pyraxis: Pyraxis (Pyraxis)
[personal profile] pyraxis
My parents' cat got traumatized. The vet told them. My mother doesn't even know how to pronounce "traumatized". She tries to make the first syllable rhyme with "cow". The cat, Hiko, likes my dad but he's terrified of me and hisses at me and runs whenever I come close. He wasn't like this last year when I was here. He doesn't even look like the same cat.

They said they didn't know what caused it. I asked if he'd gotten lost or locked outside overnight and they said no. Then when I pointed out that my brother used to come stomping towards him to make him run and then chase him, they acknowledged that my brother wasn't always a very nice person. Essentially they admitted that my brother did it.

I took a little bit of cream that I was going to use to make candy and put it in a bowl and got the cat to approach me long enough to take a few licks. But then the other cat, Rutu, the curious and healthy one who's just growing out of kittenhood, tried to push her way past. Even when my mother distracted her in the other room, Hiko wouldn't come near the cream anymore.

I couldn't figure out whether to take the cream away and try again later, or whether to leave it for him. Hiko didn't want to approach it while I was sitting nearby, even though I wasn't making eye contact. But if I left it, Rutu might just push past and get it. I put the bowl in the fridge. Anyone have suggestions for how to approach it?

Date: 2010-12-30 02:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shashigai.livejournal.com
i would use fish, not cream. they like it but it isn't very good for them. try tuna or shrimp or something "fragrant." pitch your voice high as you can without cracking and say something soothing.

you can also use butter. you could close yourself in the room with the cat after someone else has put butter on the paws. the cat will become preoccupied with cleaning and ignore you as long as you don't move fast.

with fish leave a trail to yourself and hold on to the biggest bit. close your hand every time the other cat comes but don't move very much.

if those don't work let me know and i will tell you other things to try.

Date: 2011-01-03 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pyraxis.livejournal.com
I gave him some wet cat food and he was willing to approach me for that. He was also okay with me when my father was holding him or petting him. He just hissed if I came near him when we were alone, or if I tried to enter my parents' bedroom while he was there.

It seemed to be a territory conflict. He didn't want to share space with me. That would fit with my brother having caused it, because my brother doesn't have a good sense of other people's territory and considers it all his.

Date: 2010-12-30 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yonjuunana.livejournal.com
Ack, poor cat. Maybe see if you can figure out a way to get the cat into a room that they like, close the other door for a little while so the other cat can't get in, and then try giving them the cream or some kind of treat?

I tried researching a bit about cat-language so I could better communicate with my roommate's cats since I'm fluent in dog but don't know how to speak cat well, and one thing I read was that looking at a cat and then blinking your eyes very slowly is sort of a friendly/relaxed/smiling gesture. I noticed that the cats would do this at me as well when they were content and being petted. ...I also figured out I could make purring noises one day when I was bored. :P I do not know if the cats appreciated that or just thought it was weird though. These were ridiculously friendly/active/attention-seeking cats I was living with, so I don't have much experience interacting with scared cats.

Date: 2011-01-03 09:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pyraxis.livejournal.com
I tried the squinting thing but it didn't seem to make much difference. I think I was giving the poor cat mixed messages by squinting in a friendly way while the rest of me was being - something else.

Date: 2011-01-03 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] yonjuunana.livejournal.com
Ah, that makes sense.

Did I ever tell you about the rabbit language that I learned? Also tried to learn a bit about that so I could understand my roommate's bunnies better. You'd think that they would be timid and docile creatures, but it turns out rabbits have a hilarious attitude problem. Bits of rabbit communication I learned:

"I don't care about you, you are not a threat, I am not impressed" - Walk over to a person, and then make a huge show of dramatically turning your back to them, then flopping down onto the ground in an exaggerated relaxed posture. Proceed to ignore the person. (Different from the parakeet "I'm relaxed" language - which is to genuinely relax and go about your business of grooming yourself around the person - in that the rabbits were so dang dramatic about all this. They want you to know that they don't care about you.)

"I'm angry, don't pet me, you are standing in my way" - Growl, headbutt, and/or bite the person.

"Go away, danger, I don't like this, I'm annoyed at you." - Lurk under the couch. Thump your foot against the ground as loud as you can every now and then to show that you are displeased.

"Worship me" - Lower your head and expect the other person to pet you. Different from just begging to be petted because apparently there's a status thing involved, where the lower ranking rabbits groom the higher ranking rabbits in this way. Once my roommate's two rabbits got to the point where they stopped wanting to beat each other up and could be safely let into a room together every now and then, they'd get into wars over this where they'd both end up sitting forehead to forehead, both wanting the other to groom them but neither wanting to lose status by making the first move. They'd just sit there frozen until one would get fed up and start growling and trying to bite the other.

