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Behaviour reversal

Posted: Tue Feb 04, 2020 10:58 pm
by exlibris

We've had a set back with Winston. He's getting worse with my partner again. Treating him as someone to avoid. So James has been almost exclusively feeding them dry and I've been feeding them a small bit of wet every morning. We've just switched them to adult as they're 9 months old and going by by what some chat chatters have said that seems okay. Yesterday James dangled a slither of bacon for Winston as a treat, even though he still keeps inexplicably running away from him, James is still trying to make friends and Winston is a greedy cat. However, Winston grabbed the bacon and because James didn't let go of it instantaneously he hissed at him!

Bit by bit all the things Winston has trusted James with has slowly eroded, and we're baffled. James is quite upset, especially as in the past he has been privileged enough to give him a belly rub so HAS been on track to being friends. We have a video of James fussing both him and Whisper when we first got them. Now Winston is hissing!

We're in our computer room at the moment and normally I have one cat on a pillow in an open drawer next to me & my PC and one cat tucked snug under my keyboard tray enjoying the warmth of my computer. Normally the exclusive spot is the pillow as I'm favoured human, so Winston being boss cat tends to get there first. However this evening he hissed at James again and has gone under the keyboard. So, not out of the room, but has sort of hidden. I'm not happy because it took me ages to gain his trust. I think Winston may be picking up on my anxiety.

Since the beginning both cats have seemed very wary of hands coming in close - which is why I was worried they may have been abused. But the general consensus was they were just very badly socialised. I do wonder if Winston is a little unhinged, which is all the more reason not to give up on him.

What can we do? Can anyone offer some practical advise, or point to some advise pages.

Re: Behaviour reversal

Posted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 9:04 am
by Mollycat
I can only speak from Molly's experience, which is where I was coming from when I chipped in with others about poor socialisation not necessarily neglect or abuse. I have noticed that most shy, timid, nervous cats will be the way they are for a while making very little progress and then suddenly one day decide you're ok and that's the way it is from then on. But some are different.

The Mollies, the Coco and Chanels, maybe the Winstons of this world, they do get better but it's a constant foot shuffle forward back forward sideways back. They feel the need to keep testing you forever, they can never really truly trust in your unconditional love. Is Winston especially well behaved for his age? Learn quickly? Does he work hard to avoid getting told off? Is he especially sensitive, if he does get told off does he run and hide for a while? Or is he the opposite, defiant and really naughty?

If he is still nervous perhaps James accidentally spooked him, or something else spooked him and he was first on the scene, that can easily trigger a setback. If James is feeling anxious (about Winston or anything else) or upset, or still grieving your recent loss, nervous cats are especially sharp at picking up the slightest emotional tension. Or simply trying too hard to win Winston over. I would suggest maybe James start by taking a cooler approach (ignore Winston) and focus on relaxation and positive open minded calm and let Winston come forward again at his own pace. Literally. When offering a treat or a hand, keep it close enough to be irresistible but far enough so Winston must take a step forward and stretch his neck to take it.

Winston can feel anxiety for sure but he doesn't understand it's about him. All he knows is it gets worse when someone tries to interact with him, so the best way to avoid the tension is to hide and refuse to interact. I think you're on the right track suggesting your anxiety level could be part of the problem. Do what you need to do relax, remember cats need to know they will be left alone as much as they need to know there are cuddles and food when they want them. After 6 years Molly can still let me know when she doesn't want to be touched. The lady I got her from, when I told her we had had a setback once in the early days, said, She will always have setbacks, Molly will always be Molly. It's good advice.

Re: Behaviour reversal

Posted: Wed Feb 05, 2020 7:20 pm
by exlibris
Thanks Mollycat.

We've come up with the plan for James to ignore him, unless he actively seeks his attention. As Whisper seems to be fine, James is to save all his fussin' for her. Hopefully this will also help with Winston realising there is no problem.
In answer to you personality question, Winston is greedy and tries to take what he wants ....but has always tried to protect his big sister.
In answer to James, yes we're both still really cut up about Backy. Every time Winston is particularly rejecting, we remember how loving Backy was - but that's 6 months vs. 18 years. James is also quite ill at the moment and in a lot of pain, Winston could be picking up on that and misinterpreting it.

Hopefully taking things back to the beginning will help.
I'm pleased that Winston is not hiding today, so that's good.