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Previous abuse? How to tell?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Whitey is our only cat that we didn't have as a kitten.

We were told he was 9 mo when we got him last year...but the vet said that he is more like 2 years old.

Anyhoo, the past couple of weeks Whitey has been reacting to some of the weird stuff I do...then I feel really bad about it.

I.e. I came one night took my scarf as he was watching me, and went to set it on him. He FREAKED and ran off scaring the other cats.

Then last night I had laid my belt on the bed and right before I went to bed I picked it up. Whity jumped up at the same time I was still holding it in the air, and stopped looked at him (belt still dangling from my hand) and he began to cower a bit. He hunched down, looked up at me and began blinking several times.

He just looked so vulnerable both times that I feel horrible. After the belt incident I tried to turn it into a toy, but he wasn't interested. So I set the belt aside and laid down on the bed and gave him hugs and pets.

I'm curious though..are these signs of past abuse? We have no adoption records of him, so I have no facts about his past.
post #2 of 18
It could be and it could not be, too. 4 of my cats were born with me and they run at the sight of a broom. I can assure you they dont even know what the word abuse means ......my broom goes into a closet, when Im not using it, so its not something that could have fallen and scared them when I wasnt using it.

It could be something their Mom taught them to be scared of though, I dont know ..... I just know they are scared ......... my RB baby, Babygirl was scared of a broom, too. It was the only thing she was scared of. I always thought someone must have abused her or she had really bad experiences with a broom, until I have my 4 that are scared with no abuse.
post #3 of 18
Wow - that's a tough one! There's a fine line between being scared because they were specifically abused, being scared because they might have been an abandoned stray or born feral, or being scared because its in their personality. Of course people will argue that abandoning a cat is a form of abuse.

I have 1 cat that was dumped on me at about 4-5 weeks old and at close to 4 years old still reacts like you describe to fast movements. He was too young to have suffered real abuse and rescued too young to be truly feral. Very hard call about Whitey.
post #4 of 18
I had a cat that was scared of plastic grocery bags or trash bags. I had her from a kitten and know she was never abused. I think it was just something about the noise they made that bothered her. If he accidentally stepped on one and it made the crinkly noise she was run and hide. I tried to get her used to them by petting her with them, etc. but she never did get over it.
post #5 of 18
oh heck, that made me feel real sad for your kitty, cowering and all Bless him, but its a tough one, as already mentioned cats can be scared of things that they have never come into contact with and for reasons we´ll never know?

Dino is the most skittish of my lot, I´ve had him since kitten-hood, he did have a trauma with a plastic carrier bag so he´s scared to hell of bags. Sometimes if you put something down on the coffee table it makes him jump, but I think thats all very different from the cowering & blinking reaction

So as you said lots a hugs & stuff
post #6 of 18
I wouldn't dwell on the things they are scared of- I don't know if it's the same for cats as dogs, but if you comfort a scared dog, it'll think that it's fine to be scared.

I may be wrong- but I believe it's best to be cheerful when the cat is scared- that way it will possibly be able to get over the scared behavior.
post #7 of 18
I'd agree with that.

Cats are instinctively scared when something passes above them... self protection. And a lot of other things -- noises, shadows -- scare animals. Sometimes you can guess what is bothering them (e.g., they are scared of vacuums and brooms because of the noise they make), but a lot of times you'll never know. And some cats are by nature very shy and skittish.

I don't think it's anything to worry about. If the cat is happy and affectionate, all's well.
post #8 of 18
Aww Poor Whity! Hugs being sent from PA to him!

I have had Maverick since 6 months old and he lived with a docile, elderly couple prior to that who I am positive never abused him. But he does weird stuff like what your Whity is doing from time to time. Once, I turned his cat bed upside down, and he began to shake and puff out his tail (mind you, he was not even on it so he was just watching this). He also freaked out when I was throwing hangers to the ground from my closet, and started to shake.

Hopefully, for Whity's sake, he's just showing some cat-weirdness. I'll be thinking about him!
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks guys, I guess I forgot about the natural cat enemy: the vacuum cleaner.

Heck, we moved it in the back by the second litter box and there is a LOT LESS traffic back there now

Anyways, I guess I just know now not to place a scarf on him or to let a belt hang from my hand since it frightens him.

post #10 of 18
Well he seems to already be doing better judging by your siggy
post #11 of 18
Y'know, it occurs to me... one of the most fundamental, hardwired fears cats have is the fear of snakes. It's born in them, so that even a cat who's never seen a snake before will have the instinct to fear it. And both the things that seemed to frighten your Whitey were long, snake-like objects!

I'll bet that's all it is. Don't torment yourself with worry that someone has hurt him in the past... he's in a good home now, and you're going to make his life happy from now on.

Please give Whitey a special hug from me! :-)
post #12 of 18
Looks like that kitty is scared of being beaten up. But it's time to move on with him and make sure that he has a new life. So, if something scares him, know not to do it again.

One of my cats has a kink at the end of her tail which Ive often wondered about
post #13 of 18
A kink in the tail tends to be due to genetics.
post #14 of 18
You simply can't. Some cats just have fears which weren't triggered by any past experience, just like people.

Well he seems to already be doing better judging by your siggy
I laughed at him wearing the scarf in the sig too.
post #15 of 18
Originally Posted by CarolPetunia View Post
Y'know, it occurs to me... one of the most fundamental, hardwired fears cats have is the fear of snakes. It's born in them, so that even a cat who's never seen a snake before will have the instinct to fear it. And both the things that seemed to frighten your Whitey were long, snake-like objects!
I'm not sure about that, I had a fluffy cat that one day I found sitting on top of a snake. Poor thing was about to be suffocated under her fat fluffy butt too! It was just a small milk snake though, I got her off of it and let it go.
I have found half eaten snakes, lizards, and beaten to death tarantulas. Depending on the cat, a snake might just look like food.
post #16 of 18
Who knows. I don't think there is any way to tell. I have a really freaky cat that is very nervous and hides from everyone. That cat was never abused but unfortunately after an illness he became a really anxious totally freaking out cat.
Every time that animal hears a noise he runs and hides under the bed.
I don't think you can ever know if the cat was abused or not just because he acts a certain way. Probably if somebody else ever got my cat they would think he was abused day in and day out-which he never was. After he got sick I had to medicate him and take him to a vet, and that unfortunately triggered a reaction of the cat being scared of everything and everyone. And he is totally freaked out by his carrier-I guess he remembers going to a vet in it.
post #17 of 18
My kitties were strays found on an abandon property so they were extremely frighten of everything when we first brought them home. They were already litter trained so I suspect that some heartless person dumped them there to die. Jumpy was always the nervous one (thus the name) because any sudden movement from us, he would run and hide. I just thought maybe someone must have abused him but of course I don't know. He use to run and hide when I walk towards his direction, make loud noises, sudden movements, move my hands, etc. It's been 6 months already and he has improved but sometimes will still run but hide next to me instead of from me unless he does something bad like jumping on the kitchen counter, then he will run and hide under the dining table. I guess he knows he is in trouble.....
post #18 of 18
One sign is overeffection. Cats that have been abused will sometimes be over friendly to everyone. Its their way of doing good all the time so they won't get abused again. Our stray is friendly to any stranger to the point where she will sleep in their lap the first time she meets them.

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