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About two weeks ago, I've bought a new, 3 months old kitten. I had her in a small room at first, to get her used to the smells, my other cat, etc. She plays a lot with my other cat and I think they're bonding quite well. Now, one thing I noticed is that she is quite wary or actually scared of me, when I approach her directly. What I mean by this is: When she stands somewhere on the ground, and sees me looking at her and walking to her, she always runs away and hides somewhere nearby, only to come out 20 seconds later after realizing I didn't do anything. If I stop her from running away, and start petting her, she then seems to realize I won't do anything, and does not run away anymore. She doesn't seem to be generally scared of me. She sometimes comes sleep with me, or cuddles on the chair next to where I work. She also usually purrs when I pet her, closes her eyes, etc.

Now, I know that two weeks is nothing for a cat, and she probably hasn't got used to the new environment and me completely. I'm just wondering if there is anything that I can do to show her I only want to pet her.

As for the reasons for this behavior: The only thing that comes to mind is, she has had diarrhea recently (actually still has it, but better now). I had to pick her up and clean her, much to her discomfort. I guess I did approach her directly to do that, so maybe she is associating me locking on to her and walking into her direction to something bad?

Thanks.

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    I think one of the reasons for this problem might be, as you describe, approaching her while looking directly at her. Direct eye contact in cat language means confrontation and she could be intimidated by that and have the false impression that you are attempting to attack her if that's combined with approaching. Have you tried looking away while slowly approaching her? Looking away is a calming signal; you could also try another calming signal: slowly blinking at her with half-open eyes.
    – lila
    Nov 18 '20 at 11:36
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    Ah yes, i did not mention that in the post. If i approach her while looking away, she doesn't seem to mind. Or if i bend down and approach her slowly, she doesn't seem to mind either. So it's the direct approach while looking at her that she seems to be wary of. My question is, will this change after she trusts me more? Or are there cats that are always "scared" of direct approaches like that? I've been doing both, slowly blinking while looking at her, as well as yawning while looking at her. Nov 18 '20 at 11:59
  • It is hard for me to tell, but it's definitely not impossible that she could get used to it; while approaching any cat I am avoiding direct eye contact, but sometimes I forget about it and I noticed that some cats - which I've made to be especially comfortable around myself - are themselves looking away while slowly blinking with partially closed eyes. But I suspect that main reason for this in case of these cats was that they were already socialized and somebody must have put a lot of effort in their socialization, so it was easy for me as I was repeatedly meeting these cats on the street.
    – lila
    Nov 18 '20 at 23:30
  • And I'd advise to avoid looking directly at her while approaching until she becomes comfortable with you as you're both continually building and improving your bond based on trust.
    – lila
    Nov 18 '20 at 23:33
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    I'm "slow blinking" at her whenever i catch her looking at me. It's funny, i've done the slow blinking with my other kitten as well, but i don't think it would have been even necessary. She didn't seem scared of me even once, not even after i had to bath literally 1 day after buying her. I guess this just shows how every cat has its own personality. Thanks for all your help :) Nov 20 '20 at 0:42
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It takes time to establish trust with cats, especially if they are abused or separated from their mother too young.

Three months is still young to be separated from the mother and her littermates but I would not say it is too young. Still, you need to give her some space for her to get used to you.

  • Never pick her up unless you absolutely have to. People love to play with their kittens by hugging, kissing and similar ways. Kittens who are used to their owners tolerate this behaviour, but almost all cats have a dislike for being picked up. Only start picking her up after she is comfortable lying down next to you and even then, do it sparingly.

  • Use lazy blinks. Cats take direct gaze as a challenge. I gaze at my cat only when I need him to obey me and it is only for brushing. Smile, drop your eyelids and blink slowly. If the cat reciprocates, you can keep approaching. The meaning behind the lazy blinks is debated. Some believe it is a promise of non-aggression while others say it means cat kisses or cat's "I love you". Whatever it is, it points to some sort of trust being formed.

  • Point your finger to the cat. Pointing your finger is how you ask consent from a cat to touch her. (You can use this to teach consent to your children as well.) If the cat smells your fingertip, it means you can touch the cat. If he is indifferent or scratchy, step back. If the cat is too afraid to come close to you, use something else which has your scent, like tip of your glasses or your mobile. This way, the cat will have an extra distance from you while she gets used to your smell.

    Note that some cats dislike some strong smells. I noticed that many cats hate the alcohol based hand sanitisers so make sure your cat is not repulsed by any scent you might be carrying.

  • Give her treats. Don't overindulge your cat with treats. Let her have easy and unconditional access to the dry and wet food but only give away treats if she approaches you.

  • Play with her. You can throw her some toys slowly so she can play at a safe distance from you. You can also dangle a string for your cat to chase.

Long story short, do not try to pet her or take her to your lap. She will eventually come to you. Being patient and approaching her without touching her unless she gives permission is the surest way to gain trust of a cat.

I hope this helps.

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    @SomeNewKittenOwner I have seen some cat videos where the cats beg to be picked up but it was never my experience. Getting picked up restricts their movements and puts them in your mercy. So, it makes sense for the cat to dislike being picked up. Maybe your readings are about kittens born into a family, not the ones joined later. Also, it makes sense not to pick her up since she showed explicit aversion to it.
    – C.Koca
    Nov 18 '20 at 23:27
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    @SomeNewKittenOwner The lazy blinks and consent is very important. The rest is a bit optional. In fact, whatever you do, she will eventually get used to you. Cats are intuitive, once she is comfortable in her new settings, she will realise you mean no harm. My suggestions will hopefully accelerate the process.
    – C.Koca
    Nov 18 '20 at 23:29
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    Thanks for all the comments. I will definitely keep slowly blinking at her (it's harder than I initially thought :'D), as well as making her smell my hand before petting her. @lila Yes, i kind of noticed while picking her up a few times, so i started immediately placing my arm under her legs. I've done this a few times already, and she seems to be less averted to being picked up now (doesn't try to cling to everything around her anymore). Maybe she also just got a bit more used to me. Thanks for the wonderful suggestions. Nov 20 '20 at 0:39
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    Sadly, i have to pick her up from time to time. She is getting used to her new food, and she has slightly soft poop. She sometimes steps on it, leaving poop everywhere in the apartment. There's no other way than for me to pick her up and either clean her with a wet tissue (for animals) or under running water. And i have to pick her up by the scruff, because she does not like either of the options. I'm sure this is not helping at all, as she probably associates me picking her up with something bad. Nov 20 '20 at 0:48
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    This happened just earlier today. After i was done cleaning and drying her, i kept her on my arm, petting her until she started purring. I then gave her some treats as well, just to try and mitigate the damage. In a funny twist of events, after i placed her back on the ground, she seemed super okay with it, in fact was following me around, approaching me directly, letting me pet her etc. Maybe she just wanted more treats, i don't know. But i think this is the most "mixed signals" i've every gotten in my life, ever. Nov 20 '20 at 0:51

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