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Doc Sara
Doc Sara, Veterinarian
Category: Cat
Satisfied Customers: 952
Experience:  I am a dog and cat veterinarian with a lifetime of experience in our family veterinary hospital.
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We acquired our cat from the CP league at the age of 8 months

Resolved Question:

We acquired our cat from the CP league at the age of 8 months (just a normal "moggy" - no particular breed, a male ginger and neutered). Apparently, he was very badly treated as a young kitten (we were the third couple to attempt adoption). He is a very healthy 4 yr old, very active (ie. mice, birds, the usual prey), not overly spoiled - a good regular diet, annual visits to our local vet for inoculations plus monthly advocate treatments. Our problem is that he is absolutely terrified of - well - everything which is not within his daily routine and it's getting worse. He hates strangers, hides when anyone rings the bell (or knocks). He disappeared for days at a time when we had our kitchen renovated and visitors/delivery people are a definite "no-no". We are both pensioners in our mid 60's. Throughout our 30 yrs together we have had around 18 cats. Our last " family", the daddy (of 5 kittens) died aged 22 and the baby of the litter was 17! We know cats, but this little mite is perplexing to say the least. Feliway doesn't work, in fact he has always reacted badly to every medication, even advocate and his annual inoculations.
We can't afford expensive professional animal psychologists, we just need some hints and help to address this problem. It might help you to know that we live in one of 8 semi-detached bungalows situated in the grounds of a large Grade 2 listed house. Very safe, very private and he has the advantage of being able to explore the grounds. (It's a council property!) His name is ***** ***** and all the other residents know and love him - he just legs it when anyone approaches!
Sorry about the novel above, but I really DO need some sound advice?
Thanks in anticipation
Mrs Gay Heywood ***@******.***
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Cat
Expert:  Doc Sara replied 1 year ago.
Hi there - I'm Dr. Sara :) I'm a licensed veterinarian in the US who works exclusively with dogs and cats. My dad is a vet too and I was raised with all sorts of animals - including a scaredy cat like yours! Cats have a short window of time that we call their "socialization window" in early kittenhood. During this time, everything they see and experience is greeted with innocence and acceptance. If it happens to them during that time, they consider it normal and not scary. The trick is that once that socialization window closes, it's very difficult to get a cat to accept new things and changes in their lives. In cases where cats weren't handled much by people or if they had negative experiences with people during their primary socialization window, they can be always quite shy and skittish. As an aside, it's particularly unusual for me to see a ginger cat who is shy - here in the states we call them "orange" cats rather than ginger, and they are stereotypically obnoxiously friendly!! I'm glad to hear that you've tried the Feliway - it certainly won't hurt and can be helpful. Another product I'd consider using is the Sentry Good Behavior collar: http://www.sentrypetcare.com/good-behavior/ which contains similar pheromones and is constantly right there wherever your kitty goes. To some extent, unfortunately, this may just be his personality and there may not be a whole lot that we can do about it other than give him the space that he needs to feel comfortable and secure. Sometimes over the years they do open up and begin to trust us as long as we don't damage that relationship, but other times they are just what they are. I mentioned that I owned a scaredy cat - she was a beautiful siamese cat brought to our family clinic for euthanasia because the owner reported that they "had too many cats". I adopted her and found that she never did warm up to any of us. She always skittered out of the room when we'd arrive, and she very rarely ever came to us for attention. The closest we'd get was when it was dinner time, she'd stand around the food bowl as we filled it. She lived a lovely 11 years with me and I let her be herself - I rarely touched her. I figured that was 11 years more than she would have had if I hadn't brought her home. Now in some of these kitties, they can "open up" a bit when treated with an anti-anxiety medication. My medication of choice for kitties is usually fluoxetine. It can be difficult to do, though, if he is very skittish. I was never able to medicate my own cat consistently because she was difficult to catch to administer the medication - she was so traumatized by the whole affair that it did more harm than good to try to medicate her. Please let me know if I can answer any other questions for you!!~Dr. Sara
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