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Background: I have a 2 year old, sterilized female Siberian cat. My mom's taken care of this kitty for weeks on end in my apartment while I've been on vacation and they love each other a lot. There's never been any issues.

So today I brought the kitty to Mom's place and it didn't go too well. Initially the cat explored the apartment and gradually got more confident, even eating some treats from my hand and sitting in my arms calmly. She also let my mom and girlfriend pet and lift her. But then my mom opened a cupboard to take out a water bowl. The cat instantly wanted to go inside the cupboard, but Mom lifted her out and closed the door. So the cat meows loudly, growls and hisses, then backs Mom into a corner. No claws or bites involved.

After this Mom couldn't get close to the cat without the same thing happening again. We brought the cat home and now she's relaxed again. So my question is what happened here anyway? Never had this kind of reaction from the kitty before. Any steps I should take to not lose my best catsitter? =P

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It's hard to say, but I'll guess it's because the cat was very stressed out that it acted hostile. Going into a new territory is very scary for them. A couple hours, or however long your visit lasted during the one day, is almost certainly not enough for the cat to feel safe and unstressed. It may have even been that your mom surprised it by grabbing it out of the cabinet, when it was probably hyper focused on exploring.

Additionally, after the first incident, it's pretty likely your mom was a bit scared of the cat after that, and acting more tense around it, but acting tense can also make cats even more on edge. It may be because cats tense up when they're being aggressive or scared.

It's usually less stressful for cats to be able to stay in their own home during cat sitting, and seeing how this incident happened, you should probably stick to that arrangement.

The other thing you should do is make sure your mom is not being tense and hesitant when interacting with the cat now. If she seems tense, get her to interact with the cat in ways to help build up confidence again. For instance, get her to play with the cat using a feather wand, get her to give treats to the cat. I imagine that once they have some good interactions again, she will probably relax.

If you really must introduce your cat into a new territory, the best way to do it is to start out with a single room, and then bring as many of your cat's own things as you can to put in that room. Bring its food and water dish, its beds and blankets, its toys. And though it sounds gross, the next level is to even bring its litterbox. All these things will have the cat's smell, and it helps a lot with it feeling more secure in the new space. Then, after a couple days, and the cat seems quite confident, then allow it into an additional room. Move some of the cat's things into the new room as well. Keep repeating this every couple of days until the entire area is open to the cat.

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  • It does seem to have gone well enough, although the cat (playfully?) will occasionally hiss at Mom while they're cuddling. Very strange. Thanks for the advice at any rate! – Tickolas Dec 2 '19 at 16:04

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