Need help identifying whether your feline is suffering from traumatized cat symptoms?

It’s natural to be curious about any behavior, especially when your cat has new ones.

Here, I’ll talk about all the causes and symptoms of traumatized cats. 

You’ll soon know whether these behaviors are worrying and how to help remedy them.

10 Traumatized Cat Causes 

We’ll start by discussing what can trigger trauma in cats. It’ll offer some background knowledge before diving deep into cat trauma symptoms.

In most cases, the traumatic event will fall into one of the following ten categories:

#1 Owner Abuse

stop animal abuse signage

The leading cause of traumatized cats is owners abandoning or abusing them. It’s depressing, but many owners don’t take care of their pets and mistreat them.

Some animal handlers don’t even realize they’re abusing their felines. As a result, these cats become unsatisfied and depressed. 

One common mistake is yelling at cats. Your cat won’t take this aggression well, which causes them to become traumatized. 

Locking your cat up in a separate room is another massive no-no. It’ll overwhelm them with stress and won’t stop their undesirable behavior. 

You’ll also want to avoid punishment for bathroom accidents. In other words, there’s no reason to rub a cat’s face in their pee or poop. 

I always tell owners to treat their cats how they want to be treated. It’s a simple way to avoid any accidental abuse or traumatic experiences.

#2 Lack of Proper Animal Care

Cats are extremely clean pets. After all, felines pride themselves on their grooming capabilities and cleanliness. 

cleaning a cat litter

If you take it away from them, it causes severe depression and trauma. It’s why keeping up with litter box maintenance, and cleaning routines are vital. 

You should keep a close eye on their grooming habits. If there’s a noticeable knot of dried poop on their fur, help them with a brush or bath. 

Don’t let these issues linger or your cat will become traumatized. Of course, the same goes for any noticeable health issues or medical conditions. 

#3 Loud Noises

Cats have never been fans of loud noises. It seems hardwired in their DNA to prefer whenever everything is calm and quiet. 

My older rescue cat is a perfect example as he’s terrified of fireworks and thunderstorms. So if he hears a loud crack or explosion outside the apartment, he hides in the closet. 

Independence Day has become a yearly nightmare in my home. He then expresses himself through excessive vocalization until the loud noises stop. 

It could answer the common question of why does my cat cry at night?

I’ve found most cat owners have similar experiences with rescue cats like mine. The loud noises seem to trigger his Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. [1] 

#4 Car Accidents

Surviving a car accident will impact your cat’s emotional state. It can be a source of recurring trauma for them, especially if there’s a long recovery.

Cat owners need to do their best and help them through it. Being side by side with them during their recovery can help ease the trauma.

#5 Accidents Around the House

Everyone thinks of cats as being very agile and careful creatures. So it’s not uncommon to see them balancing on tight spaces or crowded bookshelves. 

injured cat on the stairs

But sometimes, cats can bite off a little more than they can chew. It can lead them to fall off a ledge or slip from a shelf area. 

Owners have a hand in this issue, as well. “An owner’s management of the [cat’s] environment” will play a large role in these accidents or injuries.[2]

These household accidents can then cause significant trauma. Plus, it’ll make your cat much less confident to climb and sleep in their favorite hiding places.

#6 Fights 

Fights are a common factor in causing emotional trauma in cats. It’ll often stem from battling with some large animal, such as dogs. 

My cat suffered from fight-induced trauma after grappling with a coyote. He only had minor injuries, but they affected him for a long time. 

I can only imagine it went down like this recent viral video. 

Thankfully, both cats managed to survive these incidents without any severe damage.

But it took him about three or four months to start being himself again. His body language still indicated that he didn’t feel quite as comfortable.

#7 Lack of Socialization 

Cats who aren’t socialized at a young age are prone to trauma. It could be seeing a new pet entering your home or encountering a dog in the yard. 

These incidents can cause them to retreat into different hiding places. Once they withdraw, getting a cat back into a comfort zone becomes tough.

