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I have just acquired from Cats Protection two 14 month old cats. They are from the same litter. They were born in captivity – their (domesticated) mother was brought in as uncontrollable and gave birth to a litter of 6 a couple of days later. Four of the kittens were re-homed at about 3 months and are nice affectionate cats, but the mother cat viciously protected the remaining two and they have never been handled. Mother has now been re-homed successfully and is a nice affectionate cat.

The kittens however are real scaredy-pants. They hide in or under anything they can. One’s favourite place is in a corner behind a cabinet. I can see her (Tillie) but not easily reach her. A radiator hangs on the wall and if I try to touch her she squeezes under it and is almost inaccessible. She is in utter terror if touched.

The other (Tallie) is also skittish but a bit more submissive. She lives in or under the sink unit. She can be stroked on her head and back but doesn’t like it and as soon as possible departs the area. She took an entire flight of 14 or more stairs at a single bound the other day, so keen was she to escape being touched.

Neither makes any sound and if you look at them they just stare back, completely unblinking, eyes wide. They can stare in terror for 20 mins or more.

These animals have never been hurt, injured (except spayed), threatened or maltreated in any way except by their own mother, who has taught them completely irrational fear.

I feed them x2 a day and empty their litter trays. It would be nice to have a little more “fellowship” with them.

In our mighty history of abuse here at the Café, does anyone have any suggestions of dealing with feline abuse? At the moment, I make sure they know that I know where they are, talk to them (get them used to my voice), touch Tallie if she will let me, and generally try to be non-threatening. But I feel if I don’t handle them they will never get used to it.

Suggestions greatly welcomed.

(PS Twinkle my other cat who went missing is now resident with my mother, who doesn’t want any more cats because they are too much of a tie. Hahaha. She loves Twinkle too much and was desperately miserable when Twinkle went missing.)

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I was a first time cat owner when I got my two. I come from a dog owner background. So I was constantly trying to pick them up and touch them.

I was told from many sources to leave them be and only attempt to pet them, if they come to you. My two hide all the time until I took the hands off approach. They still hate it when I pick them up, I don't do it too often.

Basically they are training you.

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Even if I had some great suggestions for you Twinky, they wouldn't amount to much more than patience and gentleness. The patience might need to be in terms of months though. I hope things go well with your kittens.

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It sounds like your doing well with the kittens, maybe time will help they are still young.

have you tried food rewards? works for my beast i think he would be willing to set himself on fire for a treat.

I will tell you two storys of how this has gone, I am a cat person and have to pick because i have many. My mom took in a cat that had been in a cage brought to foster care as a kitten , the cat lived in the cage for about 6 months .

the cat went under the bed as soon as she got into my moms home and never ever came out not even to eat. they had no other animals and my mom Im certain spent 20 hours a day talking and coaxing her it just never worked and she went back to the foster care and will probably live out her days in a cage.

My daughter took in a cat she should have fixed but didnt and she let her out occasionly and the cat would come back etc... then one day the cat took off .. and it has been a year or so and my daughter can still go into the woods and call that cat and she will come to her,,,, say hi be petted but not go home with her, she likes the wild life to much now. she is fed and watered by a neighbor who has a near by barn .

not the outcome i wanted but it is better than going to the shelter and being put down or going into another home and leaving again without her girly parts to help her make friends.

my other friend spays and neuters wild cats or cats left to fend for their self by people she then releases them back into the wild.. she can take up to two or three years to just "pet" one of them she often has twenty or thirty she knews well in various locations, it is odd but if they are injured or sick they will go up to her and allow her to take them to the vet oftentimes.

I think they know she will let them go back to their "home" she does take in cats and socialize them to try to find homes if she thinks it is possible she leaves them in her basement for at least 8-9 months graduly increasing the exposure to people and life with them again, she has been successful in many cases. I think she is an angel, so do the cats. I learned so much about cat behaviour and why they do what they do from her , but ultimeltly our friendship ended when i slipped my mouth one day and said to the effect of "it is only a cat". she has not spoke to me since. I should have known it was heartless on my part considering her life long work, she never had children and was never married.

I doubt we can be reocnciled. and im ashamed .

ferral cats or wild cats have a very predictable pattern, and can be taught and socialized in most cases, but they can also be inbred and taught to never trust a human , my friend has an easier time with the skunks that tend to hang out with the cats in the wild they love the food and will come right up to her for the canned food she offers once a day she says they are much easier to trap or handle than the cats that have been abandoned by a human lol .

