Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I have a very gentle kitten who was just fine until a recent incident that occurred between him and my husband. The kitten is 9 months old and we have had him for seven of those months.
This kitten is a very gentle, sweet and timid little guy, generally happy-go-lucky. What happened was really unnecessary in my opinion but it happened. My husband wakes up very early in the mornings for work. We have a special spare room where the cats sleep at night or when they are not being watched. A few days ago, the kitten bolted out the bedroom door. My husband shouted a loud “hey,” chased the kitten and grabbed his tail, and caught his finger in a knot in the cat’s fur. My husband let go right away and the cat ran into his room, scared out of his mind. He was panting, yowling and hiding in his litter box. I was able to calm him down, and the rest of the day was normal.
The next day, the kitten hid in his litter box when my husband entered the room. He runs away when my husband gets close and generally does not want to be around him. My husband knows he was wrong, and he feels horrible. He wants to gain the kitten’s trust again if possible. What can we do to get my husband on kitten’s good side again?
Siouxsie: We’re so sorry to hear about this — both for your sweet kitten and for the two of you! It seems very clear that this was an honest mistake and that your husband didn’t intend any harm.
Thomas: However, this kitten has a very sweet and rather shy disposition to start with — much like myself …
Siouxsie: Don’t even start, Thomas! You chased me all around the apartment this afternoon. You pinned me down and swatted me! You even managed to loosen some of my under-fur … and now I’ve got a tiny little cold patch on my shoulder. I’m Very Upset with you, Mister Man! Shy and sweet, my patootie!
Thomas: But … but …
Siouxsie: If Mama hadn’t stopped you, you probably would have chased me around until I had a heart attack and died, and then Mama would cry and it would all be your fault!
Thomas: But … *sniffle* …
Bella: Stop being such a meaniepants, Siouxsie. See? You’ve made Thomas cry now!
Siouxsie: *grumble* It’s a good thing I can at least take some consolation in Mama’s lap, because you two are useless.
Bella: Meaniepants! Come on now, Thomas, wipe your eyes and lick your whiskers, and let’s get back to answering Cheri’s question.
Thomas: Okay. I’m better now. So, Cheri, some kittens when faced an accident like this would just shake it off and go on about their merry way. But your kitten is reacting in such an extreme way partially because of his innate temperament.
Bella: The good news is that it is possible for your husband and your kitten to rebuild their bond. It’s going to take time and effort, though.
Siouxsie: The most important part of rebuilding that bond is to make your husband the source from which everything awesome flows. Food? Husband prepares it. Water dishes? Husband cleans and refills them with fresh water. Litter boxes? Husband cleans them and washes them out as necessary. Play? Yup, husband’s on that, too.
Thomas: As your kitten starts associating good things with your husband, his wariness about interacting with him will begin to decrease.
Bella: Don’t be surprised if at first the kitten doesn’t want to go near his food if your husband is standing nearby. Husband should just put the food down gently and then walk away quietly. He shouldn’t even attempt to touch the kitten while he’s eating.
Siouxsie: Play is a very important part of this recipe, too. Interactive play helps shy cats to build their confidence. A “thing on a string” toy will allow your kitten to hunt and play without getting too close to your husband. We particularly recommend Da Bird, because this toy has a long wand and a long string, so kitty and husband don’t have to be right next to each other to play.
Thomas: Believe it or not, playing with cats isn’t as easy as it might seem. Mama wrote an article for Catster on how to play with your cat, and you two might want to check it out for some ideas.
Bella: Watching episodes of My Cat From Hell can also give you lots of tips on how to play with cats. The series is available on Netflix and a number of other streaming video services.
Siouxsie: Another thing you should do is ensure that your kitten has lots of high places to hang out, whether those high places are tall cat trees, specially designed cat shelves, spaces in bookcases, or whatever. If he is able to check out the world from a higher vantage point, your kitten may feel more secure in general, and certainly when interacting with your husband.
Thomas: If your husband starts doing these things and if you ensure your kitten has all the vertical space he needs so he can move around your home and look at his world from above, the odds are good that kitty will come around eventually.
Bella: You’ll both have to be patient. Your kitten is very scared and traumatized right now, and it’s going to take him some time to feel comfortable around your husband. But we’re sure it will happen with time.
Siouxsie: What about you, fellow readers? Do you have any suggestions for Cheri and her husband about how to rebuild the man-kitten bond? Please share them in the comments.