New Kitten Shows Aggression

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tonti
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New Kitten Shows Aggression

Post by tonti »

I recently adopted a kitten estimated to be about 4 months old. She was described as “timid.” She was a community cat who was caught for TNR but showed signs she could be friendly. Rescuers made the decision to foster and adopt. She spent about 3 weeks with her foster family being socialized before I adopted her.

The problem is that she is not only timid—she shows clear signs of aggression. She often hisses, spits, or claws when you come near her even when moving slowly. Normally I would take these as signs to back off, but the rescue recommends pushing her boundaries since she is still in the socialization stage. When you pick her up, she totally relaxes with no problems! She will purr and allow touch once already held. But initiating contact of any sort is a traumatizing experience for us both. She never initiated herself.

I am a first time cat owner and perhaps naively thought that her being put up for adoption meant that she’d successfully completed the socialization stage. I’d be fine with and respect a shy cat who doesn’t like to be held, but clearly these circumstances are different. As I mentioned she’s about 4 months so her socialization window is rapidly closing.

She’s only been in our home 3 days (large crate in her own closet), but it’s clear now she had similar behavior even with her foster. Please share your thoughts. Anyone socialize a cat after the 4mo mark? Tips or tricks? Am I in over my head?

She is such a sweet girl, and I’d hate to do more harm than good by keeping her in the hands of someone inexperienced.

Note: the rescue knew I was a first timer; we have a feliaway dispenser; I often hang out near her closet door without initiating contact, so I don’t think she associates me solely with being picked up.
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Mollycat
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Re: New Kitten Shows Aggression

Post by Mollycat »

Thoughts, well. The rescue were very wrong to throw you in at the deep end like that, totally irresponsible. A feral kitten is going to be a challenge even for an experienced cat owner, they should at least have made a few things clear and offered help. And that's my last bad thought.

3 days is nothing at all, you're going to be just fine, and you've come to the best forum for all the support you will want through this journey.

Even a socialised cat can by shy and hissy at first. Notice I didn't say aggressive and that's because hissing is not aggressive. Hissing is fear and defence, not aggression. Hissing means cornered cat - "back off or I'll be forced to attack you in self-defence" so I can see where the rescue are coming from with their advice to push, but in my opinion push has to be in the right way, the wrong way risks trouble.

Personally, no experience with a half wild kitten but my girl came to me aged 6 with past traumas, extremely timid, very very hissy. 8 years on we are still making progress. My way to push is gentle and respectful, to make myself consistent and therefore eventually trustworthy, to teach that hissing isn't going to faze me or make me confrontational. I just withdraw my hand or move back a step, make myself a little smaller, talk reassuring, drop my eyes, and after maybe 10-15 seconds I start to back away slowly and talking gently and up-beat the whole time. "It's all right sweetie, ok poppet, yes you want me to leave you alone, that's ok, I give you more space, good girl, big brave girl you let me touch your ears, yes well done, " and so on.

Remember this kitten has already had another "home" for 3 weeks and been uprooted again, so it will take time to learn that you are going to be a forever human with infinite patience and unconditional love, willing and keen to learn all about being a partnership together.

And yes, open the crate and let her find her own hidey holes (I missed that till Kay said) and don't interfere with her when she is in her safe place.
Last edited by Mollycat on Wed Jul 21, 2021 5:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Kay
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Re: New Kitten Shows Aggression

Post by Kay »

I suspect the large crate is the problem, as if you are approaching her while she is in it she has nowhere to go, and the hissing and spitting and claws is what most cats do when they feel backed into a corner

Can you let her out of the cage and let her find her own safe places? Preferably a high up place where she can watch you, and get used to your comings and goings - entice her down with a suitable interactive toy, rather than offering her fusses and petting - 4 month old kittens are far more into games than strokes - once she has accepted you as a playmate she will start to see you as the provider of fusses too, but you must let her come to you for them - she will in her own good time

Even feral cats many months, even years, older than her can become total softies given time and space to adapt to a new way of living - you have nothing to worry about long term here
tonti
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Re: New Kitten Shows Aggression

Post by tonti »

Oh, I so appreciate the feedback! It’s true the hissing/swiping is only when I’m approaching her, and I’m sure she’s just scared. Her first day I backed off and allowed her to do her own thing/never pushed to pet. The rescue checked in after about 24hrs and recommended I do the crate socialization for a few days and not let her hide yet. They also want her to get used to my touch, which is the only reason I force petting time. The first day she found a comfortable place under our sofa and would play with stick toys as long as she could stay 50% covered 😂). If she saw a hand coming she would retreat out of reach (understandably!)

Thank you for correcting my use of the word “aggression.” This is the most contact I’ve had with a cat, and I’ve only experienced hissing when I’ve accidentally spooked a community cat. That was my own ignorance speaking. And perhaps fear that the snaps will become more troublesome over time. She scratched my hand pretty good yesterday. She is small but mighty lol. And we are both scaredy cats!

Our plan is to move her crate into our common area today and hopefully let her roam free again after another day.
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