An opinionated feline in Edmonton, Canada who lived with a retired cat behaviourist, Greyce provided behavioral advice to cats in need until her death in July 2014. Because her entries are useful even today, the blog remains posted.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Low Petting Tolerance; Distorted Gait from Declawing: Two Cats Adjust to a New Home

Dear Greyce,

I am an eight-year old female who along with my companion, Spook, have recently been adopted by a new family.

We have been taking it easy getting used to our new home. We are confined to the upstairs for now but have enjoyed some time out on the deck (which is completely enclosed for our safety). There is a Feliway diffuser in the bedroom and in the living room. And Herself sprays a bottle with Rescue Remedy, Walnut and Star of Bethlehem around the house. Spook will let her rub this into his fur but she doesn't dare try it with me.

All is going quite well, though I do have some questions:

1. Is there anything else I should encourage my new purrsons to do, to help us adapt to our new surroundings?

2. How can I learn to tolerate being petted a bit more?

3. What can be done for Spook's gait?

Let me give you the background.

I am very aggressive with strangers because I was traumatized as a kitten by someone associated with my previous home who flicked a BBQ lighter in my face. As a results, strangers and I do NOT mix. Because of this, I was declawed when I was three years old. Still I am wary and will growl if approached by someone I don't know; I have been known to bit. I also don't like people trying to pet me (unless I ask for it) or getting too close.

At my new home the people are very kind. They extend a hand to me when they would like me to approach. For the most part, they don't initiate interaction unless I appear willing; and they stop as soon as I seem the least bit uncomfortable. They also don't make eye contact with me.

Knowing my propensity to growl, they behave in ways that keep me calm. For example, I feel it is a bit too close if I am sitting on the back of the couch and they want to sit down on it. So they slink into their spot and sit quietly, rather than making any fuss.

I am now freely jumping into their laps, especially if invited to do so. But I still don't like being petting much and just prefer being allowed to site. I don't like having my back stroked much and can go ballistic if they pet my face a lot. For me it is best to have limited pets, restricted to my face and between my ears.

Our purrsons have even bough us a toy called Da Bird and I understand we may get more things to play with. This is a BIG deal for us as we did not come to our new home with toys.

Spook has settled in well and has been quite affectionate. He did get noisy at night (coming into the bedroom and jumping around); but they now keep us out at night and he has settled down.
Like me, Spook is declawed. However he has a funny gait, almost a limp. He is a bit chubby, too. Can you suggest anything to help him?


Dear Jade,
Congratulations to Spook and yourself for finding a lovely new home. It sounds like you both have landed in a bowl of cream!

To answer your questions:

1. Adapting to your new surroundings: It sounds as if things are proceeding well. Just a note about that spray combination you mentioned: Once you are fully used to your new place and people, just use Star of Bethlehem by itself to deal with your history of trauma.

2. Learning to tolerate being petted more: Everything your purrsons are doing now is absolutely correct in terms of cat etiquette: no direct eye contact (since such gazes are very aggressive in our culture), allowing you to initiate interaction, stopping as soon as you make your discomfort known. However a fine feline with your past history is bound to have issues over being petted.

Many of use don't like our lower quarters touched as we store tension there and it can set us off. And some of us are face-only cats (when it comes to being petted). I suggest you read my entry, Only On My Terms (12/20/09) - scroll down to the section, All About Petting.

If your folks truly don't see you give even the most subtle of signals, then they should start to time how long it takes before you have had enough, and use that to get a baseline. From there they can shorten the time interval and very, very slowly extend it - as mentioned in that blog entry.

3. Spook's gait: Alas I am not in favour on declawing and this is one of the reasons. It can affect your gait, possibly due to things such as arthritis (from holding your paws differently) or chronic pain. Not being a veterinarian, I am in no position to judge Spook's case. I do suggest that a veterinarian be consult to determine if his problem is one for which there is a solution. Do your purrsons have a video recorder on their camera or cellphone? If so, ask them to record Spook while he is walking, running and playing. A moving picture will help the vet assess the problem.

In any event, carrying extra weight will contribute to such a problem, so changing your kibble (gradually NOT all at once) to the diet-form of the same brand you are now eating, is a good idea. Just remember that when you chance foods you should always grade the new food in with the old food, slowly. Start with 75% old formula and 25% new; then chance the proportions over a two-week or so period until you are at 100% new). You can check with your vet, but it probably will do not harm for the both of you to be on the diet food - even if you don't have a weight problem. (I assume you are both free feeding, which would make it difficult to regulate who gets to eat what).

And to make the whole idea of a diet more interesting, click on food puzzle for great ideas.

Also if Spook can manage it, active play sessions are in order. You have Da Bird which is a great interactive toy. Have a look at my entries, Stimulating Ideas (12/9/09) and Guys Just Wanna Have Fun (11/9/09) for further ideas.

All in all, Jade, you are doing very well. Do keep in touch and let me know how you and Spook are doing.
Best purrs to you both,