Skittish, Reclusive and Hiding Cats
These readers have asked about their skittish, reclusive or hiding cats. If this is your issue, the advice here should help.
Extremely Skittish Cat - Jimmie
We adopted Jimmie, a Maine Coon mix, from Chicagoland Animal Rescue when he was about 5 months old.
He was and still is extremely affectionate; we think he must have been raised in a wonderful foster home before being put up for adoption.
He is now just over 2 years old; still very affectionate, but he is very skittish and seems to be afraid of so many things. If there is something laying on the floor that has a cord or strap, he slinks over to it and slaps at it as if it's a snake or something.
He'll walk across the room and pause before stepping on a throw rug because the fringe on the edge freaks him out. If someone comes to the door he runs away and hides. He basically just seems to be afraid of anything that's different, or out of place.
Does anyone else have a cat who displays behavior like this? What can we do to help him not be so skittish?
Jimmie does seem to take it to a new level, though. Silly boy! At our house, we've come to the conclusion it's a throwback to their wild ancestry, when cats had to be on guard, alert to potential dangers.
If it makes you feel better, Leo regularly spooks himself! The other day, he jumped off a bench. Upon doing so, he upset a pile of papers, and jumped a mile! He decided Alice must have done it, & chased her upstairs! He also "forgets" that a certain ceiling fan is safe. When he notices it he panics. There are many more things. We just laugh and take it in as part of his clown like nature.
I think as long as Jimmie is feeling safe & secure with his people, he's fine.
All The Best,
PS- I hope visitors to this page will share the silly or scaredy- cat antics of their cats!
Well; how I got Ploof I think is important to the question:
How I got him: My boyfriend and I were walking around at night and we were a mile from my house. Well, we heard a noise and behold a small kitty was there.
I petted his head and walked on. but he followed us. We watched secretly to make sure he was ok and safe. He followed us the mile home.
We never called him once. Well when I brought him home we all fell in love with him and we kept him. He followed me everywhere. He slept with me always and we had a close bond.
Throughout the months we got closer, and he was my baby. Still is and will be. He sleeps with me every night and he follows me everywhere. He eats with me. He normally doesn't eat unless its in my room. He truly is my baby. I sing and he perks up and purrs at me. It makes me feel good he enjoys it. He purrs just hearing my voice and seeing me. Well, he's going to be a year old soon.
Two and a half weeks ago my other cat had kittens, and she had them in my room. Well he was okay with them but now they are crawling around the room. And he hardly comes in here.
He hardly comes near me and I try so hard to get his attention. I give him more attention now than I did before, so he doesn't get sad. But he's getting distant. Before he would go hunt at night, he would freak until we let him out at night. Then he'd scratch at my window, I'd let him in and he would bring me his prey. He would chase me until I accepted it, which I always did.
And he would lay on my bed in his corner and purr away. Well now he won't hardly let me near him. But today I laid by him and he licked my head and nose and he purred instantly like old times.
I felt so happy and I held my baby. It makes me sad him growing away from me. Why is he being this way?
What do I do?
It seems to me that Ploof had a routine, and knew exactly what to expect, and what was expected, before these kittens came.
Since they are getting around now, I would recommend moving them to another room. Your room was previously reserved as your boys room, and he feels displaced. I'm impressed that he's handling it as well as he is, not becoming aggressive toward and people or other cats.
Hopefully after moving the kittens and giving your boy his room his room back he will return to normal.
All The Best,
New kitten always hiding!!
Hi we just purchased a Maine Coon kitten who is 14 weeks old from a reputable breeder.
We brought him to our home after a 4 hour car ride. Once at our house, the kitten tends to hide under tables, couches, coffee table, etc. and not come out from his hiding places very much. Is this normal for a Maine Coon?
It's possible that he is overwhelmed by having full run of the house right now. If there are other pets and children around he will be likely to hide from them too.
Another recent cat question was about the adjustment period. I gave a very detailed account of our first weeks with Alice and Leo. It helped that there were two of them, though. They really stuck together. You can see it in our Introducing A New Kitten Section.
