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help with cat who has been abused

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi All! My name is Anita. I have two kitties. Piper and Leo. My problem is with Piper. She is my first cat. She was 3 years old when I got her from a shelter, where she was given by a man who abused her, and said he treated her like a dog! So we brought her home. I at the time didn't know much about cats. She was petrified of us and the new environment. She hid under the bead for two days. We only new she was alive because the food has benn eaten and litter box used, when we weren't home only. Then she eventually came out and head rubbed us right away, it was unbeleivable. But right from the start every time we pet or go near her her tail waggs like crazy and she will hiss and growl. This behavior stops if we leave her completely alone, and it's so hard because we want to give her love more and more. She does do cute things on her own, but will never play, just sniff, expolre the house, and rubb carboard boxes. The thing is from after that first rubbing she never rubbs agasint us anymore. We have talked to different vets, and they all seem to think she will not change since she hasn't already. We have tried evry toy, and nothing. One of our mistakes was that we didn't know the tail wagging means she didn't want to be pet, and we contiued to pet her, which I think maybe part of the reason she stopped rubbing us. After continously trying to get her to turn around, a vet suggested getting another cat to help her be more social. So we got Leo a male kitten, he is 4 months old, very very socialble. A loving purr bug all the time. I have never heard or felt piper purr.
The two cats get along well, no hissing or growling right from the beginning. they eat together, sleep in the same rooms, and chase each other, well leo chases piper more, but its fun to watch. Piper will watch the kitten like a hawk all day, and when we play with him. It's really funny, and she does look us right in the eyes all the time. People who have seen her from when we got her till now, say she looks much happier than before. What I would like to know is how I can get this cat to trust me? (althouhg I believe she does for food) Is change even possible? My kitten loves affection and will ask for it all the time, even meow when he wants to be held. I am in no way expecting this from piper, I wish she would jsut give us more signs she was happy. Is it possible for a cat like piper to enjoy being pet? or do we have to give up on this entirely, and just never touch her? If she is in the bathroom drinking from the tub, and I come in, she will run out. If anyone comes in she will run away in fear. I want so badly to improve this cat's life, especially since I know how bad it must have been before. Any adivce on how to help her with her fear, and become more social, loving and playful would be gratefully accepted. It's just now I don't know what to do anymore. She only interacts with me when she wants wet food (as a treat I leave dry out and give them a little wet food twice a day). My husband think if we take the wet food a way for awhile maybe she will come to us to get it. So I tried and it just made her more aggressive, hissing and growling. I have tried picking her up and then giving her food so she would associate me holding her with food, which she does, but always just wants the food and not me. I can pet her while she eats sometimes, but other time she run aay, so I stopped doing that... Last week the oddest thing happenned, which gave me hope, there was no more food in thier dry food bowls, so she make this certain noise whenever that happens. It was morning before work 6 am. Suddenly I see this shadow flying on the wall, and it can't be leo he was with me, it was piper swatting a ball of paper we left for them on the floor, something we never saw her even attempt to do from the day we got her. For that brief moment I was the happiest person alive! WE have never seen other signs of play at all from her before or since that. Otherwise she is healthy not overweight at all (only 7 lbs) and takes good care cleaning, using the litters box...I thoguht maybe all you feral experts can give me some ideas on how to treat piper, or what to do next to help her??? And gain her trust...thanks in advanced....
post #2 of 50
Hi Anita,

I would be happy to help you with Piper. Both Lucky and Piper share the same history as being feral so the problems you are encountering are quite similar.

One of the best ways to help a feral learn to trust you is to go into the room where she is hiding. Put on classical music very low in the background. Take a book a bag of treats and a lot of patience. Sit on the floor and start reading aloud to her. Read softly (cats have great hearing) and do this 10 minutes a day. If she comes out, don't look at her full in the face, just ignore her and toss a treat in her direction.

