How can my husband re-bond with our new cat after medicating him?
October 21, 2020 12:30 PM   Subscribe

We just adopted two adorable kittens (teenagers really, about 5 months old), one of whom had an infection in his eye that meant we needed to smear antibiotic ointment in it twice a day. My husband did the majority of the medicating as he's a better cat-catcher than I am, but now the medicated kitten is skittish around him. How do we repair the relationship? Cat tax and more details inside.

Cat tax paid here. The critter in question is the orange one, who only has one eye and (probably relatedly) is a lot more tentative and nervous than his brother-from-another-mother. Before we spent 2 weeks catching him and smearing medication in his eye, little orange guy had really warmed up to both of us but particularly my husband and would jump up in his lap several times a day. Then, the medicating, which I probably did 20% of the time and my husband 80%. Now that we've been able to stop the medication (about a week ago) he's fine with me but tends to run away when my husband comes near, which is really bumming him out. How can my husband regain his tiny trust?
posted by wuzandfuzz to Pets & Animals (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Treats, treats, treats. Time will work, too, and cuddles, and all that good stuff..but in the short term do not underestimate the power of treats! Can your husband be the one to feed and spoil them with treats?
posted by rue72 at 12:36 PM on October 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

treats and time. give kitty some space to come around.
posted by supermedusa at 12:39 PM on October 21, 2020 [6 favorites]

Hubby to do all feeding for a while. Be it meals or treats. If you both give them treats, then he get's the super duper high value ones.
posted by wwax at 12:41 PM on October 21, 2020 [9 favorites]

It's gonna be time and patience, I'm afraid. You can't apologize to an animal, but you can rebuild trust by feeding them and letting them feel safe. And sometimes that may mean not pushing to get them back in your lap for a while.

Also, do they like catnip?
posted by Horkus at 1:03 PM on October 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Food, treats, time and play; especially any play that has a " stringlike" component that hubby can pull towards himself.
posted by mightshould at 1:48 PM on October 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

The majority of my foster cats have come to me needing some kind of medication that they hate and while they've been a little skittish following treatment, they've also all come around after a little time. Nthing treats and affection, and during this time, he should make sure he lets the cat come to him rather than going after him.
posted by Candleman at 2:18 PM on October 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

It took me a few years to gain the trust of a skittish little black kitty (Marcus) who came with the house I bought 8 years ago, but the thrice-daily servings of Fancy Feast eventually won him over and he’s a total sweetheart now.
posted by porn in the woods at 2:29 PM on October 21, 2020

One of my cats had an ear thing going on when I first brought her home as an older kitten, and she hated the treatment and got skittish. She was always more cautious, and that didn't help. Bit by bit I've been working on regaining her trust, and today, 9 months or so later, I was able to successfully pick her up and carry her down the hall. (When I first brought her home, before the ear treatment, I could pick her up and rock her like a baby.) She curls up next to me in bed and on the couch all the time and has gotten cuddly again over the past several months, though she still doesn't have a ton of patience for extended cuddling or petting.

Long story short, I'd just give it time (and treats!).
posted by limeonaire at 10:36 PM on October 21, 2020

Bonito flakes, distributed at regular intervals by hubby only. Or salmon skin or melon rind or the cream from cans of coconut milk or whatever your darling finds most palatable. For one of my cats it was banana Laffy Taffy (dont ask).

He should also be the person filling the food bowls very conspicuously. Three weeks of that and he will be the new favorite.
posted by ananci at 10:41 PM on October 21, 2020

You definitely want meat tubes as the primo treat for bonding. I get the Inaba Churu tubes, but there are other, probably less expensive, brands. I have yet to meet a modern cat who isn't totally entranced by them. The kitty has to sit with you to get more puree as you squeeze it up. This is what got my cats to first start coming in my lap (one former street cat, plus two born to a feral mother), and they will basically climb over me and each other to get to the meat tubes for more.
posted by ktkt at 1:00 AM on October 22, 2020

I figured out years ago that the best time for kitty medicating is right before mealtime. It helps if the person doing the medicating then provides the food. In a remarkably short time, the cat associate getting medicated with getting fed.

My current cats, one of whom requires an inhaler twice a day, and the other of whom takes a pill and some liquid medicine once a day, often willingly come over to me when it's time for their meds.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:26 PM on October 22, 2020

Response by poster: Thank you all for your feedback - time and treats it is! It doesn't really seem fair to mark a best answer given that they're generally in the same vein, but please know that your answers were all helpful and appreciated.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:58 PM on October 22, 2020

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