My recovered abused cat has an extremely high sensitivity. He easily gets his feelings hurt and sometimes misreads my intentions. He either flees or hides when my intention has been to spoil him with a treat or if I wasn't attentive at the very moment he wanted me to be.
How can I build up his self assurance properly? This has been going on for some time, I've tried to reassure him, shower him with love and affection, and treat him like the wonderful creature he truly is. However, he still has such great doubt about how much he's valued. I don't want him to question his self worth any more.
Unfortunately, he's around 3 years old and might be set in his ways, but cats are more able to adjust than most would think, so I hope I can help this one. I can't afford a cat psychologist, but if anyone can guide me, with time, patience, and love I can do this; I just need some direction that helps us move beyond the point we're stuck at.
By Cornelia from OR
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Oh, it sounds like you're doing a great job! Cornelia, you really are doing everything right- and just like a human child, this little guy is going to have to take time to heal. DH and I have several former shelter and rescue cats, and some of them were pretty obviously abused, when they came to us- all that you can really do is continually offer love, and the time will come when the switch will go on in their heads. Your little guy may be skittish for the rest of his life, wouldn't you be? But he'll come around, and will get better. Nekocat's right- cats reason, as people do, but just like people, fur-folks take time to develop trust again, once it's been broken. Don't give up. Blessings on all of you who have chosen to take on the 'challenging' cases- they need us! :o)
I think you are wonderful for even trying. He is so lucky to have found a loving home. I don't have any suggestions, and have a somewhat similar situation with my cat. He was at a shelter for 6 months when I got him and is very shy, doesn't enjoy being petted or picked up. I've had him almost 2 years now and he is getting a bit better. I don't push him and sorta let him set the pace of our friendship. He does like to sit on my lap.... so we spend a lot of time together that way and he comes onto my bed at night. I really don't enjoy the "clingy needy" type of pets (or people!) so deliberately picked him at the shelter. We kinda suit each other, I guess. I hope your kitty comes to appreciate you and you can both be happier soon.
Thank you for your kind words. This is Leo, who won a contest several months back. I've been working with him for 2 years, and he adores me. When he isn't sure I just hurt him. poor guy. He does have his uncertainties, still and yes, I let him take his time. I have learned that you can't rush these things.
We did figure one thing out. It's dry inside the house right now with the furnace on, and we are accidentally zapping him from static electricity when we go to pet him. He thinks he's being tricked and tortured. So maybe if I turn the humidifier back on, that will ease things. But he loves to snuggle, loves to sleep under the covers with me (until he gets too warm) and is pretty hedonistic when he decides he needs some attention. But he is a cat, so it's maybe once a day he wants an enormous amount of attention all at once, then he's off by himself the rest of the day, being a normal cat.
He's super intelligent and I suspect he over thinks some things and assumes our mistakes are assaults. It breaks my heart! He is such a sweet cat, I just hate to see him cowering under the chair when as far as I know, all I did was lean gently against him, or pet him. He sure has feelings and he sure gets them hurt! more patience and love on my part...but I do wish I could find the key to this one, it's eluded me the whole 2 years.
Sometimes it just takes time. We adopted a one year old cat, Molly, from the shelter. She must have been abused by a male because she was scared to death of my husband. After a year she would let him pet her at an arms distance. She would never sit with him.
We then adopted a one year old male cat, Harry, who became my husband's best friend. He is often on his lap or sleeping with him.
Slowly over the past 4 years my husband has earned Molly's trust. She will now sit with my husband and he can pet her. She will even roll over for a belly rub. Maybe it took her seeing another cat being treated well to trust him. Not sure if a cat has these reasoning skills or not but it worked in our home.
Bless you and good luck with your cat.
I've seen not only cats reason, but, believe it or not, I've seen spiders reason. There is more to the creatures of this world than mankind has acknowledged! Leo does reason, and so I am very careful with him, since he's already sensitized. I'll keep working, I think it will come, it's just been a bit hard for him lately. I think it's the static from dry indoor heat is stinging him. With that knowledge, perhaps we can calm him down, now.
I think you are doing everything right so far. Just let leo go at his own pace, don't push anything, and understand that there may be a point of trusting that is his limit and that he can't go past that.
I once had a pure white stray cat come to my place, he was bone thin, obviously starving to death, I started putting food out on the porch for him, and gradually, gradually, he let me come closer. The first time ever he let me touch him, the poor thing shook like a leaf. He never became a lap cat, but did come to the point where I could sit with him and stroke him.