I would recommend a few very low-key and quiet days for your kitten. He should come around. Right now, every smell and every sound is so foreign and makes him nervous. Lots of gentle love should do the trick.
Once you get his little motor going he'll be all yours!
All The Best,
Maine Coon hiding
I raise Bengals and have found from bringing in newbies, that to put them in one room, will help them adjust faster than having free reign over whole house. They are able to take in new smells and sounds and sights easier in one room, because most of the smells or sounds are common in all rooms.
Hope this helps! Good luck!!
Rescue Maine Coon Still Not Settling In
My wife and I rescued our Maine Coon, Ky over a year ago. According to the paperwork he came from a breeder to his previous owner, who raised him for four years before handing him in to an animal shelter.
After more than a year with us he is still very nervous and unsure. There's lots of cupboard love and purring if we happen to be standing near the cat food supply but other than that he seems to alternate between tolerating us (he'll occasionally sit on the couch next to us as long as we don't try to touch him) to being visibly fearful if we approach and running off to hide.
I read that Coonies form strong bonds with their owners and I often wonder if he's still waiting for his original family to come and take him back home.
We have two other cats (14y/o male, 2y/o female) and they seem to get along fairly well, often sharing the spare bed sunshine of an afternoon.
After all this time we only see occasional glimpses of the personality Maine Coons are famous for and it's sad to see him still so timid with us.
Any suggestions of ways to help him feel more at home would be welcome. Perhaps we're just not the right family for him?
He couldn't ask for more. He's a lucky boy.
A year is a long time, but he may yet become more comfortable and confident. You've given him space, time, patience, a friendly home. I can't think of any more you could do.
If he ever comes to sit by you, be in your company, that is a sign that he's content. He has times of happiness, and enjoys hanging out with the other cats, so that is great. It's possible he'll never be the affectionate type, coming for pets, rubs or snuggles.
That's the thing about rescues. Even when you know he's a purebred, he's been through something. Adopted & rescued cats may be loving and affectionate, but they might be distant or aloof. But, even in these cases, just know they are content! He is glad to be home, and couldn't be happier anywhere else.
I have only two thoughts. If he is visibly scared and runs when you try to approach, I am very suspicious about the treatment he has received by any previous owners.
Also, if he sits near you sometimes, perhaps you could have a treat handy (perhaps in your pocket & ready). Try to give it to him without having him run off. Show it to him, hold it close enough for him to smell, and slowly put it down near him. Speak softly and never try to touch him. It's a small step, but a a positive one to build trust.
Hopefully others who have experience with rescues will comment and share, too!
All The Best,
not settling in
My boy is not a very affectionate cat and yours might not be either. He loves treat time which happens whenever I get home from school or work and before bed. We get a routine and he looks forward to our time. He has 2 other cats in the house and I think he tolerates them rather than liking them. I agree with the other person on I question the treatment he had if he runs away terrified to hide, but mine runs when you walk at him because its a game and he hides and wants you to find him. He loves toys that make noise so that might help too. Good luck!
We also kept treats in the other rooms, and we did like the previous suggestion of having a treat handy for when she would come out and lay in a room with us. Also try interactive toys. Maybe the fishing pole kind where you interact without having to touch. Hope these may help. They come around in time. The kitty is very fortunate to have such a loving, caring family.
My Maine Coon Is Reclusive
Hi, I have a Maine Coon little boy, and he went from an attention seeking love monger to a kitty that does not really care to be picked up.
He doesn't cuddle or snuggle anymore. When he was a baby I had to pick him off of me at some points because I couldn't work with him clinging to the front of me.
This kitty came to me at 4 1/2- 5 weeks with his sister, they only kittens to survive the litter the rest got pan luke and had to be put down, but they remained healthy.
And this kitten was held and loved and snuggled all the time. Then he hit a certain age and just did not want to be picked up will not snuggle at all. Still loves to be petted but only on his terms.
