Advice Wanted for Dealing With Shut Down Cat

bfls

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I took in a foster cat called Fergie 5 weeks ago today. She is about 2 1/2. The total amount of information I was given was "She wasn't doing well at the shelter." I have 3 other cats so I haven't given her free run of my house. Instead, I've set her up in my spare bedroom with food, water, litter tray, places to hide and toys. She has been eating & drinking and using her tray from Day 1 which is good. I visit her around 4 times a day for at least 5-10 minutes a time but she doesn't move from her safe place while I'm there. She also never plays with her toys. I have a motion-sensitive camera set up in the room so I can she what she does (or rather doesn't do) when I'm not there.

The good news is that since I first got her she has become comfortable enough with my presence to go to sleep (safely under the bed) while I'm in the room. She will also let me put treats down in front of her now without hissing. However, this is the extent of my successes. I worry that she has just swapped a small cage in the shelter for a larger one in my home. I'd love some advice on things to try to help her have more fun in her life.

Things I've tried are
1. Playing Cat TV (birds, mice) videos on YouTube - she ignores it.
2. Coaxing her out of her bed with treats - she isn't very food oriented, she'll wait until I've left the room, sniff it and then ignore it.
3. Trying to get her to play with a toy (waving a DaBird around or trailing a shoelace past her) - she'll ignore it when I'm in the room, then sniff the toy when I've left.
4. Switching her toys around or spraying them with catnip - she'll ignore the new toy while I'm in the room then sniff it when I've left.
5. Leaving a battery operated toy running and then leaving the room - she ignored/avoided it when it was running but sniffed it after I'd turned it off and left the room.
6. Encouraged my other cats to play with toys/stick their paws under the door - she doesn't budge from her safe spot when this is happening but will go and sit by the door for a bit (a minute or so) when I've left the room and the other cats are not nearby.

Things I'm considering
1. Putting her food bowl under the bed so she doesn't have to come out into the open to eat and then waiting for her to eat while I'm there. At the moment her food bowl is in the open. She waits until a minute or two after I've left to come out and eat.
2. Sleeping in the spare room so she is forced to spend more time with me. She is most active (such as it is) at night.
3. Setting things up so she can see me playing with one of my other cats.

Any advice on what else to try would be very welcome, particularly from someone who has dealt with this sort of situtation before. Even if it is "just keep doing what you are doing and give her more time, she'll come around." I just feel so sorry for the poor love. She should be playing and getting cuddles and snoozing in sunny spots.
 

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Sleeping in there, and feeding her under the bed while you are present are good ideas! If you’re present while she eats, she might start associating you with good things, and smelling you more often, even if she is mostly under the bed, might help her feel safer with you.

Mostly, it will require patience, and understanding that she might not ever be as comfortable with you as your other cats are. She’s her own cat. I’m impatient and want to make things change - that’s the worst way to be with a cat. It has to be on their terms.

It sounds like you’re on a good path. I’m very glad she has you.
 

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Feeding your cat under the bed is ok as long as you're working on getting her out of there. Otherwise, you're just reinforcing the behavior.

Get her a cat condo or bed or box etc that she can use to feel secure as an alternative to being under the bed. Gradually move her food out and close off under the bed so little by little, there's less space for her to hide. Eventually, she'll come out completely and have a better place to feel safe and confident.
 

jefferd18

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I took in a foster cat called Fergie 5 weeks ago today. She is about 2 1/2. The total amount of information I was given was "She wasn't doing well at the shelter." I have 3 other cats so I haven't given her free run of my house. Instead, I've set her up in my spare bedroom with food, water, litter tray, places to hide and toys. She has been eating & drinking and using her tray from Day 1 which is good. I visit her around 4 times a day for at least 5-10 minutes a time but she doesn't move from her safe place while I'm there. She also never plays with her toys. I have a motion-sensitive camera set up in the room so I can she what she does (or rather doesn't do) when I'm not there.

