By Julie Mackenzie
If you’ve grown to love a pet and are lucky to have had more than one, you know all about personality differences. Some are very shy, backing away from anything even mildly disturbing, while others might be more daring, playful and entertaining.
Elderly friends of mine recently adopted two litter mates from a local shelter, one male and one female cat. They were adult cats when they found their new home. One is a greeter; the doorbell rings or there’s a knock indicating a visitor, and he can’t wait to see who it is. The female, on the other hand, runs in the opposite direction, ready to hide rather than face impending doom.
So, what do we do? Is the cat who runs really in mind-numbing fear, or is it a reflex, a precaution, playing it safe rather than finding oneself sorry? Two very different kitties from the same litter, and therein lies the mystery. In a recent study, many factors were explored that have influence over a cat’s behavior. The big ones are predisposition and environment, just like us. How they are not like us is learning by example. The shy cat is not going to be influenced by the more outgoing cat, as one might hope!
As the new owners try to cope with their differences, studies are extremely important to those who foster or shelter cats and prepare them for adoption, the first step in the process. They can look into prior owners and circumstances. Both can have a big impact on how a cat matures. If unknown, keen observation helps the conversation with potential adopters regarding a suitable candidate. For my friends, it was decided that the two kitties had to be adopted together in order for a better transition. However, not knowing their history was a challenge, a mystery that had one cat grow into adulthood with a cautious personality and the other to throw that same caution to the winds.
Most pet owners have faith that a cat’s behavior can change, and that goes for the adopters of our two. They’ve accepted the fact that they have contrasting personalities on their hands and have decided to make sure there are plenty of hiding places for the shy one. The more outgoing kitty is given free reign. They’ve discovered that the shy one will eventually emerge and join, rather tentatively, whatever is going on in the household, and this is encouraged. No one is grabbing the cat or forcing interaction, though. Just in the couple of months the shy one has been in the household, she’s been observed taking less and less time to come out of hiding.
When someone adopts a cat or dog, there is heavy reliance on the observations made by shelter personnel, or if getting the animal from a breeder, how that individual interacts. In shelter situations, it’s difficult to know history or, if it is known, whether or not the pet will act the same in a new environment. A good match always is one that is gentle, cat-friendly and where patience is the watchword.
All of these are key ingredients for a shy cat who now has become a member of the family. Cats, even the most outgoing ones, are sensitive not only to sounds, but also to smells, and many say, to vibes that certain individuals give off.
There are many influences that govern a cat’s behavior, and potential pet parents want to do right by their furry adoptees. Those who have been around them and know how to approach challenges are the best resources for encouragement. At home, adjusting behavior that will ultimately give a cat more confidence is a gradual process helped along with CANIDAE treats and lots of love.
Read more articles by Julie Mackenzie