It is a sad reality that animals do not always get the fairest or kindest treatment. Whether because of circumstances or just bad people, they often end up living in terrible conditions, abandoned on the streets, used, abused or caught in dangerous environments. The road towards redemption starts at the local animal shelter, where, if they’re lucky, they get adopted by a loving person, who will take care of them. But when the animal has suffered trauma, it can be difficult for them to trust humans again. So what can you do, in order to get such an animal to trust you?
- Patience is key – take it slowly
First things first – you have to make sure you remember to have infinite patience. This little animal – whether it’s a dog, a cat or any other animal – has suffered a lot in its lifetime, often at the hand of humans. So naturally, they will be very scared and distrustful. Everything is unfamiliar and they don’t yet know what your intentions are. So, it is vitally important that you don’t try to force any kind of relationship. Treat the creature with kindness, talk calmly, provide them with everything they need and let them come to you.
- Inform yourself on its background and exercise empathy
It’s very important to know where the animal comes from and under what conditions it has lived, because this information can give you insight into its behavior. For example, a scared puppy may tend to pee in hidden corners of the house or a cat might be aggressive. They don’t do it on purpose, it’s how they are accustomed to living and these are instinctual, involuntary responses. Therefore, don’t get mad; try and understand and allow them the time to get accustomed to their new surroundings.
- Give them a clearly marked space, so they feel safe
When you bring home a rescue pet, leaving them in the large, empty space of your house can be intimidating. After all, they’re used to being exposed to danger and they don’t know what could be hiding around the corner. That’s why it’s important to give them a designated space – a crate, a pen, a bed, etc. that will be comfortable for them and will make them feel safe. They will most likely mark their territory in that space, so choose wisely. By providing them with this space, you are essentially giving them a safe haven to retreat to. Once they feel comfortable, they will venture outside this space, but you have to give them time.
- Feed them by hand; this creates a bond of trust
Mind you, they most likely won’t accept food directly from you in the beginning, because they will be too scared. Instead, start by placing their food bowl in their proximity and leave the room, so they can eat in peace. As time goes by, the animal will get used to eating in your presence and you can start feeding it directly from your hand, while talking to it calmly and petting it, if it lets you. This signals to them that you are a trustworthy person and you are the one taking care of them, nourishing them and keeping them safe. They recognize your smell as “safe” and they learn to trust you.