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How Do I Condition A Skittish Male Kitten To Be More Trusting?

Discussion in 'Cat Behavior' started by ScarlettSkater, May 13, 2018.

  1. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Feb 21, 2018
    At this point, I'm sure everyone on this forum knows me as the "nervous first-time cat-mom", but I have another issue I'm hoping to get advice on.

    As you might know from previous posts, I have two Siamese kittens that are six months old, female and male littermates.

    At first, the Artemis, the male, was slightly more social, while Luna, the female, was shy. I was told by several vets that the only way to get the kitties more comfortable with me was to hold them, pet them, etc even if they resisted at first. Initially, Artemis was the only one we could catch and hold to pet (briefly) wheras Luna ran away. Then the dynamic switched; when Artemis started bolting, I could pet or hold Luna for very short time periods, but now, I can hold her and pet her for much longer. She's the more affectionate one now.

    I think this really changed for the better after she was spayed. I had to separate her from Artemis, at the vet's direction, so I was spending much more time with her one-on-one. We bonded at that point. Now, she is very insistent when she wants to be petted and cuddled.

    However, when I had to separate Artemis, I noticed that even when he was recovering, he never really became "affectionate" like Luna had. He would consent to being petted for longer durations (I think he was groggy and hurting, so maybe didn't care as much) but after he healed, he became just as elusive as before. Now, the only time I can pet him is early in the morning or at night when he is about to go to sleep, and even then, it's limited. He seems to get nervous if I even move my hand too quickly, or move my other hand as if to lift him. He basically acts like he has PTSD.

    Full disclosure - one time he leaped out of my arms and I was startled so said something to the effect of "hey" louder than usual. As some might know from previous posts, he was also the hardest to catch for travel. At my grandmother's house, I had to chase him around for three hours to get him back in the crate, while before he was to be neutered, we chased him for around the same time. Also, before separating him and Luna when he wasn't "scent-recognizing" her (she was spayed first, hence the "vet smell") he was hissing and growling at her, and I had to get them away from each other, so shouted "NO" when he was trying to bite at her, (I was scared he would hurt her, he is two pounds heavier) which led to my separating them. I'm worried that this might have contributed to his fear, but it was not intentional of course...he seems very sensitive for a male cat especially. I sincerely hope I didn't cause any emotional problems from the "chasing", but we needed to leave my grandmother's house and of course, had to get him neutered, so didn't have a choice. We finally got him to the vet by giving him a sedative and all it seemed to do was make him a tiny bit slower, and even then, he would run away.

    Let me note that the cat came from a breeder, where he lived primarily with his other family cats, (mom, dad, aunt, and sister Luna). Vets have suggested that he and Luna weren't "well socialized", hence the difficulties. Although I'm not an expert, I don't think this is the case: Luna is social now, and I'm starting to think that it's just Artemis' personality.

    Here's what he does:

    1) Eats a lot. Often, he eats Luna's food as well.

    2) Sleeps a lot (more than Luna).

    3) Only engages in physical activity/play if encouraged by Luna most of the time, and his duration of play is much shorter. We affectionately call him our "lazy weirdo".

    4) Meows whenever Luna leaves the room, looking for her (Luna does this too, but less often).

    5) Bolts whenever anyone gets near him, especially if you are looking at him.

    6) Whenever you try to pet him other than during early morning and late evening times(in repose), he grabs your hand (with claws out of course) and holds on.

    7) Has been known to hiss on occasion whenever I get too near.

    8) Has only permitted extended petting and purred a handful of times. The rest of the time, he backs up, runs away, etc.

    9) Has a bit of a belly, even though he's also rather muscular.

    10) Seems "afraid of life" in general.

    11) Seems rather clumsy, despite his seeming strength, he often has a harder time jumping to high places.

    So I have a few questions:

    1) Is this a personality thing or a socialization thing in your opinion? Or just a phase? He's been like this pretty much since we got to our home from the breeder. At the breeder's, he seemed more curious and outgoing, but sometimes it seems like the spirit is out of him.

    2) Should I keep trying to pet him/engage with him, or just leave him alone? Most of the time whenever I get near, he runs. It's not just me, the rest of my family has noticed this as well.

    3) Are there any ways I can get him to trust me more?

    4) And are there any ways to get him NOT to claw on my hands when I am trying to pet him or help him acquiesce to more attention?

    Any advice is appreciated. I'm just really concerned, because he doesn't seem to be adjusting well, and I'm not sure if there is anything I can do to change his skittishness.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
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  2. rubysmama

    rubysmama Forum Helper Staff Member Forum Helper

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    I'm a nervous cat mom too, so I understand your anxiety about your fur babies.

