Dear Most Esteemed and Knowledgeable Kitties:
I’m the new babysitter of a young boy. There are three cats in the household, two of whom are pretty social. On the other hand, Simon has to wear a bell around his neck because it’s usually the only way he can be found. So, imagine my surprise one recent night when I stayed over to babysit the boy and Simon jumped up on the bed next to me, purring away. He stayed there the entire time, circling me, looking for new places to sleep, then followed me to the bathroom. He came back to bed with me, and then would become jealous as I typed on my computer, eventually he reached out, pawed at my hand, then very very gently wrapped his claws around my finger and held it close to him. He generally sleeps with some part of his body touching me and purrs even before he’s on the bed with me. I’ve only known this cat for three days! I have been told by his owners that I’m the only person he’s ever done this with and that it’s rare for him to even show himself. What does this mean?
~ AJ the Curious Cat-lover
Siouxsie: Well, AJ, it looks like you’ve won a very special thing: Simon’s friendship and trust.
Thomas: Just like people, we cats can be very selective about the people we choose as friends.
Bella: Cats can also be very shy and insecure.
Siouxsie: Mama once told us a story about Maddy Gold, a cat her human mother brought home to live with her family. Maddy was very shy — in fact, she hid under a couch for days when she first came into Mama’s home.
Thomas: Then one quiet afternoon, Mama took a can of cat food into the living room and sat down on the floor. Over the course of an hour or so, Mama coaxed Maddy out from under the couch and ever closer to her by moving the cat food.
Bella: Then Mama reached out to pet Maddy. Maddy was startled and almost ran away again, but Mama started whispering kind words to her and Maddy let Mama pet her.
Siouxsie: Then, the next moment, Maddy curled up in her lap and started purring her little head off!
Thomas: Until the day Maddy died (which was sadly all too soon because she got a bad case of cancer), Mama was the only person she trusted.
Bella: *sniffle* Isn’t that sweet?
Siouxsie: The reason we tell you this story, AJ, is that some cats have a hard time trusting people. In your case, Simon has opened his heart to you!
Thomas: Part of this may be due to the fact that as a new person in the household, you’re not already “owned” by the other two cats in the household.
Bella: The other two cats may be very territorial, or Simon may just be one of those especially insecure kitties that needs a friend of his own to boost his confidence. And you came along at just the right time. *sniffle* Oh, goodness, I’ve got the weepies today!
Siouxsie: It’s about time you cried about something besides your dramas, Bella.
Bella: That’s mean! Why are you always so mean to me? *weep*
Siouxsie: Why do you always chase me around the house when all I want to do is enjoy some lap time with Mama? I mean, come on! I’m really old and I haven’t got a whole lot more time here! Why can’t you leave me in peace? *sniffle*
Bella: But Siouxsie, I just want to play. *sniffle*
Siouxsie: Oh, Bella, I know. But I just don’t have the energy to play with you like that.
Thomas: Oh, ladies, come on over here. I’ll give you both some snuggles.
Siouxsie: I’d be glad to snuggle once we’re done writing, Thomas. And will you clean my ears for me, too?
Thomas: Of course! I’d be glad to!
Siouxsie: Okay, AJ, so what it comes down to is that first of all, you must be a super-awesome cat person who’s super lucky to find a cat in need who feels safe with you.
Thomas: Part of that is that you haven’t been a member of the household long enough to be occupied by the other two cats that live there.
Bella: If the bed where you sleep when you do your overnight babysitting gigs is a guest room that isn’t open to the rest of the house when nobody’s sleeping there, it could be that Simon also feels safe in that room because he can claim it as his territory.
Siouxsie: Because of your special status, you may be able to help Simon gain some confidence and take his place as a regular family member. If you have the time, consider playing with him using some interactive “thing on a string” toys to boost his confidence.
Thomas: And as you hang out with him and bring his scent into the rest of the house, he’ll probably start feeling more confident in exploring and showing himself to the other family members.
Bella: Congratulations, AJ. Not only are you making a difference in the life of the little boy you’re taking care of, but you’re changing Simon’s life, too. Purrs to you!
Siouxsie: If you have updates about Simon later on after you’ve worked there longer, we’d love to hear them.
Thomas: What about you, awesome readers? Have you been lucky enough to win the trust of a shy cat? If so, were there some things you did to boost that kitty’s confidence? Please share them in the comments so we can all help AJ to help her new friend feel like a part of the family.
And this is why I always say our cats adopted us. Cats are funny creatures. If they trust you, they trust you. And if they don’t, often if you show them you’re a cat person they’ll warm to you just as in the story above about Maddy.
If it were me and I was able to have a cat, and Simon doesn’t seem to be able to integrate in to the current household, I’d be asking if I could adopt him.
I have a torty, she was a 2yr old that lost her home when the person down stares got into a fight with the apartment owner. I saw her a couple of times in the parking lot but she wasn’t having anything to do with people. turns out that she had gotten preggers and had four kittens. the moron that worked for the owner had grabbed three of them, and she would go looking for them every day, that is where I came into the picture. I tole the moron to leave her alone, and started to put food and water out for her. one night I herd meowing at my back door, when I opened the door there she was, so I went back in, leaving the screen door open, to get her some food, when I came back out she was at the bottom of the stares, 2nd floor, so I put the food down for her, and up she came, but carrying her last kitten which she plopped down in my lap, and went to eat from the bowl which was a couple of feet away, turning around every few bites to check on her kitten. so it went for the rest of the summer, I put a very large carrier out so she would have a place to sleep, and slowly she started letting me pet her, and then started jumping up into my lap when ever I would come out to see her. I finely convinced her to move in and she has been with me ever since. she likes to be held, and will curl up around my hand, or just have me hold her, she even lets my god daughter pick her up now. it’s been about three years now, she has been neutered, and has a home where she is very much loved. she is still very much my cat, but will inter act with others, however Teresa, and I are the only ones that can pick her up, or whose laps she will jump in to.
A little while ago, my twin sister moved her family back in with me and our parents. She brought her cat Madeline (another Maddie!) with her. My twin rescued Maddie from abusive owners, so Maddie wasn’t very comfortable in her new surroundings for some time. (Plus, she and Kravitz didn’t get along well.)
But once she found her courage and started exploring, Maddie realized my room was actually pretty quiet, so she took to visiting. I always spoke to her softly and tried not to move too fast, and kept cat spats from happening. Soon Maddie realized it was okay if she wanted to sleep on my bed with me, or perch on my lap, all at her own pace. Now she even sleeps next to my pillow come early mornings, or flopped against my shoulder, purring away. (And for such a dainty cat, she has a prodigious flop, I tell ya what.)
About 14 years ago in the feral colony I feed a group of 3 kittens (5 months old) were left because the foster mom was just tired of them ruining everything in the house (peeing). Becky was immediately picked up by an older couple cruising the grounds and lucky Christie was adopted a couple years later, then returned after three years and adopted again. Only Abigail was left. A cute little tiger with a white tip on her tail, Abigail would dance around you but no one could pet her but me. When she was about 7 years old she developed an allergy and all her hair was fallling out. I took her to the vet and she was mine for the next 7 years (by the way she never peed outside the box). Only I could pet her. She didn’t care of other cats or people but loved me only. She lived in my bedrooom by her own choice and would jump on the bed for us to cuddle, then she would run into the cat tree or under the bed again. She was strange but loyal. Some cats are drawn to certain people, I guess. Seems you have an admirerer.