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socializing an abused cat into a new household

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi there!

I have quite a few questions, and hope all of you with this type of experience can help me out! My fiance and I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and decided it was time to bring in another cat into our home as our last cat passed away last year.

Our local animal shelter had a ton of kittens as usual, however a beautiful persian caught my eye. She looked absolutely petrified and had her face against the bottom of the cage as she was too scared to look up. I asked the volunteer's about her, and apparently she was badly abused by her previous owner and then spent almost four months in a basement with no lights or windows. She was finally rescued by this shelter, however keeping her there was making her worse as it was very noisy and busy. We both felt so bad for this beautiful animal we decided to "foster her with intent to adopt". We definitely want to adopt her, however I want to be sure that she will feel safe enough with the dogs eventually. Our dogs are great and very well behaved... and just ignore cats, however I want to make sure she is comfortable with them.

I've read a lot on the internet so far, and know that this is DEFINITELY going to take time. So far we have cleared out our spare bedroom/computer room for her, and left an old futon in there so that she has 'hiding' space. She is ok with being pet however she is absolutely petrified, so I want to let her come to me first. She hides under the futon when I go in, so I speak softly and calmly to her, refill her food and water dish and clean her litter box. I'll put a few treats on the floor for her and leave. When I go back later to check on her the treats are gone, which I thought was a good sign.
The local pet store also had this "feline phermone" plug in, which is apparently used to help cats feel comfortable and more at ease with natural herb scents. It's sopposed to be used to help cats feel more comfortable in new environments. I bought it as I thought anything that could make her feel even a bit more comfortable would help!

We know this will take months, but we are totally willing to allow her to take her time on her own terms and eventually realize we are here to love her and never hurt her. I also thought it would be best to keep her separated from the dogs until we've gained her trust.

Any other information or suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!!! I want to make sure I'm on the right track, and doing everything possible to make this easier for her! Thank you so much!
post #2 of 26
Thank you for taking her in, the poor baby.
One thing you should do is always leave a nightlight or lamp on for her. I could imagine that she would have no idea if she was going back into the black hole again.
Spend lots of time in the room with her, reading aloud. A TV would also be good to block out the house sounds while still getting her accustomed to noise - start very low volume and gradually increase it to normal.
post #3 of 26
what a wonderful person you must be!
i agree - if you have a laptop, go into 'her' room, sit on the floor & work/surf/whatever in there - ignoring her, for the most part, other than talking to her. reading aloud to her is good - you can read your email to her!
tv or radio both are good... talk radio, of course.
get a tshirt good & sweaty [both of you] & put them under her food/water dishes, so associates you w/good stuff.
if by the plug in you mean feliway, it's pretty good - has helped lots of cats. you also might want to give her rescue remedy or one of the other bach flower essences in her water to ease her emotional state... there are several of them. you can read about them here: original bach remedies
post #4 of 26
Man, I'm with you in spirit! A "broken" cat can be heartbreaking.

If she ever had normal contact with humans, just being in the room with her, but not trying to touch her or anything, is about the best thing you can do. She needs to see that she is safe, but that you are there, too.

Don't be astonished when this results in her lying down on your laptop or crawling in your lap. When it comes, the breakthrough is often sudden.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Thank you all SO much!! It's so great to hear support that this is possible, and that I'm on the right track.

Please let me know if you have any other suggestions or comments!
Thanks again!

Michelle
post #6 of 26
Everyone has great advice here and I can’t really offer anymore. I really just wanted to thank you for taking in this poor little baby, she’s very lucky to have found you.
post #7 of 26
Good for you for taking in this kitty!!!
Another thing you can do to make her more at ease is when you are sitting in there with her, well, act like a cat. If you know she is watching you while you are sitting on the floor, stop what you are doing and slowly get on all fours, imitate a cat and have a good stretch, yawn, flop onto your side and have a good roll around. Yawn some more, the whole time completly ignoring her. Then go back to whatever it was you were doing. You may feel a bit silly, but its very non-threatnig behavior to her (and feels prety good really if you have been sitting on the hard floor for a while! )
Does she have a nice window she can look out? Consider putting a bird feeder outside of it so she can watch them come and go. Scatter catnip toys around. Make it as fun a place as possible for her to explore.
Good luck, and can't wait to read updates on her progress!!!
post #8 of 26
What an angel in disguise you are You've got some great advice and i'm sure with patience you can win this little girl over and show her what true love is all about