The good news is that since I first got her she has become comfortable enough with my presence to go to sleep (safely under the bed) while I'm in the room. She will also let me put treats down in front of her now without hissing. However, this is the extent of my successes. I worry that she has just swapped a small cage in the shelter for a larger one in my home. I'd love some advice on things to try to help her have more fun in her life.

Things I've tried are
1. Playing Cat TV (birds, mice) videos on YouTube - she ignores it.
2. Coaxing her out of her bed with treats - she isn't very food oriented, she'll wait until I've left the room, sniff it and then ignore it.
3. Trying to get her to play with a toy (waving a DaBird around or trailing a shoelace past her) - she'll ignore it when I'm in the room, then sniff the toy when I've left.
4. Switching her toys around or spraying them with catnip - she'll ignore the new toy while I'm in the room then sniff it when I've left.
5. Leaving a battery operated toy running and then leaving the room - she ignored/avoided it when it was running but sniffed it after I'd turned it off and left the room.
6. Encouraged my other cats to play with toys/stick their paws under the door - she doesn't budge from her safe spot when this is happening but will go and sit by the door for a bit (a minute or so) when I've left the room and the other cats are not nearby.

Things I'm considering
1. Putting her food bowl under the bed so she doesn't have to come out into the open to eat and then waiting for her to eat while I'm there. At the moment her food bowl is in the open. She waits until a minute or two after I've left to come out and eat.
2. Sleeping in the spare room so she is forced to spend more time with me. She is most active (such as it is) at night.
3. Setting things up so she can see me playing with one of my other cats.

Any advice on what else to try would be very welcome, particularly from someone who has dealt with this sort of situtation before. Even if it is "just keep doing what you are doing and give her more time, she'll come around." I just feel so sorry for the poor love. She should be playing and getting cuddles and snoozing in sunny spots.


Okay, five and half weeks is not that long and I believe you are making more progress than you think. My cat, Jeff, who I found living in my shed, made me jump through hoops for five and half months before I could reach out and pet her. Once that was accomplished then there was trust and we could move forward. It took me another three months to convince her to come up on my front porch, step in my living room and then sit on my couch ( all of this a few minutes at a time and always with the promise that she could leave whenever she wanted).
She finally got so she would sleep on my bed when the weather was bad or cold. When she got old that became the only place she wanted to be.

It just takes time.
 

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First of all, bless you for taking this cat into your home. She has a much better chance to find happiness with you than at a (crowded?) shelter.

We had a cat at the rescue, Tiger, that had given up. It was so bad that his eyes were unfocused - no color showing. He had three bad injuries when we got him and which he was healed from, including a leg that had to be amputated. But he was very unhappy at the shelter. I spent time with him in my bedroom, just reading and listening to music to let him get used to me. This cat came around in a few weeks which I had not expected. He is still afraid and will bite me from time to time - fear related. But he also loves to cuddle. The best advice, I think, is to give the cat time. The more the cat is around you without anything bad happening, the more confident the cat will become. It sounds like there is not much information about what the cat had gone through before she came to the rescue and to you. You never know what has happened to the poor little darling. For Tiger, even a toy was threatening. I had to start with very small toys!

As mentioned above by Cat McCannon Cat McCannon , giving Fergie a place like a box or a cat shelter where she can feel secure may be helpful. You could also try reading aloud in her room to get her used to you. Or just spend time reading around her. It is a calm activity which will be non-threatening to her. When you are reading, you are not focused on her, which can make a frightened cat more frightened. Consider putting a radio in the room to let her get used to human sounds.

I had another cat, Boris, that took six months to get over his biting. Whenever I passed him laying down, I would squat and pet him one time. Two pets and I would be bitten! But that cat turned out to be one of my best friends ever. I also have an ex-feral who took many months to settle down. But now he is one of the sweetest, most affectionate little guys I have known.

Some cats will take time. The long term view is best. Fergie needs stability and calmness, which you can provide much better than a shelter can. Once again, bless you for taking this cat. Just know that she will probably come around if you are consistent with her. But it will happen in her own time. Cats will not be rushed.
 
