Reporting and Dealing with Cat Abuse

Unfortunately, cat abuse happens each day. Concerned, observant citizens may be the first line of defense against feline neglect and abuse. By recognizing and reporting the signs feline neglect or abuse to the authorities, you may be able to prevent further injury and even death.

Feline Abuse Ranges from Simple Neglect to Malicious Neglect and Cruelty

Neglect and abuse of cats and kittens happens along a continuum—from deprivation of basic needs to willful acts of deprivation and cruelty. Here are the basic characteristics of neglect and abuse:

  • Failure to provide proper care
  • Failure to provide adequate shelter
  • Denial of food or water
  • Denial of medical treatment
  • Denial of proper bathing and grooming
  • Denial of stimulating learning opportunities
  • Denial of companionship and affection
  • Psychological harm (yelling, cursing, taunting, for example)
  • Physical harm (hitting, slapping, binding, beating, striking with an object or weapon, for example)

Neglect and Abuse Can Cause Behavioral Changes in Cats and Kittens

An abused cat or kitten will show marked behavioral signs of mistreatment, including the following behaviors:

  • Distrust
  • Isolation
  • Hunkering in a corner
  • Hiding
  • Lack of activity
  • Lack of curiosity
  • Lack of desire to play
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Agoraphobia (fear of open places)
  • Extreme attachment
  • Fear of being alone

Neglect and Abuse Can Cause Physical Symptoms in Cats and Kittens

Injury or illness may signal neglect and abuse. Look for the following symptoms in cats and kittens:

  • Neck abrasions due to a constricting collar
  • Neck abrasions due to an embedded collar
  • Unhealed and/or multiple wounds
  • Untreated hair loss, scaly skin, bumps, rashes
  • Severe matting of coat
  • Dirty face and/or coat
  • Untreated flea, tick, or other parasite infestation
  • Weak or limping gait
  • Inability to get up, walk or run
  • Weeping discharge from the eyes
  • Prolonged runny nose
  • Tarry discharge in the ears, indicating ear mites
  • Pus in the ears, indicating a bacterial or yeast infection
  • Mouth sores or ulcers
  • Severe sleepiness
  • Disorientation
  • Emaciated appearance with protruding bones
  • Bruises
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones
  • Damaged or missing teeth
  • Swollen body parts or joints

Neglect and Abuse Can Manifest in a Cat’s Environment

Feline neglect and abuse may be apparent in an animal’s immediate surroundings. Look for the following signs:

  • You see cats tied up for long periods of time.
  • You see cats left outside with no protection from the elements.
  • You see cats left outside with no protection from other animals.
  • You see cats confined and forced to live amid excrement, garbage, glass or metal shards, nails and other objects that could cause injury.
  • You notice that cats or kittens are confined in kennels, crates, or cages which are too crowded or small for cats to stand up and move around normally.

Hoarding Can Be a Criminal Offense

Hoarding is an example of “willful” neglect, an offense that may be prosecuted as a criminal offense. Hoarding occurs when owners house too many cats or kittens in unsanitary conditions, causing severe illness, and even death.

Contact Authorities for Instructions on Reporting Feline Neglect and Abuse

Most cases of neglect and abuse investigated by authorities begin with tips from citizens. If you suspect feline abuse or neglect, first contact the authorities in your area for instructions on proceeding with a complaint. Always provide clear, specific details to authorities.

If alerted to cases of simple neglect, animal control agencies, as well as humane agencies, may intervene and then instruct offenders how to adequately care for cats and kittens in their custody. In cases of willful or severe neglect and abuse, authorities may or may not pursue criminal charges, depending on the evidence available.