Take an old shirt you could care less about and put it on and do a vigourous exercise routine, or stand in a bathroom full of steam till you sweat. Get that shirt so wet with your scent that you have to wring it out. Put this shirt under her food bowl and start feeding her on it. place treats on the shirt as well.

Ok a couple of more thoughts, she rubs on you one time to "claim you" she leaves her scent on you when she rubs up against you making your scent more comfy for her to be around.

With ferals and abused kitties you need to reset your thinking. They were not brought up in the lap of love as most kittens are, therefore asking them to respond on the personal level that domesticated kittens work with, is not really an option. They respond by allowing you to touch them when they want to be touched, by coming out to be fed, by allowing you in the room they are in without fleeing in terror. This trust does not develop overnight, but it does happen.

I have one wonderful feral purr bug name of Kahuna, yet to this day if I walk into a room and startle him (just by appearing) he will flee.If I snap out a paper bag in the vicinity of him, he will flee, if I make any unusual movements or sounds he will flee.It is their genetic disposition- fight or flight- most will flee.

I would not withold food (wet or dry) in an attempt to get her to accept you. I would feed her at scheduled times every day- and I would feed her a mixture of wet and dried food. I would also feed her raw meat- hamburger only (good grade)cooked meats chicken, lamb, rabbit, cut in tiny pieces with brown rice and some vegetables mixed in.

I know that you will find the bond with Piper, it just takes time. Here is an article I wrote about ferals that might help you as well:

Handling Feral Cats
post #3 of 50

I don't have any advice other than to encourage you to follow what Hissy said. She knows her stuff! But, I wanted to tell you how pleased I am that you rescued these kitties. There should be more people like you out there! I tip my hat to you.

post #4 of 50
thanks Renae! Can I quote you for my book? LOL
post #5 of 50
Thread Starter 
Thanks you all for your replies, I will follow your advice Hissy, and I understand the difference between a feral/abused cat and a domestic one. I have obviously accepted Piper may never change, but will keep trying even if it takes yrs, she ain't going anywhere. My question is what you think we should do about the petting, should we not touch her until she comes to us (if that could even happen) or pet her only until she gives a sign of discontent, (obviusly we will try to stop before she show dislike). She does stay in the room when we are watching tv, but if we attempt to go near her she runs, or does this scared position thing. Right now the only time she walks with her happy staight up tail is while she waits for her wet food. She does walk around the apartment at night, sniffing rubbing checking things out. In the morning whenever I get up she goes to the the kitchen door waiting for her wet food! It's very cute, she sits there with her ears perked looking at me with slanted eyes! So when we are around her (she isn't always hiding) should we keep trying to play with toys or interact with her or leave her alone? When we try with toys she sometimes watches but doesn't move at all. It's really wierd. We tried ropes, mouses, balls, straws, fishing pole tyes, nothing....
post #6 of 50
You are describing almost exactly what we went through with Pearl. She had been born a barn cat, and was given to an abusive home. I got her at 6 months. We had her for around 2 years before she became sociable to us much at all. She was ok with the other cats. It has only been in the past 2 months that she will come sit on the couch to be petted, and snuggle with me at night. She is still very skittish, but seems to be improving more and more. We just let her come to us at her own pace. It has been worth all the time and patience it took to get her this far. She may never be a normal, outgoing kitty, but I never really expected her to come as far as she has. Good Luck with her. You have goten some good advice from hissy, and others, well worth taking to heart.
post #7 of 50
The quickest way to get to the bond of trust is the hardest way. Ignore her, feed her at scheduled times, make sure her litter boxes (she should have two) are kept clean, make sure she has fresh water, love her from a distance, but ignore her. Let her make the overtures to you and once you do that she will be easier with you and stop running when you come into the room. I have had ferals hide under my couch for months, one cat lived in the rafters and the second floor of our haybarn for over a year, now they both come into the house and snuggle on our laps. It just takes their time, and not ours.
post #8 of 50
Thread Starter 
hey krazy kat2, I was wondering if your Pearl ever plays? before or even now that she has gotten better?
Hissy I will take your advice and try to ingnore her, it will be hard because she is so beautiful and soft you really want to touch her!
post #9 of 50
Thread Starter 
oh yeah Hissy, should I still do the sweaty shirt under her food bowl even though she know my sent already since I have had her for 5 months? She has slept in my closet on my sweaters, and piles of dirty laundry on the floor near my bed...also my husband wants to get closer to her too, so should we put both shirts? on at a time? how often should we do this?
post #10 of 50
Yes, she has played since she came out of my box springs, about 2 weeks after we got her. She loves toys, and would play with the other cats, but would run and hide if play got too much for her. I got a suede tassel with a wand at Petsmart, and all the cats love it. She has just recently joined in the play with me and the other cats. I think it helped in her accepting me to pet her, and have her come to me. Her favorite is a fur mouse with a long tail. She will pull all of the toys out of the basket at night, and roll around on her back, kicking her feet, when she thinks we can't see her. It is so funny.
post #11 of 50
Originally posted by cookie
oh yeah Hissy, should I still do the sweaty shirt under her food bowl even though she know my sent already since I have had her for 5 months?
The whole idea here is not to get to know your scent, but to associate your scent with good things (food). Once she smells your scent every time she eats she will come to think of you as a "thing" that makes her feel good and nurtured.
post #12 of 50
Thread Starter 
Thanx lotsocats, that makes sense, I will try it when I feed her next!
post #13 of 50
Hi cookie! I'm jumping in kind of late here, and you've already gotten the best advice there is to give, and it looks like you've gotten a lot of your questions answered.

