spay & neuter) a small colony of feral cats at a grocery store. Over the years, we have brought home a couple that needed medical attention and they stayed.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Aw, well good luck! =) Thanks so much (From those cats? From Mother Nature? Lol I don't know) for all that you've done for that group! Neutering/spaying just one feral makes worlds of difference in a community with a lot of strays.

And woot for the adopted ones! =) When it works out for the better, it always makes me feel all gushy inside honestly. XD I feel gushy just thinking about my Prince. I need to crochet him a crown collar.

sydney 3 years ago

We rescued a cat a little over a year ago. She is 8 and a survivor of Hurricane Katrina. Not to mention in the short span of 3 weeks, prior to our adoption, she lived with 4 different families that brought her back within a few days. She already had her claws removed probably right after her rescue (her toes are a bit funky but adorable). She used to go under the bed all of the time in the beginning and for the winter months, she was hanging out with us all throughout the day. I came home from work for lunch and she was in my chair. She has always been skittish, every noise coming from the front door freaks her out. Short of replacing the door with a newer more solid one, we tell her everything is fine and she relaxes. Lately, when we are leaving for work and say goodbye to her, she goes under the bed. She comes out when I come home for lunch but then when I leave, she goes back under. I come home for the day and she comes out. Most people wouldn't think this was odd but previously she had a few seizures that were caused by two popular products for fleas and heartworm. In your experience (my first cat), is she just saying that she is mad at me for leaving her or that she just likes going under the bed. I can read a million articles and some sound depressing and others sound like I'm a cautious mom. In the last bit of my ramble, I guess I am cautious because her big sister (the dog that loved cats and convinced us to adopt her) died from cancer in March 2012, so I am always making mountains when she is probably feeling my stress. Anyway, great hub, liked it a lot!

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Hi, Sydney! Thanks so much for taking the time to rescue and adopt Miss Kitty.

Since you've had her a year, I highly doubt she's worried about those 4 previous families that returned her, and I doubt she’s hiding because of being mad at you! By now she knows your routine, and she knows she's a permanent part of it. Just the fact that she is a constant presence while you are home is evidence of that.

You mentioned that her claws had been removed but that she’s fine, so I’ll just leave it at that. =) As long as she’s fine with her paws, then you’re good.

I want to touch on the seizures real fast before we head over to your primary concern, the hiding under the bed. Are you sure it was due to products you had used? Dust and other buildup under the bed can cause respiratory problems, so you’ll want to make sure you clean often beneath the bed (if you are okay with her continuing, but we’ll get to that).

Okay. Hiding under the bed. Unfortunately, because you don’t know anything about her previous 7 years of life, there is no way of knowing for sure if she has always hidden under the bed. I’m willing to bet however that this is habitual for her simply because it has been a year, and she is still doing it.

BUT. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Hiding under the bed is normal. Let’s assume it’s habitual in her case for now. Could be that she simply feels the safest here.

2. Noise/Disturbance. You mentioned that she’s always been skittish with loud noises, particularly close to the front door. Do you live in a noisy neighborhood? It could be that her retreat to the bed is simply to get away from the noise and sleep/feel safe.

3. Now let’s assume that that this is not habitual for her. It could STILL be that she retreats to under the bed because of the noise. If she previously lived in a quieter neighborhood, then she could just still be getting used to this area. If this is the case, then she’ll eventually be out from under the bed more and more.

4. Does she head for the bed only when you leave? Or is it whenever the door is opened/shut? This could be because of her traumatic experience of having been caught in Hurricane Katrina. Again, this would not then be habitual behavior but learned after her traumatic experience, and it’s just a matter of her becoming more and more used to the environment.

5. Back to the dust/buildup. Just as we all get the sneezes and phlegm when there is a lot of dust, animals are the same! And if this is a constant thing, it could become a respiratory problem in their lungs. So! If you are okay with her hiding under the bed, then just be sure to have it clear of dust, dirt, sharp objects, or anything she can/might ingest or chew.

6. If you do NOT want her to continue going under the bed, then block it off, but be sure to have another safe hideaway for her! Whether it’s a box with bedding in it at a corner of the house or a tall perch on a cat tree stand, she will still want a place to retreat for safety/comfort.

7. Still worried that she might be hiding for reasons not normal? Try to keep track of exactly when she goes to hide. You’ll be able to see what the triggers are, whether they’re because of noise or fear of something else, because she’s just comfortable, or maybe you’ll see that there’s another cause.

