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.

  • 78
    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!
    – rumtscho
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 15:49
  • 27
    To voters: please vote the question based on its relevance to the site, not as a judgement of the poster's personality. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 17:57
  • 6
    @PCARR perhaps expand on that to post an answer?
    – user6796
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 15:57
  • 4
    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?
    – Ister
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 11:03
  • 3
    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. Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:11

19 Answers 19


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.

  • 6
    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.
    – absmiths
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 19:02

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.

  • 42
    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.
    – Allison C
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 14:09
  • 12
    @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
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 17:44
  • 8
    @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 2.0
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 2:36
  • 2
    @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. google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://…
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 8:03
  • 2
    @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. google.co.uk/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://…
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 8:12

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.

  • 24
    "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
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 13:57
  • 3
    @alephzero terribly sad.
    – user6796
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 15:16
  • 3
    @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.
    – Ister
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 10:59
  • @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... :/ Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:44
  • 2
    @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 :/
    – Patrice
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 12:04

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.


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.


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

  • 3
    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.
    – Zoey Green
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 20:34
  • 1
    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.
    – user6796
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 1:43
  • 1
    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.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 31, 2018 at 3:56

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.

  • 3
    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. Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 17:19

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.


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.


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.


It's a great opportunity for you to experience regret, patience, and the humbling power of forgiveness. Cats are incredibly robust animals, physically and mentally (at least the common European breeds, I have no experience with the "fancy" breeds). I have wronged my cats a few times, and I always found out that, whenever I got ashamed of my actions, regretted them and was ready to apologize to the cat, it would forgive me and allow love to manifest itself.

It's important that you make a sincere commitment to yourself that you want this relationship to work. It's YOUR mental health at stake, the cat will recover much faster than you will, if you don't REALLY TRY to make it work.

You need a lot of patience (a resource that is scarce at 17, I know..), because a long period of abuse will take a long period of "apologizing". In no way force your cat into the relationship. Don't keep her captive, don't forcefully keep her close to you, don't even touch her if it's obvious that's not what she wants. Just let her know that you are interested in fixing the relationship, by giving her attention whenever she's ready to get some. Don't stare at her, as this may be interpreted as a sign of aggression, but look at her and slowly blink to her. If she gives back any attention, show you're interested but let HER initiate any contact.

If you are sincere in your desire to fix the relationship, and don't do anything dumb (like hitting her again), I'd say that it should take the same amount of time you did the abusing (a month), till she'd be comfortable with you again. If I were in your shoes, I'd try for 3 months. No results for 3 months means you're doing something wrong and it's not worth it, for the cat's sake.

But otherwise, fixing this relationship is very important for your mental health firstly, and the cat's secondly. In my experience, people or animals I've wronged at 17, and did nothing to fix it, still hurt and keep me up at night a little, now 20 years later.

And this is also the case the other way around. It's much better for your cat to regain trust in humans through YOU and YOUR penitence. The world will make much more sense to her this way.

My 2 cents (I'm neither a psychologist nor a cat expert, just a guy that did a lot of dumb stuff at 17 and slowly learned to deal with it).

  • I have been close to several cats in my life and I have found that they forgave my transgressions against them fairly quickly, although mine were of the accidental variety, not deliberate abuse. For instance, I sat on one cat when he was a kitten. He was black and he curled up in my dark blue office chair one day just a few days after I'd gotten him. I wasn't expecting him there and sat on him. He protested but quickly forgave me. On another occasion, I stepped on him in the dark but quickly forgave me. I inadvertently caused a apparently seizure in one of my cats but she too forgave me.
    – Henry
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 21:40
  • Continued.... Just this afternoon, I clipped a large matt from my brother's cat which he hasn't bothered to attend to. Since she tolerated that - guardedly - I thought I'd try trimming her claws but she was NOT willing to let that happen and scratched my hand. Then she left the room, seeming not to want anything to do with me. But a half hour later, she hopped on my lap, signalled that she wanted stroking, got a minute or two of stroking, then curled up for a nap; she's been on my lap for a couple of hours now. I don't know if cats can correctly distinguish between acts made with malicious....
    – Henry
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 21:44
  • 2
    Continued.... intent and those made by accident or "for their own good" so maybe that's why these various transgressions got forgiven so quickly. I don't know if a cat will forgive the OPs abuse - ever - but I concur with the others that the OP needs to seek professional help and should find this cat a better home. We can only hope the cat eventually recovers a trust in human beings or at least one special human being.
    – Henry
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 21:47
  • @Henry there's a huge difference between occasional, accidental situations like that and a constant, deliberate abuse. I currently have 3 cats and it's obvious that something happens sometimes. Be it claw cutting, going to a vet, leaving the cats for a week while I go on a trip, sitting on a cat that hid on a bed under a blanked (I do check but well) or crash into a cat that is at a near-speed-of-light (of course it is my fault). Those cause some blaming looks at me or even ignoring me for half an hour (few hours if I was away) but are soon forgotten and replaced with trying to get
    – Ister
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 11:20
  • Continued .. back all the love lost during all that time we were "on speaking terms". Yet the cat that was constantly and regularly abused has now imprinted fear and vigilance so it's much more difficult to repair such relationship. I fully agree with the answer - it is worth to do it. And requires a lot of patience.
    – Ister
    Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 11:22

Ask yourself two questions:

  • Did you treat the cat like an object, or just an individual you took out your anger on?
  • Was there more to the relationship than the abuse?