This video gives you some great tips for socializing scared or feral cats.

#8 Exposure to Toxins

An overlooked traumatic experience for cats is toxin exposure. [3] These events can result in a feline facing death or even dying in the worst cases.

It can take a massive toll on them and their well-being. So it’s not surprising to learn that cats affected by toxin exposure take some time to get back into a routine. 

#9 Traumatic Experiences at the Vet

Most humans hate going to the doctors. So it only makes sense that cats aren’t any different with their trips to the vet’s office. 

If the trip isn’t handled well, these trips can turn into traumatic situations. Your cat will then start having negative alterations based on the experience.

For instance, opening the carrier can bring forth these negative alterations. It’ll make every vet visit a nightmare for both owner and feline.

#10 Long Periods of Hunger

Any cat who’s experienced long bouts of hunger can become traumatized. In outdoor cats, it’ll turn them a bit wild and cause them to destroy various items around them.

These outdoor cats may even take a swipe at the nearest wild animal. So it’s best to keep every cat on a reliable feeding schedule and avoid these issues altogether. 

8 Signs Of Traumatized Cats

After reading about the causes, you’re probably wondering, is my cat traumatized? You’ll have no trouble answering after going through these eight common signs:

#1 Increased Hiding

scared kitty hiding under the bed

Traumatized cats have a habit of hiding more than usual. I can’t blame them as I often try to hide from the world when something goes wrong in my life.

Of course, hiding is normal behavior for felines. It gives them a way to escape the chaos caused by their humans and families. 

You’ll find them hiding behind a bookshelf or under the bed when it becomes too loud. It’s a learned instinct to help them avoid dangerous situations in the wild.

But it’s worrisome when your cat starts hiding in calm or relaxed situations. For instance, a traumatized cat will even hide if its owner’s calling them.

Hiding in these everyday situations is a telltale sign of traumatized cats. So you must contact a vet if there’s a noticeable increase in your cat’s hiding activities. 

Read more about why do cats hide under the bed.

#2 Aggression

aggressive cat hissing

One of the more apparent symptoms is aggression. Unfortunately, you’ll find it to be a standard outlet for abused or abandoned cats.

I’ve had many human-animal interactions with cats that come from terrible environments. It takes them a while to break through the aggression stage of their trauma. 

The process can take months or even years based on the symptom severity. It’s entirely possible they won’t ever work through it. 

#3 Puffed Up Fur and Tail

According to National Geographic, cats with “a puffed tail and arched back” indicates fear. [4] Cat owners who see their felines with this body language should pay close attention. 

It’ll help you avoid repeating the situation that caused your cat to assume this position.

#4 Detachment

Anyone with a detached kitty has wondered why my cat is acting strange and scared? It’s usually a sign of them suffering from deep trauma. 

Some event has scared them so much they’ve retreated to the outskirts of your home. In these situations, I’ll always recommend scheduling a vet visit immediately. 

It’s essential to figure out what’s behind this detachment before it gets out of hand. 

#5 More Affectionate and Clingy than Normal

Notice your cat being a little more affectionate and clingy than usual? I’m sorry to tell you, but it could be a sign of a traumatic event occurred. 

Let’s say a fight broke out between two cats in your home. If one becomes overly affectionate with you, it’s likely because they’re scared to go near the other animal.

lady hugging her orange cat

It’s like when a cat suffers from separation anxiety. [5] Your cat sees you as a safe space or companion and doesn’t want to be alone.

She’s not a cat, but my pit bull suffers from extreme separation anxiety. I can’t go into another room without this anxiety disorder, making her follow me.

You can expect a cat avoiding a traumatic space or another fight to act very similarly. 

#6 Destructive Behavior

Cats suffering from trauma or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder can become destructive. Unfortunately, your furniture, such as blinds or couches, is likely the first victim. 

It’s a simple way of letting all the built-up anxiety loose. But, owners won’t be too happy with their blinds flung across the floor. 

