Photo by Gini~
The story of the cat above is briefly as follows. This is a female Persian cat (what I would call an Ultra Persian – extreme face – and could be purebred) that the owner kept in the garage “because his kids liked the cat” (the words of the rescue centre lady).
He put a whole male in the garage to try and breed kittens and the male scratched the frightened Persian girl cat’s eye.
An abscess formed and the cat was re-homed through HART after the vet persuaded the owner to relinquish the cat & removed the eye. Good for the vet. The Persian is loving despite her trauma.
As there are a lot of rescue cats just waiting to be rescued and as some of these will have been abused it may be useful to just think how to relate to an abused cat. Sometimes the symptoms of abuse are not readily apparent as the injury that remains will be mental and only show under certain conditions.
This short article comes mainly from my own experiences. I have looked after some stray cats and one, Timmy, had been abused. The underlying method in my opinion is:
- Creating a calm predicable environment with good food
How to Relate to an Abused Cat — Acceptance
When we notice that our adopted cat is possibly mentally scared by, for example, hissing at everything, being jumpy at the slightest sound or being very defensive we should accept all these characteristics and work with them. In other words we fit around the cat rather than forcing the issue and perhaps end up giving the cat back to the rescue centre (I guess that might mean euthanasia).
How to Relate to an Abused Cat — Patience
Cats like all animals will forget bad experiences and do so more quickly in a calm and loving environment. But it takes time. And there will probably be some permanent mental damage in my opinion but not sufficient to make a great relationship possible. In fact, I think the relationship with a mentally scared cat can be more rewarding than with the perfect cat.
Your cat will dictate the pace and you can tell when he or she starts to become less fearful and more open. The cat leads on timescale and we lead on management of the relationship as cats behave instinctively and react to our behaviour.
Creating a calm predicable environment
To make a cat more relaxed and open in behaviour it is important to create predictability through routine. Cats like routine and no unexpected activity as this creates a sense of security. Specifically this might translate into:
- A calm, quiet and friendly voice. Cats respond well to the tone of a voice. A lot of communication between cat and human comes from the use of the tone of the voice. The actual words are almost irrelevant.
- No sudden sharp movements or activities that create odd or loud noises such as rustling plastic bags or DIY.
- “Disciplining” a cat in the way that a person might discipline a wayward child is in my view completely wrong and will only do harm if anything at all. A cat won’t understand as their actions are completely natural, normal and instinctive. Why discipline a cat for doing what is normal for a cat? If we discipline a cat we do it to try and force the cat to fit in with our lifestyle. Is that the right thing to do, therefore? The better way to direct a cat is through the converse to punishment, which is reward (the classic training technique).
- All cats can over respond (by our standards) to play instigated by us. If we go too far the cat might bit or scratch. This might be in play or irritation. That is our fault. Also nervous, abused cats are more likely to respond unpredictably so we should be very careful until we know our new cat better and understand his/her likes and dislikes (the cat leads as mentioned).
- Providing good food is probably the best way to a cat’s heart!
- A nice well maintained litter box is vital as is a clean environment generally and:
- When he or she is ready some play as this helps create a bond and pleases the cat at the same time.
- I think a combing and a flea check (with a flea comb) also helps to create a bond and it obviously benefits the cat at the same time.
These are simple undemanding things but they underpin most of what we can do.