Please keep us updated?.
post #9 of 26
She will come around once she sees that no one will hurt her. The above advice is great. Dabird cat toy is a good ice breaker. Toys have always worked for me. Interactive toys are even better.
post #10 of 26
Thread Starter 
Hi guys!!

I'm VERY happy I joined this group, as it has really helped me not get discouraged. I've never been through re-socializing an abused/abandoned animal before, so when I go into the room and I can hear her hiss from under the futon it really does deflate my hopes a bit. But then I walk out the door to see my dogs patiently waiting for me to cuddle them and I read more on this wonderful wonderful site, and feel better

I attempted the cat toy today... a long pole that I bought with a mouse on the end but it seemed to scare her more. She was definitely not interested. I think she doesn't really know what play is...

I bring in a little bit of wet food with me when I go in... just as a small treat. I laid on the floor for two hours yesterday and she wouldn't come near it, but as soon as I left the room I could hear her licking at it.

Thanks for your support and kind words... I really need it right now!! My two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels LOVE cats and I think wonder why they can't go in to see her, but they're very calm and patient when I'm in visiting with her. It's almost as if they know that she just needs time.

I'm just hoping that she will eventually want to come near us!

Michelle
post #11 of 26
Thread Starter 
PS: should I be leaving the futon in the room for her to hide under, or should I take it out so that she can see us better? She hides under it and will NOT come out from under it when we're lying on the floor reading to her, etc.

Just wondering what's the best thing to do!

Michelle
post #12 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by michellediebel View Post
I'm just hoping that she will eventually want to come near us!
She will Michelle. It's going to take time, but just imagine how your going to feel when she does eventually come around That's what i call a challenge what your doing, so hang in there because i have every bit of faith in you

I would leave the futon where it is because that's her safety zone
post #13 of 26
Hi Michelle,
Thank you for giving this broken spirit the chance to live a good life...

One thought....
She knows that the dogs are in the house.
If you haven't use scent mingling yet...
it might help.
Below is a link to the concept from one of TCS guest behavior experts.
It is about mingling cat scents but I think that it would apply to your situation too.
http://www.thecatsite.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=131270

There is also a tip on using vanilla.
Pheromones can help too....
Some find that the Feliway defuser is useful other do not notice a difference in behavior.

I really admire you for opening your heart and home to this lost sweetie pie. As you said, this will take time and patience.
Sending vibes that this lost kitty learns to trust.
post #14 of 26
My Pearl was abused by her previous owner, and lived the better part of 7 years living mostly in the closet or under the bed. She would come out and let us pet her after a few months, but would not interact with the other cats. I felt so bad for her, I almost rehomed her to be an only cat, but could not bring myself to uproot her again. She now sleeps in the dining room and plays with the other cats. She even got the courage to swat Scooter across his head for trying to take her food.
post #15 of 26
Good on you for adopting her! I probably would have done the same thing. It still makes me sick to my stomach knowing that there are people out there who mistreat animals - this little girl showing proof that it does affect them mentally just as if you were to abuse a child.

It is going to take time, patience and love for her to come out of her shell for you. I adopted two feral cats four months ago - one is a big momma's boy and the other is just starting to allow us to pet him.

