Next steps with shy kitten

Haynesaj1

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I have a six month old kitten that I’ve had now for about 7 weeks. He had been at the shelter a long time because he was fearful and would hiss at anyone who came close. The first month at home he hid in the basement and made minimal progress getting to know the family. I finally got him corralled into a large cattery cage in my office. The last three weeks he’s started to come out of his shell and quit hiding all day every day. He comes out and eats when I’m in the room and eats treats from my hand but still isn’t interested in being touched and backs away if you make a move with your other hand. I’ve started letting him out into the room a couple of times a day and he still keeps his distance but participates in play sessions and seems fairly relaxed in the room.

On the weekends I’ve brought the whole cage out into our main living area and he hides a lot more out there but still will eat his food and stuff. I don’t think he’s quite ready yet but I’d like to let him out soon. His hiding spot in the cage is a carrier so I could take that out and put it in my office without the cage. But once I open the door of my office, our house is very open so I can’t really confine him to one room at a time. What I don’t want is for him to run back to the basement and hide forever again.

I don’t know if Harry will ever be a lap cat or want attention. Ive

Any tips on next steps?



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Haynesaj1

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I’m not sure why my post cut off, but what I was saying was that I’ve read many many other threads on here about cats who remain skittish for years. So I’m keeping my expectations low but it would be great to let him out before too long. We have another kitten he can play with and they get along pretty well when he’s out of the cage.
 

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The last three weeks he’s started to come out of his shell and quit hiding all day every day. He comes out and eats when I’m in the room and eats treats from my hand but still isn’t interested in being touched and backs away if you make a move with your other hand. I’ve started letting him out into the room a couple of times a day and he still keeps his distance but participates in play sessions and seems fairly relaxed in the room.
On the weekends I’ve brought the whole cage out into our main living area and he hides a lot more out there but still will eat his food and stuff. I don’t think he’s quite ready yet but I’d like to let him out soon. His hiding spot in the cage is a carrier so I could take that out and put it in my office without the cage. But once I open the door of my office, our house is very open so I can’t really confine him to one room at a time. What I don’t want is for him to run back to the basement and hide forever again.
Hi, H Haynesaj1 ...just a few quick questions:
Has everyone in your house spent time with your shy kitten? ...or has it mainly been you?
Eg....coming into his 'safe room' and quietly reading to him...or speaking...just so he gets used to everyone's voices.

If you were to get down on the floor, at his level...does Harry ever come out towards you....to explore around you?
Or can you get him to come your way...by using a flat ribbon or flat string type toy?

Also..is there any way you can close the door to the basement...so he cannot go down there to hide....or block off all the difficult to get to....hiding places down there?
 
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BellaGooch

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Hello there!
Firstly, let me start by saying a skittish cat, especially for the first few months, is super, super common.
these articles might help a bit:Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
10 Must-know Tips For Happy Living With A Shy Cat – TheCatSite Articles
How To Get A Cat To Come Out Of Hiding? – TheCatSite Articles
One thing that might help if you haven’t done it before is sitting in the same room as the cat and either just talking to him, reading aloud, or even sit silently while you scroll on your phone or read. Patience, gentleness, and time are all essential. Good luck, please keep us updated, and what a cute kitty!
 

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Actually, I forgot to add a few things:

I have had a couple cats who were pretty shy at first, but they’re warming up over time .Another thing you can do is feed treats, of course! :)
 
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Haynesaj1

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Hi, H Haynesaj1 ...just a few quick questions:
Has everyone in your house spent time with your shy kitten? ...or has it mainly been you?
Eg....coming into his 'safe room' and quietly reading to him...or speaking...just so he gets used to everyone's voices.

If you were to get down on the floor, at his level...does Harry ever come out towards you....to explore around you?
Or can you get him to come your way...by using a flat ribbon or flat string type toy?

