Can you imagine spending days, months or even years in a living space that’s roughly half the size of a shipping container?
Not only that. The living condition is horrendous as well without a toilet or basic living necessities.
I doubt many of us can even last a day, let alone our entire lives.
The sad fact is, this is how many hoarded cats live till they die or if fortunate enough, are rescued. No living thing should be subjected to such unsanitary conditions.
If you ever have an opportunity to adopt or rescue hoarded cats from an animal shelter, please don’t hesitate.
In this article, we will be sharing the do’s and don’ts when it comes to socializing a hoarded cat.
You will be giving the cat a new chance at a normal and happy life.
Why Do People Hoard Cats?
The mentality of a hoarder is caused by a mental illness. This can be due to OCD, a loss of a spouse or going through a difficult phase in life.
People who end up hoarding cats don’t do it out of cruelty. There are in fact cat lovers themselves.
Hoarders are deeply attached to their cats and see them as a source of love.
Unfortunately, when these hoarders are keeping cats in such great numbers, there is no way possible to give them the proper care that these cats need.
How To Socialize A Traumatized Cat?
Hoarded cats usually end up in a traumatized state of mind. They spent many days being caged up, underfed and not looked after well enough.
Furthermore, they don’t get enough contact with human beings.
Yes, there might be some contact with the hoarder but it’s definitely not sufficient to create a bond.
Hoarders can keep up to 60 cats or more.
A cat can’t get sufficient attention when it’s competing with so many other cats for resources.
It takes some time and patience to get a traumatized cat to like and trust you. The nature of hoarding cats has turned many of them into scared cats.
But by using our below methods, you’ll turn it into a purring lap cat in no time.
1. Expect The Cat To Be Fearful
Cats that are rescued or adopted from hoarding situations tend to be fearful or even exhibit aggressive behavior.
A hoarded cat does share the same personality traits as a feral cat. They aren’t very well-socialized cats.
This isn’t due to the cat being evil or hating you but rather it’s telling you that it is afraid.
Some might even term this as a ‘false bravado’.
Don’t feel frustrated or upset about it but know that the cat is on the right path with you.
2. Keep The Living Area Small
Hoarded cats are used to being in small and confined spaces so putting the cat in a large open area right off the bat will make it even more stressed.
A small area like a toilet or study room will be a good place to let the cat settle in.
Make sure you have all the essential cat items in the room before you bring the cat home.
3. Block Off Any Potential Hiding Space
One thing to note is that when it comes to fearful cats, they love to hide and get away from you.
Block access to under the bed, as well as under any dresser, couch and closet.
These are all potential hiding spots that the cat can squeeze into, making socializing with your new cat more challenging.
Better places for a cat to hide will be a small cat house or cat condo, a cardboard box or a cat bed.
The cat might also find comfort by hiding in its litter box. Not the most ideal of situations but just let it be for now.
You want to be able to have easy access to the cat and get it to be more comfortable with the environment.
4. Tempt The Cat With Treats
It is very important to start off your first interaction with the cat on the right foot.
Don’t try to make any sudden or loud movements and definitely don’t force the cat.
Food or treats is a great way to say “Hello cat, I come in peace and mean you no harm.”
Not all cats are motivated by food though so to test it out, just place some cat food in a bowl near the cat and step away.
You can use some water-based canned tuna or warm up some cat food.
Cat’s taste by smell so a stronger smelling treat might work better.
Speak in a soft gentle voice to try and coax the cat to come forward and eat.
If the cat doesn’t want to make the first move, try putting some of the food on a stick or ladle and slowly bring it to the cat’s nose.
It might take a while before the cat starts to feel comfortable eating, so don’t give up too soon.
5. Touching The Cat With A Stick
Once the cat is comfortable eating from the stick or a bowl, the next step is to get the cat used to being touched.
Do not use your hands or you will regret it. The cat will see your hand as dangerous and will react adversely to it.
The best way to initiate contact with the cat is with a long stick.
Rub your used t-shirt on the stick a few times in order to leave a scent on it. This will start to get the cat used to your smell which will help tremendously.
Slowly bring the stick to the cat’s nose to let it smell your scent. Once done, slowly rub the stick against the side of the cat.
Always be observing the cat and see how it reacts. If it starts to hiss or pull back, stop immediately.
Look out for body language signals such as the cat fluffing up its tail in anger.
If the cat feels comfortable with the touch, do it a few times a day for a few minutes and stop.
Remember to reward the cat with some treats to reinforce the positive behaviour.
6. Touching the Cat With An Oven Mitten Or Plastic Hand
For this next step, you will start to let the cat know that your hand is a friend.
Don’t use your actual hands yet though. An oven mitten or a plastic hand which you can get from Amazon is what you need.
You can attach the mitten or fake hand to the stick and slowly bring it to the cat. Don’t forget to rub your scent on it as well.
It would be best to do this when the cat is eating from a bowl.
While the cat is eating slowly brush the area at the back of its head or shoulder blades. Do not touch its face or tummy for now.
Back off if the cat gets uneasy and try again later when the cat feels more settled.
7. Touching With Your Real Hands
Before you embark on this step, the cat needs to be eating comfortably out in the open and be receptive to the fake hand.
If it’s not, attempting to touch it with your actual hand won’t be ideal. Keep doing the above few steps until your cat is ready.
Once you feel the cat is ready, wait for it to be eating and then stroke it very gently on the back of its head a few times.
If there’s no negative reaction, you can continue to stroke it while it eats.
Remember, less is more when socializing cats. Do try and pick it up and put it on your lap or chest just yet.
A cat prefers to move at its own pace.
Socializing With Other Cats Or Pets
If you have many cats or different pets at home, then it is good to get your new cat comfortable with your existing cats.
In hoarding situations, many cats are kept together in tight living areas so this cat might take to your other cats more easily as compared to a human.
However, as cat lovers, we want to make sure that the cat is perfectly fine with the process and not just throw it in the deep end.
1. Smell But No Touch
The best way to kick of the socializing process with your other pets is through a door. They can smell and hear each other but can’t make any physical contact.
This is perfect because you don’t want any aggressive behavior to occur during the’ get to know’ process.
2. See But No Touch
After a few days of familiarity through the door without any aggressive behavior, you can place a gated wire mesh at the doorway instead.
Now, they can not only smell but see who’s on the other side. It’s a great way for your pets to get more comfortable with each other.
Any unfriendly gestures will usually surface at this point. Nip it in the bud before it escalates.
3. Welcome To The Family
Once you are confident that they are cordial with each other, you can remove the wire mesh and let them physically meet.
Make sure that you are there to supervise in case anything happens.
Observe how they interact with each other and remove any pet that starts to be aggressive.
Don’t leave your pets alone for a while during this phase just to be very sure that everyone is well behaved.
Socializing a hoarded cat takes effort and time. However, it can be a very rewarding experience to see them come out of their shells and transform into more socialized cats.
Many of these cats make great affectionate pets.
They just need someone to believe in them.