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Dr. Gary
Dr. Gary, Cat Veterinarian
Category: Cat Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 3898
Experience:  DVM, Emergency Veterinarian, BS (Physiology)
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She will not allow us to pick her up and she hides in a dark

Customer Question

she will not allow us to pick her up and she hides in a dark spot most of the day. She will come out and sit next to us if we are watching TV or reading but runs the minute we move.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Strange behavior is often perplexing. I'm sure the Veterinarian can help you. What is the cat's name and age?
Customer: Rory aged five. She was a feral cat that we rescued
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about Rory?
Customer: no, otherwise she seems healthy and she purrs loadly when we are petting her.
Submitted: 6 months ago.
Category: Cat Veterinary
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 6 months ago.

Hello, JACustomer. I have been a Veterinary Nurse for over 15 years and would be happy to help you today. I'm reviewing your question right now.

Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 6 months ago.

1) Is the avoidance of being picked up and hiding new behavior for her?
2) How long have you owned her?

Customer: replied 6 months ago.
the avoidance of being picked up and hiding have been her behavior since she was rescued five years ago. There was a tom cat in the family and so we just let her abide without much concern. The tomcat died of old age (19 +years) last month, and my son (the cat rescuer) was very ill. We had to bring him to stay here and are now making an effort to socialize the cat. In order to move her from my sons home we tried for four weeks to capture her, finally using a humane trap. She didn't fight being captured or the car trip here, but she will only come out from hiding when we are sitting quietly and then she bolts if one of us moves.
Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 6 months ago.

This is common behavior for a nervous cat. Unfortunately, the changes have to be made on her own and will come with time as she develops a bond and trust with you. This cannot be rushed or she will not make progress. The fact that she is willing to be around you and purr while you're sitting and calm suggests that she is going to do best in these situations, in the future, when you begin to test her boundaries. I would not do this for a few months. Eventually, move to small efforts of picking her up such as sitting on the couch with her, petting her and when she begins purring slowly moving her in a dragging motion toward your lap. Move up to sitting and slightly picking her up to put on your lap. Increase your chances of this being successful by touching her tummy while petting her and giving some 'upward' pressure briefly, as though picking her up, but not actually lifting her off of the couch. Do just enough to concern her, not scare her, and then continue with the affection. She will learn that this can be trusted as an effort from you and you should be able to work up to lifting her. You will then have to work on walking with her.

Be advised that this also may never happen. To give you an example, I have spent almost the last 2 years working with a recovering feral purebred I rescued from Texas. So far as we know, he spent the better part of 10 years on the streets. It took 6 months of him being kenneled before anyone could touch him. Eventually, he allowed being touched but did not stay for long. This eventually came to continued affection from him when handled. After 9 months with us, we finally worked to integrate him to our home. He lived under the bed for a while. We're now 1 year out from him being a house cat and 2 years out from him being in our home. I can pet him, trim his nails, bathe him slowly (though he's not happy) but being picked up still causes great panic for him. We continue our efforts in pushing his boundaries for being picked up but he is likely never going to be a cat who truly WANTS to be picked up and this is probably going to be the case for Rory, as well. What they do not learn to tolerate as a kitten or young cat can cause great anxiety for them in their adult and senior years.

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Expert:  PitRottMommy replied 6 months ago.

Checking in, JACustomer. How is your progress with Rory?