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cat will not leave dark unfinished basement

Discussion in 'Cat Behavior' started by maretlyle, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. maretlyle

    maretlyle Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

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    Aug 21, 2011
    Vancouver
    We have a 14 year old black female cat who has been hiding in our basement for several years. She has always been reclusive and nervous, but since the introduction of a new cat 2 years ago she has gotten worse. We have a cat door down there but she will not go outside. She meows at the basement door for food and runs away when we open it. One time we caught her to put her outside and she disappeared for a week and wouldn't come back to eat until we opened the cat door again. We are concerned because she is always in the dark. We have a litter box but she defacates indiscriminately in the basement and the smell is coming into the house. She also never interacts with us. We've had this cat since it was a kitten and it's always been treated well, but it started hiding in the basement 12 years ago when we added a small dog to our family and now that we have the second cat she no longer even uses the cat door to go outside.
    We are lost as to what to do with her. We've tried leaving the door open to coax her into the house with food, but she won't come. The few times we've tried putting her in the house, she hides for days under coaches and snarls when you come near. It's to the point now where we can't even get a hold of her. We feel this is not a healthy life for her and in the process our house is being comprimised. We'd like to see her live out her life, but are lost as to what we should try next.
     

  2. yayi

    yayi TCS Member Veteran

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    Oct 9, 2003
    W/ the best cats
    Could you describe the cat door you use? The way I understand it, your cat can't seem to use it unless you open or close it? Is it opening to the outside or the inside of your house?
    When was her last visit to the vet? She does seem to have become a wild or feral cat but even then, I suggest you trap her and have her checked out.
     

  3. minka

    minka TCS Member Top Cat

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    May 4, 2011
    Denton, Texas
    It sounds like she and the dog were never properly introduced so she was terrified and hid in the basement. You need to bring her out of the basement and confine her in a small room and re-socialize her. The more you leave her down there (12 years...), the worse it's going to get.

    These videos might help you:


     

  4. rarepuss

    rarepuss TCS Member Super Cat

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    Jan 2, 2005
    garden state, NJ
    "12 years" [​IMG]
     

  5. maretlyle

    maretlyle Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    8
    10
    Aug 21, 2011
    Vancouver
    The cat door works fine both ways. She just doesn't use it any more. I should have mentioned that the house is an old 1920s one where the basement is basicly a continuation of the outside with granite rock. There are crawl spaces down there where she hides that we can't reach which makes it impossible for us to get at her.
    She stopped coming into the house when the dog came 12 years ago but still was social with us when we were outside and would allow herself to be patted. She would even go up to the dog and they got along fine as long as she was outside. She was nervous in the house though and would try to escape. She has been taken for her yearly checkup and shots every year until the last 1.5 years when she stopped going out side completely after we took in my daughter's cat. Now she just hides down there and we can't get a hold of her.
    I should also mention that she was one of 2 cats we had for the past 14 years and the other cat is getting along just fine with our new cat and our dog. He has a much more relaxed temperament whereas the one in the basement has always been skittish. They 2 of them have always gotten along fine.
    My question is whether there are any suggestions on how to integrate this cat back into the family (if I can get a hold of it), or ?
     

  6. minka

    minka TCS Member Top Cat

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    May 4, 2011
    Denton, Texas
    Did you watch the videos I linked you to? They should help greatly.

    If she is so damaged that she will not even let you pick her up, you will have to trap her. Get a hav-a-heart or a raccoon trap and put her food inside. Then when you trap her, move the cage into a bathroom or small bedroom and this is where you will house her. Then like the videos show, make seeing you a positive experience by bringing her foodand then tempt her to come closer to you with food, then move on to petting, etc.
     

  7. ktlynn

    ktlynn TCS Member Top Cat

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    Dec 8, 2004
    New Jersey, USA
    Minka's given you good advice. Please do look at the videos for which she provided links. Though they deal with kitten socialization, the techniques will help with your 14 year old girl as well.

    Would you mind telling us your cat's name? It would be nice to have her name so we wouldn't have to refer to her as "she" or "it".

    You're right to want to get her out of the basement. It's no place for a cat, and she's certainly spent far too much of her life there already. I'm worried about the crawl spaces, especially since you said it's impossible to get her out of them. If your cat should get sick, she will be even less likely to come out of those small places and you will be unable to help her.

