Cat Psychology for Newbies

Until a month ago, I’d never taken care of a pet. I’m new to this and looking for insight from experienced cat owners.

Marlboro (Bobo for short) is a six year old, male, white Chinchilla. He was skinny when we got him, and had spent a week at the vet for flea and skin problems. He’d been shorn, his tail nicked and bleeding in the process.

He was scared of his own shadow when he arrived, and bit my fiance on the hand when she tried to pet him. I know enough about cats to know that nervousness is normal when in a new environment.

We’ve fed him well and talked to him softly, and in addition to fattening up, he’s left his spot under the couch and started to walk around, fairly at ease, in the house.

Still, after a month, he’s only friendly (rubbing legs, asking to be petted on the head) when he’s angling for food. My visions of a loving animal sitting next to me as I work the keyboard or relax in the living room have been replaced by thoughts of “what good is a cat who isn’t friendly?”. If he’s on the couch and one of us sits down on the other end, he’ll leave. If he’s under my desk and I sit down a few feet away from him, he’ll leave. If I try to pet him when he’s not looking for canned food, he’ll walk away. He sometimes calls in his cute little voice, and sometimes we’ll go and find him and speak softly to him, but he still shies away from any kind of contact. The only thing he seems to enjoy contact with is a small, soft carpet near the entry, which he humps at least once a day (he’s been neutered).

We’ve only yelled at him twice, when he felt his litter box was too dirty and pissed on our bed cover (thanks a lot buddy–dry cleaning fees ain’t cheap :fume: ), and we’ve certainly never hit him. Our hand movements around him are slow and unthreatening.

Is there anything we can do to make him friendlier? Does it take longer than a month of kindness to get a cat to enjoy being close to you?


First of all, Tomas, it’s great to see that you haven’t given up on this cat- you’re obviously the perfect owners for this lucky animal.

I have a semiferal young cat in my walk-in right now. For the last two months she has spat on (literally) my attempts to raise the level of our relationship from the ‘here’s your food … ouch! Why did you scratch me?!’ stage. There was no improvement in two months.

Then, quite suddenly, just a few days ago, she started greeting me at the door of the closet (it’s big - an old spare bedroom) and showing very friendly and relaxed body language - though with the occasional spit and hiss. She now lets me rub her head. This is a huge step forward. I remember the same thing happening with my family’s first cat, also semiferal.

I guess the moral of the story is to hang in there, keep doing what you’re doing (non-threatening gestures), and wait it out.

In the meantime, however, try this great trick: when the cat looks at you, narrow your eyes like your happily falling asleep; it’s cat language for ‘hey, I’m relaxed around you and I’m not a threat.’ It works a treat.

Then you could try looking at this helpful Web page: Whether you believe in the Tellington TTouch or not, there is more extremely valuable info contained within the forum (such as to make stroking movements at a distance to get the cat used to the movement).

Not all cats are cuddlers, but you will definitely see some improvements in the current state of affairs by heeding the advice above.

Good luck, and I respect you immensely for giving this cat the chance, time, and effort that it needs. :bravo: :notworthy: :slight_smile:



I think a month is still quite short. Cats, especially Persians, don’t adapt easily to a new environment, or to new people. Actually Chinchillas are usually more affectionate than other Persians, so it could be that he didn’t get enough affection when young. Sometimes it can take a cat up to six months to feel comfortable. I remember reading about a woman who took in a Persian who lived her first five years with a breeder, just producing kittens. The breeder eventually found a new home for her as she was small and nervous, and the other cats turned against her. According to her it took the cat about six months to become really playful and affectionate.

If the cat hasn’t gotten proper Persian care you might also run into difficulties. He might not be used to being handled, but Persians need to be brushed EVERY DAY, especially in winter when they get their coats. If not, the fur will make horrid knots that the cats will sometimes try to get off until he hurts himself/his skin. Do you have one or two litter boxes? It is better to leave out two if your cat tends to be very picky about cleanliness. Also, if there is always a box near he won’t be as tempted to get onto the nice, dry bed or sofa.
Maybe you can read up on Chinchillas online. I am no expert. I just love cats, and have read up on most breeds. I still have a book I bought in Elementary school about all the cat breeds. Some characteristics come from a particular breed (my cat HATES being held or picked up in any way), while some come from the parents or from the way the cat was raised.
Give him some more time, and just remember how much care he will need. My cat drives me nuts sometimes because she is super-sensitive to food, and you can just imagine what an upset stomach can do when it comes in contact with a huge amount of white fur!
I hope she starts seeing you as a friend, and not just as a food dispenser. Try to resist feeding her every time she cries. It could also work to get a toy mouse on yarn to pull around, or some toy at the end of the stick so she can get comfortable playing without being touched.

