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Scared Cats, Behavior Problems and Taming Feral Cats
Here are some ideas for you.
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Scared Cat

Many times, a cat can become scared, either indoors or outdoors because of a traumatic event. In one case, the cat was chased home by something and even suffered a small nip to the hind leg. This cat was afraid to go outdoors anymore, and the owner did not know why. By figuring out that the cat had been chased by something scary, we were able to help it. This may not be your case, but try to determine if your cat has been injured in any way. Even a patch of fur that's missing can help you to determine this.
Be gentle with your cat and don't force it into the desired behaviors. Allow your cat to come to trust again at it's own pace. If you have a dog or other cat that your scared cat is comfortable with, allow them to interact.

Real Fear of Everything

If you have ever seen a cat like this, you know what I mean. The poor thing has been scared out of it's wits and may empty it's bladder at the least provocation. It may hide all the time and only come out to eat and use the litterbox. Sometimes, the cat is comfortable with one person but no-one else. This cat may have been abused or gotten an injury that was very traumatic.

Take this cat is stages. First, use treats to draw the cat out. When the cat is comfortable with one person, switch to another person. Always speak in soothing tones in the cat's chosen hiding room. If you are male and have a deep or booming voice, you need to be especially careful. Usually women do better with cats because their voices are higher and softer. Speak in a low volume and coax the cat with treats. Some cats prefer men, so the opposite may be true. Children need to be reminded to move slowly and be very gentle with the cat.

Raucous laughter can scare the cat. Eventually, your cat will come to love the sound of laughter and even perform antics which cause you to laugh. Your cat may slowly come out of the room and begin to explore the rest of the house. Allow the cat to do so at it's own pace and remember to move slowly and talk softly while the cat is doing this.

There is no time frame for this. Each cat's trauma is different. These cats have a very long memory for hurt, but also for good things. The more good things you can heap on those hurts, the better.

You can try clickers to train the cat in a positive way, but if the cat seems disturbed by the clicker, stop. Often, traumatized cats don't do well with clicker training.

Aggressive Cats

An aggressive cat may strike at animals or people seemingly without warning. The whiskers, ears, tail and eyes are your clues to an impending attack. If the cat is new to you, you may not know all the clues at first and suffer several attacks. There may be several causes, and we will explore each.

  • Medical:
    Your cat may be ill or be injured and in pain. Always rule this out by a visit to the vet. If your cat has previously always been cuddly and sweet, this is even more important. Your cat may have developed diabetes or a tumor and need treatment. Once the medical reasons for the behavior have healed, the sweet temperament you remember will return.

  • Fear:
    As in the above examples, this must be addressed for each cat. If you have ruled out medical causes, and your usually sweet puss becomes a terror, your best bet will be more aggresive play with your cat. Always push in should your cat bite you, so that the cat learns this is not acceptable. Your cat has the same fight-or-flight mechanisms that we do, so your cat has decided to fight instead of hide. That will mean that your cat is fighting for its life in some way. You MUST identify what is causing this behavior. It may be an odor on your person that is causing it - so go take a shower and see if that helps. If not, see a doctor. If you constantly challenge your cat, stop. If your cat has gotten into a plant, remove the plant from the cat's reach. Some plants cause hallucinations in cats or can poison cats. With time, this behavior should stop.

  • Dominance:
    Your cat may be trying to get to the top of the cat-pecking-order. Even if there is only one cat, the cat wants to be on top. This is most common with other animals and a new cat.

    The cat wants to be top-cat in the household. It will try to dominate the dogs, too. Eventually, this behavior will sort itself out as the new cat finds its place in the pecking order. If your cat was feral and is now tame, the behaviors will be more common. However, even the most loving cat can behave this way.

  • Extreme Behaviors:
    In extreme cases, isolate your cat from the general household population and get a large cage with levels for different activities. A play-pen for cats. Put in a covered cat bed, litter box and place the food and water bowls on one of the shelves. Put something hard on the top to prevent aggression and fear, as other cats in your family will want to jump on the top. Place this cage in a place where you can control access by the other animals and allow them into the area one at a time. Try to identify your cats triggers by watching her while the other animals are in the room.

    As your cat becomes comfortable with the worst of the triggers, you can let it out with the other animals for short periods while attended. Eventually, you will be able to do away with the cage as confinement and let the cat use it as a safe-haven.

Taming a Feral Cat:

If you have taken on an abused or feral cat, my hat is off to you. These cats are very difficult in the beginning, but become the most loving of all cats. They may never be lap-cats or extremely cuddly, but their appreciative love will reward you many times over.

You need to get down to the cat's level, so sit on the ground or a low stool. These cats will be most afraid when you are standing because you are so much larger than they are.

Give it time and speak softly. Name your cat and use that name in a loving tone. Your cat will come to associate its name with loving gestures and treats. This is excellent! You want your cat to think of you as something good, not something scary.

Start with treats. Use them to tempt the cat close and as your cat becomes less afraid, offer your hand. Move slowly. When you feel the time is right, pet the cat behind the ears or stroke it's back. Eventually, the cat will come for scratches behind the ears, base of the tail or under the chin. Offer these freely. Once your cat comes out to greet you when you've been out, you know that your cat is yours and will always love you.

Trips to the vet will always be traumatic, and expect your cat to hide for a while on returning home. Give your cat treats and call her name gently and lovingly. Your cat will realize that going to the vet was unfortunate, but that she can generally still trust you. Good luck!

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