8. Ways to keep track of when she’s under the bed while you’re gone. What does she like to play with? Soft toys? Hard toys? If she’s not very playful, I definitely suggest experimenting with a couple of different things! Try hard balls with AND without noisy things in the center. Try a sock. Try a scrunchy! Try a string, with AND without something on the end. Try a lazer pointer. Find out what she likes.

And then you are going to scatter these things around your home. Take note of what is where before you leave. When you come back, if it’s moved, then you’ll know for sure that she doesn’t stay under the bed the entire time.

For Prince Fredward, it usually looks like he doesn’t move from my pillow when I’m gone. XD When I leave, he’ll look sleepily at me and mew and then close his eyes again. When I come home, I usually have to call him to come downstairs because the butt is sleeping again! But his toys are moved, his water is halfway gone, and his food is eaten. He’s an active kitty, just when HE wants to be.

All in all, it sounds like you’re doing a fantastic job with your kitty. The fact that she’s so comfortable around you when you’re home and the fact that you’re talking to her when she’s distressed about a noise or disturbance shows how highly she thinks of you.

I completely understand the need to be cautious! A month ago, Fredward had the most awful bruise on his bottom lip. His hair was thinner in that area, and I was just worried. I watched it so closely! I honestly think a squirrel must have gotten in under the sink in the upstairs bathroom again, and he knocked himself trying to go after it.

Even after a full year, you and your kitty are still learning one another. Just keep up what you’re doing! =) After some investigation under the bed and what specifically she reacts to, go ahead and see if you can start coaxing her out. Do NOT coo at her while she’s under there. Chances are, you being so loving while she’s under the bed may just make her feel even safer! XD BUT. If you reward brave behavior such as whenever she comes out, she’ll come out more often for the rewards, and then eventually she’ll be coming out just because she’s comfortable doing it and no longer thinking about it.

Please keep me updated! I’d love to know how she’s coming along, and if you do find something out that it’s not habitual or if you do have her checked out, also please let me know. Either way, I wish you luck! =) (And again, good job so far!) I’m sure you’ll both be fine. ^_^

lulu 3 years ago

I am at my wits ends, have had two cats that were adopted skittish, and they have not warmed up to me as much as I am used to it's going on 3 of them pees on everything and everywhere, and is rail thin, she seems to eat very little and I am at my wits' end

lulu 3 years ago

I am sorry I forgot to mention, I need help on how to make the skinny cat eat......she eats wet food at random, so sometimes yes, sometimes no. She doesn't eat treats, and is happy with dry food, but eat very little of it. I do not want to give her up but, with me not being able to break the peeing habit.....I don't know what else to do. I pretty much have tried everything, and nothing has seems to work, it is a very quiet home....

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Meisjunk 3 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

For the one that is skinny, doesn't eat much, and pees everywhere, this sounds medical, not behavioral. =/

I advise you to take her to a vet. If it's something that can be easily reversed, I bet you she will act 100% differently once it's taken care of. The other one may just still be skittish because of the cat urine smell everywhere and because of the other cat's stress level. Cats are very sensitive to these things!

Definitely make an appointment with the vet, and please let me know how it goes!

less than 3 And good luck

C.C. Warhol 2 years ago

Great hub! I adopted my little Candy when he was only a week old. His mom contracted an infection and she couldn't feed him and his two sisters. Originaly I was supposed to take the only kitten in the litter who had the Siamese traits (his mom was a Siamese and daddy was a ratty black street cat) but she passed before they could give her to me, so instead I took the tiniest, weakest, ugliest little ball of patchy black fur of the two left and nursed him. I had to get up in the middle of the night to feed, burp and 'change diapers' and we had a very good relationship until he turned 5-6 months old and he took an interest in exploring outside the house and I've always thought animals should be free to come and go as they please so I let him play outside as much as he liked, always leaving the door open or a window since I couldn't afford a kitty door at the time. His behavior started changing and one day I decided to sit on the porch and watch him and it was all fine until a few of the neighbor kids started chasing him around with sticks and throwing stones and toys at him and trying to catch him to "throw him in the pond with his front paws tied" as I heard one yell, I got up furious and picked my cat up and scared the living shit out of the kids with promises of jail and death penalty if I ever caught them abusing animals again (I'm a lawyer so they bought it) and talked to their parents at the next community meeting. Aside from the kids, here in my community there is an impressive number of stray cats that have become feral due to the kids' abuse and they tend to be very aggressive and territorial and since Candy grew up alone and with no contact with any other cats, he's a little "socially awkward" and he got picked on by the bigger cats. He's now a 10 month old mini panther and incredibly skittish around children and other cats, no matter how big or small, though I've taken care of two stray kittens for short periods of time (2 weeks at most) and he slightly adjusted to their presence and even missed them when one of them died and when I managed to find a home for the other one. I love my Candy even if he's a big, black, lazy ball of fear and I try to help him overcome his fears little by little and he's made quite some progress. Again, wonderful article, it was very accurate and crazy-cat-owner friendly

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Awwww I just want to hug you!