Also..is there any way you can close the door to the basement...so he cannot go down there to hide....or block off all the difficult to get to....hiding places down there?
It has mainly been me in the office because I work from home and I’m in there all day during the week. But both my kids and my husband have come in with me and played with him a few times. We always sit on the floor.My daughter and I have done our bedtime reading in there a couple of times. He never approaches us unless we have treats. If he’s playing he will come within a few feet but backs up immediately it seems when he remembers he’s scared.
I can close the door to the basement, in fact we will have to soon because we are getting ready to start finishing it. Right now the litter box for my other kitten is down there though. I guess I feel like there are just still tons of hiding places for Harry in the rest of the house too. If he’s hiding under the beds all the time it will be tough to interact with him. But at least he’d be in rooms where we are more often.
 
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Haynesaj1

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Hello there!
Firstly, let me start by saying a skittish cat, especially for the first few months, is super, super common.
these articles might help a bit:Stress in Cats – The Ultimate Guide – TheCatSite Articles
10 Must-know Tips For Happy Living With A Shy Cat – TheCatSite Articles
How To Get A Cat To Come Out Of Hiding? – TheCatSite Articles
One thing that might help if you haven’t done it before is sitting in the same room as the cat and either just talking to him, reading aloud, or even sit silently while you scroll on your phone or read. Patience, gentleness, and time are all essential. Good luck, please keep us updated, and what a cute kitty!
Cool. I have read all of those articles. More than once actually lol. I’m hoping that he’s gotten attached enough to his carrier that he’ll always go back to that when he’s scared. I just don’t want to be in a situation where he needs to go to the vet or there’s an emergency and I can’t catch him. It sounds like I need to stay the course. Make sure he’s fairly comfortable with all the family members and then let him explore the house at his own pace.
 
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Haynesaj1

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Actually, I forgot to add a few things:

I have had a couple cats who were pretty shy at first, but they’re warming up over time .Another thing you can do is feed treats, of course! :)
He LOVES the Churu cat treats. Lately he’ll pause eating them to sniff my hand. So I think he’s getting there. Baby steps.
 

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It has mainly been me in the office because I work from home and I’m in there all day during the week. But both my kids and my husband have come in with me and played with him a few times. We always sit on the floor.My daughter and I have done our bedtime reading in there a couple of times. He never approaches us unless we have treats. If he’s playing he will come within a few feet but backs up immediately it seems when he remembers he’s scared.
That's actually excellent.
Do you notice any differences in the way Harry behaves...when you are playing with him...as when your husband ...or kids are playing with him?

Playing...will actually be the key...to get Harry to feel more Confidence.
Like you've already...wisely noticed...and pointed out...Harry forgets his fears...when he loses himself in Play.
If you set up actual Play Sessions...and do them Routinely....and then end each Play session with a Treat, or wet food, ...then Harry will associate... these types of Play interactions with humans...as being really positive.

A member on here...'Calicosrspecial'..uses this method called ...Play, Food, Height, and Love...(I remember it by the acronym...Play For Her Love). In it you use Play to build Confidence...Food to make positive associations...Height...can be using anything from boxes, chairs, side tables, cat beds, shelves...to allow a cat to feel they could always 'escape to a safe space'....and finally Love...of course...which you are already doing...with all the above...but eventually will able to give more to Harry as he comes to accept his humans' touch.

If you can do more of the above,...where you mentioned that each member of the family...came into the room ...and just talked to you...or you read out loud...played ...etc...then it would help Harry in getting to know everyone...and more used to the Sounds in the home.
I can close the door to the basement, in fact we will have to soon because we are getting ready to start finishing it. Right now the litter box for my other kitten is down there though. I guess I feel like there are just still tons of hiding places for Harry in the rest of the house too. If he’s hiding under the beds all the time it will be tough to interact with him. But at least he’d be in rooms where we are more often.
Yes, it is tough...trying to predict...all the places ...that a 6 month old kitten to find ...and hide in.
Kitten proofing a home....seems to be...an ever learning task...and you end up finding new places...that only your kitten would think about.:bluepaw:
Basically, it's usually suggested that dangerous places...like behind the fridge, under the stove, washer or dryer...or if you have those 'mechanical sofas' that you can recline in...then these would be spaces...you would want to kitten proof...and make sure he cannot get to. Under beds and such ...would not be bad... And might even give Harry a nice quiet place...to sleep where noises and humans don't bother him. Unless, of course, he ends up hiding there all day...everyday...for more than a week...and refuses to eat, drink, and use a litterbox.