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bfls

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Feeding your cat under the bed is ok as long as you're working on getting her out of there. Otherwise, you're just reinforcing the behavior.

Get her a cat condo or bed or box etc that she can use to feel secure as an alternative to being under the bed. Gradually move her food out and close off under the bed so little by little, there's less space for her to hide. Eventually, she'll come out completely and have a better place to feel safe and confident.
I am concerned about reinforcing her under-the-bed behaviour. However, she has plenty of places to hide (3 tiered cat condo plus an igloo) as well as under the bed. From the cat cam I can see she moves confidently around the room when she wants to - food, water, litter tray. She moves to the cat condo to sleep at night and then back under the bed in daylight.

I'm just anxious to have her be willing to move about when I'm in the room. Hence back to feeding under the bed. I think that expecting her to come out into the open to eat when I'm there is a step too far right now.

I don't want to change up her environment too much (e.g. closing off under the bed). She doesn't like change at all. She is the most timid cat I've ever encountered. I wish I knew if she was an ex-street cat or a surrended pet. I'm inclined to think ex-street cat.
 
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bfls

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First of all, bless you for taking this cat into your home. She has a much better chance to find happiness with you than at a (crowded?) shelter.

We had a cat at the rescue, Tiger, that had given up. It was so bad that his eyes were unfocused - no color showing. He had three bad injuries when we got him and which he was healed from, including a leg that had to be amputated. But he was very unhappy at the shelter. I spent time with him in my bedroom, just reading and listening to music to let him get used to me. This cat came around in a few weeks which I had not expected. He is still afraid and will bite me from time to time - fear related. But he also loves to cuddle. The best advice, I think, is to give the cat time. The more the cat is around you without anything bad happening, the more confident the cat will become. It sounds like there is not much information about what the cat had gone through before she came to the rescue and to you. You never know what has happened to the poor little darling. For Tiger, even a toy was threatening. I had to start with very small toys!

As mentioned above by Cat McCannon Cat McCannon , giving Fergie a place like a box or a cat shelter where she can feel secure may be helpful. You could also try reading aloud in her room to get her used to you. Or just spend time reading around her. It is a calm activity which will be non-threatening to her. When you are reading, you are not focused on her, which can make a frightened cat more frightened. Consider putting a radio in the room to let her get used to human sounds.

I had another cat, Boris, that took six months to get over his biting. Whenever I passed him laying down, I would squat and pet him one time. Two pets and I would be bitten! But that cat turned out to be one of my best friends ever. I also have an ex-feral who took many months to settle down. But now he is one of the sweetest, most affectionate little guys I have known.

Some cats will take time. The long term view is best. Fergie needs stability and calmness, which you can provide much better than a shelter can. Once again, bless you for taking this cat. Just know that she will probably come around if you are consistent with her. But it will happen in her own time. Cats will not be rushed.
Fergie does have other places she can feel safe in. There is an igloo (slept in it once or twice) as well as a barrel-shaped cat tree with three nooks. She tucks herself in the bottom one to sleep at night. Under the bed is for daytime.

I guess what I'm hearing is just spend more time, quietly, with her and just let it go at her own pace. She'll come around - eventually.
 

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I am concerned about reinforcing her under-the-bed behaviour. However, she has plenty of places to hide (3 tiered cat condo plus an igloo) as well as under the bed. From the cat cam I can see she moves confidently around the room when she wants to - food, water, litter tray. She moves to the cat condo to sleep at night and then back under the bed in daylight.

I'm just anxious to have her be willing to move about when I'm in the room. Hence back to feeding under the bed. I think that expecting her to come out into the open to eat when I'm there is a step too far right now.
You're right- You don't want to push your cat too far. Move the dish a little each time. Enough that there's progress but not so much the cat gets too uncomfortable and retreats.

I don't want to change up her environment too much (e.g. closing off under the bed). She doesn't like change at all. She is the most timid cat I've ever encountered. I wish I knew if she was an ex-street cat or a surrended pet. I'm inclined to think ex-street cat.
Again, you're right. Your cat will retreat if you change her environment too much at a time. Close off the unders a little at a time. The condo & igloo are healthy alternatives for her and will give her safety and confidence once under the bed is closed off completely.