Candy sounds like a wonderful companion! I don't suppose you have any nieces or nephews who can be persuaded to be gentle for an hour a day 3 times a week? That alone will do WONDERS for how he acts around kids.

My Prince Fredward loves kids (even though my cousin, who originally owned him, has a daughter who was young and NOT taught how to handle animals. That poor cat went through a LOT), but he unfortunately doesn't know how to act around kids, and fast movements (as kids are prone to do) scare him into running under the kitchen table.

I think cats know the difference between ignorance and maliciousness. Even though Prince Fredward is fine with kids after his brief torture with my cousin's kid, he does not like one of my sister's friend.

My sister has a friend who thought it was funny to literally chase him around the house and yell while doing it. And he did it every time he visited. Then, as Fredward would be hiding, the kid would try to pull him out of his hiding spot!

That took a LONG while for Fredward to come back from, and to this day he does not like that boy. But it is because of those incidences that I think cats know the difference between maliciousness and ignorance.

I highly suggest you see what you can do to socialize him! He may even like it or want it but just doesn't know how to interact.

I definitely commend you for taking him in! (Like I said, I could so hug you for it!) And 2 weeks really isn't a lot of time, in the instance of your helping out weak and stray cats and finding them homes. If you read my article Positive Reinforcement With Your Pets: Why it's important, you'll see some of the behavior Prince Fredward had with a cat I ended up having for an entire year. Fredward not only became used to Luna, he would seek out her company! He LOVES to groom, and she would just sit there contentedly as he did so.

Maybe think about getting Candy a companion. =) It would be good for him to learn that there are gentle kitties out there as well!

And as for those feral cats in the neighborhood: is there a humane society near you that does a neuter and release program? Try contacting them. Just getting those poor cats fixed/neutered will ensure that at least THEY are not creating more feral cats, no matter if they are capable of rehabilitation or not.

Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! I wish the best for you.

Signed, Co-Crazy-Cat-Owner Jen

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

A wonderful hub especially as we have been adopted by two rescue babies; mum Tabatha and her kitten Meg who were found in a hedge abandoned last winter around thirty miles from here. Tabatha had five kittens but sadly four were dead only our little meg survived. They are providing us with so much that only animals can give and they do not ask for much in return. A great hub here and looking forward to so many more by you.


Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thank you, Eddy!

Your two lovelies are lucky to have you. =) I hope you keep each other safe and warm!

Mari 2 years ago

Thank you for such a great article, I'm glad you have a well adjusted kitty, because in reality kitty chooses you.

I just got a kitty about a month ago, age unknown; a cousin of mine found her in the hood of his car. She was extremely skinny and skittish, yet has slept with me from day one. She's still very skittish, she'll run away from me if I try to approach her, yet she plays with me, comes when called and really loves to be petted. She's extremely well behaved, she doesn't swat, or hiss or bite when she's scared, she just runs away.

She's very fearful of the rest of my family, she'll hide in their bedrooms and even play with them but runs away as soon as they try to pet her; do you have any advice on how to keep her from running from me and my family?

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thank you so much for the compliment, Mari! And for coming to me.

It sounds like your poor adopted kitty has been taught that hands can do harm. She may have very well run away from an abusive family.

This is not an easy fix, but it can be turned around! =)

First and foremost, never yell at her. When calling her to come to you, always keep your hand out, palm up, or rubbing your fingers together. Use low, soothing voices and sounds. Doing these two things at the same time will mean that she'll start to associate your hand with calling her, not just you.

As you said! Cats choose us. Let her choose when to be petted. Don't put your hand out and reach for her. Put your hand out and wait. Try a couple different positions, i.e. with your palm up, with your fingers spread, stuff like that. But then don't move your hand! She'll rub up against your hand when she decides she wants petted. And the best part? If she focuses on the back of your hand, you'll know you can do that until she's comfortable with the rest of your hand. Same for if she focuses on a different part of your hand. Take the cue from her with what she's comfortable with.

You'll also quickly learn if there's a certain hand motion she's afraid of or not, and then you can avoid that one!

