When we bring a new cat into our lives, we do not always know their past. We know that cats are highly sensitive beings, and they can sometimes hold onto things from their past and allow it to leave them feeling worried about the future. I’ve always believed that a cat’s love is earned, not given. And this can especially be the case for a cat that came from an abusive home.
It’s important to note that abuse can take on many forms. From hoarding to neglect, and even physical punishment.
Whatever life your cat had before you had nothing to do with you, and knowing that they are now safe from harm may take time for them to understand. But, when it comes to our feline friends, patience and understanding can go a very long way.
Here are the signs that a cat may have come to you from an abusive home…
An all-around scaredy cat
Cats are not fans of loud noises, and this is typically because of their fight or flight response in addition to the fact that their hearing is much more powerful in comparison to ours. There can certainly be breeds of cats that are more skittish than others, but for a rescue cat that seems scared almost 24/7, this can be a sign that they came from an abusive home. Although a cat is quick to react when something startles them, a cat that chooses to hide—especially from people—can indicate that their past life was a harsh one. You can build confidence in a scaredy cat, so here are some tips to help.
Kitty doesn’t like being handled
While each and every cat is an individual, a rescue cat that dislikes being handled might be associating touch with a painful memory that has left them scared for life. It’s important to allow your cat to be affectionate on their terms, regardless of how they came into your life. But this is especially important for the well-being of a cat that came from a life of abuse or neglect. They will learn over time that they have no reason to fear you, and once they do, you will start to see that wall that they’ve put up around their heart start to slowly come down.
Your cat’s memory is sharp, and they will often associate negative experiences with the action that occurred during the experience. For example, if a cat is avoiding the litter box, it’s a telltale sign that they could be experiencing pain while urinating. So, this could be why they choose not to be handled should they come from a life where touch equals unkindness, or worse, pain.
Kitty will pull out the claws fast
Your cat’s claws and teeth are their first weapon of defense and what they use to protect themselves from harm. And for a cat that was abused, this is no different. When a dog has an abusive past, they are often overly submissive. So much so, that when you approach them, they can even urinate themselves as they roll over. Cats are much different and will react the complete opposite.
A cat that has only had negative experiences with humans might be quicker to react to one should a new human try to get near. Space and patience are key here. If day after day the cat observes that a new human in their life is treating them only with kindness, they can learn that not all humans are bad. But, again, this will not happen overnight. But it will certainly be worth the wait when the cat learns that life can be good, and so can people. And hearing a cat which was once terrified purr in your arms for the first time is enough to melt anyone’s heart.
Thinking of a cat having scars from abuse is enough to break any cat lover’s heart, but there are other physical signs as well that a cat could have come from an abusive home. If a rescue cat’s general appearance is poor, this can be a sign their past life was not a good one. Cats from hoarding situations are often matted, malnourished, and suffer from a long list of health problems—from flea infestation to eye infections, etc. Getting your kitty into better shape puts them on a path towards a better quality of life and is the very best thing you can do for them—aside from giving them a loving forever home.
Extreme cases of animal abuse are now considered a felony in the United States, and it’s relieving to know that animals are getting the voice they need so that they don’t have to suffer at the hands of humans without repercussions. Knowing and understanding the signs of animal abuse is the first step toward giving a cat a better life. And thankfully a cat which has been abused will never have to suffer again for a single second once they’ve entered your life. Rescuing cats truly saves lives, and it also gives cats that had a horrible start in life a chance to live like a real cat.
My oldest cat, Mr. Purple, was thrown from a moving vehicle as a kitten and it broke his leg. Once he was doctored up and rehabilitated, he was available for adoption. And all it took was one look to steal my heart when I saw him at an adoption event. And given his kind and gentle disposition, you’d never guess in a million years that he’d suffered at the hands of cruel humans.