How can I fix my relationship with my 7 month old cat after I've constantly abused her the past month?

  • My kitten is 7 month old, and I...

    [Content Warning: Descriptions of animal abuse behind spoiler]

    ...critically abused her the last month (including throwing her hard on ladders and hitting her hard, many times, with almost no apparent reason).

    Now she won't move around me, being highly cautious to every move and every sound. I feel so bad for what I did to her. Is there any way to fix her and our relationship?

    Whatever reasons I had, I had no excuse in the world to treat her the way I did, but I definitely want to change my behaviour and regain her trust. I've grown attached to her, and when she started to be distant, I've been abusing her even more. But again, I know now that whatever I'll tell myself is unfounded.

    I'm 17, just in case it matters.

    I understand where the sentiments come from, but I'd like to point out that, when we see somebody like Anonymous who is trying to atone for past mistakes and learn from them, piling up on them that the mistakes were bad is actually counterproductive. Welcome Anonymous, I for one am glad to see that you understand the problem and are actively trying to make things better!

    To voters: please vote the question based on its relevance to the site, not as a judgement of the poster's personality.

    @PCARR perhaps expand on that to post an answer?

    In a similar vein as @Mindwin's comment, remember, as the **help page on flagging states AND the accompanying most-upvoted answer on Meta states,** if you think "_a reasonable person would find this content inapproriate for respectful discourse_" then you should flag it as abusive. 6 flags and it will be locked, deleted and the poster docked 100 rep.

    Do you live with someone else (e.g. parents) or are you on your own household? Did you seek professional help to work on your behaviour?

    I'd judge a question like that by "will the outcome be good for cat and owner if the question is answered constructively"? And that could be a yes here.

  • As in human cases of abuse, if you genuinely want to repair the relationship, the first and most essential thing to accept is you may not be able to. Especially with a young kitten, it's entirely possible you've scarred her for life. Even if she can recover in general, she may never be able to respond to you without fear.

    The second most essential thing is the need for accountability. You know now that you are a person capable of abusing a kitten. You don't have the luxury anymore of assuming you will just not do those things. You need to involve at least one person that can hold you to account.

    I would honestly recommend that you give her to someone else who does not live with you. Give her a clean break and allow her to re-establish trust with an uninvolved human being. If this person reports to you that she's stabilized emotionally and acting like a normal cat towards them, then you can attempt a supervised visit with her. Do not push interaction on her - you should treat her like a feral cat, at maximum extend a hand and invite her towards you. Do not approach her or take any action that could conceivably be considered threatening. Accept that it could take numerous repeats of this before she is willing to approach.

    If after several tries of this you see no improvement, or if the person caring for her reports that she backslides significantly after your visits, refer to point 1: it may be a hopeless case where you are concerned. Accept this and let her go. If she begins to warm back up to you, however, you could consider taking her back only if the following conditions are met:

    • You allow your accountability partner(s) to continue checking in on you regularly and confirm the cat's wellbeing
    • You have actively worked on the factors that led you to abuse her in the first place and have shown considerable improvement in the opinion of at least one relevant professional

    Recovering from being an abuser is possible (especially as you're still young), but it is a very serious matter and you cannot treat any part of this lightly. It is vitally important that you address the original abuse and commit to changing anything and everything that contributed to your behaviour. Do not accept responsibility for any animal until point 2 has been satisfactorily achieved, and even then, tread with caution. People criminally charged with animal abuse can be legally barred from owning animals again in the future; in the end this may be the sentence you have to impose on yourself.

    I 100% agree - very well stated - especially your first statement. And to the OP - if you truly care about the cat, you would give her away for the cat's sake. If you must make her love you again, you are likely just exhibiting another form of abuse.

  • Honestly, it sounds as though you shouldn't have a cat right now. There is never any excuse to needlessly hurt an animal and, whilst your critical write-up of your own behaviour is a start, it certainly doesn't help the animal that has been abused. From the incidents that you've described, the cat could have sustained substantial injuries and needs to be seen by a vet immediately especially as it is young.

    What concerns me most is that after having this epiphany about your behaviour, you then continued to abuse the animal when it didn't do what you wanted. I can't help you with changing your own behaviour.

    Whilst you may be able to change the cat's feelings towards you, it sounds as though your own behaviour is going to be the limiting factor. Training and imparting knowledge to any animal is a difficult, repetitive and frequently frustrating endeavour. If you cannot rely on yourself to provide this level of care and kindness, the best thing to do is to give the cat to a rescue centre where it will receive the treatment it requires.