The biggest key here is that it is your and your family's HANDS that are scaring her. The fact that she plays with you and your family and comes willingly shows she already trusts you (you lucky duck! She's found a treasure in you!).

It's obvious you're doing the right things! Keep it up, and show her that hands are for loves! =) Please keep me updated on how she does! I'd love to hear about her progress.

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crazybeanrider 2 years ago from Washington MI

Good information. I had a cat once that was laid back and playful. I took her in to get spayed and she came back extremely skittish. he never outgrew it. I often wondered if they mistreated her or if the whole experience scarred her permanently. She has since passed on at 12 years old. I still have her brother who just turned 20. He gives new meaning to the word laid back. The only thing that gets him startled is the vacuum. I enjoyed reading your hub.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 2 years ago from Pennsylvania Author

Thank you for your comment, @crazybeanrider! =) Yes, when we had Prince Fredward spayed, he was offended and hurt and scared. We tried our best to sooth him, but he was still living with my grandfather at the time, and he wasn't as friendly as he's come to be. Being fixed is a very traumatizing experience! I'm sorry to hear that it seemed doubly so for your little one. It sounds as if you still gave her a good life. =) I'm happy to hear about your laid back Mr.! Again, thanks for commenting, and have a good one!

Wendy 22 months ago

We adopted a pair of siblings last week. Sister Sammie and brother Sonny. We've yet to be able to hold and love them. Because we have 2 dogs, we put them in the guest bedroom the first day, and closed the door. They left the crate, went under the bed and there they stay. We opened the door and put up a gate to keep the dogs out on the 3rd day so they could get used to "house noises". I sleep in there at night so they know I'm there for them, but it's not making any difference. I talk softly to them when I'm in the room and we have 2 scratch towers, a cubby, catnip and several toys and balls with bells. They get wet and dry food, water and tuna.

They are 8 months old, living most of their lives in a shelter. We've rescued all of our pets in the past, and never had an issue. I lay on the floor and talk sweet to them. What else can I do? They haven't left the room in a week. They ARE eating, drinking and using the cat box. But we want to spoil and love them.

If I'm doing something wrong, please tell me. If it's just going to take time, that's ok.... please tell me that also.

Mary Gene 19 months ago

I bought an Oriental Siamese about 9 or 10 years ago at 17 weeks old.

My Sofee has NEVER been affectionate or friendly with me from the get go.

She runs from me which makes it extremely difficult to catch her when I need to get her to the vet. This past week I needed to take her to the vet and I had to corner her and grab her and she scratched the living hell out of me. Bad thing, she's been diagnosed with inflamatory bowel disease, so she has chronic diareaha and leaves poop everywhere. I now have to take her in to the vet for a steroid shot every 6 weeks or so, which means having to catch her and get scratched again. I don't know what to do, I'm thinking about putting her down.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 19 months ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Wendy: I'm so sorry this is over two months in coming! I do hope things are going a little better by now. You are doing everything PERFECTLY. Just the fact that these kitties are eating, drinking, and using the litter box says it all. They would be starving themselves and refusing to go anywhere if they weren't comfortable.

Cats are notorious for taking FOREVER. My Poor Prince Fredward and I just moved this past October. He didn't leave the bedroom for a full WEEK. I assume the bed smelled the most of me. But I had to pick him up and put him on the bed if I wanted to hug and love on him, and then he was immediately between the bed and the wall, huddled in a ball, if I left the room for even a second.

But he eventually ventured out and explored, and now, only a few short months later, he waits by the front door (even though he's DEATHLY afraid of vehicles) for me to walk in every day after work. He's so precious. You're going to get there, if you aren't already! =) You sound like you've got it handled. Cats scare and worry us with their seemingly anti-social behavior, but even though dogs revel in overwhelming senses of smell and sight and new things, cats abhor all those things and prefer routine and safety. Your kitties are acting normally, and they feel safe enough to eat, drink, and pee! You're totally good.

Meisjunk profile image

Meisjunk 19 months ago from Pennsylvania Author

@Mary Gene: I am so sorry to hear about your poor dear. =( Some cats are just less affectionate than others. We had one when I was growing up that was mostly outside, but when she was inside, she let you see her all the time (to remind you she owned the house, not us), and she allowed us to pet her if we were sick, crying, or if SHE deigned it to be okay. And that's fine. Cat personalities vary just as much as human ones.