    How did you get her to the vet in the past? How does she behave there?
    When you adopted her, was she a feral kitten, or had she come from a shelter or rescue situation?

    As Minka said, you'll need a humane trap, and many shelters or rescue groups will loan you one. They may request a deposit which you'll get back when you return the trap. Please start looking for one ASAP. They're easy to learn to use. You may have to desensitize your cat to the trap (get her used to eating near, then in it) if she is wary of it at first. It's simple to do, but will take a little time (usually at least 1 week). Let us know if you need to do that, depending on her reaction to the trap.

    In the meantime, is there a way to provide some light for your cat since the basement is dark?

    Please let us know how it's going.
     

  8. gardenandcats

    gardenandcats TCS Member Top Cat

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    Sep 4, 2005
    Maine
    I agree with the others a have a heart trap would be best. You must get her out of that cellar.The air quality can't be good for her down there either.
     

  9. maretlyle

    maretlyle Thread Starter TCS Member Kitten

    8
    10
    Aug 21, 2011
    Vancouver
    The cat's name is Luna. I adopted her as a kitten from a family and as mentioned she has never been mistreated. She was fine in the house and with us until our shitzu puppy arrived two years later, even though he just ignored her. I should also mention that we had a golden retriever prior to Luna arriving and she adapted fine to her. Our dog died of old age just after we got Luna. After the puppy arrived, she was looking to escape the house every chance she had and refused to come back in. She was still social with us when we were outside, but just didn't want to stay indoors so she came and went through the basement cat door. Since Bailey, my daughter's cat arrived she no longer interacts with us and refuses to leave the basement. The basement does have light and heat but no windows. Bailey is a large orange male who has no fears while Luna is a small black female. She is very intimidated by him. When I've taken her to the vet in the past, she is shakey, quiet and subdued. The strange thing is that she has gone from being domestic to feral in her later years.
    Your suggestions to bring her into the house in a trap and get her used to us again is helpful. My concern is that as soon as she comes into contact with Bailey again, she will 'freak'. Bailey is curious and will follow her around although he runs when she hisses at him. If she gets out of the house again I'm afraid she will bolt. It is summer time and we do keep windows and doors open during the days.
     

  10. minka

    minka TCS Member Top Cat

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    May 4, 2011
    Denton, Texas
    It sounds like they were never introduced well, so After you trap her and make her friendly to you again, then we can help you reintroduce Luna and Bailey.
    But first, please get her out of the basement. :[
     

  11. farleyv

    farleyv TCS Member Top Cat

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    Feb 19, 2009
    New York State
    It is obvious Luna will not come up on her own after all those years....

    I agree with the have a heart trap.

    Get her used to people again and then the other animals. I have used those inexpensive wooden screen doors on a bedroom. The animals can see eachother and get used to eachother that way. Do not give her access to another place to hide once she is up. She needs human contact if she is ever to get better.

    But please, get her up. I can't imagine a cat being secluded and afraid for that long.
     

  12. cat person

    cat person TCS Member Top Cat

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    Oct 31, 2010
    In my humble onion the best thing you could do is catch the cat in the have a heart trap and either get her used to the outdoors by keeping her in a crate with food water and a litter box. Or put the cat down. The situation does not sound ideal for the cat or the owner. I mean the cat is alone in a basement. The human is having its home destroyed.

    I have worked with thousands of cats, while you can change a cats behavior at any time it is very hard to socialize a cat in its teens. Plus re socializing a cat so late in life is very stressful on the cat and owner. So to even attempt socialization at such an advance age will require a great deal of time and patience.
     

  13. mystik spiral

    mystik spiral TCS Member Top Cat

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    Jul 28, 2009
    Denver, CO
    "Put the cat down" rather than invest lots of time and patience? I'm just... speechless... [​IMG]
     

  14. cat person

    cat person TCS Member Top Cat

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    Oct 31, 2010
    I do not expect any of you to agree with me. I suspect most people on the this forum would be speechless.

    But having done rescue/rehoming/fostering for 15 or so years you learn many things. First and foremost you learn you can not save every animal. Also even if you could save this specific animal is it for the animal and a humans benefit? In this case unless you have a very dedicated owner I do not think so.

