You would not believe how hard it is to google this problem, lol!
Last year my family adopted a "stray" cat. She was a family cat until they moved away and left her(jerks) and she became the neighborhood friendly cat. Anyway, we decided to give her a home as we were moving onto a farm property and she would have land to roam and hunt while being away from the highway(she was not willing to be an indoor cat, at least not fully. She was snuggly at night though!). Turns out she was pregnant!
We set up a little bed for her in the house where she gave birth to three little orange kittens. Yay, babies! Two days later, there is a fourth kitten, a grey one. This is the problem kitty. The reason I mentioned her birth, is I partially am curious if her delayed birth could be related to her mental state.
We raised the kittens in the house. From the moment they were walking around you could see their personalities forming. Forest, the smallest one was orange and white was spunky and bold and obnoxiously in your face(and he still is to this day, LOL), the 'twin' boys who were identical other than their meows, Geter and Russel were more laid back and liked to be on their own, though they purred ferociously when you even looked at them and just loved getting belly rubs. We gave Geter to a friend where he is living like a king, and Russel lives here with us, still lazy and loving life(and still purrs louder than a car engine I swear)
The little girl, though, always had fear issues. But only with people. Pet her as a baby and she'd scream for her mother. She'd play rambunctiously with the other kittens, but try to play with a feather toy and she'd run away as if you were trying to beat her. Even as an infant, picking her up caused a complete panic. We've tried to be gentle with her and tried to let her come to us on her own, but clearly she had issues with that. And it made it REALLY difficult to do simple things like vet checkups or going to get fixed. Just getting her in the carrier meant lots of bleeding and mentally scarring her further.
She's calmer when the other cats are near her, and oddly enough has fallen head over heels for our hyperactive dog and always has to be with her. Sometimes when she's sleeping you can pet her gently, and as she wakes up, she realizes she likes the pet and will even (quietly) start to purr(or drool, lol)
I have been very patient with her, and have been making some progress. She does like me, you can see she wants to be with me, but when I get close, she panics. We noticed interesting things. We had always been afraid to pet her because she'd attack your hand. Well, one night I decided not to flinch back when she attacked and just deal with it. She growled and moaned and patted my hand(which wasn't even near her, just out) until eventually she rubbed it and purred.
I started to pet her and she purred more. I stop petting her, and she attacked again. She'd grab onto my hand (with claws) and pull it towards her face, where she'd rub it against her forehead.
There were a lot of weird mixed signals going on there haha.
People who meet her think we just grabbed a cat from the streets and tossed her in our house. She's got that whole feral cat fear about her. But it's a little different. You'd have to really be here to witness it, but you can see that she doesn't really understand how to be a cat. She doesn't even get along with her siblings anymore as well because she doesn't understand play or how to ask for attention. She does the same 'grab with claws' routine until they will nuzzle her, but that usually just ends up with her getting beat up. She's afraid of a lot of things--storms, new furniture, people, noises, whatever. She tends to respond to that fear very negatively, and it's hard to comfort her. She looks very confused, and it's difficult for her to learn new things. When we move something, it throws her for a loop for a long while. Despite how she acts, she is probably our most loyal cat. She always stays near us(out of reach) and even when the door was left open and the cats got out, she was the only cat to stay right by the door and run to us when we came home. She's also very needy in her own odd way.
I feel really close with her, despite her overwhelming fear issues. Those times when you do break through that shell and she nuzzles and purrs or even sits in my lap(only happened twice) are huge memories and really special to me. It's difficult, it feels like we have a lot to go through for her to fully trust us.
Does anyone have any advice for helping soothe our fearful little girl? Do you think this just may be the way she is? I love River, and I do wish she wasn't so nuts, but it's alright that she is, she just needs a little extra help I guess. I just want to make sure I can be the best owner possible for her!
The three kittens we kept
and of course, the embarrassing baby pictures :)