March 28, 2023

Not everyone is cut out to look after domestic pets. Whilst many treat their cats as true family members, with love and care, this is unfortunately not the case for all.

Many cats are taken on as domestic pets only to find themselves seeking survival in abusive and neglectful environments. Spotting the signs of this abuse is critical.

So, how do you know if your cat has been previously abused?

Read on to find out.

Trust Issues

When a human homes a cat, it’s their responsibility to build a trusting relationship with them. In general, doing so is an achievable goal. But if a cat has suffered from abuse, it can be a much trickier endeavour.

It’s understandable that abused cats are untrusting. So much so that they’ll shy away from contact with their owner. The abuse that they’ve experienced has taught them that humans can’t be trusted, full stop.

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You may be their well-intentioned owner, but in their eyes, you’re a human and humans can’t be trusted.

Beware of making physical contact with an unwilling cat. They’re likely to attack.

Physical Attacks

Biting is a classic tell-tale sign that a cat has undergone abuse. It’s an inherent sign of aggression. Aggressive cats are those that have been subject to aggression from their carers. It’s them in their utmost defensive and high-alert mode.

These are learned behaviours and more often than not, they’re a direct result of their past environments. These cats are always ready to bite.

The same concept applies to clawing; that is, your cat sinking their sharp claws into your skin. It’s extremely painful.

Whilst trimming your cat’s claws may be helpful, the origin of the issue most likely stems back to their existence in an abusive environment.

Unprovoked Attacks

Whilst it’s typical for cats to attack in a reactive manner, it’s the out of the blue attacks that are the most unnerving.

Such attacks may not be a reaction to real-time events, but they’re certainly a result and reaction of the significant trauma that they’ve had the misfortune of previously experiencing.

Even worse, your cat’s distrust and unprovoked attacks may not be reserved for you alone. It’s likely that your cat will extend these very behaviors to your unsuspecting visitors too, freely jumping onto, biting, scratching, and clawing them.

It’s probably not what you had in mind when you invited your friends over, but it’s to be expected. Cats who have lived in abusive environments remain on high alert around all humans. They’re experiences have led them to believe that none of us are to be trusted.


Does your cat love to flee the scene? Abused cats may be aggressive, but it’s standard for them to be shy too. It’s a classic case of fight or flight.

Whilst some uncomfortable situations and environments may prompt them to attack, others will have them on the run. They’re seeking safety and chasing after them may result in a full-blown attack.

Food Hoarding

Is your cat the biggest foodie of them all? That’s not a problem. The problem comes when your other pets wind up starving because of it. Abused and neglected cats often become food hoarders.

Their alleged greed is deeply psychological, and stems from their need to ensure that they’ll have enough food to last them until later in the day or even week.

Hence, portion control goes out the window. They’ll take it all, and your other pets may go hungry as a result. If anyone, human or feline, dares to threaten their precious stash, they do so at the risk of being bitten or clawed.

Animal Attacks

There comes moments when a cat will attack one of its own, or any other animal for that matter, for reasons other than food.

It doesn’t matter how large or ‘scary’ their opponent is, they’ll go after them relentlessly and fearlessly. Ironically, this behaviour boils down to their own deep-rooted fears.

Fears that developed at the hands of their abusers. Now, lashing out against other animals is how they aim to compensate for their own insecurities.


We all know that sound. The hiss. It’s vicious and honestly, quite scary. For cats who have been abused and exercise a distrust of humans on a day to day basis, hissing is a norm.

Hissing is a key component of feline aggression, and usually precedes the physical attacks. You have been warned.

We appreciate how physically and mentally taxing it can be to experience any, let alone many or all of the above behaviors in your beloved cat. Luckily, just as is true of humans, cats can recover from trauma too.

It may take as long as years, but with a blend of unconditional patience and compassion, your cat will begin to regain their trust in humans and be on their way to a happier future.

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