    The cat is elderly so set in its ways behaviorally. So unless the owner has the time and urge to work with the cat extensively for a long period of time, do you all feel the cat should live a feral existence in a basement?

    Next the owner is likely to get bitten by the cat when working on changing the cats behavior. Now anyone who has gotten a cat bite knows it is NOT good medically speaking in some cases. So do you think the owner should possible risk there health to try and change an elderly cats behavior?

    Also do you feel the owner should allow an animal to destroy part of its property?

    Lastly and most importantly I am sure to many of you is the cats "view". Can you imagine how scary it is for the cat to face "a brave new world" at its advanced age? Can you imagine the stress level this cat would ungo when trying to become a personal pet again?

    So yes my views are very different then most. But that was just my [​IMG].
     

  15. minka

    minka TCS Member Top Cat

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    May 4, 2011
    Denton, Texas
    Why do you keep saying that the cat is destroying property? I see no such talk from the OP.
    And while I understand that not every cat can be saved, at least give the OP a chance to Try. :/
     

  16. cat person

    cat person TCS Member Top Cat

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    Oct 31, 2010
    That part from the original poster is what leades me to believe the animal is destroying the OP home.

    I am not saying the OP should not try and change the cats behavior. I am saying it is going to be very difficult to change the cats behavior. Plus realistically in my opinion is it worth doing this to a fourteen year old?
     

  17. jen

    jen TCS Member Top Cat

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    Los Angeles, CA
    I thought this exact same thing. Many times a cat in its teens cannot be changed and it stresses the cat out even more trying to. Stress can lead to illness... then everyone is miserable, owner for failing and cat for being put through such traumatic events. It is sad but sometimes it is the best.

    At the shelters I worked at, we would get people calling to surrender their 15 year old cat who is scared to death of everything and now they work more so they can't care for it properly. Often times we told them that the stress will kill the cat before we can find it a home and if they really decide they can't care for it, euthanasia would be the best option.

    I am sorry to say that what is really sad is that the owner left the cat in the dark basement for 12 years in the first place.
     

  18. ktlynn

    ktlynn TCS Member Top Cat

    1,570
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    Dec 8, 2004
    New Jersey, USA
    While it's true we can't save every animal, we can each take care of our own small corner of the world. That's what's going on in this case.

    Luna was a kitten when she first began living with maretlyle. According to the OP, Luna hasn't always been unsocialized and didn't live in the basement from the start. Luna interacted with the family when outdoors, and allowed herself to be petted. And up until 1 1/2 years ago, maretlyle was taking the cat each year to the vet.

    Without question, Luna has been allowed to live separately from the family for far too long. Maretlyle knows this and wants to rectify the situation.

    At 14, Luna is a mature adult cat, but certainly not elderly. Many cats live into their late teens and early 20's.

    Pooping outside the littterbox is common. Sometimes the cause is a medical condition, other times it's stress. While it's unpleasant for the guardian, as well as the cat, it's a stretch to call it "property damage".

    Being 14 and pooping outside the box hardly qualifies for the death sentence.

    Luna seems to have developed some feral-like behavior, which is no surprise given her circumstances. I agree that it will take time to re-socialize her, but how much time is only guesswork on everyone's part.

    Euthanasia should always be the last resort in any situation. Speculating about it at this early stage will do nothing but cause discouragement.

    It would be more constructive to help maretlyle make life better for her cat by giving her practical methods to get Luna out of the basement first, and then work on re-socializing her. Let's take this one step at a time.
     

  19. rosiemac

    rosiemac TCS Member Veteran

    And there's a chance that this person does have the time and the patience?!.

    Too many people give up too easily and take the easy option of having animals euthanised.

    Please remember the member has come here for help from us
     

  20. mimi3908

    mimi3908 TCS Member Young Cat

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    Feb 16, 2011
    I hope you give the cat a chance... worst come to worst is that the cat continues to live in basement, and by all accounts, it appears to be okay living the way it is. Ideally, the cat shouldn't have been kept there for such a long time but can't turn back the clock. I don't see what is the big deal that the cat is in a basement, and for someone to generalize that old age and adaptability issues being reasons to put the cat down is downright sad to hear.
     

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