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I bought a kitten when it was young (6-8 weeks) and now it is two years old.

Whenever people come over it always hides under the bed. Sometimes it stays under the bed for days after the person left and won't even come out for food and so I have to feed it under the bed so it doesn't starve. When it finally does come out it is very tentative and jumps at the smallest of things.

However, it trusts me and will come to me when it is called and is generally comfortable around me except for when I try to pick it up. It will essentially attack me and jump out of my arms before hiding under the bed again and so I avoid picking her up.

How can I make the cat feel more comfortable when guests come over and when I am simply trying to pick her up?

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Why my cat gets scared when I pick her up?

  • At first rule out any medical condition. Your cat may dislike being being picked up because she is in pain or physically uncomfortable. Take her to a vet to make sure that this is not the case.
  • It is also a breed thing. Some breeds enjoy when picked up, some breeds remain aloof while some breeds dislike it. For example ragdoll breed loves being handled.
  • Also it is possible that your cat was not properly socialized when she was weeks old. Very young cats when regularly handled by people later on love to be handled.
  • Your cat may have a bad experience of being held. Like she was held to be vaccinated or put in carrier for taking to vet or even abused while held.
  • It's not natural greeting for cat. Cats don't greet other cats by picking them up. They approach cautiously, sniff, lick, rub against each other or bonk heads. In fact, being picked up may make a cat feel like they are being taken by a predator.
  • They don't like to be restrained. The restricted movement may make a cat feel that you have trapped them.
  • Like humans, each cat has a different personality. Some are timid, shy and get scared easily, while others may bold and confident.

How to let a cat pick her up?

Try to associate picking up with positive experiences -

  • Give her treats try to pick her up for a few seconds and if she allows give her treat again.
  • Get her rewarded with new toys of she allows to be picked.
  • Give her new experience like placing her in front of window where she can watch lots of birds.
  • Make sure you pick her up so that her bottom and legs are supported so that she feels safe.
  • Put down the cat gently so that all four of her paws are on floor instead of letting them jump or drop down from your arm.

Why my cat is fearful of guests?

The fear of strangers in cats is called Xenophobia

There may be various reasons for it -

  • The cat may not have been properly socialized while kitten. Cats while 2 to 9 weeks old need to get properly introduced to a lot of people to properly socialize them.
  • Cats who have mixed with people earlier may not have exposure to certain people like children or tall people.
  • Cat may have had a bad experience with a particular parson which makes her fearful of that particular person.
  • Cat may have had bad experience with certain people which she has broadened to include other people as well.
  • The arrival of guests is often accompanied by other scary things such as knocking, large packages or suitcases being moved about, loud talking and laughing.
  • Different cats have different personalities. Some cats are just timid, shy and fearful of people.
  • It may also be genetic. Cats born to fearful mother or father may also end up being fearful.

How to make cats less fearful of guest?

It will be a long process and you need to maintain patience.

  • Always keep a safe place for your cat to hide.
  • Ask you guest to let the the cat approach him rather than the guest approaching the cat.
  • Ask your guest to avoid eye contact as cats often associate eye contact with aggression.
  • Ask your guest to have a seat as many cats are afraid of guests who are tall and/or shy.
  • Give the cat treats at a safe distance from guest to encourage her to come out.
  • You can also try playing with the cat with her favorite toy at a safe distance from guest.
  • If you cat still doesn't come out you may try making the sound of opening her favorite food can, or shake the jar containing her favorite dry food.
  • Don't push too much at a given time and each day try shortening the distance between play/food and your guest.
  • When your cat comes close enough to the guest ask your guest to throw tasty treats on the floor to encourage the cat eat food given by the guest.
  • Once the cat is comfortable to a particular guest repeat the session with multiple adults each at a time.
  • Try to introduce movement like ask you guest to walk slowly.
  • Many cats get easily nervous when guests make loud noise or move rapidly. If any of you visitor (adult or children) is of outgoing type you can inform them in advance that you have a timid and shy cat and request them to help by maintaining a quite presence.
  • Keep an escape route open for your cat.Don't force her to stay.
  • Try synthetic cat hormones. Products like Feliway mimic cat pheromones, which may help reassure your cat that she is in a safe environment.
  • Try anti-anxiety medication. This may help your cat stay calm enough during the process of socialization. A commonly prescribed medicine by your vat is zylkene. Also consult your vet before giving any medication.
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You have to be patient with cats and let them decide when and how they want to socialise. Do not try to force the issue, and make sure that your cat always has somewhere to hide when visitors call.

Cats do not like to feel trapped. If you are picking your cat up to show to guests, this may be the primary problem. After all, it doesn't know what your intentions are, or if the strangers will hurt it. Just let your cat do what it wants to do when visitors call.

I wouldn't take food to your cat. It will decide to come out of its hidey-hole to eat when it feels hungry. If you feel that this is a real problem, put a shelter near its feeding station. A stout cardboard box with a hole cut in it will do.

My own cat, which was a stray, is very nervous of strangers, and usually leaves the house when anyone knocks on the door. Although we have had him for four years, he is only just beginning to get used to regular visitors.

If your cat simply doesn't like being handled at all, try holding her very loosely, so that she can easily jump away if she wants to. If she can easily jump away, she will not attack you. Never clutch your cat.

My own cat didn't like being picked up at first, but I acclimatised him to being handled using this technique. I still do this, although he is now happy to be held.

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    Thank you. A shelter near its feeding station is a good idea. I have never picked up my cat in front of guests as she never comes out when they're there for that to happen so it is very unlikely that is the primary problem. She just doesn't like being picked up. – jessicat Jan 16 '18 at 8:56
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    I also have a cat that hates being lifted, what I've found is that she is far more at ease and willing to be lifted if you put your arm or hand under her rear legs. Think cats feel far more able to escape and safer when their rear legs are grounded and have good traction. – Stig Tore Jan 16 '18 at 9:31

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