Your little boy is cute! Pan Luke, also known as Distemper, is serious and deadly. Did the mama cat pass away, too? I have just a couple of thoughts. It's so sad about the rest of the litter.
Your boy sounds normal to me. I'm thinking this is just his natural personality. Some cats are less affectionate, but still happy.
Did your boy come from a Maine Coon cat breeder, with a cattery? If not, perhaps he is a Maine Coon mix. That would explain his individual personality. The only way to ensure that a cat will have that affectionate personality is when they are a registered purebred Maine Coon.
Also, the young age at which he came to you (something very rare for a breeder to do) has some bearing. When he was only 5 weeks old, he would have been very physically affectionate because you were his stand-in Mama. As he grew, he developed his adult personalty.
Either way, this seems to be his personality. I think he's fine, and it's wonderful that you were able to take them in and create a happy kitty family!
All The Best,
Afraid To Be Loved
(Shirley, NY USA)
I have a had a Maine Coon cat for about two weeks. Her background has been abusive. The cat hides under the couch all day and part of the night and only come out when she believes all are asleep.
It is just myself and my husband with no animals and/or small children living at home and the cat is still so afraid of being seen and being around us.
So afraid that at night when she comes out to eat, play and go to the bathroom if she sees you she will stop all and bolt back under the couch where she will not come out.
I could see, sadly, when I force her to stay with me; so I could pet her to let her know that we are her new home and we will not hurt her, her face cringes up and her ears go down and flat that either she is remembering both abusive households or she just will not allow to be loved and she bolts.
She never uses her nails on me because she is sweet and gentle and I could see that if she was not abused she would have been a great cat.
My question to you is: Are Coon cats naturally isolated cats? How do I let her know that she is finally...home and we want to love her?
I bought her all these things to make her feel loved and safe, but she has zero interest in it because she feels what she feels, but I would like her to become and feel apart of our family with my husband and I.
Any suggestions would be so welcomed because I feel that I do not even have a cat for I never see her and I do feel bad for her becuase she does show signs that she wants to be loved and apart of but is so afraid and hides.
Thank you for your valuable time in this matter.
First I must say what a terrific thing you have done to take this girl and give her a new life. She is so lucky!
No, it's not in the personality nature of Maine Coon cats to be at all isolated, or "loners."
It may take quite a while before she comes out to visit with you. And it's possible that she'll never come sit on your lap (although you never know!), but will come sit near you to keep you company.
She's very confused right now. I would recommend not trying to pick her up for a while. Try putting your hand under the couch a few times a day, and just holding it there with a treat in your palm. After a few minutes just leave the treat behind. (Try to find a brand she really loves.)
Then after some time she may come sniff your hand, then perhaps eat out of it. After that, you may be able to coax her a few inches out of the couch for her treat. Hopefully somewhere in this time you'll be able to sneak in a small soft pet to her fur. It's going to take tons of patience, but if you do it this way, you'll gain her trust.
It's great that you have no other pets. Definitely keep it that way if possible. I think before too long you will have a relationship with her, and no longer feel as if you don't even have a cat.
Winning Over A Scared Cat
Also, I have found a very helpful cat behavior e-book. The author is experienced with taking in feral kitties and turning them into affectionate pets.
Theresa, feel free to reply with any follow up questions, or just let us know how it's going! I have a feeling others will want to share their experiences with winning over a rescued cat, too.
All The Best,
Afraid to be loved
Teresa: L C is probably better off being in a quiet house, no dogs or small children..so I'm sure she is better with you.
It is going to take longer than 3 weeks due to her being abused all of her life, she doesn't know anything else. Perhaps talking to the vet and telling them of her background, maybe they can give you some tips.
I wouldn't force her to come out of do anything...maybe if you leave a bowl of food at the edge of the couch, maybe something with a strong scent like tuna or sardines and walk away she will come out and eat that, if so each day move it further away from the couch.
Maybe catnip would work too....Feliway should also help keep her calm, there is also something called Rescue Remedy that calms them down too....She will need alot of patience...it could take 6 months, don't worry about the vet or grooming right now, as long as she is eating and using the litter box she is o k...she will need lots of time, quiet and no sudden movements or noises, most of all time and love...hang in there for her, she deserves to know what love is, hope she gives you the chance to show her, I know she will on her time.
