Traumatised cat

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MiddleEarthNet
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Traumatised cat

Post by MiddleEarthNet » Sat Mar 16, 2019 1:40 am

Hi, I could really do with some advice. Five weeks ago I adopted a 3.5 year rehomed cat. As far as I know, she was never abused, just circumstances meant she needed to be rehomed. Unfortunately those circumstances meant, this is her fourth home in 7 months. She is a sweet natured lap cat.
But when I try to put her in a cat carrier to take her to the vets, it looks like she is having a panic attack. I’m convinced in her head, she associates it with being moved to another home again. I had to call the vets today and tell them I was giving up for the day. I felt I had pushed it far enough in trying to get her in the carrier. I’ve owned cats before. I know getting any cat in a carrier is a challenging experience but I’ve never seen anything like this.
And now, even though she’s back to being friendly, (just enjoyed two hours of lap time) it’s quite clear she is frightened. If I reach towards her she’s pulling away and trying to hide. She wasn’t doing that before trying to take her to the vets this afternoon, she would come trotting to my hand for a fuss.
I already have a feliway plug in and I’ve bribed her with treats to help ease the trauma. But I feel awful at traumatising my cat even more than she already was. And worse, I have to try again on Monday for the rescheduled appointment. The worst part of it is, it’s only registration at the vets and flea treatment.
This is my first time owning a rehomed adult cat as supposed to from kitten.

Please help. I love her so much and don’t want to see her so traumatised.

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MarySkater
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by MarySkater » Sat Mar 16, 2019 8:44 am

You could try keeping the carrier permanently in your living room, or somewhere the cat spends a lot of time. Maybe initially with the door off. Make it just part of the furniture. Feed her near it, and gradually move the food bowl closer so that if possible she is actually going into the carrier to eat. She needs to know that seeing the carrier doesn't mean that she will immediately be shut in it. (I realise this may not work if you use a top-opening carrier rather than one with a front opening.)

Also - is the carrier big enough? I give my cats the biggest carriers I can manage, because I think it's less uncomfortable for them.

For this immediate vet check, could you ask your vet if he will do a home visit? Obviously this would be expensive, but if you can manage the cost, it might be worth doing until you've made your cat more comfortable with the carrier.

MiddleEarthNet
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by MiddleEarthNet » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:29 am

Thanks, I could try putting the carrier in my bedroom or the living room. It’s the rooms she seems most relaxed in and gradually move it to the kitchen which is actually where she spends the most time. Plus far too many places to hide to try and get her into a carrier in the bedroom or living room. But they would make a good starting point.

I don’t know if the carrier is big enough. It’s a very old one that dates back to my first cats when I was a young child (it’s 28 years old). So I never chose it, my parents did. I just gave it a really good clean. But it’s certainly something I can look into.

I can’t really afford the vet to do a home visit. I’d probably attempt to give her the flea treatment (drops on the back of the neck) myself and skip the seeing her as part of the registration process. And then continue to work on the carrier issue.

Thank you for your advice.

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Mollycat
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by Mollycat » Sun Mar 17, 2019 12:14 pm

I have more sympathy for you than you can ever imagine, I too have had many cats and never too much issue with carriers until Molly, even though my last kitten was in 1987 and I have or have had 5 adult rescues since. Molly was rescued at 9 months and again at 6 years old, she is now coming up 12, extremely timid and also very intelligent. We get her to appointments once out of every 3 attempts. Where possible I book 2 cats in at the same time and then they don't seem to mind if only one turns up.

Firstly definitely let the carrier be a cosy bed/den that is part of the regular furniture. Occasionally offer treats or catnip in it without forcing the issue, just leave them there. Personally I've found the Pet Remedy more effective than the Feliway, it doesn't seem to have that burnt smell after a few days, is priced around the same but does 60 days not 30, and there is a spray as well. My vet suggested using a top loading wire cage rather than the standard front loading and paid more than double for one that also has a front opening to make it into a den. Once I had put a solid bottom in it and some nice bedding, she does like being able to see out but can also be covered with my coat or a towel to hide away.