    Just for context – I don't know where you are located – if you were caught doing that to a cat in the UK, you would likely be prosecuted for animal abuse.

    It's also illegal (and a felony) in most of the US. More importantly, though, Anonymous needs to both give the cat to a rescue that can rehab it, and get psychological help for themselves. Animal cruelty like this is a sign of a greater issue that may manifest as violence toward humans in the future, and will undoubtedly result in further violence toward animals.

    @YvetteColomb I'm afraid it's ***vital*** to draw blanket statements, because in this case the evidence is unambiguous. It's good that the OP recognises that their actions are wrong, but the evidence shows that this doesn't stop abusers of animals or people. Even formal programs to stop abuse have limited success. What makes an abuser safe is separating them from what they abuse, and preventing them from having continuous access in future. Which means, simply, that the OP should not keep this cat or any other pet. Every abuser says "but I'm different." They aren't.

    @Graham - I'm sure you're probably right, but could you direct me to some of that evidence? I know that in some cases, popular ideas about criminal psychology and recidivism rates aren't always accurate (for instance, the popular belief in sex offenders universally reoffending may be wrong), so I'd just want to be sure that nearly all abusers fit the profile you're describing.

    @Obie Sure. Domestic abuse is the best indicator, because no-one monitors violence against animals. The Welsh Senedd says that there isn't good data for success rates, because so many men drop out of courses. https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&;source=web&rct=j&url=http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s30731/GBV%252090a%2520-%2520Respect.pdf&;ved=2ahUKEwj0otn4laveAhVjCsAKHWp4BmkQFjABegQIBxAB&usg=AOvVaw3B9cDXZFw-8_GTAZy6gEsL&cshid=1540799795403

    @Obie And a review of evidence, whilst cautiously optimistic over some formal programmes for partner abuse, is pretty scathing about how badly many programmes are designed, run and monitored. https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&;source=web&rct=j&url=https://domesticviolenceresearch.org/pdf/PASK.Tables17.Revised.pdf&;ved=2ahUKEwj0otn4laveAhVjCsAKHWp4BmkQFjAEegQIBRAB&usg=AOvVaw2HmYe8hXF3bJInCN-A8RI-&cshid=1540799795403

    @Obie NICE (UK health advisory body) still need evidence that anything works, and their primary advice is that interventions should favour the safety of the abused person. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ph50/chapter/1-Recommendations#recommendation-14-commission-and-evaluate-tailored-interventions-for-people-who-perpetrate-domestic

  • Your attachment to this cat is irrelevant. It's what's in the best interest of the pet.

    The best interest of this cat is to be away from you and in a caring and stable home. The cat will unlikely trust you anytime soon and maybe never. My biggest concern is that you are capable of repeating this behaviour.

    You cannot own any pets until you have some intensive psychiatric help. The way you've treated this animal is not ok, never will be ok and there is no justification for it.

    If you want the cat to recover and heal, please find a good, caring and loving home for it. With people who are stable and don't abuse sentient creatures when they lose control.

    As you are under 18, you may be living with your parents, ask them to rehome the cat. I don't know what situation you have to be living like this, but I urge you to get help now.

    The only commendable thing about this question is your willingness to be honest and desire to make a positive change. It's just too soon and too far gone at this stage to repair things between you and this cat.

    "The cat will unlikely trust you anytime soon and maybe never" - unless cats are more stupid than dogs, it is unlikely to trust *anyone* any time soon, and maybe never. (A friend of mine has a rescue dog that was presumably abused earlier in life, and it totally freaks out at the sight of *anything* that looks like "a stick for beating dogs with" - not just walking sticks, but garden tools, broken tree branches, etc).

    @alephzero terribly sad.

    @alephzero it is possible to bring a cat or a dog back from their past abusive experience given plenty of time, care and love. I own a dog who apparently beaten, including beating with a stick, beating as a next thing after petting and stroking and other horrible things I can hardly imagine. When he came to us he was starved almost to death and so horrified that any loud sound was putting him into catatonic state of panic where he could do nothing but tremble of fear. After 3 years he is a happy dog who is no longer afraid to assist us e.g. when swiping floors or digging with a spade.

