What to Do with Unfriendly Felines

By Cathy M. Rosenthal | June 29th, 2022

Plus moving with pets and padding floors for “skiddish” pets

Siamese cat Linqong Dreamstime. Dealing with unfriendly felines, travel options for moving with pets, and a great way to pad floors for “skiddish” pets, in "My Pet World."

In this edition of “My Pet World,” pet advisor Cathy M. Rosenthal replies to a woman with unfriendly felines – both standoffish and a biter – discusses travel options for moving with pets, and learns of a great way to pad floors for “skiddish” pets.

Dear Cathy,

I can relate to the story of Nancy in Queens Village, New York, who couldn’t pick up or touch her cats. Two years ago, we adopted two Siamese cats that were more than two years old. A year and a half later, they still hid from us and wouldn’t let us pick them up. Charlie died around that time, but we still have Annie. Shortly after, we acquired an eight-week-old Siamese kitten from a breeder. Tiny is a year old now and a biter. He bites me, my husband, and Annie. Tiny also has eaten all my plants and broken all my statues. It’s a mess. I wish Annie and Tiny would come over to my husband or me. All my previous Siamese cats were very affectionate. Any suggestions?

– Lainie, East Northport, Long Island, New York

Dear Lainie,

It’s tough to have cats that you can’t touch. All you can do is respect their wishes and create opportunities for them to approach you. You can help build trust by offering them treats, playing with them, sitting on the floor a few feet from their bowl when they are eating, or touching them with a grooming brush if they will allow it. You also could try to lure them to your lap by sitting on the couch with a cozy blanket. If they approach you or let you touch them in any way, positively reinforce the behaviors by talking sweetly and giving them treats.

As for Tiny, spray the plants with Bitter Apple to discourage his chewing and move the plants to be more out of his reach. Never use your hands to play with him. Use a feather teaser or laser pointer instead. Whenever he does bite, make a loud “Sstttt” sound to stop him and show your disapproval. I also suggest adding a pheromone plug-in in the room(s) that they frequent the most. It won’t solve the problem, but it can help take the edge off if they are anxious.

When the unfriendly felines belong to your neighbor

Plus, a humorous look at How to Bathe a Cat (or how to create unfriendly felines!)

Dear Cathy,

You always give great advice, but your recent advice of someone taking two cats on a plane (to move) is a terrible idea. I drove at age 60 from New Jersey to Las Vegas, taking more than three days. I gave my cat a doctor-ordered sedative, and my cat was zonked until the afternoon. Your idea of a family member (driving the cats) was excellent; 600 miles is nothing to a young person. For them, it’s just a one-day trip.

– Jeff, Henderson, Nevada

Dear Jeff,

Every pet owner must determine what will work best for them and their pets, since each circumstance will be different. I have moved 16 times as an adult. Since I have always had pets, I think nothing of driving my pets across the country as you do. There are plenty of hotels that allow pets, so it’s just a matter of planning ahead. But not everyone feels equipped for a three-day drive with their pets, not even me on some of my moves.

Once I felt overwhelmed at the thought of driving my three-month-old baby and three cats from Indianapolis to Philadelphia, so I booked all of us on a nonstop flight. It snowed on the day of the flight (in March) and the flight got canceled; one of the downsides of traveling by plane. A family member ended up driving my cats (in snowy weather, no less) to my new home in Pennsylvania while I caught a later flight and prepared for their arrival. I also have flown my cats on long-distance moves (Denver to Washington, DC, for example) because I had a toddler in tow and knew it would be easier to manage everything better if I kept our travel to one day.

So, these considerations should be made on a case-by-case basis. But like you, I prefer driving with my pets.

Dear Cathy,

In a recent column, you suggested using carpet runners to transition (a dog) from carpeting to the floor. There is another, less expensive option. To provide better traction, we use old yoga mats. They’re lightweight and can be switched around where needed. They also can be cleaned easily.

Love your articles. I am using a pheromone diffuser you suggested for cats, which has worked great.

– Lynda, Tucson, Arizona

Dear Lynda,

That’s a great tip! Used yoga mats are an excellent option for providing traction to dogs who slide around or are unsteady on smooth surface floors. Garage sales might be a good place to find some. Thanks for sharing your idea.

Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist, and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. She addresses reader questions as diverse as outdoor cat safety to bizarre dog behavior. Send your pet questions, stories, and tips to cathy@petpundit.com. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.

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