Personality change in kitten

newhomeseekerMay 17, 2010

Last summer I found 5 kittens and their mother in my woods. Mother was once a house cat (and is currently again a housecat as she was adopted about a month ago) so kittens were not feral. I brought them inside and raised them from the time they were a few weeks old. they are now 10 months old and we have two left that we are keeping. ONe is a tortie and she is very sweet, very demanding when she wants attention- she will cry, jump on your lap and sprawl across you and purr and let you pet her. If you do not pet her there is more meowing until you do. The other is a dilute tortie- she is the cutest thing.

Her name is Pumpkin and she used to be very outgoing, very friendly, talkative and in-your-face. But a very sweet kitty. She is the most innocent, would never hurt anyone- human or cat. She used to LOVe attention, went crazy over food (acted like she was hungry 24/7) and played like crazy. She was spayed about 2 months ago along with her sister and while her sister's personality is still the same (except she doesn't climb on top of cabinets anymore) Pumpkin's personality has undergone a drastic change. She is so much more mellow. She doesn't approach us for anything )not even attention anymore. She keeps to herself and isn't nearly as talkative. It is almost like she is depressed. If you go to her and pet her she still purrs like she;s the happiest kitty ever but she won't seek anyone out for attention.

She used to be fearless. When I'd run the vaccuum she'd practically stand on top of it. She wasn't afraid at all. When everyone else would run she'd hang out (and get in your way) and watch or chase the vaccuum. Now she covers and runs. Also she used to get along well with the other cats. She would play with them (and not take no for an answer) no she is afraid of some of them. And even her sister bosses her around. The dynamic did change recently (about a month ago I took the third female kitten to the shelter for adoption) so we are down one cat. She was very bossy with the other cats so you would think it is a good thing she is no longer there. Also she was our cat who was the aloof one and now my Pumpkin is taking that role. It is very strange. I've taken her to the vet to make sure there are no health problems and everything seems fine. What could cause such a drastic personality change or is this normal for kittens as they age?

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There could be several things at work here. First, kittens can mature into very different personalities as they reach adulthood. That most likely accounts for at least some of the changes you've noted in Pumpkin. The two kittens I found last summer are closing in on their first birthdays, too. The one who was bolder as a baby has now become much more cautious and reactive. "Bolder" has turned into "bolter" as he runs from anything he finds at all startling.

It's also possible that Pumpkin is experiencing PTSD-like symptoms relating to her spay surgery and subsequent loss of her dominant sibling. Surgery can be very traumatizing, and I believe some animals retain the fear memory long after the surgery has healed. As far as her sibling is concerned, it's possible that Pumpkin relied on the self-assurance and bossiness of her sibling to bolster her own sense of security. Perhaps the "boss" was, in her mind, her protector from environmental dangers and from the other cats. Now that the "boss" is gone, so is Pumpkin's sense of security and safety.

Just keep handling Pumpkin with reassurance and confidence. Spend a lot of time playing with her interactively to draw her out of her own head and into her surroundings in a fun way. Don't allow the other cats to boss her around, not even her sister. Teach Pumpkin that she can trust and rely on you to be her protector now.

Pumpkin may never be the outgoing girl she once was, but she doesn't have to live an anxious life. You may just need to be a more watchful and proactive caretaker to rebuild her sense of security in your home.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 2:34PM
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I'd sure watch her & keep track of her temp.

I wish you the best.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 4:02PM
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murraysmom Zone 6 OH

Could it be a reaction to the anesthesia? Is there anything that can be done for that?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 9:36PM
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To me, it sounds like a simple change in cat social heirarchy. In a multi-cat household, the roles of who is dominant and submissive fluctuate continuously, unlike dogs who have a pretty consistent stable social 'pecking order'. Cat heirarchal groups do not.

With the change of a social group (in your case, removing one cat), it alters the established organizational hierarchy. Pumpkin probably felt like she had to be more dominent than she does now for attention, food, interaction with the other cats, etc. Hence, she is now exhibiting more subdued behavior.

It's good that you had her checked out and the vet feels she is healthy. But, keep an eye on her just in case.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:43PM
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