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I had a cat who I didn't realize was more feral than anything. Got her from a foster home. We brought her home and somehow climbed in the walls. She only got out when everyone was sleeping because she didn't starve. I worried about her and occaisonally would see her tail as she traveled through the house as fast as she could go.

It took a long time (several months) for her to learn to trust us. But what we did was just let her be and if she was around we would at least touch her so that she would get used to the touch. She became affectionate after time.

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My cat Molly was adopted from an animal shelter that she'd lived in off and on for a year. She was adopted a few times but kept running away and they kept catching her. She had obviously been either feral or abused. Most of her tail is missing (vet says it looks like it was broken or cut off--that she wasn't born that way).

She still won't let me pick her up, and she will not sit on anyone's lap. However, after a couple years (not months, years), she began to come sit beside me and demand that I pet her. She loves to sit on the arm of the recliner and rub against me, purring like crazy. She would sit with me and let me pet her for hours if I could endure it.

I never forced the issue with her. I always have talked to her frequently when I'm home and while I'm feeding her, and I always gave her a gentle head scratch if she came within reach. She started coming closer by sitting on my desk next to my computer stand. I'd alwyas pet her when she did that. She used to get matted fur on her back and, oddly enough, she would sit still for me to brush and cut the matted fur out. I guess it felt good, but it sure didn't fit with her general scaredy-catness. (Thank God that phase is over....what a pain it was.)

When my son moved back to town 3 years ago she had only seen him a few times, and she would always hide from him. Now she'll sit with him and beg for her head pats and scratches, just like she does with me.

I've had cats that were much more affectionate, but just like people, different cats have different personalities. I always make a deal with my pets when I adopt them, that they have a home for the rest of their lives. So I just accept her and love her for who she is. She's a heck of a mouser, so she makes up in usefulness what she lacks in the affection department. She has absolutely no fear of my two dogs and, in fact, the big pooch is pretty wary of her. He has a tiny scar on his nose that marks the day when he learned who was boss around here. Go figure. It took her years not to be afraid of me, but it took her about 5 minutes to put a 120-lb. dog in his place!

Edited by Linda Z
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Twinky - the advice here is all good. Let the cats come to you.

You might try enticing them with some catnip. I would put it out in a common area and walk away. Ignore them. After they roll around and get the munchies :spy: clean up the area and wait a week to do it again. After a while you can move the catnip party to an area closer to where you sit.

Also - remember that they may still smell Twinkle. From their little feline POV there's another cat somewhere that they can't see. It took my kittens about a month to really acclimatize to their new surroundings, and even then it's taken another 4 months for them to find their favorite spots.

Remember they thing that they own a place in Merry Ole' and they let you pay for it. ;)

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Thanks, all, for your replies. I'm obviously in for a longer haul than I had expected. I've had them two weeks and have just started my third course of antibiotics. Tillie bit me badly on the first day (she escaped and I recaptured her; she fought like crazy).

There is nothing of Twinkle in my house, she has never been here, and after all this time (8 months) I doubt my furniture smells much of her.

I have tried the thing with catnip. Tillie perked up a bit but Tallie is not interested. I offer them kitty treats which are ignored and pushed away. I also tried with some Feliway which is supposed to give off calming scents but they ran away from that.

I am not sure if it would be good to separate them and keep them in separate rooms, in case their fear is feeding the other's fear. Would they calm down if separated? (Do I want to risk another infection attempting that? I got them as a pair because the Cats Protection place thought that the slightly less scared one would be good for the terrified one.) Sometimes they huddle up together and sometimes they are at opposite ends of the room.

Also I have wondered about borrowing a happy settled female cat from somebody to see if she would settle them. What do you think? Or might the bringing together cause more stress? Or the later separation from a loan "mother" cause more distress?

I would hate for them to be cage cats forever or worse, put down; I want them to be whole and happy and able to come and go in my garden whenever they want. But it will be a long time before they are allowed out. Let 'em out now, they would be fox dinner tonight. Or maybe not.

Thanks again.

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Hi, Twinky

I've had lots of feral and wild cats over the years.

The two we have currently are from a colony that had been living in the woods for many generations so I guess they are more wild then feral.

We've had this particular pair(sisters from the same litter) about 11 years now.