Because you mentioned another kitten...who plays with Harry....could you possibly use this kitten to help Harry not be so shy?
How do they play together?
Does the kitten ever come in...and out of the 'safe room' ...office...freely...with the door open?
Does Harry ever want to follow this kitten out of the room?

Is there a reason, ...that this kitten is not allowed to be with Harry 24/7?
 
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Haynesaj1

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Because you mentioned another kitten...who plays with Harry....could you possibly use this kitten to help Harry not be so shy?
How do they play together?
Does the kitten ever come in...and out of the 'safe room' ...office...freely...with the door open?
Does Harry ever want to follow this kitten out of the room?

Is there a reason, ...that this kitten is not allowed to be with Harry 24/7?
Right now the only reason they are not together 24/7 is because for the first month they never came out of the basement (except when everyone was asleep). Lloyd the other kitten is the complete opposite of Harry, super confident and snuggly. He does go in and out of the safe room freely, when Harry is in the cage. When I let him out they wrestle and chase and pounce on each other, it’s very cute. It’s tricky though because if I’m not careful Lloyd will eat all of Harry’s food. So I do keep them separated for that.
Sounds like we’re on the right track. We do have a pretty solid routine of play + treats almost every morning and evening.
 

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Right now the only reason they are not together 24/7 is because for the first month they never came out of the basement (except when everyone was asleep). Lloyd the other kitten is the complete opposite of Harry, super confident and snuggly. He does go in and out of the safe room freely, when Harry is in the cage. When I let him out they wrestle and chase and pounce on each other, it’s very cute. It’s tricky though because if I’m not careful Lloyd will eat all of Harry’s food. So I do keep them separated for that.
Sounds like we’re on the right track. We do have a pretty solid routine of play + treats almost every morning and evening.
Hi...yes...it all sounds good with the Play Session routines. :thumbsup:

But I really think you should be utilizing Lloyd...to teach Harry...how to be Confident and unafraid, too.
Even if they had both spent the whole first month in the basement...and Harry always hid...then it might have been because the place was too large for Harry...or because it was all too New to him...to begin with.

Sometimes the timid kittens will be afraid of humans...but always want to play with their siblings..or playmates...because they learn critical things in the first weeks and months ...from each other...about bite inhibition and socializing ...through Play with one another.

It's so excellent that you have another social kitten ...that can Teach Harry....all these things.
I would not leave Harry in a cage at all...since he will learn to bond and socialize more form kitten Lloyd.
If you want, ...just take the door off the cage, drape a sheet over it for privacy,...and use it more like a den...to see if Harry will come out and explore...but really...you don't want him thinking that ...he has to stay in there at all.

(Just make sure to again...kitten proof the office...and home...to make sure that both kittens cannot start chewing on wires, or cords,...or anything else that you think they could climb up on, to injure themselves. (tv sets anchored to walls, computer screens secured...breakables put away...etc)

Humans can only do so much ....while teaching social skills to kittens...but other social kittens like Lloyd...are really the best teachers.
Does that make sense?

Also,...you did mention...that you want to teach Harry... to allow a human to pat and touch them...but he is still fearful.
The best way to do this...is again...to use Lloyd...and allow Harry to see how Lloyd acts around the humans...and often then kittens will imitate what they see.
I hope this helps.
And if you have the time...we'd love to see some more photos... of both your kittens Harry and Lloyd, too. :blush: :clover:
 
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Haynesaj1

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Haha this is typical Lloyd

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I see what you’re saying and I do think it’s time to let Harry out of the cage most of the time in the safe room. I’m just not sure how he can learn from watching Lloyd with us if he’s hiding all the time (in the rest of the house). We have a great cat condo in the living room that he could sit on at the very top if he wanted and observe from afar. But I don’t think he would now. Maybe he will eventually but right now even if he got up there at night I’m sure he would run and hide as soon as he heard us get up and move around. I don’t think at this point I could even keep Lloyd in my office all the time. He would (and does) run out at his first opportunity.
 

