Cats, like people, can have their trust broken enough to not be able to trust anyone. This tends to happen after years of abuse but it can only take one scary action by you, to make your cat rethink your bond. I have seen it first hand. A cuddly, friendly, social kitten one day, the next – Scared, skittish, and well hidden. Something as simply as you using a leash the wrong way on your cat can change them. Even you accidentally dropping an object near them. While most adult cats will place blame and fear on the object, some will put that on you. Kittens tend to do this more than adults, specially if a bond has been established. The truth is, you don’t need to abuse your cat on purpose to have them lose your trust. When you think of us humans, all’s it takes is one wrong action by another human, and we are done. Cats are not so different after all.
So you feel you lost your cat’s trust, or maybe you adopted a cat that has general fear and distrust with all people in general. If you want to fix this, you will have to be patient and understanding. Your cat is wild at heart and instinctively is not a pack animal. They are not like dogs who will forgive you over and over for the same action. They harbor fear and resent quite well! Here are some simple ways to earn back your cat’s trust, or earn it for the first time!
Food Is Common Ground
Cats love food. They not only love it when they are hungry either! They will eat all times of the day and enjoy treats as well. What you want to do is place their food or treats close by where you will spend most of your time in the home. If you work at home in an office room, put it in there. Don’t acknowledge them when they are eating. Carry on doing what you do! They may stop eating or even run if you move to quickly so be careful. Once they are comfortable eating and you are able to move around freely without them running or acting scared, place treats close by to you. This may take a number of times but eventually, the cat will come to you and eat the treats. Again, don’t startle it or move suddenly. Don’t even pet it. Allow it to just be.
Bond Like A Tree
If you notice the cat walking around looking at you, maybe coming close then running, try being a tree. You can sit, stand, or lay down, but don’t move. Allow the cat to come to you, smell you, breath you in and see you will not harm him/her. If you lay down, close your eyes and allow them to move freely around you. They will see your eyes are closed and may even walk on you to get a closer look!
Avoid Scary Objects
Most cats do not like vacuums, large objects, cars, long thick sticks, things that make loud noise, or water. Knowing this, do not vacuum in the same room as your cat. If they are in the bedroom, close the door, then clean. This will give them a sense of security. Be mindful when using brooms and mops as well. They may be quiet but to a scared cat, they are intimidating. Loud noises are a given! They have super sensitive hearing so always keep this in mind. Also, avoid raising your voice when your kitty is near by. Toys may come into play when you know your interaction with them aren’t frightening.
Let Them Do The Work
You may want to pick your cat up, cuddle it, pet it and so on but if the cat lacks trust with you, this will cause a problem. What you want to do is be patient. Allow the cat to come close to you and put your hand out. If they come into your hand for a pet, then go for it. They may only sniff your hand and walk away. That is fine! Keep at it. Cats who have broken trust with a human often see hands as a threat so this will take sometime. Some cats will take right away, others wont.
Don’t Back Them Into Tight Places
Ever hear the phrase “Never corner a cat”? That is because they become heated and defensive. They will bite, hiss, scratch, anything they can to get our of the corner and to a safer place. If your cat is hiding, don’t peak under the bed and reach for them. Allow them to hide. They will come out when they are ready.
Leave Behind Your Scent
When you leave the house, be sure something that smells like you is left where your cat mostly sleeps/eats. So say you slept in a shirt, take that shirt off and place it close to the food dishes or near their hiding area. This way, when you go, your scent will still be near by. There will be no threat but the smell will be present which will create a safe zone with your smell. I know this sounds strange, but trust me, there is a lot cats perceive through scent alone.
Remember… Trust is earned, it isn’t simply given. It can take days, weeks, or even months but it does not mean your should give up. Be patient, persistent, and gentle with everything you do.