Afraid of hands: what to do!

RobinsMom

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Hi everyone!
This is my first post and my first time in a forum, but I really need some kind of assurance about what I’m doing! Haha
A bit less than 3 months ago, my boyfriend and I rescued a stray cat. We are not sure if she ever belonged to a home, but she had a chip (no one claimed her within the two months notice) and seems neutered (she’s around 1.5 years and so far no heat). My best guess is that she was semi feral, as she was living under the cabin of the backyard (that’s where we found her).
Long story short, she’s made amazing progress but still is very reluctant to us touching her. She’s not hiding, she’s following us around (pretty sure it’s because of the treats), she’s playing, she’s out and around the apartment most of the time, she’s even eating from our lap and sleeping in the living room while we work there! When she eats from our lap is the only time we go on and pet her a bit (because that’s the only time she allows it). However, one can tell she’s still pretty afraid of hands. She’s only got to sniff my finger but doesn’t rub against or anything of that kind. I was wondering if we should try to pet her more to get her accustomed or if there are any other tips you might have for us. We just want her to feel comfortable and to make sure she is not afraid of us at all.
Thanks for your time 😊
 

daftcat75

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I wouldn't force the issue. Some cats like to be pet and some don't. Some of that comes from socialization at an early age. Some of it can be learned through time. It doesn't sound like she's scared of you like a true feral. There's hope yet! With cats, I believe affection comes from feelings of trust and safety. I would let her set the pace. If she's not yet rubbing against you in her own time on her own terms, then asking her to accept your pets may yet be a bridge too far for her. I think when you stop reaching out for her, she'll feel safer to bridge some of that gap on her own. But it will likely take time and patience. In the meantime, I would also set up interactive play time with her if you aren't already. A simple wand toy (like Da Bird) or even a shoelace is all you need. Something to engage her that the two of you share rather than simply tossing her toys to play with on her own. Interactive play is a bonding experience.
 

Boris Diamond

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When I took in a feral cat, he was very afraid of my hands. I was advised to hold out my hand to him with a closed fist. It did not make sense, as it seemed threatening. But a person's closed fist is about the same size as a cat's head. My feral was not threatened when I held out my fist. When you try to pet him, try reaching out with a closed fist. I do this with every cat I meet.
 
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RobinsMom

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Thank you! I do have a wand but she doesn’t seem to enjoy it so much. I’ll make sure I get another one with a string so she doesn’t get afraid.
I also noticed that she doesn’t raise her tail, except for when she’s playing. Otherwise, we’ve only seen her tail up for a couple of seconds and just twice. also saw that for some outdoor cats it takes several months to feel entirely comfortable. I hope this does happens eventually.

I wouldn't force the issue. Some cats like to be pet and some don't. Some of that comes from socialization at an early age. Some of it can be learned through time. It doesn't sound like she's scared of you like a true feral. There's hope yet! With cats, I believe affection comes from feelings of trust and safety. I would let her set the pace. If she's not yet rubbing against you in her own time on her own terms, then asking her to accept your pets may yet be a bridge too far for her. I think when you stop reaching out for her, she'll feel safer to bridge some of that gap on her own. But it will likely take time and patience. In the meantime, I would also set up interactive play time with her if you aren't already. A simple wand toy (like Da Bird) or even a shoelace is all you need. Something to engage her that the two of you share rather than simply tossing her toys to play with on her own. Interactive play is a bonding experience.
 
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RobinsMom

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Thank you for the advice!

When I took in a feral cat, he was very afraid of my hands. I was advised to hold out my hand to him with a closed fist. It did not make sense, as it seemed threatening. But a person's closed fist is about the same size as a cat's head. My feral was not threatened when I held out my fist. When you try to pet him, try reaching out with a closed fist. I do this with every cat I meet.
 

Talien

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If there's a chip then it's 100% she's a dumped pet and not a feral/semiferal. If she's afraid of hands specifically but is otherwise fine with human contact then it's quite possible someone was hitting her wherever she was before being dumped. Unfortunately this happens a lot with animals, someone will abuse a pet until it gets to the point where it starts fighting back, then they get upset because "it just attacked me" and they dump their pet somewhere.

I rescued a Cat that was terrified of hands, if I brought a hand anywhere near her she would attack my hand specifically. If I brought my elbow close to her face she was fine and would just sniff it. It took months before she realized nobody was going to hurt her and stopped actively attacking any hand that came near her. It was over a year before she was comfortable enough to let people touch her without flinching or shrinking away. Your Cat will come around eventually, it will just take time.
 

ObeseChess

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As others have said, it just takes time but it's likely your little buddy will warm up to you eventually. Thank you for giving her a second chance!
 

TardisDance

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I am experiencing this same thing with a stray that was fostered briefly and I adopted a few weeks ago. He tends to give warning nips, luckily no full on bites. I have been experiencing with squeezing out churu and petting him while he goes to town eating (a bit of a challenge with squeezing the treat and petting though!). I am hoping he'll learn to associate good things with being pet.
 