...and I might have read through the thread too quickly, but I didn't see any direct reference to the thread (most likely just below this one on the menu) called "A Friend Needs Help....."

It begins with Sandi needing help on how make the kitty comfy outside until they can trap her, and then the whole process of bringing the kitten inside.

Basically, what Hissy and everyone is saying is that you should essentially start over at ground zero with her.

As you know, cats are not socially motivated like dogs - they are territory driven. As I'm sure you've divined by now is that you are trying to establish "safe" places for your kitty, associate your (and your husband's) smells with good things, with safe things, and to give your kitty the time and space to come to trust you in her own time and in her own way. IT WILL HAPPEN!!!!!! I don't know if you've read the thread that Debby started for Sandi (Here's a link: A Friend Needs Help....., but it should provide you not only with great advice, but most importantly, with hope.

It is a long thread, because it walks through every step of the process.

I am sure that your little Piper will come to love and trust you, just as Sandi's little Lucky did!

And the thread for which I've provided a link also indicates something else - ANY TIME you have a question - feel free to post it! We are all feral/abused cat rescue lovers here, and love to help both people and cats come to love and trust each other!

BTW - I haven't mentioned it yet, but you are an angel for rescuing these kitties, and because you've already shown you have the patience, I'm certain it will be a wonderful reward!


post #14 of 50
Mary Anne (Hissy) is our total and complete expert here, so her word is as good as gold. Laurie and Renae (LDG and Lotsocats) also have quite a bit of experience working with ferals. Me? Well, I've only "worked" with my Ophelia, but I've learned a lot from the others here.

The best advice for working with Piper I can give you is to "Think Like A Cat". Look at things from her perspective, as close as you can, when you do things. This will also help in those times of frustration to make you see it isn't personal. Piper was abused, so any time she sees a person approaching her she sees it as possible pain coming. If the previous owner treated her like a dog, he probably swatted her, hit her when she did something "bad", yelled a lot, rubbed her nose in "bad" things. She most likely associates hands with hurt. She's still in survival mode, which is why you don't see her playing with things. The previous owner may not have liked her playing like a cat (since he obviously wanted a dog) and may have punished her for playing.

The hardest thing to do is ignore this beautiful creature that you love so much, but that really is what you need to do. When you give her wet food, stay in the room with her and talk or read to her but don't touch her. Definitely keep playing with and loving on Leo when she's around so she can see how he trusts you. This worked wonders with Ophelia. She was so curious when Trent would get pets and loves and purr so big. She would just sit and watch for as long as it lasted with Trent.