When we first got them, they were about 3 months old.

They wanted nothing to do with humans and would hide in the most unlikely places, motionless, for hours on end.

They were totally nocturnal at that time.

They completely shunned us for the better part of 2 years even though we keep them inside.

But now, it seems like we can't go anywhere in the house without at least one of them tagging along.(Provided their are not snoozing) They have become quite affectionate.

Even today, if we have company over, they hide completely out of sight until the coast is clear.

This even includes people who have been to our house countless times since we got them.

The only exception is my buddy, DialThis, who ironically has a cat of his own.

Hence, I'm not sure they sense another cat's scent as a threat.

You really can't dictate a timetable to their acclimation.

It's good to have a food dish and water dish for each cat. They will not use one exclusively but it saves fighting( and, Lord, can they fight!) if they both decide to eat at the same time.

Some wacky facts.

Wild cats don't know how to "meow". It's a learned behavior. Ours only made a chirping sort of noise for about 2 or 3 years.

They also don't know they are supposed to eat their prey once they have captured it.

They learn how to hunt and what to do with their quarry from their mother.

Ours were already taught by the time we got them.

Hang in there.

It may take time but the rewards are worth it.

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Okay, I know this is a long post, but I've had probably half a dozen cats in my life and I've done the same with each of them with good success.

Every time I've brought a new cat home, whether it was completely tame from someone else's home, or if it showed up wild on my doorstep.... whether it was the only cat coming into a clean area, or my second or third cat joining the gang... they have all done what yours are doing. (maybe not as long, but certainly for a few days at least). And a cat who is scared can go a long time without eating, drinking, or using a litter box. My experience has also taught me that the one you had to catch will likely be the hardest one to win back over to you. I happened to be holding a new kitten when another cat walked out in front of me and the kitten freaked. Instinctively I tried to hold it close and assure it with my presence. Wrong. This cat that never before had a problem letting me pick it up and hold it, took a year before it would let me pick it up at all, and now years later, I still have to be careful that no other cats are around when I pick her up or she freaks and I end up having to win back her trust all over again.

What I do is just sit in the middle of the room (or leaning against the wall on the edge of the room) and let them come to you. If you have to sit on a pillow and quietly read a book all day, fine. Do it. If you don't have whole days to give, then do at least some time every day. As much time as you can give. Put their food, water, and litter box in the same room but as far away from yourself and as close to them as possible. They probably won't use them in front of you but that's okay. If they come out or move at all, you do nothing. And when they eventually come out and investigate you, which they will eventually do (even if it takes a week or two) you still do NOTHING. You let them walk all around you, sniff you, rub on you, sit a foot away from you and stare for an hour. Whatever they want to do, you have to be patient enough to let them. It's the only way I know of to overcome their fear. They have got to get it through their heads that you are just "there" and it's okay. And any reaching out or initiating you do will often just deepen their fear, not relieve it.

Once they come out a couple of times with you sitting in the same room, you can stop doing that and just go about your business but try to be mindful when you are near them and be extra calm and quiet. They will eventually come out more and more. And at some point they will slowly, thoroughly explore every inch of their new home. Cats rely on a knowledge of their territory for safety, even housecats.

When they do start approaching you, slowly hold out your hand flat, palm up, and let them sniff, rub against you, etc. without really trying to reach out and pet them in return. Just curl your fingers a bit and they should naturally try to scratch their jawline against your fingers and rub their forheads against you (marking you with the scent glands in front of their ears, so you belong to them now). Once they aren't afraid to come close to you and let you touch them, a sure way to win over most cats is to scratch them on the back of the neck and between the shoulder blades. And when they are really trusting of you, stroke their ears between your thumb and finger. You wouldn't think they would like that but mine all squint their eyes shut, jut their chin out, and purr their loudest when they are getting their ears stroked. (reminds me of the Ferengi on Deep Space Nine, lol)

Oh, and I do know someone who had good success with her cat by putting a small pompom of yarn on the end of a string on the end of a stick, and dragging it on the ground in front of the cat. The whole contraption was long enough that she wasn't really "close" to where the cat was and it got so excited by the chase-toy that it forgot about her in very little time. I don't know if this will work with your kitties since they've already been a little stressed. Every cat is a different personality!!

Good luck!

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I just wanted to add something.

Don't worry about them not meowing to you.