When we got our pussy she was about 3 and she acted like she was ill or something. Sat still, did not respond to our petting and was not at all vocal. After a bit of time and lots of love, she is the smoochiest, purringest pussy you will ever see! Absolutely beautiful and very lovable! Give it time for the trust to build up - persevere - it's worth it.
You certainly are a good person and doing all you can. As the others posted, I agree with giving him time. Also, treats speak volumes to most all critters. Good luck and God bless you!
I took in a 6 year old indoor only cat once that the owners no longer wanted. (Even if she weren't indoor only before she still would have been with me because I don't believe in letting cats out in the city). Anyway, she wasn't abused but she was just naturally afraid of everything and hid most of the time.
She slowly came around where she would get on the sofa with me but if I tried to pet her she would hiss and back away. For about a month after that it was really upsetting me and hurting my feelings and I finally realized that she was feeling my feelings of doubt, stress and hurt which probably was making her even more stressed. I decided to relax and stop trying and just let her decide when the time was right.
I fed her lots of little treats, would throw toys for her to play with and talked to her often and then one day, about six months later, unbeknownst to me a bird had come down the chimney and was in the basement. Well, of course cats do with birds what cats will do ;-)
She came upstairs and dropped that bird at my feet and just sat there staring at me with a self satisfied look on her face. It took a second to dawn on me where the bird came from in the first place and then another second of feeling of horror and then I realized this bird was a gift dropped at my feet. I started crying and telling her thank you and what a good girl she was and bent down and she let me pet her! It was one of the greatest moments of my life and even though she remained skittish we became best buddies from that moment on :-)
God Bless you for your patience and your baby will eventually come around and I hope my sharing this story will help you in some way.
It takes love and time! Please be patient. God bless you!
Move slowly and smoothly, speak softly, and approach with your hand below his eye level. Never approach from above. Also, when he looks you in the eye, half shut your eyes. That is a sign of trust between cats. If he yawns in your presence, he feels comfortable!
Fascinating. Yawns are body language I wasn't sure of the meaning of for cat-human communication. he often yawns around me. I do know that yawns are displays to remind other cats "I can bite, if I have to" if there's a mild pecking order going on.
I send what we call "eye kisses", looking directly at the cat for a second or two, then closing my eyes completely, expressing love from my heart. some cats understand and return the eye kisses, others act embarrassed or uncomfortable.
Leo is just getting to where I can touch him when he's up in the cat tree. I come up from below as it is up fairly high, but he seems to think it's for no possible good. so I've learned to slip a pet in when he's distracted or half asleep. he may whip around, but not as fast as when he's alert or tense. and he no longer nips. he still occasionally butts with an open lip, closed teeth mouth, so we feel the flat front of his teeth, a sort of "I wouldn't bite you but you'd better understand I don't trust that" type of action. he still swats occasionally, sometimes still with extended claws.
I'll pull back quickly and gently tell him I love him, and he thinks about it. he's slow with this one, but it's coming along. if he were a tiny cat, it wouldn't be quite so spooky, but he's a hefty boy, big, muscular guy and a miniature wanna-be cougar. he gets to around 12 or more pounds in the winter. quite an armful after lifting our 4-6 pound mini-kitty.
Throughout my life, I have taken in the most severely abused animals (that would have been put down). I have found that these animals are so appreciative of good care, love and finding that they can trust me completely, that they are the most devoted pets I have ever had.
My daughter brought me a kitten they had found on their property two years ago. The wild mother had her kittens under their shed. The den was originally dug out by a pair of Texas Gray Foxes that have their pups there every year. The foxes came back early and killed the mother and all the kittens but this one. He was barely 5 weeks old, sick, had been bitten several times, escaped, and wandered the property for a couple of days before being trapped and caged by my kids. He was so totally wild that he had to stay caged for several weeks before I could touch him. The solution was to act like a mother cat. I became MOM.
Every cat remembers the warmth and security of their mother. Imitating that behavior drew him to me. He is completely devoted and protective now that he is a BIG boy. He still has the fear of being held from the past trauma, but that's OK. Give them the space they need. Let them make the decision to get close to you.
My brother told me, "you can't push a wet noodle". "You need to gently coax it along from the front." It worked in raising my kids, and works with animals of every kind. Never give up. It has worked with every animal I have taken in. They lived their entire lives with me. You are doing a wonderful thing. I wish everyone had the heart to help humans and animals in need. My best wishes to you.
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