I have no doubt that she can come out of her shell, that she will come to love and trust you. She may never be a lap kitty, and she will probably always be skittish especially around strangers. It will take lots of time and patience but it CAN happen, and she CAN be very happy with you and your husband!
post #15 of 50
Thread Starter 
thanx so much Hiedi, Piper does always watch us play with the kitten, and he purrs all the time, she is most curious when the kitten sleeps on me, she has even jumped up on the couch just to look at him and then go away. Me and my husband were concerned if this was ok, because we don't want Piper to be jealous of the kitten, since she is our first cat! My nieghbor had come over once and said it would be mean to keep playing with Leo in front of her. So we were feeling so guilty, but from what you have said, (and I think you are right about all of it, even the dog scenario makes sense with her behavior) she will even beg like a dog for fresh meat, and we never taught her that. (although it is cute). You have all given me hope, and in return I will let you know of any progress!
post #16 of 50
She is not jealous, she is trying to figure things out. It will click in her head soon. I hope when you feed her fresh meat you are being careful about what you feed her? Raw hamburger is good, but any other meat should be cooked first and chopped fine. Pork should be avoided at all costs. How sad for Piper that her first owner wanted her to be a species she is not. No wonder she is confused.
post #17 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi hissy,
I know, I can't believe some people could be so cruel! I was shocked that guy had the gall to even admit it! She is so beautiful and good, doesn't strach or jump where she isn't suppose to. I hope I can make her happier!
All the fresh meat I give is cooked, and I myself don't eat pork in any form. I give her cooked chicken, beef, tuna with water (can) and samon, but these are only random trests from time to time. Her regular treat is the wet food she loves. I have been ignoring her except when giving her food, and she does seem very curious, she is watching me so carefully what I am doing were I am going. I am trying not look at her, but she making me curious and to what she is doing while I am not looking! Plus there have been no growls or hisses, sinced we stopped touching her...that's good in one way, but makes me sad in another, to know touching her upsets her so much. Also, I read something about TTOUCH, it's about touching an animal (cat or dog) in cicular motions or something to releive stress..I was wondering in any of you heard of this or tried it or what you think?

post #18 of 50
Yes I have heard of it and have met Linda Tellington-Jones as well at a horse clinic. I use TTouch on my horses all the time, I would not recommend you using this on Piper right now, not until she is comfortable with you touching her in any way first. There is no way she will stay still long enough for you to make any kind of personal contact. Just have patience, you are doing fine.
post #19 of 50
Originally posted by cookie
Also, I read something about TTOUCH, it's about touching an animal (cat or dog) in cicular motions or something to releive stress..I was wondering in any of you heard of this or tried it or what you think?
I use TTouch with my scaredy cat. He loves it! BUT...I did not use it with him until he chose to sit next to me on the couch. He has always loved to be petted despite being very timid. But, if I moved the wrong way or if static caused a little zap he would run in terror as if I was trying to kill him. Once I started using TTouch he became able to tolerate movements and minor discomforts (like a little zap or a little bump while petting). So, I strongly recommend TTouch. But, as Hissy said, wait to do this until he is more trusting of you.
post #20 of 50
Hi Anita! Just wanted to pop in to give you some more encouragement. You are doing great! PLEASE don't be sad! The hissing has stopped since you've stopped petting her - but this is NOT because she doesn't like you. It is also NOT because she doesn't want to be petted by you! She just doesn't want pets YET is the way to look at it. Once you build up that bond of trust between you, you'll never be able to break it. The reward for having that trust will be the unconditional love from a formerly abused kitty cat.

Hang in there! I don't know if you've read about Lucky yet, but Sandi went through EXACTLY what you are - and it worked!!!!! (A Friend Needs Help.... (Lucky's story)

Whenever you need hope, you can just check out the end of that thread, and you'll see all that patience you have to endure now is worth it!!!!!!