    Many years ago I would cat sit for a man who had 2 Siamese cats. One male, one female. The female was a sweetie pie who loved attention, cuddling, etc. The male was much more reserved. Might be just a coincidence that your 2 Siamese cats are similar to those ones, but one thing to remember, no 2 cats are the same.

    That said, TCS does have some articles for on shy/timid cats, which might have some tips for you.

    10 Must-know Tips For Happy Living With A Shy Cat
    16 Top Cat Experts Share Tips For Dealing With Timid Cats
    Cats As Individuals
    14 Cat Experts Reveal: How To Get A Cat To Like Me
     

  3. Furballsmom

    Furballsmom Cat Fan especially Black Cats Staff Member Forum Helper

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    Jan 9, 2018
    Colorado USA
    Hi! I'd suggest ignoring him--everyone, just leave him be. Granted, that doesn't help for clipping claws, vet visits, etc et al...but I think in time he'll be ok for those things.

    Are you-all using a perfume, hand lotion, shampoo, scented laundry soap or dryer sheets that he doesn't like? Don't look at him, don't pet him other than early morning/late evening. I think he's basically scared and a little nervous wreck, is exhibiting separation anxiety from his soulmate Luna, and isn't dealing well with focused attention.

    Whether from the chasing to catch him or not, he needs time to find out his life can be calm and serene now.

    Is your girl meezer getting enough to eat? Is Artemis getting enough to eat? They're still at the stage where they need to be fed as much as they'll consume. Are you feeding them canned food that's high in protein, which would be something that's listing meat as the first ingredient? If you're feeding kibble, I'd suggest cutting down on the quantity.

    Have you tried platter type chase-it toys? Food puzzles? real fur mice? honeysuckle if he doesn't like catnip?

    Would you be interested in trying a calming product with him?
    If so, let me list out some of the products you could look at, if you're interested;
    there are collars, diffusers, sprays, wipes, treats...
    Some cats such as my Big Guy are completely unaffected by Feliway, but there are other products with different ingredients such as L-Tryphophan and casein.

    there is Zylkene, Calming Care, Calm-o-mile, Sentry, Natures Miracle calming spray, Vetri-Science's Composure is another item to look at, Pet Remedy (it has valerian) is yet another, as is Essential Pet Pet-ease, Only Natural Pet (brand and website) has a calming product, Pet Naturals also has one I believe.
    Lambert Vet Supply is a website to look at, and of course amazon and chewy, also there's Petwishpros, drsfostersmith, animaleo.

    There are a couple of recent discussions about calming items, here's the link to one thread. Post #6 in this has a link to the second discussion.
    Calming Treats?
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018

  4. lutece

    lutece TCS Member Top Cat

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    Mar 8, 2018
    When you got the kittens, what did the breeder say about their personalities? Did you happen to talk to the breeder recently about Artemis and if so, what did the breeder have to say? What kind of temperament do the parents have?
     
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  5. ArtNJ

    ArtNJ TCS Member Top Cat

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    Jun 1, 2017
    I think your vet possibly gave you very bad advice. Handling super young kittens is important. But forcibly holding cats after the infant stage on the theory that you will show them how nice it is seems to produce terrible results. I have had very good results with the exact opposite approach.

    1. Respect your cat. Only do what Artemis wants when he wants. Pet him in the morning and at night. Its in no way unusual for cats to have a time or a place - we can work from here I promise;

    2. Do not grab. Do not forcibly hold;

    3. At the morning/night times, make a call noise, tap the location where it happens and/or shake the treat bag and give a treat. You are linking cues to what the cat likes.

    4. Use the cues to try and lure the cat to the same spot at slightly different times, maybe a little earlier or later. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, we being patient here.

    Thats my approach. Gradual expansion, with the cat being the boss at all times, but the human being smart and trying to help with cues and lures.

    Gradual expansion works, sometimes in weird ways. My stray Rocky would lay on you only on the bed. I used cues and time to expand to the couch. Being honest, wasn't such a huge sacrifice to lay on the couch and watch tv or use the phone, lol! Those days are long gone, but the idea of laying on the human remains. If I try to stretch on the floor, boom, she is on my chest. That is how expansion works.
     
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  6. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Feb 21, 2018
    Thank you so much! I had started reading the last article, but the other ones should help as well.

    It's weird because Artemis used to be more outgoing while Luna was reserved. Now, Luna is cuddly whereas Artemis is now afraid of life. I will keep working on it while also giving him his space. :)
     
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  7. duckpond

    duckpond TCS Member Top Cat

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    Dec 13, 2017
    My little white avatar is a don't touch me cat :) She became this way after she had so many vet visits, and a 2 week hospital say, due to the bad spay she had the day before i got her. I think she was traumatized even though we were trying to save her life. This was about 3 years ago.

