The unfortunate reality for many cats is that their owners are negligent, physically and/or emotionally abusive. Cats that have been abused may wear obvious signs of the abuse, as is the case with cats that have been maimed or otherwise physically harmed; while other cats appear healthy but have suffered years of physical abuse. Caring for abused cats certainly has its challenges but for many cat lovers, the challenges are worth the rewards. Knowing that a cat has the opportunity to live in a loving and nurturing environment is often enough for many cat lovers to accept the responsibility of caring for an abused cat.
An abused cat will obviously have some behavior problems. Abused cats may be overly aggressive or even the opposite and suffer from extreme anxiety. Often, cats that have been abused will not readily go near humans and may even be prone to run and hide. It is important to let the abused cat adjust to a new environment. Let the cat come to you on her own terms and be sure to treat the cat with patience, love, and kindness.
With abused cats, any kind of punishment – including yelling, flyswatters, or spraying water, will have a much more profound negative impact on the cat. Instead, reinforcing positive behaviors with praise and treats will be much more effective for augmenting behavior. When emotionally abused cats feel threatened, they often respond with aggression and the traumas they have experienced often justify their response to various punishments. The best approach is to be gentle and calm, yet consistent. In time, even the most abused cat will come around to a loving and dependable owner. While they may have difficulty bonding initially, they will almost certainly respond to the care and consideration you show them.