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Female cat terrified of being picked up, going outside or transported.

Discussion in 'Cat Training and Behaviour' started by Matty Smith, Apr 7, 2017.


  1. Matty Smith

    Matty Smith PetForums Newbie

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    Hi guys!

    So, got two cats, Male Doug and Female Tilly, Doug is amazingly calm and self assured, fought to get outside as soon as he possibly can and isn't afraid of anything! Tilly on the other hand is nuts, she runs all over the place and hates being handled or confined but is a lovely, playful cat for the most part.

    Her background was a bit sketchy, we bought her from a petshop originally thinking she was a male (They obviously didn't check very well!), they told us that she had been brought in with a litter of kittens in a plastic bag... Shockingly enough. I think it is this that has shaped her behaviour.

    Anyway, her behaviour is generally playful and boisterous and she engages well with Doug but she has some real problems with things as per below.

    My girlfirend took her to the Vet in a carry box (mesh front so she could see out). She screamed the whole way there and pooed and weed all over the box, was shaking and generally a in a right state, she then lunged at the vet and bit him quite badly on the arm when he tried to handle her and then pooed and weed all the way home. It was a mess and my poor girlfriend was upset and covered in poo and wee!

    As well as this, she is terrified of going outside, I have tried to take her out and sit with her but she howls to get back inside and eventually jumps at the door like crazy! Only the sight of Doug will calm her down for a bit but she soon runs and hides under a car or howls at the door to get in again.

    As for picking her up, she'll let out a wail each time you pick her up but will relax for about 30 seconds and let you stroke her before panicking and lashing out to get away, if you try and hold on for much longer she'll scream and cause some painful wounds!

    We have to take both Cats to the cattery soon and I need some tips of trying to relax Tilly and maybe get her more comfortable with being in a box or going outside.

    Cheers!
     
  2. kittih

    kittih PetForums VIP

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    Hi and welcome. Your girl sounds very stressed poor thing. I have an ex feral boy who is an anxious puss even still at the age of nearly 17.

    Firstly don't force her to do anything she is uncomfortable with like picking her up, taking her outside etc. She wil get very distressed (as you have found) being prevented from getting to safety

    My boy has taken 15 years to actually like being picked up.

    Firstly try and get a Feliway plugin (much cheaper on the internet). It mimics the cat feel good pheromones so might make her feel more relaxed. You can also get it in spray form to spray in the cat carrier.

    The other thing to try is zylkene. It is a natural protein found in milk called casein. It has no side effects and can really help some cats. My boy is currently on it for stress related issues. Valerian can also help and there are cat products in diffuses or spray that contain it.

    Re the vets it helps to leave the carrier out in the general area with the door tied open. Leave favourite treats inside and let them find them. You can even put a comfy bed inside. Spray with feliway too.

    When taking a vet trip it is helpful to try and schedule the appointment for when no dogs are due to be seen to lessen stress. Also cover the carrier. Cats feel safer if not on view. I use my coat as it smells of me. The zylkene and feliway spray will help too.

    You can also start trying a desensitisation programme once she has had a few months on the zylkene etc. First practice enticing her in the box with a treat till she's happy to go in and out. When she us inside close the door for a second then open it. Practice every so often slowly increasing the door closed time by a few seconds each time. The aim is to get her completely relaxed about it. If she stresses you are going to fast. You can also toss a toy in there as part of her playtime.

    If you get her happy with that you can then go on to briefly lifting the box setting it down and opening the door. Lots of treats and again go back a step or two if she shows any distress (look out for lip licking showing her anxiety.)

    If you get her happy with this you could slowly extend this to taking her out to the car (engine off) then the engine on then moving a little then further. All in slow tiny tiny tiny steps. You can then take her to the vets armed with load of smelly treats when the surgery is empty (check with reception staff) and get them to fuss her and give her treats. If the vet is willing you can even extend this (very very slowly) to the vet getting her out by encouraging her with treats.

    It's up to you how far you attempt to go with this but it all has to be at her pace.

    Use play to encourage her outside but always leave the Door open so she can retreat to safety. My sisters cat has never loved outside but will sit in the sun with her humans if they are out there now.

    Good luck.
     
    #2 kittih, Apr 7, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2017
    chillminx, moggie14 and Kitkatslave like this.
  3. Kitkatslave

    Kitkatslave PetForums Member

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    Hi Matty

    I'm new to this forum too! Whilst Ive grown up with cats and understand them, I'm only just about to become a cat slave myself so my advice is based on what I've been reading, earlier experience and my instinct I guess! But there are loads if really experuenced people here and I'm sure many others will be able to provide more advice than me.