Thank you for your advise and words
To all that had responded to my "Afraid To Be Loved" new coon cat question I do thank you for your support and advise.
I did try the treat in hand advise by Carrie, but my cat "Last Chance" just backed up under the couch and turned her head to the side and eyed me mistrusting. I will continue this method, but it is now going into the third week and she still only comes out from under neath the couch when my husband and I are asleep. It is becoming a little stressful because I am unable to take her to the vets to get a check up and at this point I cannot take her to even get groomed.
I did fail to mention that Last chance's previous owners were abusive to her for years and than they gave her away to another abusive person until I recieved her, but when she was rescued I gave her to my mother becuase my mother has a dog and four other cats and I thought that would be the perfect home for her. In my heart I did not want another animal because I just recently lost my beloved cat and I had lost her brother a year ago, due to old age. I had both cats the moment they were borning and one of the cats I helped him live that we really had a strong bond. I did not want to replace and I never wanted to go through that pain ever again and choose never to have another animal to love.
Last chance stayed at my mothers house for a few months when she told me that it wasn't working because she hides and never comes out she thought it was because of the other animals. I had a strong feeling that L.C. was eventually going to come to me and she did.
L.C. doesn't growl nor does she hiss under the couch she just silently and sadly lies there afraid of coming an inch close to me instead she backs further in. she doesn't try to run outside so I am taken it that she was an abused inside cat.
I will keep trying and hoping, but the way she is and being now in the third week I don't think she will ever come out from herself and will never overcome being tossed around in two abusive households.
Thank you for all your words, honestly, it has given me a glimpse of hope that this cat will eventually stop being sad and isolated where she can become a part of the family so I can love her and that she could love me back.
Talk to her
I'm no animal expert but I've had all sorts of cats my entire life. I find that they respond to being talked to. Let her know you're there by greeting her, wiggle your fingers under the edge of the couch and tell her about your day and how much you'd like to be able to pet her and care for her.
Although most cats don't attempt to "talk" in our language, I truly believe that they can understand when we speak to them. Leave little gifts just under the edge of the couch..a furry mouse, a catnip toy etc and tell her that you brought them for her so that she's happy and has something to play with.
Then sit on the couch and occasionally talk to her some more. Try to make a point of having these talk sessions at a regular time. Eventually she will come closer and closer to the edge and hopefully closer to you. If you find that she seems to like a particular toy get a similar one and tie it to a long string and pull it slowly along the floor while you're sitting on the couch.
Most cats cannot resist playing string or batting a moving catnip mouse. Ask her to play with you even if she doesn't want to come out just yet. I think this will help you to bond with her, she'll get used to you and your voice and scent. And by talking and explaining what you're doing reinforces the fact that you're safe and she's in control. Once you see a paw batt at a passing toy, you'll know you're getting through to her. Good Luck!! (And Bless you for taking in a terrified little girl!!)
Time heals all wounds.....
Patience and time are your new kitty's 'medicine'. I once adopted a beautiful all white kitty that was rescued from an abusive situation. She was completely terrified of humans. I brought her home and opened up the carrier. She bolted for the kitchen, opened up the cupboard under the sink,and crawled in and up into the walls of my apartment.
I tried everything to get her out, but she would only come out when there was no activity at all; she'd sneak out to eat & use the litter box, but would bolt back to the cupboard. I tried everything to prevent her from getting back in but she was too smart & quick. Eventually (we're talking months)I'd awake in the middle of the night to find her on my bed at my feet purring heart out, but as soon as I rose she'd bolt again. In these months, I basically ignored her and made no attempts to prevent her retreat to the cupboard.