I wish that I was a vet, but unfortunately, I can't determine what your Sofee's quality of life is or will be, with her disease. 17 weeks old is still young enough to keep a cat from going feral, but it's possible that she is, even with living with you for as long as she has. Especially if she's never let you touch her, and she's always hidden from people.

Another possibility is that her disease is what's made her so stand-off-ish all these years. She may have only just been diagnosed, but she could have been living with this all her life, and now as she gets a little older, it's rearing its ugly head.

The decisions ahead of you are going to be hard, but I encourage you to talk to your vet about your Sofee's QUALITY of life. If she's still comfortable, and you're willing to do the cleaning up, then that's one thing. Also take your safety into account. When was your last tetanus shot? In her age and illness, you don't want to also fall ill. Especially if she's having diarrhea and doesn't clean herself. She gets feces in your cuts, and something gets missed in the cleaning/sterilization of those cuts? That could be bad news.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck and large group of supportive friends and family. It's never easy, caring for a sick pet or having to decide whether to put one down, and I wish you the best. *hugs*

Eric 7 months ago

We had ours as a kitten. We keep the tv loud, she likes to sit with us, likes our bed rooms, but she doesn't like fast movement. I always try to take a different route when walking around her. Because she is a black cat, she acts totally different at night. Although she thinks we can't see her, we can and that must make her feel safer. Strange.

Sharon 5 months ago

As a kitten, I found Kiki on my back door step, all curled up. She was about 8 weeks old when she appeared to me. I have had her with me ever since. She is an indoor/outdoor cat. Just recently I tried to get her to come in for the night, as I do every night, but she refused to come in. Matter of fact, she would look at me strange like I was someone she did not recognize, and she took off around the house. I went around the house last night trying to get her inside and she crouched down and looked at me as if she did not know me, and she ran and hid. She stayed out last night and this morning, I went to look for her and she saw me and ran and hid. There was nothing different in my appearance. However, my husband took the trash out and she came to him, but she would not come to him last night either. I do not understand her behavior. I have an older male cat who has been with us for 9 years and his behavior stays pretty much status quo. However, I did notice before yesterday she had been very affectionate, a little more than usual.

CMiller 8 weeks ago

I picked up a cat my Dad has been caring for and can no longer manage ( he had five) and brought her home, three states away. She's about 2 years old or so. Of course she didn't care for the trip here, and was vocal a little on and off, and by the time we got home and I let her out she was ready to be de-crated and took off into the kitchen. I had already set up a litter box, a few sleeping spots in some seclusion, and food and water. She hasn't made a peep and is "hiding" in the kitchen chair under the table cloth. She doesn;t hiss or try to bite when I check on her but she scampers away quickly. I know it takes time for adjustment, but she hasn't seemed to eat or drink anything since she's been here. Kind of has me concerned. The other thing I'm worried about is that she has to have updated shots to fulfill the pet policy in my apartment, and that means trying to capture and crate here again. What should I do? Wait a few days and try to do that? I am not sure how long my landlord will wait for me to get that done.

Sarah 2 days ago

I juzt bought a RagDoll kitten but she was very skittish and would turn her head and bite you if you picked her up. Ive done some research about aggresive Ragdolls because their known to be one of the most friendly kittens but she is the exact opposite a majority of the time. .I always got her at 6wks when every site said her breed should stay with mama until 12wks and taking them away so soon can cause suckling constantly and stress which as we all know causes agression. She is scared of bags and archs her back&her hair stands straight up. If you walk by she archs and then runs and jumps on your leg or runs away amd then comes at you like a lion lol she can be somewhat sweet and lays in my lap as soon as i sit down at night and ive caught her sleeping in my daughters bed whose 6;) My question is well is this normal for a kitten? She really dosent like to be petted or picked up most times and will give you a little bite or sometimes start meowing and then squirm all around and bite like your doing something bad to her. She has a 3story kat house and a warmer bed and tons of toys but wont eat any treats or wet food but does chow down on her dry food. When i bought her she had flees and i was told she was liter box trained but she pooped in my bed 3 times but after about 2days she went in her box thank goodness. The man i got her from told me her mama is the devil and hes hoping none of the kittens get her mentality. Do you think her mamas genes could be the cause? Or seperating her 6wks sooner then she should of been? Or doea this behavior sound like abuse could be the reason? I dont want to give up on her at all but i have a 6yr old that she sometimes bites and scratches for no reason like she could be coloring on the floor and the kitten will just launch onto her with her claws or bite her. Im trying to be patient but i dont want my baby being scared of cats or scared in her own home of her pet. Please help anyone !! Any insight or thoughts or advice is much appreciated.

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