I AM EDITING THIS POST BECAUSE I AM A DUMMY. I just caught up on Sanid's thread - and that's where you started your story!!!!! I'm so sorry to keep inundating you with references to Sandi's thread!!!! But I still think my last advice stands - whenever you get discouraged, just remember the end of that thread! All the waiting is worth it.

And I'm reiterating Heidi's comments - any time you need encouragement, POST!!!

post #21 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi All! It's been 5 days since we started to ignore Piper. Well I have been reading to her while she eats, and talking to her when she looks at me, I have even held my hand out (with nothing) and she will come and sniff it, but no rubbing. But I can actually see differences in her behavior, she is much more relaxed and her facial expression is more alert and curious, happy looking (call me crazy, but really she looks different). She is also not hiding under the bed, only for a little while when strangers come over, but after they are here for a half hour she will come and eat, (ofcourse not approaching me or the strangers! but staying in the same room! The other change is that usually the kitten chases her and she runs away, now she is playing back, and even going after him (after he initiates) no hissing or growling just pawing/hugging eachother!
I can't believe the treatment is already showing differences? She will still run if I come too close to her, but if she walks near me she is fine, she will stay on the bed with me (not touching me) and sit on the top of the couch. I am a lot more hopeful that our relationship is improving, and Sandi if it weren't for your post, I probably would have not known what to do with Piper, as vets have just kept telling me this is who she is and it cannot be changed. Her eyes are getting sweeter everyday, I hope the good changes continue. I also noticed she is watching the toys I am playing with the kitten more than the kitten now...is that a good sign?
post #22 of 50

Your post put a smile on my face! You are doing GREAT with your kitty. You are doing everything right. Let her figure it out first that she is in a safe place and very soon you will have a lap cat. Don't expect anything from her, continue to do as you are doing, and she will relax with you more and more. I have 14 cats all who were as wild as a march hare at one time. People told me I was nuts with 5 of them, calling them un-manageable and unreachable, and it simply is not true. Patience, kindness, consistency, all pays off in the end. You will see!
post #23 of 50

Anita - with the help of people from this board, Vets have been proved wrong time and time again about cat behavior. You are not imagining things!!!!!

Her watching you play with the little kitty is great! It's part of the curiosity she's allowing to develop as she feels safer at home and isn't in the "fight or flight" mode.

All of this is wonderful news! YOU GO GIRL!!!!! Love and patience work like magic!

post #24 of 50
That's just wonderful Anita!! I'm so glad you are seeing progress so soon. You are showing Piper that you aren't a threat to her, that you respect her space. The more you do it, the more she will trust you. Once that trust is established for her, she won't easily lose it.

Good for you and good for Piper! She sounds so much more happy!
post #25 of 50
Hi Anita! I've been wondering about Piper.... (I think I got spoiled by Sandi writing in so frequently )

How are you and Piper doing?
post #26 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hi! Oh gosh! I have some great news!!!! Well maybe not huge, but huge to me! Remember the other day I mentionned Piper watching the toy last time...it was a piece of string on the floor that I was twirling like a snake. Anyways today, Piper had wanted some wet food (she makes this mrr sound) so I gave her some, and then she still stayed in the kitchen, in the same spot on the floor where she was wathcing the kitten play with the sring on the floor the last time. So first I thought she wanted more food, but no that wasn't it, so I said maybe she wants to play?? the kitten was asleep, so I figured why not give it try....so I go the string out, turn the lights off (night light on)waving it on the floor, talking to her softly as I have been when she eats, and her eyes were glued. this went on for 10 minutes or so, and then when it got close to her, she pawed at it 3 times then sniffed it and went to munch on some dry food! I know only like three times, but still it was awesome I got to see this beautiful cat play! Even if it was only for a second! It gave me so much hope that she is really more happy! She still hasn't come to us for any pets yet though, but she will come to our hands and sniff stuff..Another reason why this was so shocking to me, was that I had a friend over today, and she hid under the bed for a long time even after they left, so I thought maybe we were going back a step. but then this happenned! Thanks for wondering LDG about us! I am dying to pet her, but me and my husband have been very good,but we have been talking to her when she looks at us, while we talk her ears are always perked! My husband is a little upset that although she won't run from me so much anymore, she still runs way when he comes near, and goes under the bed....
post #27 of 50
Even the smallest thing is huge when you have a kitty like that. I was so thrilled the first time Pearl got the nerve to be naughty! It sounds like you are doing right by her, bless your heart.
post #28 of 50
Oh, Anita,

