Living With A Scaredy Cat: How To Help A Frightened Cat
Khalia and her brothers came to me with their mother when they were four weeks old. When she was still a kitten, she was fearless. Nothing happened to her, no accidents, nothing. Yet today she is a scaredy cat. I think it started with my step dad. He adores the cats and would like nothing more then for them to adore him. only two give him the time of day though. It really isn't his fault, he has brain damage and can't understand how to handle them. Plus he has a loud voice and a rough voice. I think Khalia has been frightened of him from the beginning.
She is a hard one to figure though, because for a time it seemed she got a kick out of scaring herself. For no reason I can see, she would suddenly skitter away hackles raised...even when no one or thing was anywhere near her. I have learned how to give my scaredy cat some peace of mind though.
At night, she and my other three all stay in my room with the door shut so moms cat can have the run of the trailer, while in the day, moms cat stays shut in moms room, while mine have the run of the trailer. This is because moms cat and two of mine do not get along well at all. When Khalia is in my room, she is fearless. I call her my flying monkey, she leaps from the top of the curtain to the floor and bounces off the wall as she turns and heads back for the curtain. Every once in awhile she will stop on my lap to say hi. She trusts me totally...because I am mom to her.
She has discovered A cubbyhole at the foot of my bed, and she spends a lot of time in there. I make sure she always has access to it. This is her safe place. When anything frightens her she makes a mad scramble for it. Sometimes if she is curious at what startled her she comes right back out to check things out. But if she was badly frightened she will stay in there for hours at a time. We don't get after her as we do the other cats when they are misbehaving...we simply talk to her while moving slowly to her and removing her from the counter or table or wherever, talking calmly and stroking her. The others usually get scolded and/or water squirted.
Recently, one of her brothers has began acting frightened of things. It takes a great deal of coaxing to get him to come to me, yet when he has finally come to me and I love on him, he kneads and purrs. I can't tell if he is having the same mental problem his sister has or if he is not used to me wearing this big bulky jacket I have started wearing with the colder weather. He may even be having vision troubles. He had gotten out of the pen yesterday and I could not find him until late that night. I finally heard him meowing and I followed it to him. He was at the end of the old trailer. My flashlight seemed to frighten him. In order to catch him, I sat on the ground and turned the light on me so he could see who I was. HE kept coming towards me then running away...he wanted to come to me but was afraid. I just sat there and called coaxingly. He finally got brave enough to come within reach of my fingers, and I rubbed his head, and that brought him closer to me. I was then able to pick him up. But he was still frightened. When I reached for the light he began to struggle. I finally had to wrap him inside my jacket so I could stand up and get the light without him getting away. I decided to go around the far side of the trailer because I felt strongly that if I went past the dog the cat would freak out. The cat remained fairly calm on the walk back to the trailer door, and only began to struggle again when I began to set him down in their room. This morning he again seemed frightened of me and would not come to me. Khalia and her brothers are roughly one and a half years old now.
I have had other cats born with this fearfulness inside of them. I don't know what causes it. But giving them a place they can hide in undisturbed is a big help for them. As long as they know they can escape what they are afraid of and hide in safety, they will not be so apt to get frightened over every little thing. When handling them, always talk quietly and calmly, and never make sudden moves.