    @Magisch it would be good to post an answer referring to this

    @Magisch This is so true, the family cat from when my sister and I were growing up STILL doesn't really like me (or her). I'm quite sure its because we didn't know any better and "forced" our love on her. There was no abuse beyond petting her when she did NOT want to be pet... :/

    @alephzero my previous pup (a 60 kg beast of a rott/great Dane mix) was abused in her first year. Till her death, the view of a rolled up paper would get her to pee on the floor, instantly. It's a shame when animals get abused like this... It changes them :/

  • I've been very close to a situation very similar to this, where a person spiralled really (=very physically abusively) badly with a new pet, came to their senses and felt horrified after a few months, and spent years doing all they could to put it right and undo it.

    So first thing to say is, I believe you, when you say how bad it was, and that you want to fix it, and I hope for your and the cats sake, you truly can and do. If you can't, or it ever happens again (even briefly and uncontrollably, then get help and make the cats safety the priority immediately. As it has already happened again, you need to look at what that means. I'll try to cover a bit about both aspects - you, and her.

    Overview

    Cats and dogs are often very much more able to forgive than humans can be. It takes time, but gradually it will work. But abuse can leave lifelong emotional scars and changes to behaviour, so some traits and safety habits may take years to fade, if they ever do, and you may be able to see them at odd moments or "under the surface" for her entire life, long after she has forgotten it.

    Let me tell you about the case I know. A friend had a cat, and they were in a bad mental state (meds issue), and the cat - about a year old - took the brunt of it for 4 months until the meds issue was fixed, at which point the friend was horrified and confided in me, asking what to do.

    [Trigger warning: details of abuse]

    The cat had been chased around and "forced" to interact. When the cat reacted by seeking privacy/corners the friend had tried to win the battles and ever more extreme physical actions to "dominate" and "win", and not allow the cat to "win" or "get away" with undesired behaviours even though completely normal. The cat was stressed beyond belief, had no "safe places", was hypervigilant and overgrooming, expected an attack behind every interaction and distrusted people, and had learned to attack in self defence, making it hard to be sociable with. It had just spiralled, and got worse from there with physical throwing out of rooms (bodily midair into whatever was there), using cushions to pin her down, and you probably get the idea.

    The owner restarted their meds, and a while later reflecting on it, broke down crying, which is where I got to hear about it. The answer we followed was basically, a lot of respect for the cat and the cats experience, and reestablishing a new norm. But I also needed to be sure it wouldn't happen again, not least to decide whether the safest advice was to give the cat up entirely, for his own good.

    So I'll start with looking at your own position, then move onto the question you ask about the relationship with your cat.

    I think that's the right order - if you aren't safe for her for the rest of her life, your only valid, ethical relationship with her is one that starts at home and ends up at a rehoming centre or shelter within the next 2 or 3 days.

    First thing - it's about you as well

    Your post says you want to fix things, but it's not clear if this might (or will) repeat, or if it is completely and forever in the past.

    What's scary is that even after you realised you did it, you then did it again. I think you ought to be scared at that, and I hope you are worried about yourself and other people and animals, not just thinking "how do I repair things" and ignoring the risk it happens again - perhaps worse.

    So the first thing is, something I can't advise on - you need to think, what you want for yourself. Whatever led to this, is it possible it could happen again? To people or animals? Worse? Is this something you need help with (for example, to avoid a criminal record as a violent abuser in future, or to learn anger/mood management?) Should you seek help now, before worse harm/trouble?

    I can't comment much on this as your question is mostly about rebuilding a shattered relationship with your cat. A lot depends on what led to these awful events, if you know what it was. But it should be a real question in your mind, and maybe a question in its own right - "I abused my cat badly, should I seek help, if so what kind?" There is a very good chance the answer should be yes! quickly!

    With that, let's turn to the puss. If you are safe for her, then your question "how to rebuild things" is a good one.

    Respecting her needs and experience

    The cat I mentioned was emotionally scarred, distrusting, and traumatised. So she needed that respected. When she said no, it needed to be understood that this wasn't petulance but learned self defence. When she was nervous of people, it wasn't antisocial-ness but learned safety. So she needed to be given that space. We let her have the safety and reassurance things first, and tried to win trust later.

    Typical example - owner enters room, cat hides under cupboard and hisses when approached. Before, he would have offered her food, been angry when rejected, and forced her out into the open to have it.

    So instead we let her hide there, so she knows she has safety and can begin to explore beyond crisis and survival stuff. We ignore her, not looking, so she can feel a sense of agency and control, and watch us as she chooses without us "doing" anything related to her. Then we offer a treat maybe a metre away from her, quietly, hold it to sniff if she wants, and when she rejects it (which we expected and she did), we quietly put the treat down on the floor, and left the room, closing the door. If she ignored it, we quietly picked it up later, and maybe tried again that evening. After a couple of weeks, she learned it was safe and there was no comeback, and began to trust it was OK to come out and take it. 30 mins later we'd come back in, minimising her stress and giving her lots of time to not worry about humans nearby. We recognised that for her, even "human offering food" is a stress, as she can't be sure what their intention is or what will.follow.

