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Idea for very fearful foster kitty

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  • Idea for very fearful foster kitty

    2 weeks ago we picked up our new foster kitty. Husband and I are not new to fosters nor to cats, but this one has us a bit stumped.

    Background: White Kitty (as we've been calling her) was picked up and placed as an adoption canidate at a shelter a few towns over. We do not know her history or how she came to the shelter (shelter does not release that info) beyond she WAS deemed adoptable by a shelter that's pretty strict on what wears that label.

    She was spayed. After being spayed she became extremely fearful and was removed from the adoptable list. This is where the rescue we foster for stepped in and took her. She had had 2 foster homes previously. She was passed to us to see if we could help her. This is where I need some help from the CoTH wisdom to see if we can help her.

    We have had her about 12 days. We put her in the small guest bathroom. She spends 99% of her time behind the potty. She has a bed- she won't use it. She cowers by the potty. She will eat, drink (nervously) and use the litter box, but always back to her little hidey spot.

    She will come out eventually for attention and she is SWEET and DESPERATE for attention. She's SO loving. But she is terrified of any little noise or movement (and sometimes just seems to hear voices) and she doesn't seem able to process 2 people at the same time. If my husband goes in to sit with her she comes out and cuddles, but if I walk by she flees. If my husband leaves and I go in, she comes out, but again, 2 people? No go. Her retention from day to day seems very miniscule- I swear at first glance in the morning she doesn't recognize either of us. Like it takes her a moment to process and remember us from the previous day.

    On the rare occasions she'll venture out of the bathroom if one of us appears she will hiss and bolt in terror. She will occasionally strike. Pupils totally dialated. We usually sit on the edge of the tub, but if anywhere else, hissing and freaking out like we're not the same people who sit on the tub. Move back to the tub? Happy cat.

    Again: she is SWEET. And loving. And an absolute doll-baby. She cries at night when we put her to bed for somebody to come sit with her- although 50% of the time you go in she acts like she's never met you.

    In 12 days her behavior has improved only very slightly. We can't figure out what her trigger is or what the root of it is. Our vet suggested trying a feliway collar just to see if it helps lessen her anxiety. We're not opposed to drugs, soothing music- we take the desperate foster cases (this one qualifies) so we are fully willing to jump through some hoops to "fix" them. We'll pack her off to the vet in a heartbeat if we could figure out what to say beyond "she's fearful" (diagnosis: cat?)

    In the past few days we've started to wonder if she can actually see all that well. She can clearly see shadows and large shapes, but seems unaware of small objects (feather toy, a finger, a little bit of kibble or a ball rolling in front of her) and she's extremely noise sensitive.

    Any ideas at all? We want to help this cat but we can't seem to pinpoint the root of her problem. She is MISERABLE and unhappy- she WANTS love and attention, but there's some major hang-ups in her little kitty brain. By all account this was a very sweet, VERY normal cat when she was picked up but after being spayed turned into a fearful mess that even flunks out of foster homes.
    "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings

  • #2
    I was going to suggest a Feliway of some sort as well. Any chance she is in pain for some reason?
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
      I was going to suggest a Feliway of some sort as well. Any chance she is in pain for some reason?
      Our vet suggested a Feliway collar so I've ordered one to try it.

      As far as I know she's been vetted for pain and is perfectly healthy (she's about 18 - 24 months), shiny coat, good weight. Not so much as a scab or broken claw.
      "The nice thing about memories is the good ones are stronger and linger longer than the bad and we sure have some incredibly good memories." - EverythingButWings


      • #4
        It's a long shot, but I'm wondering if she had a reaction of some sort to the anesthesia when she was under for spaying. I've heard of two instances where anesthesia altered a horse's behavior after surgeries, but don't know this to be fact - just something I heard talk of. Also, your suggestion that her eyesight is impaired might be valid, and possibly her hearing too.

        ETA - have you considered adding a second kitten, near the same age and spayed so as to try and get a calm personality from the second kitten, just to see if it might bring her out of her shell a bit?
        Susan N.

        Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.


        • #5
          You might want to get her hearing checking out. Isn't there some sort of correlation between white cats and deafness? That could explain some of the nervousness.

          I have had the best luck with feral cats sitting with or near them while they eat.
          The Evil Chem Prof


          • #6
            How have they cleared her for pain? That was really my first thought, too.

            Rescue Remedy in her water might be worth a go. I'm usually dubious of such things, but it won't hurt her and some people have found it useful...


            • #7
              I dunno what you feed your kitty, but I got my shy guy (who also hid/was quarantined in the bathroom) won over with canned food. He would hide behind the toilet or crouch down in the tub and hiss at me when I came into the bathroom like he was absolutely terrified. My guy wasn't in good shape when I got him though, he was dirty and skinny. I started giving him canned food to get him to eat more and gain weight. Turns out, that was actually the key to his heart. Two weeks later he started greeting me. After that he was begging for canned food and totally in my pocket, or whatever the kitty equivalent term is. :P

              One thing though - your cat may just be a shy kitty. My boy is Mr. Personality Plus around me and my other cat now, but he's still terrified of pretty much everyone else in the world. So it could just be an aspect of her personality.
              *Wendy* 4.17.73 - 12.20.05


              • #8
                Check out "My Cat From Hell" with Jackson Galaxy. He's got some good cat behavior ideas; he believes there are two types of cats - "shrub" cats that hide behind objects on the ground..these are the fearful ones ...and "tree" cats that are up high - the non-fearful ones. You can see the episodes on the internet...I remember him working with a feral fearful cat and one of the first things he did was move the cat from the areas it could hide. He'd probably suggest taking her out of the guest bathroom and blocking that door so she can't hide and start to socialize. Get her a cat tree or spot she can be up high and watch you. I am not a behaviorist but found his stuff pretty interesting.

                Edit to add: I normally don't watch those shows, but for some reason it was on when I walked by and saw a nasty-ass cat attacking it's owner, and got curious what they would do.


                • #9
                  Oh, I like that guy. He seems very insightful but very empathetic to both cats AND humans.


                  • #10
                    I took in an older cat whose owner had been sickly and hospitalized several times over a period of a year or so. During those times cat had been left alone in the home w/ strangers coming in to feed.

                    Cat learned to hide 24/7 and only come out to eat when no one was around.
                    When she came to my house she hid under my bed or in deep, dark places.
                    After a couple weeks I shut off the rooms where she hid and made her come into the living areas of my home where she watched our daily activity and she gradually became a little more brave. At this same time I started more hands on rubbing and petting and soft talking to her. It worked, and now she is a very well adjusted, happy, social, normal acting cat. But it did take time and a little effort.

                    PS/ She also had been on cheap, low quality dry food and was grossly overweight and dull coated. I changed her to higher quality wet food and I think this helped also. Now she self-grooms and is active physically and is super well adjusted.

                    Good Luck!!!
                    "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


                    • #11
                      Years ago I took in my aunt and uncle's cat after he died and she went into a nursing home. Brownie was uber fearful - he hid in the box spring of the bed in the guest bedroom for the first SIX months. Would come out to eat/pee/poop when I wasn't home or asleep. He finally did adjust and became very, very affectionate to everyone. The couch in the living room was HIS and he would not move even if I had a party.

                      Don't have any suggestions to add to those above, I would have tried feliway with Browns if it had been available then.
                      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                      • #12
                        Get a book and sit with her and read aloud so she gets used to you and your voice. Also, enticing her to play may also help.

                        I have a shy kitty - he happily comes inside in winter, but I almost never see him during the day unless it is cat feeding time. He does, however, come sit on my sometimes when I watch TV at night and most nights at bedtime, he creeps up and kneads me and tries to cover me in cat spit. Outside, he is just as shy - someone comes on the yard and he is gone. He IS getting better, though, as he does albeit infrequently come looking for attention now.

                        Just takes time and patience
                        Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

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