How to relate to an abused cat

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:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Patience
  3. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. No sudden sharp movements or activities that create odd or loud noises such as rustling plastic bags or DIY.
  3. “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).
  4. 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).
  5. Providing good food is probably the best way to a cat’s heart!
  6. A nice well maintained litter box is vital as is a clean environment generally and:
  7. When he or she is ready some play as this helps create a bond and pleases the cat at the same time.
  8. 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.

From How to Relate to An Abused Cat to Cat Facts

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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  • Hey Michael, why are you misleading people? You date this thread 07/27/18, but none of the posts are more recent than 2012! This is a recycled post. Are you honest about ANYTHING?

    • It is good practice to occasionally bring forward useful posts because they become hidden from search engines. Also it gives a chance to update the article and add to it. To say it is dishonest to do this is madness. It is normal and advised. It is like republishing a book or re-editing a film and airing it afresh. Really you'll do anything to insult me. You're a sad person. I pity you really.

      • Yes, very useful. Now everyone can see that you actually do think that throwing cats outside to have their tails broken (and worse) and show all the signs of being an abused animal truly is considered an abused cat. And yet you go on to suggest that everyone should abuse cats more by throwing them into TNR colonies so even more abuse and harm can happen to them.

        Very useful.

        How do you even live with yourself.

        If TNR is such a wonderful fate for a cat, throw yours into the street and then tell us all how it got killed in less than 2-3 years. If you're lucky it won't drag its half-mangled body off into a ditch to die somewhere and you'll get to see up close and personal how all the maggots ate out its eyes or it dragged itself to your door with its front paws because a car broke its back. Won't that be just so wonderful for your cat. If that fate is good for all TNR cats then it's also good for your own cat.

        • "If TNR is such a wonderful fate for a cat, throw yours into the street and then tell us all how it got killed in less than 2-3 years."

          That comment is plain childish. You are a child. No one said TNR is a 'wonderful fate'. It is the best of a bad job done by humans who have screwed up. You can't understand that and I am wasting my time discussing it with you so bye bye. Banned. Go away and don't come back under any alias. You're too thick and you hate cats.

          • I agree with you for once. Any attempt to defend TNR is an utter waste of time. It's indefensible to anyone who doesn't prioritize prevention of cat euthanasia over public health and wildlife preservation. Again, this is not normal.

            Caveat--it may be "normal" in the UK. Your country has the most dismal conservation records of probably any country on earth, having extirpated or driven extinct over 400 species which once inhabited your cold, dismal archipelago. My goal is to prevent you from doing the same to the rest of the world.

          • Look, you hate cats and me so much that your comments are unacceptable to me. Bile literally drips off the page when you write comments. You need to go on an anger management course. I have given you more than enough air time. Anymore comments by you under any guise will not be published. Go and pester someone else. I'd swear you have a personality disorder.

  • Hi Jules, thanks for the comment. Well done in caring for Anna. I would not use drugs. Just let her find somewhere to hide and gradually become normal again. Are you saying she is still very jumpy etc.? Does she let you handle her and in which country do you live?

  • Hi, I just got a rescue cat they had kittens but I figure one that's a few years old has less of a chance of getting adopted so I would adopted a cat that was one or two. Anyway I was told the cat was a lap cat & loved family & after getting her home it was apparent the cat was abused mistreated or worse who knows, as the article said going back to the reuse I got her from was not a option. She never seen a tv she didn't no how to play she didn't clean her self & someone or something broke her tail & it healed bent in half & it looks like she had kittens at one time . It was sad she pretty much had a sad existence in the few years she's been alive. It makes me so mad that people take no responsibility & have there pets neutered & chuck them outside as soon as there not a kitten anymore. She is a poster of what happens every time someone is to lazy & docent take there pet to be neutered & I say lazy because there are many will to help with the cost or even pay for someones pet. All that said I'll get back to my rescue her name is Anna I spent a week downstairs with her until she trusted me enough to pet her & I did all you mentioned above, brushing, patience, ect. The only thing is noise like I said I was told Anna was a family cat & I even made a comment about my family being on the loud side & people going in & out & the women running this rescue said oh I think she likes that & boy we can open a draw with out her jumping 10 ft in the air. How can we overcome this I don't want anna to be a wreck the rest of her life in your experience will this get better or should I get her to a vet for meds to calm her nerves. Regards Jules

    • Quite simply -- YOU WERE LIED TO.

      Cat rescues lie all the time about the feral cats they trap and try to find homes for. Nobody else will take them. The only other alternative is to have them killed. You might consider that option before you invest any further time or money into a feral cat that can never be tamed. It wasn't abused -- unless you consider leaving any cat outdoors as a major form of abuse.

      • What's the matter with you? I have a feral cats whoI domesticated. He's fine. The best alternative is not to have them killed but to let them live their lives in colonies managed by TNR volunteers. The best solution is to stop the creation of feral cats through improved cat ownership.

        • There is nothing the matter with me. Jules clearly states that he adopted a cat that was already a few years old. You know as well as I do that there is an age beyond which a feral cat can never be acclimated and conditioned to trusting humans and human habitation. That cat will act that way for the rest of its life. Living a life of torment contained in the home of a human.

          How old was your cat when you adopted it from outside? It was just a kitten, wasn't it. And I bet it is still a handful at times (but you won't admit it publicly).

          Jules claims that that cat "... didn’t clean her self & someone or something broke her tail & it healed bent in half ...". So now you want him to throw that cat outside into a TNR colony where next time something will break its legs, or its spine, or worse? Yeah, you sure do love cats, don't you. How you can even run a website about cats is beyond me. You need to be shut-down immediately if this is how you care about the lives of cats.

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