When you realise you have been making a big mistake for a long period, it is easy to feel like you are a terrible person and overestimate the damage you have caused. Some cats are simply anxious about being around humans and obviously will avoid humans that are rough with them.

When I was young I showed my cat affection but also did some things that were were cruel. When I realised this, I felt terrible, and decided to change. Looking back I overestimated how much damage I had caused. He did show me affection after all and was upset when I wasn't around.

However, once I changed my behaviour my cat gradually started trusting me more and showed me much more affection. He was far more comfortable being around me.

If you have been treating your cat like an object more than occasionally, she will know, and the right thing for her is to be looked after by someone else. But if not, you may be able to repair this relationship if you are capable of completely changing your behaviour.


All animals are pattern matchers. We all look for patterns in the world and use them to modify our behavior. Cats are no different in this respect.

A key thing to realize is that cats are both predators AND prey; in order to survive they MUST pay close attention to the threats in the world.

You can fix this. My next door neighbor while growing up was absolutely horrid to his cat growing up, but he fixed it and is a well adjusted adult. A cousin of mine was known for making his cat uncomfortable, and yet when he stopped doing it his cat has become a dedicated companion. It can be fixed.

You have to realize, though, that you've imprinted a series of threats against a prey animal... It's not going to be easy or fast.

You will need to leave the cat alone. Feed it, water it, clean it's litter box, and leave it be. Step one is letting the cat realize that the environment is no longer a threat. Remove any item, like the ladder, which was part of your abuse.

Let the cat make the first move. Once it feels secure it'll interact with you. One of my cats is completely uninterested in petting and such... She likes to watch from the edges. Maybe this cat is a people watcher. You'll discover this.

You absolutely must not make the first move. You are a threat right now, so approaching the cat or trying to interact with it causes the cat to go into survival mode. You will have to be nonthreatening and just "there" until the cat regains it's confidence.

You can use treats and toys but, again, don't expect the cat to instantly trust you. Put a toy or treat out, let the cat see you do it... Then go away.

The cat will learn new patterns. You aren't always a threat. The house is safe. Sometimes you mean treats. Give it time and you can fix things.

Reset your expectations. For my cats, I consider it a success that they feel comfortable and safe in my house. Like I said, my big cat is not a cuddler. But seeing her lazily watching the goings-on in the house from the corner of the room makes me happy, knowing the cat is safe and comfortable. And, sometimes, rarely, the cat invites petting. And on cold nights, sometimes, she'll even cuddle, as long as you ignore her. Your goal shouldn't be for the cat to cuddle with you or play with you right now. Your goal should be to make the cat feel safe.

This is going to take time, but it gives you time to reflect on why you scared the cat. Something isn't going right in your life, and while you are letting your cat heal, you need to heal too. There is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing a psychologist; they won't tell anyone you were there and they can help you talk through your troubles. As you fix the things going wrong you will naturally become less of a threat to the cat, which will be a feedback effect.

In fact, a psychologist is way more likely to help you resolve the problems between you and your cat than random people on the internet.

If you can't get your parents to help you find a psychologist, ask the school nurse or somebody like that. They want to help, and they don't have to tell anyone what you say to them.

I've had anger issues... My cats have helped me go through them. They give me something to focus on. No matter show bad my life is, seeing my cats feel safe gives me something to be proud of. This cat can be a companion IF you fix yourself.

TL;DR. You cannot fix the cat. There is nothing wrong with the cat. You can fix the environment and yourself. Hell, fixing the environment to be safer for the cat might make it safer for you too. You cannot force the cat to like you... You can only make an environment where the cat comes to like you.

You need to be honest with yourself (and this is something that a psychologist can help you with). If you really want to fix yourself and the environment, if you really want to do all the above and spend the months maybe a year to fix things... You can. And you'll be both a better person because of it... And the cat can help you do so.

If you aren't willing to do all that, if you still think you can force the cat to love you... You can't. Surrender the cat to a friend or a shelter ASAP. Because if you don't, you'll regret it forever. The landlord made us "get rid" of my cat when I was 12, I had no control over the action, and I feel bad about it to this day. In your case, you are the causitive agent, and it will haunt you forever. This is not meant to be a threat, but a warning.