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They are so adorable! :loveeyes:
I can't tell the size difference...but they look pretty equal to me.
(Maybe Harry is a tiny bit bigger? :think:)
I see what you’re saying and I do think it’s time to let Harry out of the cage most of the time in the safe room. I’m just not sure how he can learn from watching Lloyd with us if he’s hiding all the time (in the rest of the house). We have a great cat condo in the living room that he could sit on at the very top if he wanted and observe from afar. But I don’t think he would now. Maybe he will eventually but right now even if he got up there at night I’m sure he would run and hide as soon as he heard us get up and move around.
Yes, it is much harder to ...walk and move around...for humans...when a kitten is afraid.

Do you think your Harry is ...just ultra sensitive...to sounds, and movement?
Or do you think that Harry is just ...much more afraid of new things?

Does he shake at all? or tremble...when being afraid?
When you play with him....does he play ...very differently from ...how 'laid back Lloyd' plays?.
(Lloyd looks so laid back and chill in the above photo. haha. You cannot get more relaxed than that....I don't think. :lol: :sleep:)
I don’t think at this point I could even keep Lloyd in my office all the time. He would (and does) run out at his first opportunity.
yeah, judging by Lloyd's photo...I'm guessing he gets the 'kitten zoomies' and runs around everywhere.
Then crashes and sleeps soundly.
I'm just thinking ...that you could keep the door open to your office...and let Harry run out the door...if he wants.

(As long as you can eventually find him in your home...meaning no hard-to-get to hiding places, or holes which are impossible to get to...then I don't think that Harry would really need to be locked up.)
It's better for him to play, play and play...with Lloyd...anytime of the day or night...if he wants to.
Looking at the photo of the two of them together...it doesn't look like either is scared of the other one.

Try what you think is best.
If you have another room...which is not your office...where you can put both kittens into...and let them explore and play...then this would open up...Harry's whole territory faster. Plus Harry will be learning 'bite inhibition' from Lloyd...and having fun.
If Harry gets to explore...and cheek and scent mark...all parts of the home...the more his own Scent will be everywhere...and he will feel more comfortable and confident too. Knowing everywhere belongs to him, too.
 
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in your situation ... I would block off the basement and possibly the parts of the house so both kittens have a few rooms with litter boxes and plenty of family contact, hiding spots but not to the point where a cat can get lost ... I have experience with those shy ones and they will come around if they have a cat sibling who is outgoing ... Maybe that shy one will never be a lap kitten and maybe he’ll never greet a stranger at the door but ... he will definitely learn from his adoptive brother that his humans are nice and can be trusted . I have two shy kittens in a bunch of 5 and it took them about 4-5 months to decide that they would like to be cuddled ... I make a point of saying hi to every cat when I get in the door ... and otherwise let the cats decide when they are ready to make friends. You have a snuggle cat already and with that shy one ... a wonderful companion and playmate ... it is always great when two cats get along . Cats can develop very deep friendships with other cats and both will be happier together ... thank you for taking a chance on this shy baby ... he is very lucky to have found a good home !
 
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Haynesaj1

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Okay it sounds like there's at least a small consensus that it's time to give Harry the chance to start exploring the house. I shut the door to the basement and opened the door to the office. He did immediately run down the stairs to the basement but quickly discovered that wasn't a good hiding spot. That was last night and this morning he was parked in the lower house on the cat condo, the part that is mostly hidden by the couch. He doesn't seem measurably more timid out in the main room than he did in the office. He might go hungry a bit if he doesn't come out to eat. Should I bring his food closer to him or move it to a protected spot? I'm sure there are some articles on here about feeding strategies for multiple cats. I'll have to go looking for those I guess. Otherwise Lloyd will just eat it all I'm pretty sure.
 