I only try once. If she gets away I never go hunting for her, never try to trick her. If we miss an appointment we will get another one later. She's too clever to fall for the same trick twice anyway and I need to keep some up my sleeve for emergencies. The little minx knows this and half an hour after a failed attempt I guarantee she will be sitting in the carrier staring defiantly at me.

You can also get a capsule of Gabapentin from the vets very cheap. Mine won't fall for it on food or any treats, but that's supposed to be effective.

Have you considered Reiki? I had a lady do a distance Reiki send just before I had to (and I mean really had to) load her up recently. She hid under the bed all morning knowing something was up but came out 10 minutes before time and gave me a big cuddle, totally relaxed, and I was able to pick her up without rush or panic. Of course I still got the most unladylike language about it, but it was just so much easier. £30 a session, in my case peanuts against the £2,500 vet bill.

As for what to do now, the more traumatised a cat is the more it will absorb your emotions like a sponge. Practice keeping perfectly calm, use breathing exercises to get your pulse rate to stay slow, they can feel it. Do not feel bad for her, she will know you are upset but not understand why and think she has good reason to be afraid. Do not try to force the issue with treats, let her know that you will leave her alone if she is uncomfortable near you. Walking away does more to build a cat's trust than any bribery. Practice the slow-blink, talk to her in a light voice, let her hide - in time she will hopefully bond with you and trust you when something scares her enough to not have to hide. In my house treats are not rewards for behaviour or a trap for something unpleasant, they are a fun game, I don't want food associated with anything they can perform to earn it.

Five weeks is early days especially after the trauma of so many homes in such a short time. From a horse trainer whose name I forget - "If you act like you have 5 minutes it will take all day. If you act like you have all day, it will take 5 minutes." Wise words.

MiddleEarthNet
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by MiddleEarthNet » Tue Mar 19, 2019 8:57 am

Thanks. I tried turning the carrier on it’s end and loaded her from the top and success I got her in this time. Vet also suggested if that stops working, put the carrier on the edge of a table it work surface and front load her that way. Either way their paws aren’t down.

I’m going to try putting the carrier out as a den. Even though yesterday was successful, it was still very clear she associates it with trauma. Normally cars are desperate to get back into the carrier after the vet has finished, but mine put up a fight even at that point.

Never heard of reiki for a cat. I’d consider it in emergencies but can’t afford that very often (I’m on a low wage).
I knew cats could feel my pulse when being held, hadn’t realised it would go as far my emotions. During lap time in the 30 minutes before going, I tried to keep calm and keep it normal. Not sure I totally succeeded.

I definitly have a cat voice that I use with her. Got that one mastered. I’ve been doing the slow blink since I got her but I need a lot more practise at that.

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Mollycat
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by Mollycat » Tue Mar 19, 2019 9:16 am

That's a good tip, the edge of the table!

This was the first time I had reiki for my animals and I'm pretty sure it was very helpful. There are quite a few animal reiki practitioners, I gather it's very recommended for nervous or anxious horses especially and some animal shelters are starting to have sessions for the new intake as needed. I would definitely do it again. Maybe could be an ask for birthdays or Christmas for you if you have someone who would be so kind? Sounds like your girls could benefit from any help they can and you're doing an amazing job with them. I have the same thoughts with my girl, I am so glad she never went into foster but came straight to me, home to home. I dread to think what she might have been like getting moved twice.

MiddleEarthNet
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Re: Traumatised cat

Post by MiddleEarthNet » Wed Mar 20, 2019 11:50 pm

I think the fright of Friday has put back the progress she had made over the previous five weeks :(. Though she is still settling on my lap, she now very jumpy and hides at the slightest thing. She’s far more nervous. I’m trying to give her the space she needs but feel sad I’ve broken her trust. She really is traumatised and it’s going to take a while before she relaxes and trusts that she now has a permanent home.

Though the idea of putting the carrier permanently out is a great idea, I think the sight of it at the moment will scare her even more, at least at the moment.

In the mean time, I know I’ve got 3 months before she needs any more flea treatment. So I’ll make sure she gets all the lap time and playing she wants.

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