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Before I start I want to say I am now on medication and have received professional help. It is not an option for me to rehome these cats as I will explain later.

To start off i am 16 and still live my parents, I have lived all my life loving dogs, cats and other animals. But I had a problem with my 2 kittens, they are both 10 weeks old now, and for a week or two I abused them physically. I have no idea what I did to them, it would always be a black out, one second the cat doesn't accept me and the other laying on its back, panting.

Before going further, let me say that I am now clean, I have received help and am now on medication. I want to clarify this so no one says to rehome the cats: My parents don't know what happened and I have no intention of telling them.

Now whenever I am around or interact with them, they crouch down and stare at me. They don't run, they just stay very still. They used to be amazing, whenever they smell my finger they purr instantly. Now after a lot of petting nothing happens. This is justified as they have no reason to trust me. I really want them back, I know that socially they are fine, since when my dad or brother pet them they instantly purr so that's only me. I need help to let them trust me again, this time there will be no reason for them to mistrust me for the rest of their lives.

A thing I am trying and they are sort of responding well to is playing with food throwing it and them running off to get it. When this happens one of them lets me pet his back and start purring. The same cat is also very scared of me when I am walking around, he just sits and doesn't move. They also eat food out of my hand with no issues.

To summarize, I am a changed human, I was disgusting before and I still have to carry that disgust with me forever. But I just want my cats again and this time I will never lose them again.

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This is a very loaded question. Firstly, I hope you get well soon.

The first thing you need to know about animals is that they don't hold grudges. If they are still around you and interact well with your parents, it means they are not scarred for life. Also, kittens are very fragile. Since they are alive and your parents can't notice any scars, you couldn't have hurt them too badly. They will forget what happened in due time. However, just like approaching a friend you hurt in real life, you have to give them some space.

  • Panting in cats is a sign of extreme stress. Do not approach them when they are panting.

  • Get some cat treats and occasionally offer them. Don't overuse this, because treats are harmful when they are consumed in large amounts.

  • Extend your finger to them while keeping your distance. If they smell your finger, it means they let you touch them. This is how you ask for consent from a cat. Touch them only when they give you explicit consent.

  • If they are too afraid to approach even your finger, point something to them that smell of you. It could be your glasses if you wear one, your watch, even your mobile. This will give them an extra distance, so if they are too afraid to approach you, this can be your starting ground.

  • If they are willing, play with them with strings and other toys. Keep playing with their food as at least one of them like it. Don't touch them unnecessarily and never pick them up.

  • You can continue to let them eat from your hand, provided you first point your finger to them.

I understand that you are unwilling to talk to your parents, but coping with drugs or depression might be a little too hard for you without their support. I would suggest you to talk to at least one of them. It wouldn't be just beneficial to you, it would also be helpful to the kittens. Your parents could look for signs of abuse on the kittens in case, God forbid, you relapse. Alternatively, you can talk to whoever helped you to get clean about the kittens.

As I stated above, kittens are very fragile so keep looking for signs of internal bleeding. Lethargy, blood in urine, blood in stool, black tarry stool and vomiting are signs of internal bleeding. Check their litter and watch their daily activity for some time.

I hope this helps.

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Just like staying clean, rebuilding the trust of a cat will be a long-term dedication. Even a small relapse, be it out of frustration or lack of patience, will set you back months in your progress.

The first and most important thing to understand is that you can't rebuild this trust. You can't force trust or friendship, you can only offer your friendship and good behavior and hope that the cats will trust you in time again.

In my experience, this can take a long time, but if you're persistent and never betray what little trust there is again you will succeed. And with "being persistent" I don't mean forcing yourself on them, but being persistent in never causing them pain or emotional discomfort again.

C.Koca gave you very good instructions in their answer. Some additions from me are:

  • Don't look them directly in the eyes. For cats (and most animals) this is a sign of confrontation and aggression. They stare at you because they expect you to attack them again. Look to the side of them, so you see them just at the edge of your visual field to communicate with them that you don't want a confrontation.
  • Do the "lazy cat blink" to further communicate that you are no threat to them.
  • If they avoid your touch by walking a wide circle around you or ducking below your hand, don't touch them. This is another aspect of rebuilding trust: you won't touch them when they don't want to be touched. I know from personal experience how it feels to be avoided like that by a cat, but I was able to slowly show my cat that she can trust me and now (depending on her mood) I can sometimes pet her and she even purrs loudly.
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  • I can't believe I forgot about the lazy cat blink :) – C.Koca Sep 11 at 13:47
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You can't explain to an animal that you are sorry. In any case they don't care that you are sorry. They just want to be sure that you aren't going to do it again.

Here's the problem from their point of view. They knew you for a large proportion of their lives and you were kind and gentle. Suddenly, for no reason they could understand, your character changed. They have no way of knowing this won't happen again. You can't tell them verbally.

You must take as long as it takes to regain their trust at their speed. Don't try to force anything. Find what does work and do that. If something you do makes them look scared then don't focus on them or try to reassure them. Leave the room or pretend to be interested in something else. This way they will learn that the cue you are not aware of doesn't lead to you approaching them - it leads to you leaving them alone. Eventually this belief will replace the old chained belief of 'that behaviour means approach and approach means danger'.

In other words, don't treat them as creatures that are there purely for your benefit and don't demand their attention. Think of them and learn how to avoid worrying them.

In their own time they will come around (unless you relapse of course). Good luck.

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