    The first year after she was better she didnt want anyone to ever touch her, and she didnt want to be in the room with us very much. Then she started coming into the room with us, but no touches. Then about a year and a half ago she started snuggling with me in bed, but only in bed. This year she is coming out more, she will come to me for pets during the day, as long as i dont try to pick her up. Slowly she is starting to feel safe with some human touch and affection. We are just very careful to let her instigate it, and to never push her for more than she is comfortable giving. Its been a long slow process, but its working. and every snuggle she gives is so special, because i know how hard it has been for her.

    my advice is never push him for more than he can comfortably give. Any opening he gives you take it, and let him determine when and for how long.
     
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  8. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Feb 21, 2018
    Yes, I think I will just ignore him. I was just concerned that he would feel "left out", especially because Luna gets so much attention. For a while, I thought he was jealous until I tried to reach out to him to pet and he ran away. So I guess that's not it. Do cats get jealous like that, or is that not even a thing? I'm not sure what I would do about it anyway since if he is jealous yet doesn't want attention he can't have it both ways. ;)

    I can't think of anything we are using differently than before. We are a relatively holistic family so don't use perfumes, strongly scented products, etc.

    I'm not sure if I was clear, but they are together again now after a week and a half of seperation out of necessity. So could the seperation anxiety still be active even though they are together?

    He hasn't been on my bed as much for a few days now. I was away for nine days, and when I returned, Luna was my little cuddle-friend as usual, but Artemis was still his usual skittish self. Last night was the first evening he came up (only because Luna was there) and hung out there for a bit, but when I woke up he wasn't there so I didn't get to pet him. While they both used to sleep on the rocking chair in one corner, they have been sleeping in their "cabana" (the large carrier I used to transport them to the vet; it's really spacious so they have been sleeping and hanging out there lately). But only because Artemis is there, so Luna goes there as well. I think she likes to be his protector.

    I am going to feed them more than I have been. For a while, I was feeding them three times per day, but they weren't finishing it, so I stopped. I think I'll go back to feeding them three times per day. They do have the best food with high protein and no fillers. I don't give them that much kibble either. Even their snacks are high-protein. I actually have to watch them eat to make sure Luna gets her share, otherwise, Artemis tries to steal food from her. I was just nervous because he was getting a bit of a belly. Do you think that's normal? I just don't want them to be unhealthy either.

    I have a bunch of toys for them, including several "wand" toys with items on the end to chase. They do have a platter toy, which they use at the worst possible times (like when I'm trying to sleep!) and Artemis loves it the most. That's when he's the most energetic it seems. I engage them with the wand toys but Luna is the one who responds the most, Artemis will just lazily swipe at it for the most part. I have tried catnip but haven't noticed any real change in either of them. I will look into the honeysuckle option.

    Attached is a picture of the calming chews I use. I used them to try to calm down Artemis when we were trying to get him to the vet but didn't notice a huge difference. And I will look at that link. I'm open to trying the others though, thank you for the recommendations, and your help!! :)
     

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  9. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    The breeder told me that Luna was very shy and that Artemis was more outgoing. And that's how it was initially. Gradually Luna became more outgoing (I call her "Luna the Warrior Princess") and Artemis became more fearful and timid. I haven't talked to her in a while. The parents were both very outgoing when I was there to get the kittens, even though we were unfamiliar. I'm hoping that in time he will chill out as Luna has. Fingers crossed!
     
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  10. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    Yes, I thought that was strange advice too which is why after trying it and noticing that it seemed to do nothing but promote stress (especially in Artemis) I stopped and used the "let them come to me" method.

    Lately, since I returned from my trip, (I was gone for nine days) Artemis has been a little restless. He was on the bed for a short time yesterday evening (I think only because Luna was there) and was jumping on and off throughout the night. In the morning, he didn't seem to want any engagement so jumped off the bed when I woke up. Hopefully, he will be more relaxed when he gets used to me being here again...at one point he was hanging out on the bed and letting me pet him at those times but it seems that he is more nervous right now.

    What kind of call noise do you suggest? Do you call them by name? They still don't respond to their names at this point. At this point, if Luna isn't on the bed, the only time I can get him on the bed is by wiggling my hand or throwing a toy up there.