#7 Sleep Disturbances

A traumatized cat will have serious sleeping issues. They often appear restless and pace around your home at all hours of the night.

Excessive vocalization will also be an annoying companion to their pacing. It almost mimics what you can expect from a female cat in heat. [6]

#8 Avoids Using the Litter Box

One of the more unappealing symptoms is litter box avoidance. It occurs when a traumatic event happens around the litter box or tray.

The event makes them associate their bathroom area with something unpleasant. So they look to do their business elsewhere to avoid this negative association. 

How To Help A Traumatized Cat? 

kitty deeply sleeping on the pink bed

If you’ve determined your cat’s traumatized, there are few ways to help. It starts by providing them with a calm and safe space to recover. 

Many cat owners find it helpful to use diffusers filled with pheromones for traumatized cat symptoms. Others choose to play calming music to help prevent any loud noise from triggering them. 

But building this area based on your cat’s condition is essential. For instance, you’ll want a private space for a feline recovering from a fight or who fears other animals. 

I’d also recommend keeping them active using toys or games. The activity will keep their mind occupied with recovery rather than those negative alterations. 

You’ll need to consult with your vet, as well. They can help build a plan and behavioral therapy routine for the entire recovery process. 

FAQs

CAN A CAT BE PERMANENTLY TRAUMATIZED?

Yes, cats can be permanently traumatized and suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. It can arise from several sources, such as owner abuse or fights with other animals.

DO CATS REMEMBER TRAUMATIC EVENTS?

Yes, cats remember traumatic events by associating them with particular places or people. It’ll then trigger those suppressed feelings when encountering those things. 

HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CAT IS TRAUMATIZED?

scared kitty hiding so why my cat won't come out from under the bed?

Look at your pet’s symptoms to figure out if your cat suffers from trauma. If they’re aggressive and hiding more, trauma is likely. Other cat emotional trauma symptoms include depression, destructive behavior, and a decreased appetite.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR A CAT TO RECOVER FROM TRAUMA?

Most experts state it takes a cat about 3 to 6 weeks to recover from trauma depending on symptom severity. But this range will be more extensive or shorter based on the event and what happens during recovery. 

Conclusion

Traumatized cat symptoms can result from various situations. It could be a fight with another animal or loud noises outside your apartment. 

In any case, cat owners must recognize the common signs of a cat suffering from trauma. We have to help them through these times by providing a safe and comfortable environment. 

tiger cat hiding under the bed

Do you know other traumatized cat symptoms? Please share with us below!

References:

  • 1. Kumar R. Perspective | Can animals suffer from PTSD? The Washington Post [Internet]. 2017 Jul 8; Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2017/07/08/can-animals-suffer-from-ptsd/
  • 2. Kolata RJ. Trauma in Dogs and Cats: An Overview. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 1980;10:515–22.
  • 3. Ask A Vet Online 24/7 – PetCoach [Internet]. www.petcoach.co. [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: https://www.petcoach.co/cat/condition/toxicosis/
  • 4. Here’s What Your Cat’s Tail is Trying to Tell You [Internet]. Pages. 2017. Available from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/pages/article/animals-behavior-cats-tail-body-language
  • 5. Understanding Separation Anxiety In Cats | MedicAnimal.com [Internet]. www.medicanimal.com. Available from: https://www.medicanimal.com/Understanding-Separation-Anxiety-In-Cats/a/ART111499
  • 6. Meowing and Yowling [Internet]. ASPCA. 2015. Available from: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/cat-care/common-cat-behavior-issues/meowing-and-yowling
Ben Robers
Ben Robers

My name is Ben Roberts, and I absolutely love animals. So, naturally, I love writing about them too! As far as my animals, I have a Pit-bull, a Beagle-lab mix, a Chihuahua, and one old cat. Each one of them provides me with a new adventure every day. And the best part is they’re all best friends. Well, except the cat when he gets a little annoyed. Learn more about Benhere
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