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So, I adopted a cat about two weeks ago who was unneutered and abandoned by the person who had had him for his whole life (2 years). I have been told by the vet that he's sweet and the friend who's been the middle man for this adoption told me he was very sweet and cuddly with his previous owner. I have one other (female) cat who adjusted extremely quickly to living with me (like literally it took her a couple days) so I'm not super used to a cat that like hisses and growls and spits when I come close to him and hides most of the day, but I've just been trying to give him space and let him come to me and only do things like changing the litter box and feeding him and stuff.

Enter the neuter: it was done 12/16 in the morning and he was home by 3 pm. I was told to check the incision sight twice daily and make sure he keeps the cone on, but after he somehow pulled the cone off and I spent ten minutes trying to put it back on while he hissed and growled and spat and swatted at me I am just at a loss about how I'm going to manage any of that checking. I want to give him space, but I also want him to heal well. I'm just feeling really helpless and frustrated about this whole situation, and any advice is very welcome!

He and my other cat have been mostly staring at each other and occasionally running around together, but they seem to get along a lot better than he and I do. I don't try to pet him and really just ignore him except for occasionally offering him my hand to sniff (he has never taken me up and usually hisses) to try and show him I'm not going to touch him if he doesn't want me to, besides when I NEED to. When I need to grab him to get him to a vet appointment (or put his cone back on), he goes full "cat from hell" and has drawn blood from me several times. I'm honestly kind of afraid to touch him and dread having to. I am mostly wondering how I can check the surgical site with minimal trauma to both of us, but I have an underlying question of how long I should wait before I know for sure this isn't gonna work out and I should start looking for a better suited home for him? I really really want this to work, I want this to be his forever home and I don't want to further his trust issues, but I am just feeling so helpless, I don't know what I'm doing wrong and I don't know how long I should wait before it's traumatic to move him AND everything has come to a head here. I'm just super lost.

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  • Welcome to Pets! Please take the tour to see how this site works, it only takes a minute. This is not a general discussion forum, but a Q&A site, where every post must contain exactly one (main) question. Your question about the wound care is very well defined, but suddenly you concentrate on a completely different one. Please edit your post and ask only a single question. You can search our site for existing post that might answer your second question or create a new post for it.
    – Elmy
    Dec 17, 2021 at 13:02
  • In general, you should avoid direct eye contact with cats, especially a cat that's afraid of you. Do the "lazy cat blink" at him any time you see him or have to check his incision. Try keeping your eyes half closed during the procedure. That is nonverbal communication telling him that you don't want to harm him.
    – Elmy
    Dec 17, 2021 at 13:05
  • As a general rule, if you have to do something and this results in hissing, swatting or even biting, it is best to not press the issue and let the cat calm down first. Especially when you don't have an established relationship yet, respecting the cats boundaries goes a long way to build trust. Your movements should be slow and deliberate, and your body language as non-threatening as possible. You might be able to inspect the surgical site without getting too close if you manage to take a few pictures with your phone.
    – bgse
    Dec 18, 2021 at 4:21

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I understand that adopting a pet and having problems with it you didn't expect can make you feel anxious about your decision to adopt. Given though that others have called the cat friendly and sweet, I really think you should have a good shot at becoming friends with the cat, and so I would try to put away your anxiety for now.

Unfortunately, in the immediate term, the cat must receive care, and that necessity might hurt your relationship in the short term. The cat should get over this eventually after this is no longer necessary, and you've had time to have more positive interactions than negative ones.

If necessary, for the immediate need for care, wear gloves to protect yourself. But once the necessary care is done, get rid of them. Though the gloves will protect you when you absolutely must handle the cat without time for building up a relationship, they are an impediment under normal circumstances. The cat will associate the gloves with bad handling, and the gloves probably look threatening to them.

Overcome your fear.

You admit to becoming afraid of the cat because it's scratching and biting. Of course this is natural, but you really need to work on overcoming this fear. When you become afraid, you tense up and approach hesitantly. Cats often respond to this body language by also tensing up and even swatting or biting. You should be mindful of yourself, so if you are starting to get tense around the cat, try to relax. Think to how you interact with your other cat, which you are not afraid of.

Block bad hiding spots, and replace them with good hiding spots.

Bad hiding spots are spots where it's difficult for you to get to the cat, like under furniture. Good hiding spots are hiding spots that are easily accessible to you, and you can control. Examples are cat furniture, cat caves, and cat tunnels. Even cardboard boxes or bags might do.

If the cat is hiding in bad hiding spots all the time, it will be more difficult to draw it out for forming a relationship with it, and it's difficult to grab the cat when it is necessary. When you do grab the cat from there, because it's difficult, it's also more traumatizing and scary for the cat, and it's a safety hazard. In an emergency, you need to be able to grab the cat and evacuate quickly.

Good hiding spots also have the advantage of being easily moved. This means you can start out in a very out of the way location where the cat feels the most safe, and then gradually move it to a more socially central spot, like the living room. You can use this as an aid to draw the cat slowly into being more part of your social life, without really forcing it at all.

Entice the cat with food and play.

Ideally, the cat will be food motivated. If this is the case, really take advantage of food to entice it to come closer. Sit as close to its food as it will accept and still eat. Gradually decrease this distance. See if you can get the cat to eat out of your hand, which is a great exercise for both developing a bond with the cat, and to increase your own confidence in interacting with it. Even if it's not particularly food motivated, try a variety of treats to see if perhaps there is a high value treat that it will come closer for. Even foods that normally aren't recommended are okay, as long as they aren't harmful, and you only use them in small amounts for the purpose of drawing the cat out and forming a positive relationship.

Playtime is another great way to entice the cat closer. Use a wand toy or laser pointer, and you can start out farther away from you, and guide the cat closer and closer to you. If your other cat starts playing too, that's actually good. The cat might be more enticed to join in if it sees another cat having fun.

Make the carrier a positive thing.

Start feeding your cats in their carriers. You might have to start with the tops off first, and after a while, replace the tops and doors. Eventually start trying to close the door to the carriers while they are eating. Over time this will be normal to them and not scary. That way, when you need to take them to the vet, you just put their food in the carrier, and they'll go right in.

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    Maybe it should be added for the carrier part, that you need to stop the new thing before the cat runs away again (coming close to the carrier for example) so the cat stays there and overcome the scary moment and feel/learn that it is not as scary as expected. Dec 20, 2021 at 0:11

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