Letting her stay under the bed keeps her feeling small and saps her confidence. When we rescued Belle, she was frightened and wanted to hide. We got her a cat condo and gradually closed off the unders. She's now a happy and confident cat.

Keep up the good work. With the patience and care you're giving her, your cat will settle into her new home happily enough.
 

artiemom

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My Geoffrey is like Fergie. When I took him home, he lived under my bed. I had an extra room for him with toys, a tunnel to hide in, boxes, a cat tree, etc.

Several times a day, I would go In There, sit on the floor, read all my emails out loud, so he would get used to my voice.

I fed him breakfast, lunch, supper under the bed.

Geoffrey would come out at night to use the litter box, in bathroom and to nibble on his dry food. He cried all night long. Geoffrey disrupted my sleep. It was at a point where I was sleep deprived.

I spent a ton of time in my bedroom. Just lying there, reading, or trying to nap. Eventually, Geoffrey attempted to jump on the bed. I stayed motionless; if I moved an inch, he ran under the bed.

I tried play therapy with him— wand toys, to draw him out. Slowly it worked. I stepped up to the toy I the bed. At this point, I did not cate about the bedspread.

Once Geoffrey was playing more on the outside, beginning to trust me, I closed off access to under the bed

Geoffrey was so upset! He managed to move some of the things!! Little [email protected]!

Finally he came out!! Still a nervous anxious cat. My bedroom is His room. His safe spot is under my bed. To this day. Or in top of my bed.

I taught him to have a tent- under bedspread. He loves it. And lives lying on top of the bed.

Now, Geoffrey cuddles with me, in bed every night and each time I lie down. He is a cuddler. On his own terms

It took months , at least 3-4 months to get him to this level.
Good luck!!
 

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My Geoffrey is like Fergie. When I took him home, he lived under my bed. I had an extra room for him with toys, a tunnel to hide in, boxes, a cat tree, etc.

Several times a day, I would go In There, sit on the floor, read all my emails out loud, so he would get used to my voice.

I fed him breakfast, lunch, supper under the bed.

Geoffrey would come out at night to use the litter box, in bathroom and to nibble on his dry food. He cried all night long. Geoffrey disrupted my sleep. It was at a point where I was sleep deprived.

I spent a ton of time in my bedroom. Just lying there, reading, or trying to nap. Eventually, Geoffrey attempted to jump on the bed. I stayed motionless; if I moved an inch, he ran under the bed.

I tried play therapy with him— wand toys, to draw him out. Slowly it worked. I stepped up to the toy I the bed. At this point, I did not cate about the bedspread.

Once Geoffrey was playing more on the outside, beginning to trust me, I closed off access to under the bed

Geoffrey was so upset! He managed to move some of the things!! Little [email protected]!

Finally he came out!! Still a nervous anxious cat. My bedroom is His room. His safe spot is under my bed. To this day. Or in top of my bed.

I taught him to have a tent- under bedspread. He loves it. And lives lying on top of the bed.

Now, Geoffrey cuddles with me, in bed every night and each time I lie down. He is a cuddler. On his own terms

It took months , at least 3-4 months to get him to this level.
Good luck!!
:hearthrob: :redheartpump: Oh photos please!:touched:
 
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bfls

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An update on Fergie. I've had her for almost 3 months now and some progress has been made but it is very slow.

The good news is in the past week or so she has once eaten while I was in the room (food bowl under the bed), once let me pat her with a sock on the end of a stick and once came out from under the bed to play with her DaBird toy.

OMG_ImOutFromUnderTheBed.jpg


She has refused to repeat either of those behaviours since. She does like playing with the DaBird but she generally stays safely in her condo and just puts her head out when she wants to play.

Fergie_waitingToPlay.jpg


She will purr, snooze and sometimes wash herself when I'm in the room, but only when she is safely in either this nook or under the bed.