By talking soothingly to the cat and allowing her to come to you I feel you're on the right track, never try to force the kitty.
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosiemac View Post
I would leave the futon where it is because that's her safety zone
just give her the time she needs to learn that you are people she can trust.
when i got Chip, he would snap at me if i even attempted to touch him past his shoulders. he'd obviously been mistreated [perhaps pulled by his tail?]. now, altho he still vocally protests at times, i can stroke him from head to tail, curving my hand around his tail to stroke it - something that could've never happened 2 years ago!
he was nowhere near as bad off as your girl - he enjoyed interacting w/me, just was very leery of being touched in 'certain' areas.
post #17 of 26
You are doing a fantastic job!
She didn't go for the toy which means she is pretty traumatized. Most cats will at least show interest. She just needs some time to rest and heal. Her mental wounds run deep.
One day when you least expect it she will understand that you are not going to hurt her again. Poor kitty. I wish I could find her owners and give them like treatment. What kind of people do these things?
post #18 of 26
I agree to leave the futon there, she needs a spot where she can hide and feel safe. Her hissing is actualy a good sign, belive it or not. You said when you first got her and tried to pet her she allowed it but seemed terrified. She was no doubt just too afraid of being hurt to defend herself, the fact that she is hissing means a little bit of that fear is starting to go away. Its not supprising she did not come out for the food while you were in there, but eventualy as her courage grows she will. She will begin to learn you are the provider of the tasty stuff, and will not hurt her, so don't be discouraged, you are doing all the right things! I know you just want to pick her up and hug her and tell her she is safe now and make all the hurt go away, but you are doing a great job, its just going to take time.
Keep us updated!
post #19 of 26
It so saddens and angers me to know that there are people like this out there! On the other hand I love knowing that there are people like you out there! This story truly touched my heart. This little girl deserves to know what it feels like to be loved and you will be that person to show her!

Patience, patience and more patience....she will come around. Emotional wounds are tough to beat...for any of us! God Bless you!!
post #20 of 26
Hi Michelle, thank you for helping out this misunderstood critter.


Quote:
Originally Posted by michellediebel View Post
Hi guys!!

I'm VERY happy I joined this group, as it has really helped me not get discouraged. I've never been through re-socializing an abused/abandoned animal before, so when I go into the room and I can hear her hiss from under the futon it really does deflate my hopes a bit. But then I walk out the door to see my dogs patiently waiting for me to cuddle them and I read more on this wonderful wonderful site, and feel better

I attempted the cat toy today... a long pole that I bought with a mouse on the end but it seemed to scare her more. She was definitely not interested. I think she doesn't really know what play is...

This is pretty common with stray cats. Unless you can introduce something she is familar with from outside; small pine cones, pebbles, even a leafy tree branch (non toxic of course) she is still on her guard and will not play for awhile.


The hissing is also normal, to make her feel more at ease, drape a blanket over the futon so the edge hangs down just about an inch from the floor. This way, she can see your feet but she will know you can't see her and her hissing will stop soon.


I bring in a little bit of wet food with me when I go in... just as a small treat. I laid on the floor for two hours yesterday and she wouldn't come near it, but as soon as I left the room I could hear her licking at it.

This is a good trick I found several years ago, it merges your smell with food smells and helps her to trust you quicker.

Thanks for your support and kind words... I really need it right now!! My two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels LOVE cats and I think wonder why they can't go in to see her, but they're very calm and patient when I'm in visiting with her. It's almost as if they know that she just needs time.

I would keep a special set of clothes just to wear in the room where she is that doesn't smell like your dogs. THEY may love cats, but she knows to fear dogs and when you come in wearing their scent, it just causes her to retreat farther from you. Keep the clothes and slippers or extra shoes in a sealed plastic bag. Let her get used to YOUR smell first and the other smells will follow. Her trust meter is really low.

I work consistently with abused cats and kittens. If you need some advice or a shoulder you can drop me a PM-

I'm just hoping that she will eventually want to come near us!

Michelle
post #21 of 26
Coming from someone with two 'special' kitties and a hoard of them at the shelter I volunteer at, there are no set ways to help, different things work for different cats and you just have to see where you seem to be making progress and work on those things.

