Paws and Effect

Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:

I bought a 4-year-old Persian cat about two months ago. She was born and raised to be bred. The owner got rid of her because she wouldn’t take care of her babies. I give her free roam indoors my house and she’s the only pet. She will not let me touch her. She will sit in a chair and sleep next to me but wants nothing to do with me! Not even treats will get her close. She eats well and uses her litter box … most of the time. What can I do to get her to want my affection?

~Hannah

Thomas: Oh, Hannah, we know how hard it is when you bring a cat into your life and she doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with you. But we do have a couple of tips that may help you and your kitty build your relationship.

Bella: First of all, we hope you can take heart in the fact that she wants to sit next to you and sleep next to you. Those are big-deal things with some cats, and if she’s willing to sleep next to you, that shows she trusts you.

Tara: It’s possible that your kitty may not have been very well socialized with people. If she was born to breed and that’s pretty much all she did, she may not have gotten a whole lot of human affection. That depends on the breeder, of course, because many responsible breeders go out of their way to make sure their cats get exposure to people.

Thomas: They do that because mom-cats that are used to people and comfortable with them will often raise their kittens to be comfortable with people, which is really important.

Bella: Our first recommendation is that if possible, you talk to the breeder and ask him or her how your cat was with people when she was living with them.

Tara: The breeder might have some tips for you on how to bring your cat out of her shell and be more affectionate with you.

Thomas: Another possibility is that your cat may be uncomfortable. She may need to be groomed or she may need to go to the vet.

Bella: Persian cats have unique and beautiful fur. But that amazing coat comes at a cost: Persians’ fur is very fine and mats easily. Mats can be very uncomfortable and cause a cat to be reluctant to move around much. They can even tear the skin if they get really bad.

Tara: Mats can even cause problems with litter box behavior, if they’re making it hard for her to assume the proper position or to clean herself after she uses the box.

Thomas: Persian cats can be prone to dental problems as well. Their short jaws can lead to malocclusion — that is, the teeth don’t all fit where they should — and this can contribute to dental disease. Even cats who eat well can have dental problems. I ate my food all the time, and Mama didn’t know until I went to the vet for a dental that I had eight teeth that were bothering me!

Bella: Poor Mama felt like such a bad cat-mom when she heard that Thomas had so many bad teeth, but the thing is that we cats are instinctively driven to hide pain and discomfort…

Thomas: And we eat even through our pain because we’re also instinctively driven to eat, unless the pain is so severe we just can’t do it.

Bella: With that in mind, the first thing we’d recommend is a trip to the vet, if you haven’t done that already. A full physical exam will rule out any medical causes for her behavior.

Tara: Your vet will also be able to tell you if she’s matted in places you can’t see. They can even groom her if you want them to.

Thomas: The most typical kind of grooming given to Persians is what’s called a lion cut. This will get rid of any mats in the fur on her back, under her front legs and on her tummy.

A tortoiseshell Persian cat with a lion cut

Persian cat with a lion cut. Photo CC-BY Liz West

Bella: Then, after she’s been groomed, you can get her used to being brushed. You’ll have to brush her at least once a week to keep her free from mats. But if she’s still not ready for you to touch her, you may have to get her professionally groomed a few times to keep her mats under control.

Tara: We’d recommend that you ask the breeder about the tools he or she used to groom your cat, so you know what she’s used to seeing.

Thomas: Grooming may even be a way to help you bond with your cat … as long as it doesn’t hurt, of course!

Bella: So, Hannah, we’d suggest you get your cat to the vet for a full exam, have her groomed if she needs it, and then it’ll be a matter of time and patience.

Tara: Cats that aren’t well socialized need that time and patience to learn that people are good, hands give love, and that they’re safe.

Thomas: Don’t despair: she’ll come around eventually.

Bella: How about you other readers? Have you had cats that were not well socialized? Please talk about your experiences in the comments, and if you have any tips to help Hannah socialize her cat, I’m sure they’d be welcomed!

Tara: Do you have a Persian cat? Can you recommend any Persian-specific tips for socialization, grooming, feeding and care? Please share your thoughts, too.

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