Many people think their cat’s behaviors are because the cat was abused or neglected. I want to clear this up for you. Abused cats are rare. Most cats are just wary of strangers. Bad behavior is usually because they were never taught correctly or played with aggressively. So, how can you identify an abused or neglected cat? Let’s look at what cat abuse and neglect look like and then we can talk about the cat’s responses:
Cat Abuse can be intentional or unintentional. Usually, unintentional abuse is called “neglect” and is addressed by humane societies all over the world. There are actually three levels of abuse. Neglect, Over-Discipline (over use of discipline tools) and Intentional Abuse. This article addresses the Neglect, which is the most benign form of abuse.
Description of Neglect –
Neglect means not addressing the animal’s primary needs for survival – water, food, shelter, rest and hygienic elimination. Then there is the more severe type, where a cat is forced to live in filth, confined to a cage all the time, or denied companionship with people or other animals. Many times, this can be caused by not spaying or neutering your pet. Unwanted kittens, or too many cats, is the primary cause for almost all of this type of abuse. Sometimes, a person is too ill or has allergies. Maybe a person is trying to keep a cat in an environment that makes it impossible to properly care for a cat.
I remember many years ago, seeing a homeless man walking down the street with his belongings in a shopping cart. Homeless people were harder to find then, so he stood out. He was pushing the cart with one hand and had a carrier with a cat in it, in the other. I felt sorry for both, but being a child, I didn’t know what to do. The cat was experiencing neglect, but felt much love. The man, I’m sure, didn’t know he was doing harm to the cat. He just knew that he couldn’t let his beloved cat go into a shelter – at that time all the shelters I knew of were kill-shelters.
An older cat (over a year) has little chance of coming out of a kill shelter. Most people want a kitten. The grown cats are often given no more than 2 weeks to find a home and then euthanized. This heartbreaking situation often occurs when people lose their homes, develop allergies or find that they just don’t want to deal with the discipline and behavior problems that developed in the cat. The single biggest reason people give up a cat is inappropriate elimination. Next, come allergies, followed by death of the cat’s owner. Some cats are surrendered because the person moves and is unable to find pet-friendly accommodations.
I understood the man’s feelings of love and concern for his feline companion. I also understood that the cat couldn’t live in that carrier for long. There was no safe place for them. No homeless shelter would take a man with a cat. In this case, I think the abuse is unintentional – neglect, maine coon kittens for sale by description. However, I think the heart of both the cat and the man were in the right place, just that the situation was unfortunate.
In news reports, we sometimes hear of breeding farms where cats are bred to the point of exhaustion and kept in sub-optimal conditions. We hear of people who just keep bringing home strays until they are over-run and can no longer take care of them, and the cats become a neighborhood problem. All of these situations can produce neglect.
Now, let’s turn to the cat’s response to neglect. How does a cat respond? Why does it do that? By understanding the specific situation and response, we can address the resulting problem behaviors with love, patience and training.
Effects of Neglect
A cat left in a cage with other animals nearby is often skittish and afraid of people. It expects food and a clean litter box on occasion, but cuddles and attention may make it uncomfortable. These cats often have no privacy issues in the cage, but once free, they are very private about their litter habits. If the cat was kept in a small carrier, it may soil itself, or hold back elimination until it is very uncomfortable. It may be dehydrated and need medical attention. The cat will be overweight from lack of activity. It may be apathetic when play is offered, not knowing what is expected. Electric lights may be something that set off a fear response in the cat because it means that people are coming. In other cases, darkness may be scary at first. Once the cat’s eyes adjust to the light level, it will be all right, but when the lights are turned off or on, the cat may cry or hiss. In the case of a cat kept in the dark except when people are coming, it may be fearful the entire time the lights are on, while also expecting food, water and a clean litter box to be provided.