My Pet World: What to do with a biting, reluctant feline
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
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 that they frequent the most. It won't solve the problem, but it can help take the edge off if they are anxious.
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; six hundred miles is nothing to a young person. For them, it's just a one-day trip.
— Jeff, Henderson, Nevada