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Characteristic of an abused cat?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Just picked up a kitten about 6 months old, heard it might have been abused by prior owner. There is no sign of physical injury on the cat, except that it flinches when I lift my hand, as if afraid of being hit. What signs should I look for?
post #2 of 15
I'd recommend not to look for any signs or worry about what might have happened in the past. That might cause you to treat the cat differently (with pity or worry) and lead to behavior problems down the line.

The best thing you can do for the cat is just treat it normally. It's not unusual for any cat to be skittish when it gets to a new home. You may find it hiding under the bed a lot for the first few months. It will just take time for it to learn to trust you and feel like the new environment is its home territory.
post #3 of 15
My Biscotte showed exactly the same reaction when I found her in my barn when she was 5 months old. She was terrified of being touched, and especially if a hand or foot came near her she would run and hide for hours. If I touched her so she couldn't escape she would lie flat and go almost rigid. I think you cannot rush this situation. You have to let the cat set the pace. It took nearly a year before Biscotte trusted me enough to let me pick her up, and even now it is rare for visitors to see her - she has her 'safe place' on top of a bookcase. I would suggest you be quiet and calm around her, move slowly and get her to associate you with good things, like putting some of her favourite treats on a towel or sweatshirt that smells of you, and when you find out where she likes to sleep, make that full of your scent too. Talk to her as much as you can too. It is wonderful when a scared cat does turn around and love you, but it takes patience and a long time.
post #4 of 15
two of mine Patch and Wheezer were born out in my backyard from a feral mother, she taught them well not to trust people they were always in my backyard until I got one of the rescue groups to help me catch and fix all seven of them, I kept Wheezer and Patch, they were the smallest and it seemed more receptive to humans (sort of). I know for sure they were not abused, but when I had them in the house, they wouldn't come near me for a long time. Cats are scary by nature, but given time and TLC they do come around. Good luck.
post #5 of 15
Many cats don't like having a hand come toward them. I've found that my cats like it better when I wiggle my fingers as my hand approachs them. And move slowly until she gets to know you and trust you.
post #6 of 15
my yoshi was & sometimes still is exactly as you describe. she was somewhat mistreated by her previous owners ie: carried around by her head as allowed by the childrens parents, and is now understandably quite dubious of people. it has taken me months to get her to trust me enough to stroke her. i've had her since febuary this year & she has only just started to get on my lap.

with yoshi i inadvertently always made a kissy noise when i was doing anything nice like stroking her/feeding her, so now when she hears that she knows something nice is coming & is more open to a hug - kinda of like clicker training, but kisser training!! she's sitting on the floor now just looking around the room & i just made the noise. she looked up at me, gave me blinky love eyes & paddled her paws. awwww!!!!!

she is very fond of a good sniff of a hand before she allows it to touch her - so even now i still have to lean down with my hand outstretched for a good 2-3mins some days before i can touch her, otherwise she just backs away.
post #7 of 15
I'd suggest ignoring the cat as much as possible until she decides to come to you. Cats are cautious, but they are also curious.
post #8 of 15
My kitty was like that when I first took him home from a shelter.
I'm not exactly sure if there was abuse before, but I was told that someone had abandoned him (and another kitty) boxed up in front of the shelter when he was 4 months old. (I adopted him when he was 5 1/2 months old and now he's 2 1/2 years old)

It took him a long time to realize that my hand is not there to hurt him. At first he either panicked and ran to hide under the bed, or just froze flat on the floor and didn't move an inch.

Almost 8 months after he came home, he started trusting me and now I have his full trust (at least I think I do ) but besides me he's still terrified by human presence.

I'm trying not to assume anything, but for the fact that he's so terrified by human (especially adult men. he's a little better with women, and he's perfectly fine with other cats and dogs. even big dogs...) and that he was abandoned in a box in front of a shelter, some horrible things might have happened to him when he was a baby kitten. I don't know. I try not to think about that.

Right now I'm just hoping that he becomes a bit more social. I don't expect him to go purr on stranger's lap, but at least stop going under the bed every time someone rings the doorbell.
At least go hide when the stranger's actually IN the house, not outside...
post #9 of 15
Many cats are nervous when things pass over their heads, including human hands. It's a primal defense mechanism, I believe; that thing over them could be a predator.

So with a new cat, it's best to present your hand to be sniffed, palm up and low down. Later you'll probably be able to pet it from above.
post #10 of 15
When Hennessy fights with the dog he rears back and paws at the dogs without claws. But why shouldn't they assume our hands don't have claws and we're not about to bat them?
post #11 of 15
i've come to the conclusion that my Chip may have been abused... i think he had someone pulling his tail. it was 2 years before he trusted me enough to allow me to touch his 'nether regions' without snapping at me [he's declawed, so a biter]. now, [2.5 years] i can do the long stroke ending with curled hand along the tail & he just purrs the whole time. i can touch his tummy now, & can even scratch it if he's standing [still doesn't want that when he's lying on his back!]. time w/you will help as your baby realizes that you can be trusted not to hurt him/her.
post #12 of 15
Most cats are very sensitive about having their tails and stomachs touched. I have to be very careful when brushing my cat's tail, since he won't tolerate it being handled for long. And the belly is a no-go zone.
post #13 of 15
It may not be abuse, just possibly no early handling as a kitten. This is how you should proceed with your new arrival:

stay low to the ground either kneeling or sitting or even laying on the floor.

Let the kitten explore you, don't expect anything from this kitten.

Feed, water and scoop on a routine basis. Make sure you visit the room the same times each day- no surprises

Keep all other visitors away as the kitten adjusts to the new life

Don't make direct eye contact with the kitten, don't engage it in play using your hand- Da Bird is an excellent kitten relaxer and engages their prey response- wiggling your fingers before petting encourages biting. You don't want this kitten to bite you.

Keep your voice low and relaxing music playing in the background- harp music works wonder-

Best of luck and if the kitten has the same name as when you picked it up, change the name. I have found that if the kitten has been abused they associate the abuse with the name that is generally being screamed at them-
post #14 of 15
Originally Posted by hissy View Post
Best of luck and if the kitten has the same name as when you picked it up, change the name. I have found that if the kitten has been abused they associate the abuse with the name that is generally being screamed at them-
Wow, I've never heard or thought of that, but that's great advice!
post #15 of 15
I have a 6 month old kitten who was born and raised in my home (we rescued the pregnant mom). This kitten has always been very skittish and when you raise your hand to pet her, she often cowers as if she thinks you might hit her, even to this day.

She and her litter mates were handled a lot as kittens and we don't know why this one reacts to people the way she does. She is the only one of the litter to do this....the others are all VERY friendly and socialized. SHe is also very easily startled by any kind of loud noise.

I don't know if she will outgrow this untrusting behavior, but I have found that she is less tense if I let her approach me first. In other words, instead of picking her up and/or petting her, I wait for her to come and sit on my lap....then I slowly start to pet her. She is also the type of cat who gets quickly 'burned out' by petting. She only lets me do it for a few minutes, then she leaves. Her mom, OTOH, will sit on my lap to get petted all day long.

So your kitten may have been abused, but I wouldn't necessarily assume that. It also just might be her nature.

ETA: My skittish kitten was the runt of the litter....not sure if that matters. And she is otherwise happy and playful....
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