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Cat Advice (very off topic)

Retreater

Legend
I realize this isn't necessarily about geek culture, but I know many of you probably have cats. My family has never really had pets, and I wanted to post my questions here as opposed to on other social media where I might be judged publicly.
So I've had my cat about 5 years. My ex-gf found her as a kitten on the side of the interstate. Over the years she's never really warmed up to people. She runs and hides, hisses, attacks unprovoked. She's ok with me, and about once a day comes to snuggle me.
Otherwise she destroys furniture, refuses to play with toys, she won't use beds, cat trees, etc.
Is it possible she is a feral cat? Did we make a mistake taking her in?
Any suggestions for her? We did get her spayed, hoping it would calm her a bit. She seems even more angry since (which was about 3 years ago). We have tried calming sprays, cat nip, leaving my clothes on beds and cat trees so she will feel more comfortable there.
I'm feeling guilty that she has a miserable life and that she's making life bad for my wife and our other pets.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
Some cars just like that. If she was a kitten she should be socialized and you can take a feral it's just lots of work.

You can ask the vet about a plug in odor thing that calms them down. We bought it for our ones as the kinda tolerate each other up to a point.
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
I had a cat once that acted much the same- we had him for almost 15 years, beginning when we brought him home from the shelter at 6 months old.

At first, you couldn't get near him at all; over time, he came to sit on the couch beside me and sleep on my bed at night. But he was never a lap cat and never seemed to really care about much of anything. Our other cat (who was a bit of a prude anyway) hated him from the moment he came home until the moment she died, some 12 years later.

You could consider getting a second cat - counterintuitively, two cats tend to be less destructive than one - but like anything with cats, its a crapshoot. It might work and it might not.

Did you make a mistake bringing her in off the highway? Not from your cat's perspective, for sure.
 
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I had a cat that hated everyone but me. She hissed and attacked anyone who came near or tried to pet her. She rarely ever even came to me, she'd sit next to me and just stare at you motionless for hours. Another of my cats is very skiddish and is easily scared, she doesn't necessarily hide but shes somewhat antisocial. Even my third cat is very outgoing, and just within the last two years started talking. After he was a kitten a few months after I got him he didnt make a peep for about 5 years. After I had to have my first cat put down about 3 years ago I noticed the dynamic between the two remaining cats changed. Cats are odd and Ive noticed with mine at least their personality changes over time and if somethings really wrong with your cat if you spend even a little time with them every day, they will let you know when something is wrong.
 

meltdownpass

Explorer
I have a stray-adoptee and if she doesn't get proper play & exercise she can be very disruptive and destructive. Does yours have an interested in The Outdoors? Mine constantly is poking her head out the window and I started actually putting her on a leash and walking her around outside. Eventually she became acclimated enough that I let her roam a bit by herself, although always supervised since I'm in a more trafficked-than-I'd-like area.
If she's able to get a good amount of human-sponsored playtime or outdoors exploration, most of the behavior problems disappear.
 

Slow_Travel

Explorer
You didn't make a mistake in giving any animal a safe home. Unfortunately animals aren't here to reciprocate your love. It's nice when they do, but they don't live by a disney feel-good-movie script. Cats have big personalities, which means sometimes they're big in a way you don't want.

I've always had cats, and they're more like family members than pets. They're loners or friendly or destructive or funny. My oldest cat, now 15, was a loud-meowing terror. But in the last few years he's lost weight and only wants to be near people or in a warm lap.

You can try allowing the cat to freely go outside if it's possible in your area. You can try and reach out and find relocation for a feral cat, or a cat that's causing too much harm in the home.
 

monsmord

Adventurer
Are you familiar with Jackson Galaxy, or his show "My Cat From Hell?" (He was on the cable channel Animal Planet, but the show might be syndicated elsewhere.) He's a "cat whisperer." If you can, check him out for some terrific advice on socializing your cat and creating a space in which it feels safe and happy. It means effort, attention, and patience on your part, and willingness to adapt, so you need to be invested in the process, whatever it is. There are also some decent videos on YouTube (like this for gaining trust, or this for shy/scared cats, and lots more.) Contrary to some popular opinion, cat behavior isn't a matter of "a cat is this inscrutable monolithic thing and that's just the way it is, just give them food and water." They aren't goldfish, and don't benefit much from simply being ignored. Nor are they automatically "feral," though the longer they live ferally the lower the odds of socializing them. Jackson's show and similar videos provide great insight into what cats may want, the clues they're giving, and how to make them feel secure and confident in the space they share with you. There's a small chance the cat has a neurological problem or mood disorder that would benefit from medication, but this should be a last resort and should only be pursued upon the advice of a vet. Maybe there's even a behaviorist nearby?

I'm no "whisperer," but have had and cared for many cats. They have different personalities; some are braver or more curious, some are more reserved or cantankerous. Some like laps and "scritchies," others less so. I've moved with cats, and seen them change as they try to adapt to new surroundings, and to new neighbors or new pets in the house; cats that went from hiding under a bed every time the doorbell rang to perking up and trotting to the door with their tails in the air. The behavior you describe suggests an extremely unhappy cat, and that won't improve unless you make changes, first by figuring out what's bugging it. Until you know what its problems are, bringing another animal into its space - whether another cat or a dog, etc. - will almost certainly make things worse for one or both.

If in the end you don't believe you can create the shared environment where the cat can thrive, maybe chat with a shelter or otherwise adopt it out. Be clear about your experience so that only someone able to take on such a challenge will be interested; giving it to someone who thinks the cat just needs food and a window isn't going to make the cat any happier.

But no, bringing it in off the highway was definitely the right choice.
 

Retreater

Legend
Does yours have an interested in The Outdoors? Mine constantly is poking her head out the window and I started actually putting her on a leash and walking her around outside.
She'll look out the window, especially if there's a bird or other critter nearby. She has stepped outside only twice in five years and didn't seem to like it. Once the dog was brave and led her back inside.
The dogs are very needy with attention, so the cat doesn't get the attention she probably needs. But it's hard when she just yells, hisses, and claws when you try to show her affection.
My wife is allergic, which makes it difficult for them to bond, but I am trying to give the cat a happy life. She gets most of her attention when I'm on the computer (which has been pretty frequent the past year).
 

Dioltach

Legend
There are hormone sprays, diffusers and collars you can try. Less intrusive (from the cat's perspective) are matatabi sticks and catnip sprays. You can even get calming catfood. Try a couple of these, see what works and what doesn't.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So, my wife is a veterinarian...

Do not go to the internet for advice. Do not go to television. Do not go to your pet groomer, or some dude at a pet store. Go to your veterinarian.

There's several different possible reasons for problems like you describe - some of them are biological, and can be diagnosed and treated. Others are environmental, and many of those can be managed too. Some of them may be in your own habits, or those of your other animals. All of them will take some work.

But no, 5 years old is not "set in their ways" or otherwise unable to change. Nor, by the way, it is too old for trees or toys for a healthy cat.

What you are describing does not sound like a happy animal - while diagnosis over the internet is not possible, the cat sounds terrified. That may be from the dogs, or your family - if you play with a cat like you do a dog, the cat will not like it. I suggest you speak to a professional veterinarian who can examine your pet, or a board-certified behaviorist (who is a veterinarian with even more training).
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
He's a "cat whisperer."

So.... that's not really a thing. That's marketing, for a TV show, where they get to cherry-pick cases, and edit and show you only the good bits where everything goes super-smoothly. Dog whisperer, cat whisperer, horse whisperer - all hogwash.

Jackson Galaxy is not a qualified behavioralist. His techniques are highly questionable, and his products... well, "snake oil" is a term I've personally heard more than one veterinarian use.
 

monsmord

Adventurer
So.... that's not really a thing. That's marketing, for a TV show, where they get to cherry-pick cases, and edit and show you only the good bits where everything goes super-smoothly. Dog whisperer, cat whisperer, horse whisperer - all hogwash.

Jackson Galaxy is not a qualified behavioralist. His techniques are highly questionable, and his products... well, "snake oil" is a term I've personally heard more than one veterinarian use.

WHOA! I mean "cat whisperer" in quotes for a reason (but a hard disagree on the phenomenon being "hogwash," as reaching animals on animal terms does seem to be a thing, with the necessary study), and I've completely forgotten about his adding a line of sponsored products to the later seasons (forgotten for a reason), but his behaviorist-ism is suspect? This is news to me, and weird, as his (televised) advice jives with my personal cat experience (I didn't run across him until after my last cat ownership). And it's... well, potentially heart-breaking. I mean, I don't know the guy or owe him money or anything, I just like watching cats become happier. Imma gonna dig into this. Thanks for the heads up.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
cats are terrible people, highly strung and often stressed out so that spitting and hissing and being socially aloof except for that one sucker who willingly indulges them is typical. It does sound like its been traumatised though, address that and even feral cats can become less stressed (although no less terrible)
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
cats are terrible people

So, the real thing is... they aren't PEOPLE. Nor are they dogs.

highly strung and often stressed out so that spitting and hissing and being socially aloof except for that one sucker who willingly indulges them is typical.

So, here's the thing - with rare exceptions, cats are not naturally stressed out. Spitting, hissing, and scratching are not "just how they are". Those are things that happen because of their environment. Cats can and will be relaxed and affectionate, if there aren't things around freaking them out.

So, if your cat is stressy, maybe you should ask what's freaking your cat out.
 

What Umbran said. Something(s) is(are) making your cat unhappy. You have to work out what it is and make changes. Ask your vet.

I've had a lot of cats over my life (my family are big time animal lovers) and the only time I've seen a cat act like that is when they've been scared. We once adopted a pair of feral kittens. They basically lived in a box in my folks room for a month. Hissed at anything that came near. We didn't push them or rush them. We just fed them and gave them space and quiet. Slowly but surely they came to trust us. They lived long, happy and social lives.

There's every chance you and your cat can work out the differences and settle down to a happy relationship.
 

Cat trees are not for every cat. My cat happens to like climbing and high places, so it is unsurprising that he likes a cat tree. But your cat might be different. The hissing is not normal. No matter how old and traumatized, a cat can change their ways and start to feel comfortable at a new home. But does he feel like your house is his territory? Or does he have to share it with other animals?
 

Retreater

Legend
Cat trees are not for every cat. My cat happens to like climbing and high places, so it is unsurprising that he likes a cat tree. But your cat might be different. The hissing is not normal. No matter how old and traumatized, a cat can change their ways and start to feel comfortable at a new home. But does he feel like your house is his territory? Or does he have to share it with other animals?
The hissing is when others come to the house. She mostly just meows (sometimes loudly) at my wife and me. She likes scratching furniture when I come home from work. She hates being taken to the vet (or anywhere for that matter), so I'm not sure if the vet will be able to get a fair view of her behavior.
 

Dave Goff

Explorer
+1 on checking with a vet. My wife had a cat when I met her that was vicious, like left scars on people. He also had urinary tract issues and was in pain a lot of the time. After we got together we got him on a better diet and the stones stopped being an issue, and he ended up being a loving wonderful sweetie. That was at 8 or 9.
Also, I don't think 6 is middle-aged at all. That cat lived to be 21. My other two cats that passed in the last decade were 19 and 20. To me, 6 seems awfully young and no, their personalities are definitely not set in stone.
 


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