I haven't had any success in finding a toy she will play with on her own. I've got a feeding puzzle mat on order and hopefully that will give her something to do. However, I haven't had much success finding a treat she particularly likes either.

I'm concerned about how little she does. She has both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces but uses neither. She never goes above floor level - not up on the bed or on the top of her tree to look out the window. I've never seen her rub her cheek against anything to mark it as her territory either.

I work from home but have been busy lately, so I haven't had much time to spend with her. I have the next two weeks off so that will change. I think long visits rather than many short ones work best as it gives her time to relax in my presence. However, once we get into July I'll be back at my desk fulltime so I won't be able to spend much time with her again. I'm thinking of not keeping her confined to the spare room but allow my other cats in for (controlled) visits. I'm almost certain she is an ex-street cat with limited experience with humans but she will have experience with other cats. Perhaps allowing her to interact with other cats will make her life less dull. Also if she sees me interacting with my other cats she'll learn I'm not so scary.

On the other hand, having other cats around might be stressful and she is timid enough as it is. I'll wait and see how the next two weeks go. If we're still making progress, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing. Otherwise, I'll revisit the cat introduction option.

In any case, I've decided to keep her - assuming she gets along with my other cats. She is only a foster now, but it is taking so long to win her trust, I couldn't bring myself to betray that by giving her away to someone else.
 

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An update on Fergie. I've had her for almost 3 months now and some progress has been made but it is very slow.

The good news is in the past week or so she has once eaten while I was in the room (food bowl under the bed), once let me pat her with a sock on the end of a stick and once came out from under the bed to play with her DaBird toy.

View attachment 384979

She has refused to repeat either of those behaviours since. She does like playing with the DaBird but she generally stays safely in her condo and just puts her head out when she wants to play.

View attachment 384981

She will purr, snooze and sometimes wash herself when I'm in the room, but only when she is safely in either this nook or under the bed.

I haven't had any success in finding a toy she will play with on her own. I've got a feeding puzzle mat on order and hopefully that will give her something to do. However, I haven't had much success finding a treat she particularly likes either.

I'm concerned about how little she does. She has both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces but uses neither. She never goes above floor level - not up on the bed or on the top of her tree to look out the window. I've never seen her rub her cheek against anything to mark it as her territory either.

I work from home but have been busy lately, so I haven't had much time to spend with her. I have the next two weeks off so that will change. I think long visits rather than many short ones work best as it gives her time to relax in my presence. However, once we get into July I'll be back at my desk fulltime so I won't be able to spend much time with her again. I'm thinking of not keeping her confined to the spare room but allow my other cats in for (controlled) visits. I'm almost certain she is an ex-street cat with limited experience with humans but she will have experience with other cats. Perhaps allowing her to interact with other cats will make her life less dull. Also if she sees me interacting with my other cats she'll learn I'm not so scary.

On the other hand, having other cats around might be stressful and she is timid enough as it is. I'll wait and see how the next two weeks go. If we're still making progress, I'll just keep on doing what I'm doing. Otherwise, I'll revisit the cat introduction option.

In any case, I've decided to keep her - assuming she gets along with my other cats. She is only a foster now, but it is taking so long to win her trust, I couldn't bring myself to betray that by giving her away to someone else.
Oh you are wonderful for not wanting to send her away too soon. She is beautiful. Has she seen your other cats. Gypsy is the only cat who has us so I really don't know what to advise but some folks use two stacked baby gates so cats can get used to each other. I think she would view you in a different light seeing you interact with them. Gypsy is crazy for Sheba meat sticks and the Inaba Churu I give with her probiotics. I order them online although Walmart carries the Sheba. She also loves Temptations treats but I try not to give too many of them. She is the former neighborhood stray and it took a very long time for her to learn how to play she is still weird about toys. Most she will ignore, thank goodness for Walmart, Petco, Petsmart and Amazons excellent return policies. She will jump into boxes but preferes the lids, she likes to see what's going on. Small catnip mice are a favorite although she is just now starting to have anything to do with catnip. She will always play with wand toys but anything else is hit or miss. The first thing she ever played with was a shoelace on a window blind wand. About staying low, if there is a window in her room you might try covering it, I read that somewhere on here. You may rec-heck the thread 'Mimi was in the shelter a very long time'. Excellent advice from Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 , Boris Diamond Boris Diamond , di and bob di and bob , PushPurrCatPaws PushPurrCatPaws , daftcat75 daftcat75 and many others that may give you some comfort. I sure wish we had heard how things ended, poor Gracie. 20210619_204750.jpg 20210619_204054.jpg 20210619_204137.jpg 20210619_204156.jpg
 