It took nearly a year before I could pet her, but she ended up being the most affectionate female cat I've ever had. LOVED to be petted. OH, and I named her Purr. RIP my sweet Purr.... Your new kitty will be fine in her own time too! Good luck :)
I disagree with Helen, the crate may have worked in the very beginning but to pull her out from under the couch now and put her in the crate I think would be way too dramatizing for her but that is just my opinion. I have crated several cats and it is true that they calm down if you put a blanket over the cage and tend to them everyday. I just think in this case it would be doing more harm then good. The kitty is already in a place she feels safe and comfortable, I say let her be and let her get use to things right where she is.
I have used this method before with success:
Set up a large wire crate (German shepherd size) in your living area. The crate has to be big enough to put a litter box, bed, and food & water dish. Catch you cat and put her in the crate. Then as you go about your day's activities speak to her as you pass by. Don't stare at her. Direct eye contact with a shy cat makes them uncomfortable. Tend to her everyday, but don't push it. She has to become satisfied that you and your husband can move in and out of the room, watch TV, talk and nothing bad happens or you don't force yourself on her. Don't let her out of the crate until she is at ease with you being in the room, sitting in the floor next to the crate talking to her and comes to the front of the crate when you feed her. The whole idea is for her to see what is going on. That will never happen with her under the bed.
Don't get discouraged. It may take a month or two.
You'll be rewarded, she'll come around. You're doing the right thing by not forcing her. Since you're not describing her as trying to make a bolt for the great outdoors whenever you open a door, and you're not telling us she's growling and snarling in fear, you can tell she's slowly learning to trust her new home. If you were asking before bringing her home, I might have suggested you give her a small safe room with her litterbox, toys, water and food, then slowly get her used to the sounds and smells of her new house. I think she's feeling overwhelmed and this just reinforces her shyness. As long as she's eating, drinking and using the box, don't make a fuss when she appears. I know it's tough, but keep things low-key and let her curiosity get the best of her.
You might also want to try Feliway or other comfort products found in the pet stores, they sometimes help.
Patience Will be Rewarded
Hi I adopted a girl Maine Coon that had according to her owner before not ever "talked" or "chirped". She had been abused by first owner. I got her from her second owner but she was still somewhat in a shell. She had been VERY loved in her second home, but remained good at hiding and not being heard or found unless she chose to. The 2nd home had 2 boy cats very rambunctious & she spent most of her time in a window or in closed areas. When she arrived at my house she was frightened 2 days or so hiding under bed.
Finally we found out she had left behind a favorite toy at the 2nd owner's home. When this stuffed bear she loved was given to us soon as she saw it she almost magically relaxed...Is anything from your cat's old home still with her making her think it is bad? The security blanket from her 2nd home, where she first had been "saved." Helped tremendously...Other than that I can suggest huge patience. Talking softly to her so she knows you are there helps too. I made up with another stray rescue that had been abused by same approach.
He hid in my garage for 3 mos. each night I spent a little time in the doorway on a step talking to him. He never budged for 2 mos. but always peeked at me. I did it every night for that time, finally 3rd month I began dropping a few pieces of smelly cheddar cheese on the step. I'd leave it so he'd come out and eat when I went to bed. Finally he let me pet last day of 3rd month. I was ready to give up and in tears. He just came right to me...let me pet him. Was another month before he'd come inside. He's addicted to cheese, but it was worth it. Now he is in a forever home and still spooks very easy and hides at the drop of a hat, but comes to us and rolls for a tummy scratch when we get home from work. I wish you patience and Good luck !-)
Congratulations on your new kitty. Yes it is true it will take alot of patience. I had one kitten that hid for 6 months and now is a lover. Cats like routine, a schedule so feeding at the same time everyday is a good thing. As suggested above try putting your hand under the couch and talking softly. In her own time she will come out but it will be on her terms as it is with every cat. The key is definitely patience. I also have a Maine Coon, she is not a lap cat but she loves to be as close to you as possible without getting in your lap.
I know it will happen for you, just remember each day of you being patient and letting her know you care in another day closer to her coming out. Sometimes if you sit on the floor with a feather or string and just move it slowly (as given her background any sudden movements may really freak her out) or just set a new toy on the floor, she may come out and investigate if you sit nearby very quietly...I know she will come around but given her past it may take a little longer..she really needs to keep being reassured that all will be o k when she does come out. When she does would love to see a picture....best of luck and don't worry, it will happen!!