They did have one really cute thing where they'd run around and leap for joy when in a good mood. Rabbits are strange little creatures.

Date: 2010-12-30 06:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trustpects.livejournal.com
My cousin's cat, whom she adopted from a woman who'd rescued the cat from the street but couldn't keep her more than 2 weeks because her building doesn't allow pets., was like that at first... She was completely aloof and unfriendly to my cousin despite her being very nice to the cat and rescuing it from the street orphan life she was found in.

I told my cousin I was sure I could at least get the cat to eat cheese from my hand; my cousin said that would take a miracle. Well, a half hour later, I did manage to coax the cat to eat the cheese I had in my hand by showing it to her, and then eating it myself, and then putting some in my hand and putting my hand in front of her.

A couple of months later, without me around, the cat has come around and is now much more friendly and attentive toward my cousin and guests. My cousin said it seemed to be just time to show her that my cousin can be trusted. My cousin said she was sure to be consistently caring toward the cat so as not to throw her off balance at all. Cats are really creatures of habit and do not respond well to change.

Date: 2011-01-07 02:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tigerweave.livejournal.com
We missed this one! A bit late to make suggestions now. Poor pussycat! Sorry to hear it is so traumatised :-(

Hey the squinty-eye/positive body language thing is a whole lot more than just squinty eyes. Squinty eyes and 'friendly' body language could well be interpreted as negative by a cat.

Positive messages to a cat consists of the entire body language set that for a human that is saying "I really really DON'T like you" Which to a cat is saying "Hi, you look like a cat I would like to know. I am safe and friendly and you are perfectly welcome to approach me."
For eg, don't look at them directly. If you happen to catch their eye, squint your eyes as you look away, and turn your head away. And definitely make sure you look away first. (reverse is true. Wanna piss them off or upset them or make them admit your dominance? Hold their gaze until they look away first.)

It can be quite funny. Cat lovers who haven't worked this out usually go "Oh! Cat!" and chase after it and call it and make little cute noises to it. And the cat reads it as "you are pushy and threatening" and they take off.
But people who don't like cats give them all the positive signals. So it is hilarious because the cat comes up and talks to them and they hate it.

When we see a cat we just pretend we don't like cats and they love us. But not immediately. It takes a bit of time for them to come up to us, because you realise a cat never ever does anything because someone else wants them to. They only ever do things that *they* want to do, *when* they want to do it. And will go to great lengths to convince you of this, just in case you might be getting the wrong idea, and thinking they are jumping to your attention *grins* (I love cats, they are such silly creatures :-)

But in the case of a cat that has been badly frightened, it is usually just time that helps. Being the purveyor of nommy food does help though! And eating a bit yourself then diffidently offering them a bit does help, like trustpects suggested.
But overall the best thing you can do for them is to pretend you don't like it.

Date: 2011-01-07 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pyraxis.livejournal.com
Yeah, I wish j-t had been around. She grew up with cats and used to be a master of making them feel better by very carefully looking away and concentrating on things that had nothing to do with them. My body language is very awkward around cats and children. I think I have a hard time being gentle and relaxed enough for them.

it is usually just time that helps
That's interesting. I did have some sense of that. ("Wtf makes you think you can help a cat in a short 3 day visit? Don't force it!") But I'm not sure where that idea came from and I didn't listen. :P

It's so strange - one of our strays got caught in a car motor last year and its back got slashed wide open and we thought it was going to die. Nobody could get close to it except, as it turned out, the neighbors' little girl, who helped them take it to the vet. A few months later it was as friendly as ever. But some of the cats in my parents' house, though they don't stay feral, acquire odd neurotic behavior that never seems to go away. I wish I could explain it better and give examples or something, but I don't know what it is that I'm picking up on.

Date: 2011-01-08 04:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tigerweave.livejournal.com
You know, cats are just creatures unto themselves. They are all totally weird in their own ways. So I wouldn't worry too much about neurosies etc. As in, there may not be any real explanation apart from that is just the way they are.

Speaking of studiously ignoring them and paying attention to anything but them, I had some new fabric spread out over the cupboard and was looking at it and feeling the way it draped. I turned my back to put the kettle on and the next thing I know, Hattie had jumped up onto it *grins* and graciously accepting my pats :-D

Date: 2011-01-08 04:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pyraxis.livejournal.com
Have to disagree with you on this one, but, like I said, can't back it up. *shrugs*

Figures that Hattie would get in the way just when you really were intending to ignore her, LOL!

Date: 2011-01-08 04:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tigerweave.livejournal.com
Of course! Wot is the point of getting in my way when I am deliberately ignoring her?

Fair enough about your mum's cats. You were the one there with them, not me!
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