If a cat hasn't been exposed to humans in its first 4 weeks of life,

(supposedly) it will never be much of a "talker."

Humans are MUCH more vocal than animals, and the cats pick up using their

voices to communicate that way. They may not be VERBAL (no words),

but they certainly can communicate a lot by being VOCAL (making sounds),

mostly their mood.

I've seen cats communicate a range of emotions with different meows,

ranging from an angry, upset "MYOW!" to "Meow?" which quite obviously

was a question.

In this case, they will communicate with you by body language. For now,

they need to learn-on their own schedule- to not be afraid.

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I have a cat that meows constantly she is always in my face i mean in my face with screaming out meows. esp when i get home. I have another who honest to god roars like a lion would only when he fights and that is the only time really sometimes when i talk to him i get a deep meow but mostly a roar where it is long and deep and growling kind of frightening i have seen people at my house go up against a wall when they have heard him.

my sister had a cat that never meowed he often tried but it was a silent meow and no noise would come out.. but he had a very loud nice prrrrr.

I cant use catnip either because this husky cat who acts all manly pees on himself when he smells that stuff and it makes me mad as hell so no catnip for him .

Edited by pond
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Thanks, folks, for your encouragement and funny stories. I really would prefer a "pet" cat before a year but only time will tell. Tiillie is still in the corner and Tallie is still under the sink unit. Looks from what you have all said that I am in for a very long haul.

I spent a completely idle day on Sat, lay on my couch and read three (yes 3) novels. Late in the evening one emerged but only because nature called. She was terrified and completely froze when she saw me. She has since messed in her bed (which was in an area where she used to like to hide) and in the other bed. I have put the litter tray in the same area where the beds were and now she doesn't want to use that. There is also a litter tray in my bath and occasionally they use that and occasionally - the bath. (Definitely a case of opening the eyes before the morning shower - ugh.)

Neither of them will play with things though Tillie pricked an ear when hearing a tinkling ball.

Man, these two are so different from Twinkletoes (Twinky). He knocked on the door as a stray at age about 6 weeks. He is now 12 or 13. He has his daft moments and is scared of cars (why??) and has a mega voice on him (a touch of the Siamese, I think), had an irrational fear of men and fled from my partner every time until they got to live together and now he follows the partner around all the time (they both live in another country). He investigates everything.

Twinkle is a bit of a bendy toy and you can position her on your lap and she will just stay like that. She is incurious but loves catching small critters. She squeaks rather than miaows but purrs well.

Now the two new ones - care for nothing. But they do investigate the house when I am not there. Trying to escape, I think.

Should I separate them - if I can catch either of them?? Or would the separation add to their anxiety levels?

Pond your cat sounds amazing, LOL!

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I really wouldn't try separating the two cats. Even though they aren't huddled together, it would probably only add to their upset at this point if you tried to separate them.

Good to know they are exploring when they think you aren't around. That is a first step.

If the one isn't using the litter box it makes me wonder if their mom ever taught them the fine art of burying their stuff in dirt or sand? Most cats will take to it instinctively once they've been shown. If your litter box is covered I would definately leave the cover off for now so they won't be afraid to go into it.

Other than that, it sounds like you are going about things the best way you can. Hang in there!

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i think my cat is abnormal tho.. he was born so my children at the time could witness birth.

they were curious so my sister had a pregnate cat and we went over there to see it her cat sat on the couch and gave birth to my girl washed her up and my daughter picked her up.

no i wouldnt reccomend this for all cats but her cat was so people friendly she didnt mind at all. i think she knew she was having babies for us to see. she then had the rest later that night on my sisters pillow, there mom is less thanthree pounds and a very strange cat, only goes outside to get laid really, just had a kitten at age 16 awhile ago. how cute huh? Just one tho.

so i really do think my cats are special "family" type pets that are not into normal animal behaviour because their mom isnt normal and we took them home at 3 weeks.

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Okay - no separation.

Yes, THW, they can use a litter tray and were very good when they first arrived. They shared one and I realised they needed one each when one poo'd in the bath. So there is one in the bath - which they both share... (huh?) - that is if they use the tray not the bath. I have moved the one under the stairs a bit to give a bit more room so maybe that will encourage her a bit.

I wonder if this defecation in inappropriate places is a part of "marking" the territory, or just plain regression. If regression, perhaps I can pick up from where they regress to and things will come right.