Don't give up
Hello - I know it must be hard for you when you have so much love to give your little girl, but please don't give up on her. If she has been hurt in anyway her horror is going to take a while to disappear. To say ignore her sounds harsh - but just pretend to do just that. Walk quietly past her hiding hole each time, quietly talking to her so she knows your voice. Don't stop and look - quietly say her name.. a Maine Coon will often start to reply to your voice in their own "chirupping" way. When she does start peeking out (be it days or weeks) don't go up to her - let her come out in her own time..again gently talking to her. She will learn your voice is not a danger and maybe one day she will realise she wants to know who that voice belongs to..... the day she sidles up to YOU will melt your heart ..
Hi there--I adopted 2 9 month old kittens in February from a shelter. The boy only took about 3 days to adjust but the girl took about 6 weeks. She would run from me and hide under the bed. Finally I just started ignoring her. when she came out to eat I would speak to her real soft but not go near her. Finally, one morning I was sitting on the edge of the bed and she sat in front of me and let me pet her. Since then she has been super affectionate and sits next to me on the couch all the time. I think she just needed to know I was there and I wasn't going to hurt her. I think you just need to be patient and let her come to you on her own terms. Good luck and congratulations on your adoption.
Overly Skiddish Maine Coon
(Kingston ON Canada)
I have had Keiki for one and half years. I got her from a divorced couple as a 1 year old. She was very attached to the female owner.
It seems that she has always been skiddish with strangers but they could cut her nails and groom her. I can not. She does let me kiss her tons and cuddles with me a bit on the bed at night for about 10 min.
Why is it that she is not the way she was before with me?
Why can't she be petted for long periods of time say 10 min even.
Keiki is a beautiful girl! I would say she probably needs more time, but after a year and a half she should be fully settled with you.
It sounds like she is a good companion, somewhat affectionate, and likes her own space.
This might just be her personality. I would guess that she moved homes (and owners) at a time in her life when her character was developing. If she was very attached to her previous owner, then moved into an all-new environment at a year old, she may have felt reserved with you, and perhaps this has carried over into her regular personality.
My guess is that she is a lady, a reserved girl by nature. As long as she's not hiding under furniture or running for cover I would not call her skiddish.
As for petting her, just keep at it. But just like some children can become overly stimulates physically, some cats just don't want too much of it. A few minutes here or there may be all the petting she needs.
Even if she just sits somewhere near you when you are watching television or using the computer, she is showing affection in her own way by being your companion.
Not all cats are lap cats. If you are like me, and just love to snuggle with a cat, you may want to consider a Maine Coon kitten as an addition to your household.
A little boy kitten may be just what you need to round out the situation! If you decide to go this route, you'll want to go through a breeder, one who handles the kittens a lot, sending them to their new home as a self-confident, affectionate explorer.
Many Maine Coon owners report that their new kitten bonds quickly with their older cat, and the older cat comes out of his or her shell, becoming more playful and affectionate in response. Something to think about!
Hopefully other Maine Coon lovers will leave their advice for you as to Keiki's nature, and their experiences with cat adoption.
All The Best,
Thanks so much for the advice. You are correct in that her personality with me is different as I was a complete stranger to her and that initial mistrust must have become a bit of a habit. That is the best explanation I have had.
She does follow me around, sits with me everywhere, greets me at the door everytime and lets me kiss her all I want which is a LOT.
I have never had a pet that I have adored so much. I will take your advice and get a male kitten sometime. Thanks so much.
My Tissla is a lady too...
I recognize your description very much, though we had our Maine Coon female Tissla when she was 13 weeks old. Now she is 10 months old and she likes to play a lot and always stays close, but she doesn't like the cuddling. It is so frustrating! I used to have real "lap-cats" and love to sleep with my cat next to me. Tissla does not. My son says "she's so proud, that cat".