You are doing great! I know exactly about the frustration and sadness that come when your kitty isn't responding right away even though you're doing all you can to make it happen. Not too long ago, I felt such despair (really) because I was trying to do everything right and Lucky still wasn't going to give an inch. Now, I look back and it's crazy. All of the sudden, Lucky started allowing us to pet her and she LOVED it. She gives us headbutts on our nose and I must admit it, I still get all excited when this happens. The first time she put her butt in my face I was a little put off - thinking she was giving me the cold "shoulder", but then I read it's an honor to have this happen. So, now I put up with it.

Keep up everything you're doing and soon enough Piper will be comfortable and confident - and you'll be much happier. Believe me - better days are coming. Hang in there and keep up the wonderful job you're doing. It will pay off in the long run.

BTW, your babies are SOOOOO CUTE!!!
post #29 of 50
Thread Starter 
Hey Sandi! I'm glad to know I am not the only one who sometimes goes crazy with cats! I have some more news, same senario playing occurred with Piper and the kitten last night 1:30am, the string on the floor, and this time Piper played for like ten minutes! This time she pawed at it and bit it many times! It was so amazing! I she seemed to only go for it when I told her too, with a soft loving voice! It was so cool! I gave her a treat afterwood hoping she understand how pleased I was! Eventhough my kitten plays like wacko there is something so special about seeing a cat like piper play! I guess it means a lot when you have to earn the trust! Overall play time was like 25 (with her and the kitten! This pleased me immensly however my husband is getting more upset, because she seems to only be warming up to me! If I say come here Piper point with my finger, sometime she will come! (she would stop swatting the string when he came near, even the first time she played earlier, he wasn't there and he didn't believe me! Then when he saw, he was happy for Piper, but upset that she keeps running from him! I thinkg it's because her former owner, the dog person, was a male. With my husband it's probably going to take a lot more time... When I saw her play and the the trust in finally interacting with me after 5 months, I could actually picture her cuddling! When think back to how before we got the kitten, Piper never moved, looked , watch or even seemed the least bit interested in us or toys... and last night she was like a different cat, like she came alive! This confirmed us getting the kitten was a good decision! I don't think she would have palyed if it weren't for watching the kitten all this time! I am going to try to have these play sessions everyday, and maybe if I am lucky it will lead to pet eventually! OH yeah, Sandi that head bump that Lucky gives you is awesome, my kitten does it to me and my husband when we come home, and in the mornings! It's the cutest! It is definetly a sign of contentment! Leo purrs while doing it! my kitten right now is chasing the mouse curser on the computer screen, so if you guys notice the typos in my posts it's not my fault, it hard to see with my furbaby's paws on the screen! once he even push the back button on the keyboard, and deleted one of my replies! He is so funny, he also watches animal planet! and some people think cat's don't have personality!

post #30 of 50
Anita that is just awesome that Piper is PLAYING! She is definitely beginning to trust you more and more.

I think you are right about how she is reacting to your hubby. Reassure him that it isn't personal, she has memories of a man treating her very badly. It will take more patience from him than from you. When possible, have him give her wet food and special food treats. That way, even if she's still skittish of him, she will start associating him with good things. Have him talk to her while she's eating the food, make a conscious effort to be around her when she's eating her wet food. It didn't take her long to warm up to you by doing this, and it should work to start gaining the trust for a man as well. It will take a little longer because of her history with men.
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