While I was away, my husband gave my cat a bath and accidentally stepped on her head hard. She swelled up pretty bad, but she recovered.

Every time he gives her a bath now, her head swells.

But besides that, she hates him. With a passion. Whenever he is home, she hides. The only time she comes out is when he is not home or sleeping.

He hates when she hides from him, so he has tried blocking all of her hiding spots.

Her behavior has become more self destructive because of this. She hid in the wall and it took some time and a lot of force to get her out.

Is there a way to mend their relationship or is it a lost cause? She has bonded with me and is normally quite fond of me, but she never had a chance to bond with him.

To clarify from the comments:

She is only bathed when she pees or poops on herself. She has night terrors and pees the bed sometimes. I keep telling him she needs a safe place to hide, but he argues that our other cat doesn't feel the need to hide.

If he was to try and repair their relationship where could he start?

She will roam around and is quite social when he is gone or asleep. She is so sweet and lovable.

She is just terrified. I feel bad that I can see this wonderful side of her, but all he gets to see is fear and pain.

  • 14
    It sounds horrific, for him to step on her head to a point of injuring her, it just sounds all sorts of wrong. He should not be bathing her, she is terrified of him. I would not trust him alone with the cat. Why are you bathing her so much?
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 6:09
  • 4
    This must be difficult for you to discuss and I applaud you for seeking help. We want to help you and your cat, so please keep us informed of her progress. If there's any more detail, you can edit your question and add it or leave a comment and I'll amend my answer. Other people may also have some advice.
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 14:54
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    Why are you washing your cat? Cats are "self cleaning" and unless your cat is extremely dirty you should leave it to its own devices. Giving a cat a bath is actually detrimental to maintaining the quality of its fur, and if you get water in their ears you can do a lot of damage. Some cats, like hairless ones, need special skin care, but they shouldn't be bathed unless there are extraordinary circumstances.
    – Ron Beyer
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 17:18
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    "accidentally stepped on her head hard" and "He hates when she hides from him so has tried blocking all of her hiding spots." - Excuse me but what the hell??? Reading this gave me the chills. Don't let him ever approach the cat again. If it doesn't work, either let the cat get adopted by an experienced owner (especially because of the uncleanliness) or get rid of your husband. The poor cat has lived through enough hell already
    – QBrute
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 19:51
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    This cat is traumatised and the way your husband is treating her is not helping. I think the best thing you can do for your cat is to remove one of them from your household. Commented Apr 14, 2020 at 17:20

5 Answers 5


The cat is terrified of your husband and there is no chance of them bonding at this point and possibly never, unless he metamorphoses into a different person.

The fact he is angry with her when she tries to escape, because she is terrified is very telling. Cutting off her escape routes are cruel. Cats hate being bathed and do not need to be routinely bathed and most never have a bath.

It is impossible to accidentally tread on a cat's head whilst bathing them and inflict this type of injury.

Do not leave your cat alone with your husband.

Stop bathing your cat.

If at all possible find a kind home for your cat with experienced cat lovers who understand fearful cats. She needs a lot of care and a safe environment. She needs time to relax and be able to come to people she trusts.

I'm sorry, but your husbands actions are at best misguided, at worst sadistic. This is not want you want to hear and not the best way to welcome someone to the site. I do encourage you to post here about your cat and to seek help.

To respond to the extra information you've provided:

The only way her can repair the relationship is to not go after her and allow her to come to him, which may never happen.

Allow her to hide.

Get her vet checked to deal with the swollen head and the peeing and pooping herself.

  • 12
    I hate to jump to conclusions, but I tend to agree? I don't think it's possible to accidentally step on a cat's head while bathing it either, and I'm disturbed by the detail that its head is swelling every time it's being bathed. Heads don't swell reflexively. It's a sign something is medically wrong. I can't help but worry the cat is having more trauma inflicted on it. Even if it really was some bizarre freak accident, the first step is for him to not bathe it anymore, because regardless the cat has been very traumatized, and bathing is stressful for most cats, so it will traumatize it more.
    – Kai
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 14:48
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    @Kai I agree, it makes me feel ill tbh. I added detail to take the cat to the vet to check for the swollen head and the pooping and peeing - thanks for pointing out that the head swelling when bathing needs to be checked, I overlooked that.
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 14:53
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    Honestly, if the situation really is as bad as we fear, then I'm of the opinion ALL pets (since there are multiple) should be removed from the home immediately. Even taking the animals to a shelter would be kinder, though obviously it would be better if they could be properly rehomed.
    – Kai
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 15:07
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    I can't imagine myself how can you step on a cat's head, but accidents happen. Sometimes weird ones. (e.g. I didn't want to cut my knee with glass bit I did) Assuming malice from this much information is wrong.
    – Nyos
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 15:12
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    @Nyos I do understand what you're saying and you may be right. I waited before posting an answer. I have based it on the full picture - of the cat being so terrified and hiding in the wall and the degree of the injuries. We are not in a court case and cannot hold a truly objective examination, but only go on the things we are told. Please feel free to post an answer if you think you can help. At the very least the cat cannot be handled by the husband - she is in terror
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 15:14

Please don't get offended, but reading your description I think that your husband's actions and attitude towards the cat are bordering animal abuse and reek of aggressive frustration. I think the best you could do is find new home for the cat, considering her best emotional comfort.

