How can I get my cat to not be afraid of me?
We recently got an 8 month old cat from a breeder, it had lived its live in a cage with the rest of the litter up to that point. The car journey home was about an hour and the whole time I had my hand in the carrier and was stroking her gently. She didn't seem afraid at all, and made no attempt to leave the carrier.
When we got to our apartment I made the mistake of not confining her to just one room and I think she got a bit bewildered. For quite a while she just sat in the carrier and didn't move. I was able to pick her up and hold her without any apparent problem.
That night she peed and pooped on the sofa :-( So we decided to confine her to the kitchen with everything she needed. However, it was now impossible to get close to her to take her to the kitchen. We tried twice to corner her and pick her up but that just ended up with my arms all scratched up and her hiding under the sofa. My wife and I were starting to get a bit desperate.
In the end we managed to "herd" her into the kitchen without having to get too close. However, I think the failed attempts to "grab" her have traumatised her and made her really afraid of us.
She spent the next few days in the kitchen apparently fine. She ate well and did her business in the litter tray, but would always run and hide when any of us entered the kitchen. After a week in the kitchen (and having thoroughly cleaned the sofa!) we let her roam the living / dining room which is pretty large. She seems to be fine with that (and hasn't peed where she shouldn't). We've also managed to play with her with a stick with feathers on the end, but as soon as we get any closer she runs away. Petting her is almost impossible.
What can we do so she stops being afraid of us? She's a gorgeous cat and I just want to have her purring on my lap as I watch TV, and that seems like it will never happen the way things are currently.
FOLLOW UP: about 3 weeks after posting this question, without any of us doing anything in particular, just mostly ignoring the cat and trying not to get in its way, she gradually became more and more friendly to the point where she now always follows us around the house and will purr away endlessly as we stroke her. She now has no fear of us at all. I guess it really was just a question of time!
How do you feed her? Is there any treat she likes especially? If you become "treat-human", you will be less scary, her playing with you is already great! Also.. she MAY just be a non-cuddling cat...
I feed her a mixture of dry "pellets" (or "niblets" as Dear Kitten would say!) and wet food. We give her some treats from time to time too and she likes them, but hasn't yet associated them with us. I will be mortified if she's a non-cuddling cat :-(
The more you try to force it, the more you push her away. She will warm up to you as you love her by caring for her needs and talking to her, without trying to push yourself on her (trying to pick her up or pet her, when she doesnt want to).
I agree and highly recommend treats and continued non-threatening bids for contact. Nothing will teach a cat faster that you're a safe person than a combination of: you being calm, waiting for the cat to approach you instead of you approaching it, and getting down low (or even sitting or lying down, not necessarily even facing the cat) and offering food near you or from your hand.
_"I just want to have her purring on my lap as I watch TV"_ Not every cat will ever do this.
Hard to say without knowing what happened during its 8-month life `in a cage with the rest of the litter`. If it had very limited (or no) human physical, friendly contact during that time, it's effectively feral. It is then **not** a "house cat" and might never be. We've acquired a 'barn cat' that is as wary of us as you describe yours, and she was in our home for 7 months. She now lives outdoors, apparently content to come inside a few times per day to eat and to sit nearby on our decking if we're outside. We expect maybe in the next 6 months that petting could happen.
Always make a positive effort to greet or acknowledge the pet when you come home. Use kissy eyes -- blinking slowly from a distance, to say you're a friend, until it allows you closer.
Anecdotal: I left my first-ever alone with food/litter after 15 minutes because he was clearly overwhelmed by his new home, and after a day, he appeared when I started playing computer games with catchy simple tunes--I think it was Pooyan that brought him out from hiding.
It will take time.
I don't know how for how long you have owned her now, but from my experience, the relationship can take long to establish itself.
To create this bond you are looking for, don't rush things. Never chase her, never hold her when she doesn't want to, and never make sudden movements when you are near her. This would only make her more afraid of you.
Instead, sit down next to her, with her daily food, treats or toys, wait until she comes on her own to eat or play. She needs to understand that you are not a threat. Just hold your hand in her direction, without moving. She will, eventually, come rub her head against your hand. This worked with 100% of the cats I have met :)
Speaking with her gently also helps. Try to call her by her name when you wait with her food/toys. She should learn that this means no harm for her.
My parents have a cat which is quite "wild and free", and it is only possible to cuddle when _she_ decides. However, gentle movements, calm speech and patience will always gain her confidence for a cuddle :-)
I once had a kitten like this, who was apparently traumatized by the processing of being taken home and put in a house. (That particular kitten had been born outdoors on a farm where it had lived for the first few days of it's life, but I'm not sure that mattered much.) He ate well enough, but was just a shadow hiding in the corners. It was literally two years of hiding in the shadows before he started letting me pet him. Even now he's about eight, and if unexpected guests come over he will hide and not come out for hours, sometimes even skipping a meal to hide. It will take time.
Agreed with the bit about holding out your hand. Crouch down and extend your hand toward the cat, at about head height (the cat's head, not yours,) with the palm open. Cats tend to see this as non-threatening. There's a sound you can do with your mouth, sort of a "sss-ffsss-ffsss" sound (you'd know if you ever heard someone doing it) that tends to soothe them as well, for whatever reason. I've never seen a cat--including ones described as "mean" by their owners--not respond positively when I do those two things.