How to help a scared cat?

My boyfriend's grandmother died in March and left him three cats to take care of, in addition to the one he already owned. Two of them are happy, healthy, and friendly, but the third is not. Mia is 6 years old and in perfect health according to the vet. However, she's more than timid, she's terrified of people. If I didn't know her history I'd say she had been abused. She cowers and squeezes her eyes shut if you try to pet her. She hides except to use the litter box and eat, and even then she will stop whatever she's doing and run if a person comes in the same room. Apparently she has always been shy, but this extreme level of behavior started after his grandma's death. Could it be a reaction to loss? Any other ideas on what might be causing her behavior or how to help her?

Best Answers

  • Joy WaltersJoy Walters Member Posts: 9,276
    Accepted Answer
    Poor Mia. It could be a reaction to the death of your BF's grandmother, but if that wasn't a happy home for her, this is most likely an ongoing condition of her's. My daughter has a shy cat as well and I've learned the best way to deal with Bailey is not to deal with him. He will come up to me if I'm sitting quietly and even headbonk. I always speak to him in a very quiet voice. I never try to pet him unless he's wants me to. The only time I've ever picked him up was when I was charged with the responsibility of taking him to the vet and had to get him in a carrier. Mia exhibits extreme shyness. There are medications that can help her overcome some of her anxiety, but in the end, she needs a LOT of time, patience and kindness from you and your BF. Don't let the other cats "gang up" on her. You are wise to have a vet on board. They can work with you to help Mia trust humans. With lots of time and effort, she may one day overcome her fears. Good luck!
  • James HonakerJames Honaker Member Posts: 81
    Accepted Answer
    Cats in general like to play, and they like food. I'd get one of those wand toys, a feather or mouse on the end some string at the end of a stick. That way, you can engage her in play sort of from a distance. In general, don't stare her in the eyes or try to get her to come to you, or reach out to pet her. All those are sort of aggressive or rude to a cat. You can make eye contact and wink one eye, or deliberately blink both eyes to send a reassuring message. Food is another way to get her closer. Put her food down and stay in the room, at some distance, so that she associates food with you guys. When you walk in the room, throw her a little cat treat. With cats, these things take time, and happen at cat speed. She's probably stressed from the loss of her person, by the new people and environment, by the new cats. If you don't have enough litter boxes for that many cats, she may be stressed about going to the bathroom without being ambushed. Play is a great stress reliever.
  • Kelly BeckerKelly Becker Member Posts: 56
    Accepted Answer
    All good advice you have rec'd so far. A shy or timid cat would do well to have a high place to go. Like a tall scratch post. It will give her confidence to be up and above. When you are petting her, give full body massage, head, neck, shoulders. Being a volunteer at the local shelter, I have turned around a lot of really agressive, unhappy cats with this method. Try and find her a "safe" place up high to observe.
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