Twin human babies might be easier to deal with...

Pond - born to show what giving birth is like ?????? Wild!!!!!

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some of my twi friends had their older children in the birthing of their babies and they did show the movie and all.

i was grossed out just by the pictures ok? not my cup of tea i had c-sections and didnt open my eyes for the one i did have natural..no not so cool for me soo we did that. my little one was only about 6 and she had her face right inches from that kitten poping out mommy didnt care she wanted her to hold her but i said um no. eww a little .

i was done about the time she ate the placenta my daughter stayed in and watched for another i left and went outside to smoke a dam cigereete.

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Here's a little cat-whispering trick that has been known to work wonders with skittish cats:

If they ever make eye contact with you, immediately blink slowly two or three times, like you're just about to yawn and fall asleep. Direct eye contact is very threatening to a cat, but by slow blinking, you're showing them that you do not consider them a threat, and you are not about to attack them. Over time, they will come a little closer to you. If they're still skittish as you walk by them, blink and turn your head away. Don't touch them unexpectedly. Talk to them in questions so your voice rises at the end.

Most of all, don't expect immediate results. My smallest kitten, Smudge, took two years to become a lap cat, and she's still not all the way there yet. She'll jump on my shoulder and ride around in the mornings, but she'll only sit for about two minutes on my lap. But she was once the most don't-touch-me cat I'd ever had.

Good luck!


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Hi Twinky,

This is how it worked for me with my one project cat. I made it through the long haul with her. She was more dear to me than any other pet I ever had except maybe my childhood dog.

If you make it through the long haul with them I'm guessing it'll be good for you too. Hang in there Twinky, or do what you need to do with them. I guess it's your call.

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We may (only may) be making just a tad progress.

Either I forgot to put food down last night or they were particularly hungry. This morning Tillie (the Terrified) kept sticking her nose out. She ran towards one food bowl, saw me, ran off to hide; later ran to another food bowl, saw me, ran off; then she sat under a stool in the lounge part of my through kitchen and just sat watching me. (I've never seen so much of her before). I stayed in the kitchen, took care not to move suddenly, didn't look at her (except out of the corners of my eyes) and at times deliberately turned my back on her (to be non-threatening). When I put some food down she gobbled it down and even slunk into the kitchen part to have a munch at the other bowl of food there as well. I let her know that I could see her but didn't approach and stayed as far away as I could. She knew I was watching but became comfortable eating. She also drank both dishes of cat milk while I watched.

The other one, Tallie the Tiny, is still in the sink unit and did not emerge. She's the one who is generally less skittish.

So maybe I will try the hunger trick again. Not feed them much at night so they come out and watch me in the morning.

It was so nice having Tillie sit under the stool watching me. Almost like having a normal cat with a normal housecat family life.

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We may (only may) be making just a tad progress.

Either I forgot to put food down last night or they were particularly hungry. This morning Tillie (the Terrified) kept sticking her nose out. She ran towards one food bowl, saw me, ran off to hide; later ran to another food bowl, saw me, ran off; then she sat under a stool in the lounge part of my through kitchen and just sat watching me. (I've never seen so much of her before). I stayed in the kitchen, took care not to move suddenly, didn't look at her (except out of the corners of my eyes) and at times deliberately turned my back on her (to be non-threatening). When I put some food down she gobbled it down and even slunk into the kitchen part to have a munch at the other bowl of food there as well. I let her know that I could see her but didn't approach and stayed as far away as I could. She knew I was watching but became comfortable eating. She also drank both dishes of cat milk while I watched.

The other one, Tallie the Tiny, is still in the sink unit and did not emerge. She's the one who is generally less skittish.

So maybe I will try the hunger trick again. Not feed them much at night so they come out and watch me in the morning.

It was so nice having Tillie sit under the stool watching me. Almost like having a normal cat with a normal housecat family life.

Looks like you have the necessary patience and are learning things that might work with your two little guys...

I have one cat. His biggest problem is that he hates other cats. He rarely lets me pick him up, but does occasionally if he "needs some love." Usually, we sit together (him next to me) watching TV and I either stroke/pet or brush him.

Another thing he used to do, which I used to like... is he would come get on top of me while I was in bed sleeping. I used to be able to pet him some while not completely waking up, so that I'd go right back to sleep. However, as it got harder to fall back asleep, I discouraged him doing that to wake me.

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