    You can build on things like this, but you need sensitivity to her needs, anticipating what will give her emotional space to start moving beyond the past. If you can do that, your cat probably will.

    Safe spaces

    Also ensure she has plenty of safe spaces available. A safe space is one where she can go, and you don't intrude or constantly tread over, but she can relax and you respect it is "hers". Somewhere she can feel safe from surprise attacks, and see what's going on. My partner's cat has this:

    enter image description here

    Its a shelf over the foot of the bed, high enough that we wont accidentally knock it, with a cupboard door removed to make a "cave". There's a cat bed warmer under some towels, too. We made it after we realised that she kept trying to find a place to watch from where people didn't tread round and over her, and everywhere she chose was somewhere we went. This stressed her. So this gave her a raised viewing point, a "cave", and a place she could be sociable but also a bit "to herself" too. She quickly took to it and often sleeps there. We take care to make sure that she feels safe on it.

    She likes to have 3 or 4 places, including a cardboard box under the bed, a space under the hall table, and a kitchen chair. The point is, she has spaces where she can go, and chill, and feel safe doing so. They are, in a sense "her spaces", we can intrude on them, but we try to ensure she knows its fine to go there.

    Establishing a new norm

    The other thing is, respecting where she's at, does not mean "everything now on her terms". You might need to check her collar, or flea-treat her, or comb her, all of which she may not like, and may trigger self defence. You'll need to make these as unscary as you can.

    Offer a favourite food once a day, and when she is ok with that, and will accept it from your hand (it may take a long time sitting until she gets sufficiently brave to go for it), you can try to gently introduce whatever else is needed, like a combing. Maybe just stroke her once really lightly with the back of the comb, it does nothing but shows nothing scary happens, with luck she isn't put off her treat next day. Try to build it up really slowly enough that she doesn't gets huge "OMG" and stay away next time. Watch her reactions and behaviour, and be guided by those only. Allow that it may take 10 or 15 minutes, or a specific mood or time of day, for her interest to peak enough.

    Summary

    Above all, be patient. It could be a lifelong endeavour. But you'll get there with care and love - and so, eventually, will she.

    I wish I could upvote this more. The example is key here: sometimes the bad event is beyond our control for one reason or another, but that doesn't mean one is a bad person. A bad person doesn't make it right.

    Thank you for such a detailed answer. I too knew someone who did similar things as the OP (this was 25 years ago). She knew it was wrong and felt bad. She was unable to change her behaviour though. She was not able to cope with life and shortly after died of a drug overdose. I don't judge her, as I got to know her well and how awful her life was. Doesn't excuse the behaviour, helps to understand the behaviour. Sometimes there's a way out, other times there's not.

    I'd recommend emphasizing that for the question of whether they need help, the OP should err on the side of, yes, they do. It'd be far better for them to seek help they maybe didn't strictly need than for them to not get it when they do.

  • The cat is still young and learning. You want to unteach it that moving and making sounds are potentially dangerous by encouraging the behaviours you want.

    Ideally there's a type of food it likes, like a cat treat or catnip, that you can use to reward the previously-punished behaviour. Spend a lot of time being as non-threatening around it as you can, re-train it to see you as a source of positivity, rather than a looming threat.

    Additionally, research ways to rehabilitate a cat who's been abused in the past. Your actions have likely had an impact, but you still have a chance to positively affect the cat.

    For each thing that had been done to negatively impact the cat, like the ladder, make sure there's a new positive reinforcement associated with that thing.

    Over time, so long as you make a constant and consistent effort to absolutely not harm the animal again, I believe it can re-trained to not associate you with the misery that has been caused.

    This is not a bad answer. I undeleted it, as you are providing some positive techniques to actually help the OP build a relationship with the cat.

    The frame challenge is needed cauz OP clearly doesn't see what the actual issue is, but this answer is relevant and accurate all the same.

  • Unfortunately, from OP's description of his/her behaviors toward the kitten even AFTER the awareness and realization of the wrongness and abusiveness of her/his treatment toward the kitten, i.e., continuing the abuse, it may well be that the OP has a psychiatric condition which results in uncontrollable outbursts of rage, aggressive and even explosive, assaultive episodes, poor impulse control, which may even be beyond her/his control. Even though s/he did have the 'awareness' that the reasons s/he had told him-/herself to justify her/his behaviors toward the kitten were "unfounded," they still continued.