    I didn't realize it until I read your post, but this is what I did with Luna and it did seem to work. Now, if I pick her up and carry her, she will even hang out on my lap voluntarily outside of her usual times. Thanks for the help, I appreciate it. :)
     
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  11. ScarlettSkater

    ScarlettSkater Thread Starter TCS Member Young Cat

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    I'm so sorry for your troubles with your kitty, and glad that she is coming around. I hope the same for Artemis! I will certainly take everyone's wonderful advice and let him dictate what he wants...the kitties seem to do that anyway! :)
     
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  12. lutece

    lutece TCS Member Top Cat

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    You could try giving the breeder a call and talking with her about it? The breeder might have some insight. Maybe if you describe Artemis's behavior to the breeder, she will be reminded of another cat that was similar, and she may have some idea that will help?

    Sometimes certain cats have personality quirks, for example I have a male kitten right now who came to me from another breeder. This boy has a wonderful temperament in general, but when the breeder had professional photographs taken of him, he was terrified and remained upset for the rest of the day, which puzzled the other breeder. However, I happen to have bred this kitten's grandfather and I remember his grandfather being exactly the same way as a kitten: he had an outgoing temperament and was a wonderful show cat, but each time I took him to get photographed, he would freak out at the photographer's flash and act nervous for the rest of the day. Eventually he grew out of it, but I think as a kitten he had extra sensitivity to the light of the flash.

    In any case, if I were your cat's breeder, I would want to know that the kitten I'd placed was having adjustment problems, especially if I'd expected him to be more outgoing based on his behavior as a young kitten. I'd want to be helpful in any way I could!!
     
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  13. duncanmac

    duncanmac TCS Member Alpha Cat

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    Any word or sound you use consistently will work. There are a lot of people here who call their cats to breakfast with "Dinner!" I use "let's eat" I find that two syllables works better one, but "No" and "up" work just fine too. FWIW, getting a cat to come when called, just to show up doesn't seem to work.

    One of my cats just doesn't know his name - or at least does not respond to it. The other one will look at me when I say his name.
     
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  14. Furballsmom

    Furballsmom Cat Fan especially Black Cats Staff Member Forum Helper

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    This was the item you listed that made me think of separation anxiety. Hopefully one of the other calming products will help for him if you decide to try one or two. Every cat is different, for instance Feliway didn't seem to have any effect on my furry buddy 3 or 4 years ago, but I'm thinking about trying it again since we have ferals that invade his territory, plus rude unleashed little dogs that come right up to the front screen door when he was resting on a chair right by the same entryway (THAT was weird!!) and visiting people that stress him out, ...that sort of thing. I have Composure as well, I haven't tried it yet with him, but will in a couple weeks what with more visitors/children.

    There are a couple of calming sprays, you could see if putting some on your clothing, or putting a couple drops of real vanilla on your arm might help him/his nose to realize you really truly aren't the meanie who'll be coming after him for the next three hours.

    If you have hardwood flooring you could look into a Hexbug Nano robotic cat toy - these little things are an absolute HOOT!! (ie; they don't work on carpet). Even my 13 year old boy was interested, but eventually decided he was above such things LOL. In any case, I'm thinking Artemis needs exercise. If he likes it, you may need to put up blocking material around the bottom of the fridge, sofa, etc etc so it doesn't disappear within the first two minutes.

    Also, if you don't have one, take a look at the Smartcat Ultimate Scratching Post. If he doesn't take to it try some honeysuckle or lay it horizontal for a while...the idea is to get him to really s-t-r-e-t-c-h when he's using it because it's tall (and sturdy).

    I don't know if this article will help, but it's a short yet interesting read.
    Do Cats Get Jealous? (and What To Do About It When They Do)
     

  15. LauraMJones

    LauraMJones TCS Member Kitten

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    May 14, 2018
    My babies are both rescues - Spenser ran in the house 13 years ago and totally owned it. Endeavour is a bundle of nerves, a friend who is allergic to cats saw a tiny bundle in the median of I-95 and caught him (flying tackle, after trying to slowly move toward him making cooing noises - he was afraid of him running into the road). He wasn't quite sure what to do with him, but drove to Philadelphia to pick up him mom and back to Baltimore and left him in the car the whole time with a box, old shirt and water. When he got to Baltimore he dropped his mom off and drove the kitty to me...in Pennsylvania. The poor thing got soaked walking from the car to the door, so he got clean and my friend got very, very bloody. 4 years later he got bigger and hides in the basement. He gets scared when I wear heels or if you come up to him too quickly, but he purrs and the rubs against you. Loves his catnip, toys, big brother and scratch pads. I have accepted that he will NEVER be a lap cat, but love when he sits other the other side of the sofa or at the top of the sofa and listening to him purr under the bed is magical. He is happy, so I am happy.
     
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  16. Furballsmom

    Furballsmom Cat Fan especially Black Cats Staff Member Forum Helper

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