My Pet World: Is scared cat remembering past abuse?
Our cat, Louis is a rescue we've had for 13 years. We were told he was 1-year-old and had been thrown. He did have a fractured tooth. Louis is a doll and loves petting, belly rubs and being with us. However, he won't let us hold him. Could he remember being thrown, or some other trauma involving being held? We'd love to hold him and hug him, but never want to scare him. - Wendy, East Williston, New York
It's possible that being held in someone's arms could conjure up an unhappy memory of being thrown. It sounds, though, like you have a very affectionate cat eager to be loved. With cats, it's not training, but trust and positive experiences that are needed before they will allow you to touch or hold them. You are halfway there with the petting and belly rubs.
To continue building trust, encourage Louis to come to you or sit on your lap and give him lots of affection when he does. One day, Louis may stand at your feet mewing to be picked up. (It could take months before he feels ready for this next step.) If he does, sit down on the floor and pick him up so he is still fairly close to the ground. This will make him feel safer and reduce his fear of being held.
Six months ago, I adopted Joey, a 3-year-old mixed breed dog. My vet thought he had probably been poorly socialized and possibly neglected for a while. He was terrified of just about everything -- getting in the crate, riding in the car, going for walks where he met other dogs, being groomed, for a while even being touched, and he was aggressive for the first two weeks with the resident dog.
One by one, with lots of attention and positive reinforcement, he has overcome those fears and become a wonderful little companion. All in all, he's a star. There's just one last problem: He is predatory around Chica, the resident cat.
Early on, Joey's predatory body language scared me. He got hard-eyed, stared at her, stalked her and never took his eyes off her. He still does this. I put up a baby gate. I keep him tethered when she's roaming the house. I make sure their meetings are always happy (treats for both).
At times, he seems OK with her when she strolls by him. He watches but allows her to smell him and then he turns his head away from her. We seemed to be making progress, enough so that I let them be together with me being watchful.