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C2009-09

Dear Christopher Cat

We adopted a feral cat and named him Sammy. He’s very shy, and he often backs away when we pet him. We play gently with him, but he struggles when we try to pick him up. How can we tame him?

Christopher Responds

It might not be possible. My sister Claire was a feral kitten when our family adopted her, and despite lots of socialization and cuddling, she has never become tame.

She lives under a bed and comes out to eat and use the litter box only when people and dogs are absent.

I see her every few days, but Mom sees her only once a week for a couple of minutes of petting.

Two factors determine how sociable a cat will be with humans: the father’s personality, and how much the kitten was handled before seven to eight weeks of age.

Kittens handled for at least an hour a day during that crucial period of socialization are more likely to enjoy sitting on human laps.

Continue to engage Sammy in play, and entice him with tasty cat treats. He may decide he enjoys your company when he’s sitting next to you, but not when he’s on your lap.

If he remains aloof, you’ll need to respect his preferences, just as my humans do with Claire.

 

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