Some things that have worked with different cats I have worked with

- An old tshirt or towel with your scent on in a comfy bed, they associate your scent with the safety of the bed.
- (this one really depends on if it is a scared cat that freezes when approached or bites and scratches) we have a long handled soft brush that we use for the more scared ones so they get used to being touched without someone sticking their hand in there.
- background noise, in the shelter we find the ones with busier rooms (people in and out, music one etc) come around a lot quicker than the ones who don't see people as much.
- catnip balls, we sell them at the shelter (handmade with lots of strong catnip) and most cats will play with them.
- We have had some luck with Bach's and Feliway - we will try anything - it has helped one of our more 'difficult' cats when we moved him but I don't find we have as much luck with the scared hiding cats.

I tend to just sit in the room with 'special' cats to do my paperwork, keep the radio on so they have background noise. Each day I sit a little closer to them. Then once I am close to them I try touching to see how they react - always rewarding with food or toys etc.

It can take a long time, with Scully he stopped hiding after about 4 months but it took almost 2 years for hime to become comfortable, especially around the other cats. With Autumn, I worked with her in the shelter for 3 months and wasn't having as much luck as I do with the other ferals I socialise - but I could see she did trust me to an extent, especially compared to other volunteers. I took her home and in two weeks she was sleeping with my other cats and rules the house.
post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by icklemiss21 View Post
- An old tshirt or towel with your scent on in a comfy bed, they associate your scent with the safety of the bed.
& under the food dishes, too!
post #23 of 26
Thank you for rescuing this kitty!

You've already gotten fantastic advice from everyone. The only thing I have to add is when it comes to feeding her, cleaning her water dish and putting in fresh water, and cleaning her litter box, do it on a schedule as much as possible. Cats love routine, and knowing when to expect things will help her become more at ease.

Also, before you enter her room, give a soft knock on the door before opening it. This will also help build her trust.

Just remember - that's what this is all about. Earning her trust. She doesn't know how wonderful people can be. So doing everything for her on a schedule will help, knocking before you enter will help. Other than that - just spend as much time as you can in her room doing other stuff, but completely ignoring her. Sit with your back to her, or your side to her. And the first time she comes out to check things out when you're there - ignore her. That will help build trust.

Also, don't look into her eyes. This is understood as aggression. Look at her forehead, or over her head. In fact, if you're sitting sideways to her reading out loud, sewing, folding laundry or working on a laptop or whatever, every once in a while close your eyes and turn your head to her. "Look" at her with your eyes closed. This is a big trust builder.

You may also want to try music - harp music, specifically: (this is Hissy's recommendation, actually): http://harpist1.tripod.com/id32.html

Just remember that it's often two steps forward and one step back with kitties like this. And it may even feel like two steps forward and three steps back every once in a while. But the more time you spend in her room ignoring her, and the more you can keep to a schedule with everything else, the quicker she'll come to understand that you just don't want anything from her other than her health and happiness.

Time is the most important ingredient. Turn off your clock, and she'll come around!

to you for such a wonderful thing!

Laurie
post #24 of 26
Any new updates on how your new one is doing?
post #25 of 26
I had a traumatized kitten years ago and she was very similar to your cat. One thing I found to get her to trust and come out of her shell was the crazy wheel cat toy. They have several types on the market, it is a circle with a ball in it that the cat can swat around. I spent hours and days and months going in her room and just playing with it myself, after awhile I would hear her swatting it when I was gone. Finally one day when I was swatting it she ran out from under the bed and swatted it back at me. It became our favorite game. 10 years later when she was dying from cancer it was the only thing that perked her up. She would lie there and swat it with me to her last day. I have since then used it for all my strays and ferals and haven't had one yet that could resist.
post #26 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by kat89447 View Post
I had a traumatized kitten years ago and she was very similar to your cat. One thing I found to get her to trust and come out of her shell was the crazy wheel cat toy. They have several types on the market, it is a circle with a ball in it that the cat can swat around. I spent hours and days and months going in her room and just playing with it myself, after awhile I would hear her swatting it when I was gone. Finally one day when I was swatting it she ran out from under the bed and swatted it back at me. It became our favorite game. 10 years later when she was dying from cancer it was the only thing that perked her up. She would lie there and swat it with me to her last day. I have since then used it for all my strays and ferals and haven't had one yet that could resist.
Firefox LOVES that toy!
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