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you can free feed kittens and most ( not all though) self regulate once they realize there is food all the time ... I have several food and water dishes for my 5 all over the place ... it can't hurt to add a station in a more protected location but ... my cats get their food dishes refilled in the evening and love to eat at night or early morning ... which makes sense as cats are usually hunting at dusk and dawn ... I think if you block off the basement - and just act normal ... your gorgeous little Harry will come out of his shell ... especially with a brother who is brave and can show him that humans mean no harm ... Cats can take quite a while to trust - but once they do ... they can make the absolutely sweetest companions. I take a " too shy" cat over a too wild/dominant/ rambunctious one any day - long term speaking - the shy ones are the ones that always steal my heart ;-) ...
 
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Haynesaj1

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It’s been a big morning for Harry! Lots of action with kids getting ready for school and everything. I’m very happy to see him here instead of hiding out of sight.
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thanks everyone for your advice and encouragement. I can’t wait to see how his personality develops.
 

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Should I bring his food closer to him or move it to a protected spot? I'm sure there are some articles on here about feeding strategies for multiple cats. I'll have to go looking for those I guess. Otherwise Lloyd will just eat it all I'm pretty sure.
I would bring Harry's food closer to him...and if you can...and Harry will accept it...try feeding him at the actual spot that he is in.
You can place the food bowl near him...and just nonchalantly hover near by...so as Lloyd does not come up to steal Harry's food.
This way...you are also bonding with Harry over food.

If Harry is a slow eater...or too timid to eat while you are there...then also place his food in a protected spot.
Experiment with both your ways...to see what works. :thumbsup:

What flybear flybear mentioned about leaving food bowls, and water bowls,... everywhere ...is so true...especially when they are kittens.
They need all the calories they can get...since they are constantly playing, and growing quite fast.
(I've fed mine...both dry and wet...with the wet slightly warmed up with warm water added and blended in. The dry is left out...for them to free feed at night as well as day, too.)

(Ps. I think I might move that beautiful light stand away from the Amazing Cat Condo...you have.:biggrin:
Only because I think your kittens,...might want to jump on it...and use it as another long and high cat toy, cat perch, cat tower play thing. Maybe I'm being extra cautious...but with kittens...and cats...running around...I can see that happening. :blush:)
Your photos are beautiful. :cloud9:
 
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Haynesaj1

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I think Harry has been doing pretty well! I haven’t really had to take his food to him. He will come out to the kitchen and eat it now. He has found a hiding spot that he’s disappeared to a couple of times this week, but I guess that’s okay. He plays at night with me quite a bit and I think he and Lloyd are enjoying their time together after we all go to bed. My dad is up really early in the mornings and described how Harry circles him on the couch, getting closer and closer each time around until he finally bats at his toes if he wiggles them.

Probably a good idea to move the lamp!! I’m surprised they haven’t knocked it over yet. They did take down the tv antenna once already.

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I think Harry has been doing pretty well! I haven’t really had to take his food to him. He will come out to the kitchen and eat it now. He has found a hiding spot that he’s disappeared to a couple of times this week, but I guess that’s okay. He plays at night with me quite a bit and I think he and Lloyd are enjoying their time together after we all go to bed. My dad is up really early in the mornings and described how Harry circles him on the couch, getting closer and closer each time around until he finally bats at his toes if he wiggles them.

Probably a good idea to move the lamp!! I’m surprised they haven’t knocked it over yet. They did take down the tv antenna once already.
That's a fantastic update! Thanks.:thumbsup:

Well, except...for maybe taking down the tv antenna part...lol. :eek2: :lol:
Cats are very smart, creative, and fast.
(I wonder if they took the tv antenna down...so you wouldn't be able to watch your shows...and play with them more. :think: :biggrin: :wink:)

Your dad sounds great. Would he be able to play with a wand toy with Harry in the mornings, too.
Or would your dad just think that's too odd, to do. Either way, it's nice to hear that Harry is interacting more and more.

(When I first saw your lamp...I didn't really notice it...because I was focusing on the cats...and then the hanging mice.
I was wondering how they played with those mice....eg...did they have to reach over from the top, while laying down. :dunno:
Then I noticed the long silver pole...and thought...wow...is that like a 'fireman's pole' ...to slide down on.:clover:
I thought it was a part of that amazing deluxe cat condo....with tilted ramp, scratching board...and sisal poles...and all those different levels. It just looks totally awesome. :lovecat2:)
 
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