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I adopted my cat from my sister. She initially got it for her kids but hates cats, so she would just lock it in the basement. The cat would escape every now and then, sometimes for up to a week.

I couldn't stand watching this any longer so I told her that I would take the cat. I took her to get fixed and to get her shots; everything she needed. I found out she has FIV, so I can't let her outside. She doesn't eat treats.

She has definitely warmed up but I'm way more used to lovey-dovey cats. She's two years old and I've had her for about a year. I just want to know how I can earn her love? Is this just something that takes time or is there anything I can do to help?

  • Hi Cathy and welcome to Pets.se, do the answer on either of these existing questions provide what you are looking for? What is the best way to manage a half-wild cat as a pet? and/or Can an adult feral cat be socialized/domesticated? – James Jenkins Jun 28 '14 at 10:41
  • Thank you so so very much for all of your answers! They were SO reassuring. In response to Zaralynda, I agree with you. Ellie ( my cat) HAS warmed up since she's been with us. The good thing is that she loves people. She is also semi- familiar with my boyfriend and I, who have been together for 9 years. I rescued her from my sister. I go visit her at least 2-3 times a week to visit my nieces so she knew who I was....sort of. I would rarely go to the basement, where my sister would keep her....but she knew my voice. She seemed relieved when I took her to my place for the first time... – user2566 Jun 29 '14 at 8:18
  • If you have further concerns about her FIV status, we have some information in another question. – Zaralynda Jun 29 '14 at 19:24
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I had a cat who was very scared of just about everyone, even though she did relax a bit around me. It took her a few years for her to slowly warm up to the point where she would come sit with me while I was watching TV, or while I was reading, and either sit beside me or ask for cuddles.

"How long" can vary. It depends on what the cat has been through, their personality, and the environment they're in now. She may never be what you are used to, in terms of "lovey-dovey." On the other hand, after ten years with me and after we'd lived in the same place for more than four years (I finally bought a house) my previously-mentioned skittish cat would actually not run from the room when my family (all cat-lovers) visited, and would even get up on the sofa with my brother and let him pet her. But even now, when the other cats greet me at the door when I come back home, she sits at the top of the stairs or only comes halfway down.

Some cats are less demonstrative than others, even if they haven't been poorly socialized. She may be one of these cats. It may take years before she's as demonstrative as you're used to, if she ever is.

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One of my cats grew up in a hoarding situation, so she wasn't well socialized with people when she was young (she's excellently socialized with other cats, however!). Next month will be her 6 year anniversary with us, and just this past year she's started letting people other than myself and my husband pet her. The Siamese Cat Rescue gave us a lot of advice with her, and other info I've pulled from a few behavioral books (Understanding Cat Behavior, by Roger Tabor and Starting from Scratch by Pam Johnson-Bennett).

When we first got Juliet, I was frustrated by the lack of information (the Johnson-Bennett reference is about acclimating your cat to strangers, and Tabor is general "how your cat thinks" stuff that then has to be applied), so I'm writing this to be complete, as if you just brought her into your home. Some things your cat may not need since she's lived in your house for a year.

Build Her Confidence in the Environment

The basic idea in this section is to create a home where she feels comfortable, happy, and relaxed.

  • Build cat highways through your home. Your cat should be able to move around most of your home without walking on the floor if she wants to. You can use wall shelves, cat trees, bookcases, and other sturdy furniture to accomplish this. The goal is to prevent her from becoming accidentally cornered (a source of stress) by you, other household members, or guests. Jackson Galaxy's Catification pages are a good source of ideas.
  • Build a few perches in rooms you frequent with a good views. Try a couple of different things until you figure out what she likes, since some cats like to hide (in a box, behind an artificial plant, etc) and some like to be in the open. Other cats want to hang out up high, while some prefer to be close to the ground. There should be somewhere that she wants to be in rooms where you are.
  • Give her a quiet place away from the household noise. If you have a busy family, make sure there's a quiet room (closet, etc) where she can easily escape to get away if she gets overwhelmed. She grew up alone without much interaction from anyone, and that may be "comfortable" for her.
  • Address any conflicts with other pets in the house. If you have other pets (or small children) who may be harassing her, those conflicts MUST be addressed so that she can relax.

Build Her Confidence in You

The basic idea in this section is to make her become accustomed to you, and (eventually) associate you with good things.

  • Talk to your cat. It seems funny at first to talk to your cats (there's a stigma against the "crazy cat lady/gent"), but getting your cat used to you making noise without harming her is a huge first step. The rescue often suggests simply sitting in the same room as a new cat and reading aloud (anything) to get her used to the sound of your voice.
  • Learn how to read/respond to her body language. If you're petting her and she gets overstimulated, she'll start to lash her tail. That's cat language for "I've had enough, please stop". If you respect her signals, she'll feel better in the future because she won't associate petting with being overstimulated and uncomfortable.
  • Establish a consistent daily routine. If she knows when to expect food and play time, she won't be anxious wondering if she'll have the things she needs.
  • Do not punish bad behaviors. There's a high chance that she'll associate those punishments with you and not with the bad behavior.
  • Establish regular play times with interactive toys. Wand toys like Da Bird are an excellent way to get exercise (endorphins!), use the hunting instincts/aggression on an appropriate object (so fewer bad behaviors to frustrate you).
  • If you free feed, switch to meal feeding. Meal feeding reinforces the connection that you are the source of food (the good stuff!), and can help start a positive bond. We also had a rule that once we put the food down, our cat had to touch our hand before she could eat (she was REALLY SKITTISH). We didn't chase her down and force ourselves on her, though. We would just sit there with our hand hovering over the food bowl until she gave it a touch. For a long time it was just a darting touch, but now she jumps on the bed to yell at us and headbutt us like everyone else when it's meal time and we're trying to sleep in.
  • Again, don't force her to accept your affection. Cats are territorial, and if you're in her space insisting on touching her, that's very threatening! You should always offer your hand to be clear that you'll pet her, but let her take the last 6 inches or so toward you herself. If she just stares at you and doesn't want affection, then try again later. One good sign that she would be receptive to attention at the moment is if she looks at you and raises her tail (or has it raised). That's a friendly welcome signal among cats.
  • Get down on her level. You're HUGE compared to her, and that can be very scary! If you lay down on the floor (or give her perches at your eye level), that can build her confidence since you're less scary.
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  • The amount of time the cat is exposed to you makes a big difference, and so I recommend that if your cat has her own room in your house where she often sleeps, is fed, or retreats to if frightened, you set up a sleeping bag and camp out in that room. This allows the cat to be exposed to your non-scary sleeping self for long periods of time and is a very low-effort way of getting them to accept you as a non-threat. And if you keep the temperature set low, cats will eventually decide that your warmth is more important than any fear they have and move onto the sleeping bag with you. – Mark Ripley Nov 19 '16 at 9:45
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How do you know you haven't earned her love already?

I've had 4 cats, 3 are still with me and not all of them are equally outwardly affectionate, and they all have different manners. I know all of them love me quite a bit.

Why do you think your cat doesn't love you already? Does she show signs she doesn't trust you?

If you haven't earned her love I'd say there are two key things with cats: demeanor and patience. If you act calm/reassuring (demeanor), and you don't push the cat or force things on your own timetable (patience) you can win most cats love... but it does take time.

She may already love you and you just might be expecting something that isn't her style.

Please post some reply saying the good things (stuff that shows affection / trust) and what you think is missing or disturbing (things that show the opposite).

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