New Cat

Updated on March 12, 2009
K.G. asks from Mill Valley, CA
13 answers

Our new cat is very skittish and scratches and hides from our children. Is this her temperment or will she grow out of this stage? We are very respectful and always monitor the kids, but she is still very anxious.
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P.W.

answers from San Francisco on

If this doesn't change within a few days, it's probably going to be the cat's temperament. Is it too late to switch cats?

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M.D.

answers from San Francisco on

We got a cat (before kids) who was very aloof for a long time. He was about 5 when we got him. He very gradually warmed up to us and when we brought a dog home two years later he assumed the dominant role and tried to scratch her out of the house. They eventually learned to tolerate each other After we had kids (about a year later), he was fine with them until they started to move and then he was very nervous when they were around. As they got older and learned his limits (cats are very good at setting them), he was good with them and sat with them. Then we had another baby when he was sixteen or so. Same story, basically. He was nervous once the baby could move around until he became too deaf to hear him coming. We put him down recently when we was eighteen :-(. Point being that they will most likely work it out but it takes time. He was never very cuddly, but he liked sitting on laps as he got older.

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Y.M.

answers from Redding on

Hi There,
As a cat owner of several, I want you to know that the personality of your skittish cat will not go away. This will be its general personality. I personally would try and find a new home for it. Good luck!

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D.F.

answers from San Francisco on

Just wanted to share that my son got "cat scratch fever" from a cat and had to be on antibiotics. My sister worked as a vet assistant for years and at one point had a strange growth on her arm that required surgery. It turned out to be from a cat scratch that she didn't even remember getting. So, while we think "the cat will set the boundries (scratch the kids to teach them to stay away) the scratches can be more dangerouse than you might think.

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K.B.

answers from San Francisco on

If you have an extra room that you can dedicate to kitty for two weeks that would be the ideal situation. If you don't, then gate off a "corner" somewhere so the girls aren't constantly following her out of curiosity. Either way, it has to be a place that is not used on a regular basis. Make sure that there are a few places that kitty can hide.

Keep the door closed and no one in the room unless you're giving food and water or changing litter box. If the room has no window, be sure to leave a light on during the day. When the house is quiet (girls are asleep) spend a few minutes each night just sitting quietly on the floor reading, knitting, doing a quiet hobby. Add a few minutes to that each night.

Do not try to make contact with the cat. Let her make contact with you. Don't even hold out your hand if she comes close. The idea here is to let kitty feel she has a safe place where she can be the one in charge.

Make SURE that your girls don't knock, tap, pound, talk loudly, etc., on or near the door. This would defeat the purpose of the closed off room, making her feel trapped.

After 10 days or so, if kitty seems to be getting used to you, leave the door open at night when everyone is sleeping. Close it during the day. After 3-4 nights of this, leave the door open about a foot during the day. She should feel more comfortable soon, but don't be surprised if she needs 3-5 weeks to get comfortable with you.

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C.M.

answers from Chico on

She probably will not grow out of this behavior. My mom's cats still do not like strangers in the house and will rarely even let my dad come near them even though he lives there. You may need to get a cat that fits in better with your family...one that will allow the kids to love it.

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T.S.

answers from Sacramento on

Hard to say. She may be a more stand-off-ish cat, but that doesn't mean she won't grow more comfortable and loving with your kids. Is she a kitten or an adult cat?

Have you tried closing her in your room (with her kitty box and food of course) away from the kids for a couple of days? Gradually, give her more freedom to explore the house. Most cats warm up to people when they can do it on their own terms :-)

Hope this helps,

T.

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L.N.

answers from San Francisco on

I'm writing this as a mom, long-time shelter volunter and person who just wrote her masters' thesis on creating good relationships between kids and cats.:)

It could be your new cat's temperament, in part. Some cats are simply more skittish than others. However, simply being around two small children can be a stressful experience for a cat, particularly a new one. I don't know if you know your cat's background, but it's possible that she either had very little exposure to children before she came to you, or had experiences that weren't necessarily good. Either can create skittishness. Finally, it can literally take months for animals to adjust to new homes. It's taken two years for our cats to get used to our young daughter, and the adjustment process still continues. Cats and young kids are not always an easy match.

Overall, I'd say give your cat plenty of space and time to get used to your family at her own pace. Also make sure that she has at least one place, optimally a couple if your house is big, where she is entirely safe and does not have to be disturbed if she wants to be be alone. A place where she can sleep, hide, etc. Make sure that the place she eats is off of the beaten path and that the place she poops is a place she can be comfortable and relaxed in. Additionally, make sure that you and your husband have as good a relationship with her as possible. Pet her, groom her, play with her, etc after the kids have gone to sleep. If she trusts you, then she'll be more relaxed in monitored situations with the kids. When she's with the kids, try and literally have one of your hands on her as you're building up trust. Cats really notice the difference between an adult touch and a child touch. It's great that you're trying your best to monitor your girls' behavior--most people don't do that. Keep that up as much as possible!

There's lots more I could say. If you'd like to take a look at my thesis and get some more ideas, I'd be happy to send you a copy and point you to the relevant portions. My email is [email protected]____.com good luck!

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W.M.

answers from Sacramento on

K.,
How long have you had the kittty? Ours took about 1-2 weeks to warm up to us when the kids were smaller. Some
of them are just that way. Sometimes they just feel safer when the person is calmer.
W. M.

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S.B.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi K., how old is your new cat? How long have you had her? Where did you get her from? I have had cats all my life. They take time to warm up. If it is an older cat and has never been around kids before, this is all new to her. Cats need time to expolore. Have you tried letting the kids give her treats, or even feed her? Get her a scratching post with places to hide, or lay down. I was a foster mom to a feral cat 2 years ago. It took alot of patience and love. Once I got her to a point of socialization, I couldn't give her back. While she is still skittish, she can be loving. It will take time for your kitty to come around, but I am sure she will...good luck

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B.L.

answers from San Francisco on

Any animal that scratched my kids would go immediately. Please don't wait until it is worse. Kids or cats? That's a no-brainer. I have a friend who waited and the cat did serious damage to her 4 year old - stitches needed on her child's face and the child was traumatized. You know what to do.

Blessings and good luck.

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M.K.

answers from San Francisco on

You haven't given enough information to be positive what the problem is. Is the kitty friendly with you and your husband, but frightened of the children? Is this an adult or a kitten? How old are your children? How long have you had the kitty? What kind of environment did the kitty come from?

A kitty that was not handled much as a young kitten will generally not be as tame and cuddly as a kitten that was handled frequently and lovingly while tiny. If you have had your kitty for a while (a week or more) and it is still generally anxious and prone to scratch, she may not be an an especially friendly cat. Patience and love will certainly help, but most likely from the little you have said, this kitty will not be the love bug it sounds like you hoped for. I've had the stand-offish type cat and the love bug type and it was pretty obvious from the start what they were going to be like. My stand-offish cat got along with my kids, liked them, and would let them pet her but she was never a lap/cuddle cat, even with me. She was handled as a baby and there was no trauma. It was just her personality. My love bug was exploring the house and accepting being pet within hours. He is very confident and sometimes even greets people at the door. Hope this helps and good luck with your new family member.

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N.C.

answers from Sacramento on

Sound like her temperment. Most cats love to be cuddled.

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