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Are you running Feliaway? I did. I also tried some of Jackson Galaxy’s stuff. Sprayed that in the room. And there is also Rescue Remedy.
 
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bfls

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Are you running Feliaway? I did. I also tried some of Jackson Galaxy’s stuff. Sprayed that in the room. And there is also Rescue Remedy.
Yes, I've a Feliway diffuser running. I don't know if it is helping but it can't hurt (except my wallet).
 
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bfls

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Oh you are wonderful for not wanting to send her away too soon. She is beautiful. Has she seen your other cats. Gypsy is the only cat who has us so I really don't know what to advise but some folks use two stacked baby gates so cats can get used to each other. I think she would view you in a different light seeing you interact with them. Gypsy is crazy for Sheba meat sticks and the Inaba Churu I give with her probiotics. I order them online although Walmart carries the Sheba. She also loves Temptations treats but I try not to give too many of them. She is the former neighborhood stray and it took a very long time for her to learn how to play she is still weird about toys. Most she will ignore, thank goodness for Walmart, Petco, Petsmart and Amazons excellent return policies. She will jump into boxes but preferes the lids, she likes to see what's going on. Small catnip mice are a favorite although she is just now starting to have anything to do with catnip. She will always play with wand toys but anything else is hit or miss. The first thing she ever played with was a shoelace on a window blind wand. About staying low, if there is a window in her room you might try covering it, I read that somewhere on here. You may rec-heck the thread 'Mimi was in the shelter a very long time'. Excellent advice from Mamanyt1953 Mamanyt1953 , Boris Diamond Boris Diamond , di and bob di and bob , PushPurrCatPaws PushPurrCatPaws , daftcat75 daftcat75 and many others that may give you some comfort. I sure wish we had heard how things ended, poor Gracie.
Those treats look interesting. However, I'm in Australia so I can get Temptation treats (they are ubiquitous) but not those others. I'll keep searching for the magic treat. My other cats are enjoying my experiments at least.

Fergie has encountered one of my other cats, Jack. He is always convinced what is in someone else's bowl must be better than what I've given him, so he has pushed his way into her room a couple of times when I'm taking in her meals. She just freezes and he ignores her as he just wants her food! A harmless interaction.
 

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Hey, any progress is good progress, it always takes baby steps. Just keep going into the room when you can and reading out loud, etc. getting her used to your presence and voice. Three months is NOT a long time in a cat's world, I bet you see a big difference by Christmas. We, humans, are always wanting things our way right now. Animals are not like that. Cats absolutely hate change and it takes a long time to change their behaviors. There are a few rules to follow, don't ever force her into anything, let her think it is her idea. Never stare into her eyes, that is a threat to a cat, act like you are ignoring her and it will put her more at ease. with my ferals, I always got that first stroke, first touch while they were occupied with eating, so now work on her eating in front of you. And GRADUALLY moving closer. Once that first touch happens, it snowballs from there.....
 

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The toy thing depends on the cat.

Sweet Gum's reaction to toys as a kitten was she adored little balls of foil to chase. She took her big cuddle doll (stuffed rabbit) and used it to block the door on her carrier when we went to the vet. That was it.

She has a long piece of clothesline she likes to chase. If you try this make the clothesline move like a snake.

But other than the above, she will not touch a new toy until it's been in the toy box or on the floor near the toy box for 9 months. Then she'll play with it. The only trick is to wait and see what the pattern is. Yes, I was disappointed she didn't want cuddly toys.
 
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