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Leslie sent me this picture of her cat Mattie who was best friends with Leslie's dog, Poo until Poo passed away earlier this year. Now Leslie and Mattie are trying to develop a friendship so Leslie has a few questions. Read what she has to say and if you have any suggestions, please comment below.
Leslie writes "A little over 3 years ago my dog Poo lost her best friend...my hubs cat, called Midnight, from old age. Two years ago at the vet's office Poo was getting her toenails clipped and a kitten came over to wrap herself around the legs of my tall lab dog. The kitten had been found on the vet's doorstep with the eyes not even open and he nursed it back to health turning it into an office cat. The problem was that the cat was wild from being teased by kids coming into the office, and biting, hissing at anyone.
"But Poo loved that little kitten and the vet finally talked me into taking her home because he feared nobody would take it because it had a broken tail since birth. Now I don't have hubs to 'teach' me and Poo is gone but I don't want to give up on Mattie!
Long story shortened, Mattie Cat never took to me but would follow Poo around, sleep with her, play with her, etc. Mattie never let me pet her, touch her, etc. Now she is 2 years old and Poo passed away this year and she has had a rough time of it but has started coming around more, ie, sleeping on the bed with me (after I go to sleep & gets up as soon as I move out of bed), every once in awhile laying on my lap for no more than 5 minutes on a rare evening for petting. Growls at anyone that enters the house and threatens them, and in general is not very nice. Because I know little about cats I have read everything I can online but can't find solutions to the main one:
"How do I get her to like me more? How do I get her to let me brush her since this was not started as a kitten? Is it possible to help Mattie & I, please???"
"Leslie, I am so sorry for your loss. Poo and Midnight were two unique and loving fur-children. But you can take comfort knowing that you gave them both a good home and they lived happy lives while they were with you. It is obvious from their shiny coats and healthy bodies that you took excellent care of them. With the commitment that you've shown, I've no doubt that Mattie and you will develop a long and happy relationship.
baby steps, Leslie, baby steps
It will take some patience on your part, but you will make progress in your relationship with her. Mattie has a history of hurt and mistrust of humans, her behavior sounds to me like she's afraid or anxious. There are ways to make her feel more comfortable and to win her over, but it will take some time. Cats are very different from dogs in the way the develop relationships. At the beginning, you will have to take her lead on this, but if you make a few changes in your reactions and responses to her, I'm sure you'll see some positive changes.
The best thing you can do is give Mattie attention when she wants it. Those brief moments when she sits on your lap, cherish them and use them to reinforce trust. One thing you can do to build trust is to give her "cat kisses" Cat kisses are long blinks when you look at her. In the cat world, closing your eyes says to a cat, "hey, I'm not a threat, you can trust me" and it works. You might even notice her blinking her eyes at you too.
That brings me to my next point, because cats are predators, (more so than dogs - dogs have a longer history with humans and are not true carnivores - but more on that another time) making eye contact with a cat, actually challenges the cat into aggressive or unfriendly behavior.
In your case, making eye contact with her could actually be scaring her or making her anxious (because of her history of being teased). If Mattie starts doing things that are aggressive catch her eyes and blink, or simply walk away from her. If you change the way you look at her and respond to her, you will go a long to way to making her more comfortable around you. Speak to her in a quiet, gentle voice too, that will help.
As for grooming her, this is what I suggest, wait until you've established a stronger relationship, then leave the brush out so she can smell it and chew it and get to know it. When you do try to brush her, brush her only on the parts of her body that you are allowed to pet. if that is just her head, or just behind the ears, or only on one side, then do it. Start slow, brushing only once or twice and give her treats, make it a rewarding experience. Cats are like kids and need positive reinforcement, she'll soon learn that when you brush her, there's a treat at the end.
Getting Mattie to like you will rely on the eye contact thing, but another thing you can do is give her some play time with you, get toys that are interactive and devote 10 or 15 minutes to play time with her every day. I don't know what she likes but a string on the end of stick that you shake around is usually a popular toy. Praise her and give her treats and always, always, remember the eye contact thing.
Let me know how this goes, I have more ideas but I think this will get you started in the right direction.
P.S. Post your ideas and comments below so we can all help Mattie and Leslie become closer.
The pictures in this post are from Leslie
The big one at the top is Mattie at 3 months old. Second one is of Midnight, the hubs cat. that made Poo dog so lonesome when he passed. Third one is Poo. Fourth one is Mattie hiding under Poo's bed after Poo passed. Fifth one is Poo taking Mattie's toy & trying to run off w/it.
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