It's a process. You can fix it. But you will need to let the cat become comfortable, and you need to fix yourself.

Please, please take care of the cat, one way or another. Don't ever hurt it again. If you ever do please do the right thing and give it to a safe home. You can fix one bad pattern... You cannot possibly fix multiple bad patterns.

And, please, let us know what you are doing to resolve it.


You should give that poor little kitty away and never get a new one. I can't write here what I really want to say to you.

You cannot regain the trust of this cat and this is good. Cats tend to remember things pretty well. You should give her away to someone who loves her and who takes care of the wounds you have done to that innocent soul.


I think if you've abused a kitten, or any animal at all, then you are taking your upset out on them. It would be best to find a new home for this pet. It does not deserve what you did to it, and it will always remember...wouldn't you? In any case, do the right thing and let it go to someone who can care for it with love. If you can go to someone and talk about what has happened to you to make you upset like this, then it will help you so much. You deserve to be loved and this is a good time for you to reach out and take care of yourself. Having a pet is not a good idea. Let it go to a loving home and you can focus on healing and feeling better. Give it a try. Sending you much love


You are not some one who at this time in life should be responsible for any animal, my suggestion would be to take it to a rescue centre and let them know what you have done. A lot of animals come into rescue after being abused and it takes years for them to trust ... or even never. I have two rescue dogs, one only trusts certain types of men (generally older or less "Alpha" type men) and even that takes time, its been 3 years and this wont change, but he is totally fine with kids and women... and the other is just plain scared of every human she meets, she will just piss her self and cower every time she meets a new human, we have had her 4 months and she is improving, but if i touch her in the wrong place at the wrong moment or say the wrong thing in the wrong tone she will piss her self. Its really sad to watch and breaks my heart every time. She is learning, but its taking time and love...

My suggestion is to go away and learn about positive reinforcement with animals, then volunteer at a rescue centre, find a centre that uses this method and give them full disclosure on what you have done and you wish to learn and atone for what you have done, they will most likely be wary of you and shadow you for months, but what you will learn is how to respect animals. Having an animal is a privilege and not a right, you don't own it, but you are responsible for its happiness and well being. Perhaps seeing and helping animals that have been abused (some perhaps far worse than what you have done) will help you make amends for what you have done and at least you will find peace.

Please don't hurt the cat again, it is a living breathing animal that just wants to live, just like you.


More than showing considerable improvement in the view of independent knowledgeable observers, which is a very helpful suggestion by @AlanT, you must have reached an understanding of just how despicable a behaviour the abuse of an animal is. I say this because you write that you want to change your behaviour. Wanting is not good enough. Many abusers want to change their behaviour and then they go on to abuse again. You must know in your heart that you will never do this again, or anything similar to it, whatever the circumstances. Achieving that understanding and knowledge is paramount and comes before learning whatever you need to know to stand a chance of fixing your relationship with this cat (which may not be possible) and to get this cat or any other animal to trust and like you.


I can somewhat relate, when I found my stray cat I didn't immediately get attached to it. It took months and it was hard to not lash out when he peed in the kitchen sink.

What you need to understand is that right now the cat associates you with violence. When you approach it it has no way of knowing if you are going to hurt it again or not. You need to gain it trust by always petting it and being kind with it. If it behaves badly, does things you don't approve of - don't hit it, just take it away to some other room/whatever to stop the behavior. When you approach it always be kind. It would take a while, but it's possible.

And if the cat is distant - you need to give it some time. You may cheat my bringing treats and toys, but don't force your presence. The cat is in a very dependent position - it can't truly escape your company if you force it - it can't leave the house/appartment after all. So be polite and respect it if the cat wants to be alone. Give it freedom to do as it pleases - unless it does damage to the house - and the cat would slowly come out of its shell.

Also, realise that cats display affection differently from dogs - the small gestures mean much for with them. The dog would wag its tail and bark, but a cat would simply prod you with its head and sleep in the same room with you - its the way they display their sympathy.


As a 17 year old, it may be a large responsibility to own a cat without making some mistakes. Because this was probably impulsive abuse to the kitten, don't blame yourself or the animal. It's best to know that you may not be able to obtain a healthy relationship with your cat once more because of the abuse. However, if you try to look back to before the abuse began, were you a better owner than you were last month? If so, you could try to regain the trust in your relationship to the point where it was before. Even though the kitten is young, it could have memories of back before the abuse started. If you can, try doing things the cat enjoyed in the past. That way, it may be able to remember how it's been treated before.

Hope this helped a bit. :)

  • 3
    17 is definitely an acceptable age to take on responsibility for an animal; it's essentially adulthood (legality depends on locality), and thousands if not millions of children far younger are given at least partial responsibility for animals every year.
    – Allison C
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 13:55

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.