Caspers Human

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Try petting your cat with the back of your wrist...the place where your wrist watch would be.

Squat down or sit in a chair then wait for your cat to come and do the "figure eight" thing around your feet. Hold your hand/wrist out and let the cat rub against you, not the other way around.

Once she starts getting used to being petted that way, go ahead and do it the way Jackson Galaxy says in his video, "How to Pet a Cat."


Does your cat ever rub her tail against you? Tail touching is a friendly gesture for cats.
If she rubs her tail on you or if she lets you gently stroke her tail that means she likes you and wants to be friends.

Casper was very hand shy when we first adopted him. More so with me than with his Girl-Human. Cats often take to women faster than men. To compound the problem, Casper was abandoned outdoors and lived on his own for over a year before we adopted him. He was naturally wary.

First, I would just squat down and let him do figure eights around me. Then I would put out my wrist for him to rub against. After that, it was "friend tails" then, gradually, moved on to petting like the way Jackson Galaxy says.

It took several months to get this far with Casper but we eventually came to an understanding.

Casper has been our cat (and we have been Casper's humans) for five years, going on six. We both can pet him, now, almost any time and there aren't any problems.

If Casper is not in the mood for petting, we get "the look."
(If you have ever owned a cat, you know what "the look" means! ;) )

If Casper gives us "the look" that means you've got about fifteen seconds to stop doing what you're doing.
Most of the time, when Casper gets annoyed, he'll just get up and walk away but, if you catch him in a bad mood, he turns into a proverbial briar patch.

Give your cat some time. Be gentle. Be patient. She'll eventually come around. :)
 

maggie101

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Cats love to be scratched behind thier ears so start there then slowly move your hand to her head ,then back. Hands above her she will get scared. Her being on your lap she is more comfortable than some one taller than her and putting their hand down. If she sits on your lap, see if she likes brushing
 
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RobinsMom

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Thank you everyone!! I’m answering this while Robin joined me for a loafing session by my legs (photo attached!) 😊

She doesn’t rub on me yet but between sleeping and loafing next to me, i reckon we’re on the right track!!

5B9596F4-BABA-4AC1-A02F-BEDAD71D2F19.jpeg
 

daftcat75

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Thank you everyone!! I’m answering this while Robin joined me for a loafing session by my legs (photo attached!) 😊

She doesn’t rub on me yet but between sleeping and loafing next to me, i reckon we’re on the right track!!

View attachment 398510
I can tell you as someone who used to be allergic to cats, that if you let her be, she will eventually initiate. Cats always seem to gravitate to those who want the least to do with them. 🤦‍♂️ Maybe they feel like they aren't being sufficiently worshipped by all parties. 😹 Thankfully, my cat before last was having none of my avoidance. As a summer boarder, I had no say in the decision to bring a cat in the house. This cat immediately bonded with me, perhaps sensing she had her work cut out. After two weeks of misery, I got over my allergies. Of all the people in the house, I was her favorite. Perhaps because I gave her the most space to be her and do her thing. That Robin is sitting in your lap and loafing near your on the bed tells me that it won't be too long before she's rubbing against you and asking for pets. 👍
 

tarasgirl06

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Thank you everyone!! I’m answering this while Robin joined me for a loafing session by my legs (photo attached!) 😊

She doesn’t rub on me yet but between sleeping and loafing next to me, i reckon we’re on the right track!!

View attachment 398510
How lovely Robin is!!!
Jackson Galaxy is excellent at uniting cats with people. Other posters have some wonderful suggestions, too. I like Feliway spray, which mimics feline facial pheromones and calms cats. It's non-staining so you can spray it on curtains, drapes, furniture, rugs...wherever it may be helpful. Also, talking softly and reassuringly to Robin which offering her your fingers to sniff may help. I turn my hand palmside up to offer it. Patience, love and perseverance are key. Eventually, Robin may well initiate contact. It's good to let her be the one to start the session!
 

danteshuman

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I have never met a cat afraid of hands. Though I did watch an episode of my cat from hell where a cat was terrified of hands! The couple wound up soaking gloves in rotisserie chicken so their hands smelled friendly.

I would try petting the cat with a wooden back scratcher and or ignoring the cat while being in the same room..... and tossing treats in the cats direction.

If you have other cats, ignore the scared cat but feed/play/give treats/pet other cats in front of the scared cat. This is best way to reassure a frightened cat; by using a bridge kitty.
 
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RobinsMom

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Hi everyone! Thank you for upcoming advice 😊
So she’s not aggressive towards hands. Like TardisDance, she gives warning nips when she sees them but it has never been a full blown attack on hands.
I have been trying to interactive play more with her for the last couple of days. The only thing that seems to trigger the play is (you guessed it!) treats haha I don’t think she likes the want a lot. She doesn’t respond to the string at all. Sometimes she plays with the wand but hisses at some point and that’s when I take a break. Is it normal for cats to hiss while playing ??
 
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