    Other aspects of his/her life, including school/academic performance, socialization skills, presence or absence of friendships as appropriate for a 17 year old, vs. being a "loner," her/his relationships with parent or parents, siblings, etc., may be significant diagnostically. As noted by others, these physical, abusive reactions to disappointment if unchecked may extend to human relationships later. S/he should consider meeting with an Adolescent Psychiatrist, enlisting parental assistance to arrange to do so since s/he is a minor (if in the USA), to be evaluated to ascertain whether or not there are significant factors that can, and should, be treated, whether through therapy, and/or medication management, based on the outcome of the evaluation of the 'bigger' picture. More specific diagnostic possibilities would be speculative now without further assessment and not appropriate to include here. (Posted by an Adolescent Psychiatrist, MD, JD.)

  • We have four cats that all have different personalities (like people). Sometimes one or more can be frustrating, but cats (although some would argue) are not capable of the same level of learning or action-response as humans. Cats do not need us like dogs do, and once you understand that you will understand how a cat may or may not react like you want to your actions or behavior.

    But I think the important questions here that have not been mentioned are three fold:

    1) at 17 you should be living with one or more parent(s). If they have a similar violent behavior, the kitten must be removed from the home. Period. Learned behavior of a child can only be changed once out of the oppressive home environment, and with the support of another person or therapist;

    2) If you are a 17 year old male, you are of an age that unfortunately most of us males have tendencies of rage, violence, and stupid behavior that we need to work through with loved ones around us who can guide us - and hope and pray that you will grow out of it;

    3) It appears in your post that you are looking for affection. Some cats will never meet that ideal we expect from them. You need somehow to include yourself in external activities that bring you in contact with others of your age that are good natured and can provide a sense of inclusion and hopefully affection (that all of us want and need). Please focus your efforts for affection on other people for the near term. The kitten needs to go to a new home. There will be many more cats in the future that would love a safe home with you when you are more mature.

  • Most people would say you're on your way to being a psychopath, but I can tell you you're not, because of the compassion you display, remorse even; true psychos do not display such qualms. You have an unresolved issue, traumatic, maybe childhood based, maybe an unresolved state of 'learned helplessness,' and you may have simple rejection issues due to one or some broken relationships, but be aware you need to address yourself quickly or the situation with the cat will manifest itself into something a lot more severe, for you, and for the cat. You have been advised, this is from research and self-experience.

    If you can't get past these actions, re-home the cat, and don't be an animal carer again. And be sure not to let this behaviour slip into your mainstream life. In relationships with others, you may have unconscious anger issues again, most probably an incident in childhood or adolescence. I've tried to be honest here and I'm not a flake, your obvious desire to change this behaviour IS VERY encouraging but there is a little danger here for you and possibly others close to you. You won't automatically link the anger from the cat incidents to the REAL underlying reason why you actually chose to act out in this way. Please live with peace and love in your heart, and project this in the things you choose to do in life from now on, and if you start to confront this you will feel, and will be, a better human being for it.

    I'm jazzeroo and I fought my way back from a similar place many many years ago, in similar circumstances, and the rejection is a TRIGGER. You have been advised. I wish peace, love and light in your life.

  • People tend to annoy their cat, as they react in a funny way. But, you should know the right and a loving way to do it. It is also a trick to keep your cat active and playful. But, you must understand the cat's feelings to know the right way.

    Abusing the cat shows you do not understand how to treat animals. So, educate yourself. You may get more matured feelings towards animals in time.

    As for the cat, it definitely will never trust you in the future, no matter how hard you try. Cats have a tough ego making it hard to gain their trust, even for a professional. It takes years and lots of love to heal a cat, especially if it is young. It is much harder to deal with an adult cat.

    Please give up the cat to a rescue or a farm, where it will have other cats or animals for company. A rescue is easier.

  • Since this is Pets.SE, my answer is solely concerned with the welfare of the animal in question.

    Let me be absolutely direct and clear - you are in no position to be looking after this cat and it's absolutely in her best interest that she is removed from you and re-homed in a suitable environment.

    And as pointed out, she most likely needs immediate veterinary attention and the onus is on you to make sure she gets it.

    Do what it's right and find a caring home for her and do not adopt any animals in the future as you are not a suitable carer.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM