In 1998, I started a job in May that required I take BART out to Lafayette. The walk from the train station to the office took me past some rundown decades old mini office/strip mall space that was about three or four store fronts before passing a safe way crossing the street and get into my office. One of those storefronts what is the location for the Contra Costa County cat rescue.
They had wire cage is lined up across the two picture windows. I went inside to visit and there was this huge black cat sitting on top of one of the wire cages at the opposite end of the room from the door. The volunteer said I could interact with any of the cats but that big one wasn’t really interested. Of course I had to go right for that big one.
He was about 23 pounds, huge cat, black and very shy (estimates 5-7 years old).
Every day I would go and visit the cats on my way to work and on my way home, I would go to pet him first and just interact with him until it seemed like he was about to get up and run off.
Then I went on vacation in August and didn’t visit for a couple of weeks. When I came back, he greeted me at the door meowing. Apparently there had been a very talkative and temporary Siamese male cat in there and the big black cat, who they called Carmine, found his own voice.
I continued my visit and finally took him home in October. (My cat Missy was so mad. Eventually they became friends. )
Carmine was easily overstimulated.
It took years before I could pet him without him running off. And once he relaxed and learn to trust me, I couldn’t keep that cat off me. I did keep him at a lean 18 to 19 pounds for the next 16 years. He grew to love belly rubs. He would join me when I was reading a book on the bed, lay on his back with his head nestled up under my arm, so I would rub his belly with one hand while holding the book with the other. If I ever stopped or didn’t give him enough attention, he would reach up and start nibbling the corner of the book. He was known as “Carmine the creampuff” at the vets office.
The reason he was called Carmine was that he was found under a car in a shopping mall and wouldn’t come out. It took them 12 hours to lore him out so they could catch him.
Right now I’ve got two cats who are from the “forgotten kitten” project at Cat Town. They were captured at 5 to 7 months old, very feral. I fostered them for 18 months and not a single person expressed interest. That was in January 2016. I still have them in my home, they know where the food is, they’ve got many beds and cat condos. They interact with my other cats but I cannot just walk up to them and pet them. Jojo is an extrovert - but nobody pets her. Sometimes at night she let me rub her belly, but less since Dobson died last year in January (he was really the cat family caretaker). Her brother Baldwin is starting to come out of his shell now that we’ve got two male kittens in the house — He seems to respond to them as peers and really wants to be part of their play. He’s letting me rub his cheeks when I am standing or approaching him. Jojo is even meowing at her food dish now, after five years.
My mom had a cat from a hoarding situation who she couldn’t even pet for five years.
Some cats take a very long time to warm up. I guess that’s why I kept one of my foster cats from the summer because he is just such a love muffin. He was born in a house and very very happy with humans, his trust in me is inspiring Jojo and Baldwin.
You just have to let the cat be a cat. Some cats are affectionate and snuggly, and some are not. Maybe you can get a second cat who is affectionate and snuggly and that will help your cat learn those behaviors.