Dealing with Abused or Neglected Cats

JUST AS YOU WOULD FEED A STARVING ANIMAL frequent small meals but never a large meal, give the emotionally deprived cat frequent light contact for very short periods. In some cases it may be necessary to pull yourself back all the way to just eye and voice contact. When you add petting, move slowly, use the light touch, and keep it short. Always stop soon enough to leave him wanting more. The object is to repeat the desirable pattern: love and petting make love and purring, over and over again. Never ever allow your actions to go on so long that you trigger the undesirable response of biting, scratching, or hiding in fear.
PATIENCE IS ALL IMPORTANT; it’s better to go too slow than too fast. When I start repatterning a cat who has been abused or locked in a cage for a long time, I know before I start that I can expect to work with the patient for several weeks before he begins to relax and enjoy a normal relationship.
FROM TIME TO TIME I COME UPON AN OWNER WHO is unwittingly initiating the scratch and bite response by over stimulating a hypersensitive cat. When some cats are petted they will first react with a typical purring, stretching, and kneading response. However, if the petting becomes too vigorous or is simply carried on too long, the cat’s emotions are stimulated beyond the point where the cat can either understand or control himself. The emotions engulf the cat, his own emotions frightening him, and he lashes out at the cause of this emotional tidal wave: you. I see this reaction most often in cats who have come out of a situation where there was very little demonstration of love. They are taken into a new home starving for affection and physical closeness, and when they get it they experience a kind of emotional indigestion.
WHEN THIS HAPPENS, KEEP CALM. The cat will be as frightened of his sudden and unexpected reaction as you are. Gently withdraw and try to remember how long you were petting your friend before this reaction occurred. Next time, you must stop earlier. Remember, until he settles down, always leave him wanting more.

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