    For now I would say try to listen to your cat and read her behaviour and body language. She sounds like she is not comfortable with being picked up and is telling you this. Don't hold onto her for longer than she is comfortable with, instead gradually increase the time you can hold her by picking her up stroking her in a way that she likes, perhaps giving her a treat and putting her back down before she becomes unhappy. You can gradually extend the time you hold her over a period of time as she begins to recognise it's not all that bad.

    With going out in the carrier, the general advice is to help her become accustomed to it prior to going in it, so I would leave the carrier out in the house so it isnt a shock for her and it will have a familiar smell. It will still be traumatic going out in the car but being familiar with the carrier will help. There is advice in threads here about various things (supplements possibly?) that can be given to calm a cat but I haven't got experience of this - try searching the forum and I'm sure you'll find it.

    You mention taking her outside but I'm not sure how you went about this. If you have tried to take her outside yourself this may have been the problem as the advice is to open the door and allow the cat to investigate and come out and explore when they are ready. They need to be able to run back in if they dont feel safe. When we had cats growing up this was a long process with them getting spooked and running back inside so many times before they got their confidence. If you take them and put them outside it's a huge attack on the senses and will be overwhelming and they won't feel in control.

    How old is she and how long have you had her for? Lots of the advice I've read online is about going back to basics and doing things very gradually and sensitively. Building up the bond with your cat will help her feel secure and this can be done through play, avoiding anything too boisterous where she shows aggression towards you. Being patient and letting her come to you in her own time is the best thing to ensure she isn't scared of you.

    I have read so much useful stuff that I can't remember where any of it is! But if I come across anything I'll post the link here for you.
     
    moggie14 likes this.
  4. Kitkatslave

    Kitkatslave PetForums Member

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    Ah there you go! Kittih came up with the goods while I was still typing away! :)
     
    moggie14 and kittih like this.
  5. Matty Smith

    Matty Smith PetForums Newbie

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    Cheers guys, some good advice that I will try to incorporate :)
     
    Kitkatslave likes this.
  6. chillminx

    chillminx PetForums VIP

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    Hi @Matty Smith, good advice from the others. :)

    As said, let Tilly make up her own mind if (or when) she wants to go outside. If she and her brother are less than a year old then I would not be encouraging them to go out yet anyway. Cats of less than a year old are often far too skittish to be trusted outdoors. They take too many risks with their own safety.

    It may be the case that Tilly will never be too comfortable about being outdoors. In which case I would let her live as an indoor cat. If that is what she wants she will be much happier that way. It is not essential for cats to go outdoors, and plenty seem to spend contented lives indoors.

    Ensure she has 2 litter trays for her use 24/7 as an indoor cat. And to keep her happy you will need to enrich the indoor environment for her so that she has things to keep her entertained. e.g. Places indoor to climb, places to sit up high, as well as lots of interactive play with you every day.

    Lots of cats don't like being picked up. Kittens especially. Over many years I've found that the dislike of being picked up, or held, tends to apply more often to females than males. Of my present cats one of the females has since kitten-hood disliked being picked up. Now she is aged 3, and I still can only pick her up briefly as I move her from point A to point B when unavoidable, e.g. to pop her in a cat carrier for a trip to the vet. She is not going to change, and I respect her wish not to be held. Given the freedom to make up her own mind, as she is, she will sometimes jump up beside me on the sofa or the bed for a stroke. :)

    The same female cat I mentioned above is OK being in the carrier when still in the house but hates being in the car. She has got in a state, crying, panting, defecating in her carrier. Upsetting to see. To try and improve her tolerance I have done some desensitisation training with her. Sitting in the car with her in the carrier, with the car engine off, then after a few times, progressing to engine running, then moving the car a few feet, then driving down the road and back (not to the vet). Desensitisation works but the programme needs to kept up every week or the cat will soon forget.

    If the car journey is a planned one then I use a Beaphar Calming spot on supplement on the back of my cat's head the night before. It does help keep her calmer. The treatment is effective for 7 days. Certainly one of these is a good idea to prevent her attacking the vet. ;)

    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Beaphar-Ca...8-1&keywords=beaphar+calming+spot+on+for+cats

    Also I recommend using a top loading cat carrier as it is much easier to get a wary cat into one of those. The wire carriers are excellent.

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/WHITE-CAT...755718?hash=item2efff53586:g:uyYAAOSwajVUNVKY
     
    #6 chillminx, Apr 7, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2017
    claire8234 and Babyshoes like this.
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