For the greater good, I think your husband shouldn't be allowed in to come ever again in physical proximity of not only your cat, but any other animals. Well, maybe there are exceptions: I wouldn't mind him coming near an elephant as an elephant should be fairly safe from being accidentally crushed by his clumsy, stompy foot.

It is also just beyond me how could anyone "accidentally" step on cat's head. It's horrific.

So I apologize for my emotional and judgemental tone, I know it's inapriopriate but I'm severely shocked and deeply disturbed.

  • 2
    My cat loves being underfoot, especially when she's hungry. Treading on her would be very easy to do if I wasn't extremely careful. I basically have to tiptoe around my house at all times.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 20:52
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    Oh yeah maybe I shouldn't be so harsh, of course accidents do happen. By saying it is beyond me I meant that it is ridiculous and horribly unfortunate, taking the whole context, and also the fact that the poor cat has to face the reason of her injuries on daily basis, forced to relive her trauma, while having her hiding spots denied. I just want all the best for this poor fluffy soul, she has already suffered way too much, and I go emotional about this...
    – lila
    Commented Apr 11, 2020 at 21:15

Ana, I'm going to make a bold statement, but cats do not have "night terrors".
If you've seen her going into a spasm, shaking uncontrollably and peeing and/or pooing herself, then your cat is almost certainly having epileptic seizures. It's not just people who have those.

I have helped to care for a cat who suffered a head injury which lead to some degree of brain damage.
She was subsequently diagnosed with and prescribed daily medication to treat epilepsy.
There are times she goes for days without showing any symptoms, and other times where she might have 2 seizures in a single day. She completely loses control, falls on her side with her legs straight & rigid, and shakes & cries. If she hasn't emptied her bladder recently then it all comes out onto her & the floor.
Yes she needs a bath afterwards - which she tolerates unhappily.

The description you've given, and the fact that you know that your husband has stepped on her head accidentally at least once lead me to believe that you urgently need to have her examined by a good vet, who needs to be told about her head injury and the fact that she loses control of herself to the point where she soils herself.

Over the last 6-7 years helping with cat rescue organizations, we have fostered easily over 100 different cats in our house, and the only ones which soiled themselves were kittens too young to know any better, and this one girl I described above.
For an adult cat, this is not normal behavior at all.
Please, take her to a vet.

I also fully agree with what everyone else has said regarding her and your husband.
The way he is behaving is not helping at all. She needs her safe spaces, and if she ever comes to him it'll be on her terms, not his. Ideally, you need to take over the baths when she needs them, because it seems that any contact with him only stresses her more.
By all means block off places where she can get into the walls because that's not safe for her, but please give her some places where she can hide & feel safe.

  • 4
    Thank you for your contribution, it's great to have such an experienced person on the site. You've caught issues we've missed.
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 3:32

There is plenty of evidence that animals are not only intelligent, they also have emotions relating to our own. Your cat is terrified of your husband, who (I need to say) almost killed her.

Of course she wants nothing whatsoever to do with him. It's not like an apology would help. But your husband's expectations of the cat are completely lacking in empathy. He is angry whenever the cat rejects him. Maybe he feels guilty and wants to make it the cat's responsibility to end that feeling instead of just owning it and dealing with it like an adult should be able to do.

Is there any way to mend their relationship or is it a lost cause?

It is probably a lost cause, but let the cat decide, and at her own pace.

Talk to your husband, imagining it's the cat who almost killed him, and whenever he is afraid of the cat, she punishes him for his fear. I hope he can see his actions at best as being unkind towards the cat, and at worst, very damaging to her emotionally.

I'm not going to tell you to give up your cat, but you need to put your foot down where the cat is concerned.

  • 2
    I like your answer and how it empathises deeper with the cat and helps to explain her current emotional states. Of course animals are intelligent and have emotions and I don't even need an evidence to believe it, but some people just don't understand.
    – lila
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 18:36
  • 1
    It's great to see you on the site. How is your dog going?
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 3:33

Hiding in the shadows is a normal thing cats do - your other cat may do it significantly less because he is bigger, because he is more relaxed, less noticeably compared to the other one, or maybe because he doesn't have as much to fear as your other cat (who seems to, reasonably, be afraid of the man who blocks off all their hiding places and one time stepped on their head).

Even without the circumstances involved here, cats love to go into dark cramped places - it makes them feel safe and comfortable. By blocking off access to those places, you are going to severely stress out your cat, and make them even less sociable.

Stop discouraging your cat's cat-like behavior. Let them have quiet places they can be safe in without restriction. You don't need them to be out in public all the time, and it will do wonders for their mood. They may not want to snuggle or cuddle more than they currently do, but they will be happier and healthier, and that should be your primary concern.

  • 1
    Thanks for this - it covers an area not truly emphasised. The answers truly cover this topic well.
    – user6796
    Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 14:02

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