Our cats rely on us for everything, like a safe environment to live in, food, love and attention, and medical care. A cat that is neglected and systematically denied any of these necessities can’t live a happy life. Then there’s the deliberate abuse of a cat, where there’s been infliction of pain. Sadly, some cats experience both types of abuse.
When you adopt a cat, you may be bringing one into your home that has experienced abuse. It’s crucial you prepare yourself for how to cope so you don’t do more damage. We’ve put together a list of ways in which you can make the transition from shelter to forever home easier. It will take a lot of patience and time, but clearly, you’re up to the challenge if you’re here!
The 12 Ways to Care for an Abused Cat
1. Give Them a Safe Space
You must take everything at your cat’s pace, which means giving your cat some room to heal and space to retreat to if they become overwhelmed. This could be in the form of another room or a crate. You might even utilize pet gates to create a barrier between your cat and other members of the family, such as other pets. Some cats like to hide up high and others down low such as on top of wardrobes or under beds. Make both options available to your cat.
2. Set Up Their Environment
They should have access to a litter tray, food, water, bedding, scratching post and entertainment. It is important not to put the litter tray next to the food and water. In addition the food and water should be separate and not in bowls side by side. Bowls that are designed to reduce whisker fatigue are helpful to reduce stress. The addition of a calming cat pheromone diffuser or spray will help to settle them in.
3. Spend Time Together
Try sitting in a quiet room with the animal, so they get used to your presence. Don’t approach them, but if you try this before mealtime, you could always arm yourself with treats and toss some in your cat’s direction. If a paw emerges from under a sofa, that’s a good sign. Small steps are what you’re aiming for; never try to hurry your cat.
You could even lie on the floor because cats appreciate it when you get on their level. You don’t need to do anything, just be there, so they get used to your presence. Or, to help you pass the time, you could read a book aloud.
4. Never Shout
You shouldn’t be doing this anyway, even with a cat that hasn’t been previously abused. An abused animal can be challenging; they may react aggressively or violently towards you or another pet. Getting angry will only scare your cat and won’t help the situation. Allow your cat to retreat or remove everyone else from the room if it’s one they feel safe in. Also, you should never use violence to get your point across.
5. Avoid Eye Contact
In the cat’s world, staring can be a sign of aggression. To avoid looking directly at them, you can slow blink at them. Sometimes a cat will slowly blink back. It’s a great way to make your cat feel more comfortable around you.
6. Let Them Come To You
We already touched on this, but don’t force any contact and let them come to you. Even when they approach, offer your hand and allow your cat to rub against you before petting them. You can set progress back by moving too fast.
7. Keep It Quiet
Whether you’re moving around the house or talking, keep the volume down. Avoid sudden movements and noises to ensure you don’t startle your cat.
8. Be Patient
It might feel like you’re not getting far too fast, and that’s fine; there aren’t timetables when it comes to a situation like this. The pace should always be dictated by your cat because there are so many factors that might affect the time it takes for your cat to feel safe. Temperament, age, and the severity of the abuse all affect how long it may take for your cat to regain its trust in humans. Providing your cat with all its basic needs and demanding nothing from it is a successful philosophy when attempting to rehabilitate an abused cat.
9. Set Realistic Expectations
Every cat has a different personality, and the healing process looks different each time.. Don’t try and push your expectations of what sort of cat you want onto them. Accept the cat you have. Learning cat signs of anxiety can help you understand what your cat is feeling.
Training can build up your cat’s confidence and strengthen your bond. You could call in a professional trainer or try clicker training at home. Your cat will feel empowered when allowed to find a way to make you “click” and get a reward. Once you’ve established the game, signals and voice cues can be added later.
Working together makes life easier and more predictable, which will reduce anxiety. It also means that if your feline seems worried or scared, you can intervene by redirecting their attention to more appropriate behaviors.
Sometimes a formerly abused cat might fear something specific, like people, other animals, or thunderstorms. You can reduce the fear by helping them associate it with something positive. Keep in mind, however, that this stage can only take place much later into the recovery journey when you’ve established a trusting relationship with your cat.
12. Seek Help
Sometimes, the trauma runs too deep, and you might feel overwhelmed and confused on your own. Contact your vet or a veterinary behaviorist, and they can develop a treatment plan to help you. Your cat may also need medication, supplements or other support, discuss the options with your vet.
Trauma can manifest itself in many ways. Your cat could run and hide or lash out with fearful aggression, and you must be prepared for whatever this difficult journey will throw at you.
Caring for an abused cat can be a frustrating experience, where you’ll second guess if you’re doing the right thing. However, it is also a rewarding experience as you share your safe, loving forever home with an animal that may never have experienced small moments of kindness in its life.
- Related Read: How to Tell if Cats Are Playing or Fighting: 3 Ways
Featured Image Credit: Alexandra Giese, Shutterstock