Hey, about friendlyness. My family and I got 2 cats (kittens) from the SPCA about 9 years ago. Both are part Siamese and one made himself right at home in about 30 seconds. The other hid and ran for his life anytime someone came near him. He would run as if someone was trying to kill him whenever anyone not family came in the house. It took four years for him to relax enough that we could walk up to him at a normal speed and pick him up, it took another 4 years for him to allow stranger near him. Now he is the biggest winiest(sp?) suck in the universe. One month is nothing, depending on how your cat was treated it could take years for him to become extremely trusting. Ours was okay about coming up to us when we were sitting after he was in our house for a few months, he took it in stages and I have accepted the fact that I will never be able to vaccume him like I can our other cat.

Thank you for the insights Stray Dog, twonavels, and Woudsprite.

We must be doing something right, because the little fellow has gotten much warmer this week. I woke him up from a nap today and he was all over me, cuddling and such (but not humping, thank God–his paramour is the soft, tiger-print rug we use to divide our entry from our living room).

I think we’re going to be okay, and in any event, I know now that it simply takes patience as he gets more comfortable around us.

We get home tonight, and he’s waiting at the door. He rubs our legs and plays with us for a while. I open the door to the bedroom and forget to shut it, as we’ve been doing for the past two weeks, since the week of three bed-pissings. I check his kitty litter–one chunk of poop. He actually goes in there and drops another load, then sneaks into the open bedroom and promptly pisses all over the bed.


Another sheet-washing. Another dry cleaning fee. Another headache I don’t need.

Why is this cat doing this? What is the appropriate punishment? Do cats have the ability to alter their behavior?

I’m ready to let this little guy go. I care for him and am nice to him, but I can’t keep cleaning up after him this way :fume: .

Soap and soap powder magnifies the smell for the cat.

You need to use white vinegar, bleach, or some enzyme-eating odour neutralizer.

My cat did the same - it stopped.

Hang in there!


Thank you, Stray Dog.

I do hope you will be at the next happy hour so that you can drink the beverage I’m planning to buy for you.

This sort of thing is what makes this website great.

No probs - and feel free to call me if need be.

Was in a rush before (as I am again now) so I had to be brief, but here are some links for you:

There are many more - just erach for ‘feline elimination’. It’s th most common complaint regarding pet cats, and it is almost always easily ‘fixable’. Your cat is doing it for a reason, so the trick is to take the cat’s point of view. Then you can work on changing its behaviour.

Good luck.

And see you at the next Happy Hour, I hope. :wink:


Yes, they’ll keep doing it in the same spot if they can still smell the urine. Their noses are way more sensitive. The smell is also still in the mattress, I guess, so it doesn’t really help if only the bedding is clean. The fact that she hasn’t done it anywhere else in the house indicates that this is probably the main reason for going back to the spot.

I would still suggest to anybody to get two sand boxes too. Both of my cats take a dump in the one box, and urinate in the other. It seems that they don’t like to urinate in the dump box, especially not if it’s dirty at the time. Or maybe I’m just being controlled by my cats.

tomas, if you are still looking for answers, I’ve found this site to be very helpful and knowledgable:

the forums usually have quite a few people that have dealt with almost any issue you can dream up.

And for any other fanatic cat lovers, they also have photo pages, oh so cute!

Just another thought. Why are you letting your cat in your bedroom? I realize that maybe you are hoping for a cute and cuddely kitten to snuggle with for a bit. But maybe kick him out of this area for a month or so, until he has another place to pee all the time.

SORRY, I missed the forgot part and I think I missed the for two weeks part. I think my English skills should improve once I go home, but Taiwan seems to be destroying my ability to read and comprehend properly.

You can discipline a cat with a spraybottle of water, the kind you use to spray plants with. Any disciplining must be while he is doing something bad or immediately after. Also remember that anything physical should never ever be used on a cat.

PS Sometimes it takes years for the cat to train a human properly :laughing:

Maybe you should go to pee in his sleeping basket and see how he likes it. I am very controlling with my animal. She has her pillow, her toys, her things. If she wants to sleep on the couch she needs to bring her pillow to lie on.

Maybe the cat is marking ‘her territory’…maybe it just looooves you!