As people go through traumas, so do the cats, did you know that? Something like abuse, life-threatening situations, or losing someone important all can be traumatic events in our lives and cause depression, anxiety, stress and overall emotional trauma.
But, cats can also experience it, believe it or not. Their traumatic experiences include neglect, abusive household, attack by a predator, or a cat fight that ended up badly.
That’s why we made sure we provide you with 12 traumatized cat symptoms so you can notice it on time and help your cute furry fiend as soon as possible.
12 Symptoms That Your Cat Has Emotional Trauma
First of all, we are all aware that cats know how to hide their emotions and pain so you cannot easily know that she suffers from PTSD. That’s why it is challenging to notice signs and symptoms of trauma, but you need to focus if you already suspect something.
These traumatized cat symptoms will help you determine whether your cat is suffering, and how your cat is feeling.
Let’s learn one by one.
1. Aggressive Behavior
Cats that are traumatized can become overly aggressive. These symptoms usually manifest with cats that have been abused before. As in everybody’s nature is to protect themselves from danger, cats lash out at abusers to defend themselves.
This defending mechanism can still show up even if you’re very cautious and gentle with your cat and you provide nothing but a safe environment.
However, abuse is not the only cause for aggressive behavior. Cats that had poor socializations while they were kittens may show aggressiveness. Why is that? Because cats aren’t used to socializing with people and therefore always think of a person as a threat.
2. Affectionate Behavior
Your cat is laying on you all of a sudden? That would signify that your cat has gone through mental trauma. Maybe she had been in some bad cat fight and ended up at a vet check-up.
Even though there are no physical injuries right now, your cat finds itself laying on you because they suffer emotionally from the experience.
If your cat is overly affectionate and you know for a fact that your cat is not like that, she’s probably seeking comfort and safety. You’re now their number one defender from all the bad things. The experience might just get into their head too much.
You’re your cat’s favorite person on the planet so there is no wonder they become attached after some incidents.
3. Loss Of Appetite
Loss of appetite is one of the easiest symptoms to notice as it can indicate stress and illness.
And now we talk about mental illness. The cat that has PTSD or anxiety will have a radar for fight or run.
That’s why their body is pumping the hormone adrenaline that causes cats to focus on survival from predators rather than treats and food.
If your cat is avoiding food, you might notice weakness and lethargy. If the trauma is horrible, cats tend to go all the way and starve themselves to death, so make sure to watch out for your cat so you can intervene if something is seriously wrong with your cat.
4. Full Of Fear
A cat that is suffering from trauma can become fearful and you can easily startle her. It can happen with events and situations that never used to trigger your cat.
You might notice shaking and trembling since their muscles tense up and start to quiver. This can be noticed when they’re responsive to some stressors.
Another thing you can notice if your cat is being fearful is shedding more than usual which is actually a normal physiological response if your cat is full of fear.
RELATED: Why Do Cats Shed So Much?
5. Destructive Behaviors
Cats that are worried about something might exhibit destructive behaviors like:
- Chewing and lincking non food items in your household
- Excessive scratching of anything they find scratchable
- Digging up the soil
What do we mean when we say destructive behaviors? Behaviors that cats exhibit and make a mess all over your house. The destructive behaviors are one of the important signs of cat anxiety, and it usually manifests if a cat has separation anxiety.
What is in particular separation anxiety? It is a form of anxiety that happened due to neglect in the cat’s past life. Cats might feel that they’re being abandoned and left all alone. So in order to get the owner’s attention it will try to make all the things to which the owner will definitely react.
You can help your cat by making her feel the most loved cat on this planet.
6. Mood Swings
Another traumatized cat symptom is definitely mood swings. Cats that are suffering from emotional trauma will change their emotions quickly and to the extreme.
You can notice that one minute you’re playing with your cat and it’s all fun. She’s happy, you’re happy, but suddenly they want nothing to do with you, and they seem angry and might even attack you and bite you.
These mood swings can be confusing for us, but cats are not in control of their emotions and they don’t know how to respond in certain situations that to you appear normal, but for your stressed cat it’s all in the air.
Cats that suffer from PTSD will hide for long periods of time. Some will go out and not return for a few days or weeks even. This is due to their feeling of security when they are hidden.
For example, my cat Luna hid in my closet to sleep, because my niece kept bothering her. I know that my niece didn’t want to hurt the cat, she just wanted to play with her and cuddle, but Luna wasn’t up for it so..she tried to find a place where she wouldn’t be bothered at all.
When cats hide, they’re hidden from all the threats and dangers that might come upon them.
Observe when your cat hides, since the hiding usually happens when the stressor is near or a situation that stresses your cat happens.
This will help you determine what is causing your cat’s emotional pain.
8. Not Using The Litter Box
This is something that you’ve probably dealt with if you have a stressed cat. We know for a fact that cats are tidy creatures and that they need to be clean at all costs, but it might be surprising for an owner to see that his or her cat is not using the litter box as it used to.
However, all that stress, pain and emotional trauma is causing your cat to avoid it. For example, maybe your cat had an UTI and she associates the litter box with pain while urinating, that’s why she’s avoiding it because she wants to avoid the pain, hoping that those stressful situations won’t happen again.
9. Escapism Behavior
First, we need to say that a cat’s hiding and being fearful is expected if you have a stressed cat. So a cat wanting to escape is not that strange after all.
But, those cats that are truly traumatized, will take escapism behavior too seriously. What do I mean by that? Well, they’ll avoid anything that comes in touch with that emotional trigger.
10. Vocalizations To The Extreme
This traumatized cat symptom you cannot miss. The emotional trauma that the cats hold onto will cause a cat to be highly vocal and it can be troubling especially if it’s after hours.
That vocalizations will usually be crying and yowling sounds instead of thrill, chirp and chirrups.
If those vocalizations are due to trauma, prepare to hear this constantly. Their yowling and crying sounds are usually unprovoked which means there is no real reason your cat is doing that.
If you check the hunger, thirst, all the care, love and attention is being provided by you, their playtime needs have been satisfied and your cat still meows, the trauma is the ultimate reason.
The cat knows that by doing that, you’ll react and therefore give them attention.
11. Troubles With Sleep
Troubles with sleep will have any cat that suffers from PTSD and anxiety. Since she has a lot going on in her mind and she cannot silence those voices about traumatic experiences. She’s being alert non-stop. Therefore she cannot sleep.
You may notice that your cat is restless and pacing up and down. It is important that both you and your cat sleep as it is essential for functioning well. Try helping your cat by creating a calm and safe environment where she will be able to close her eyes for a second.
12. Excessive Grooming
Cats that are traumatized will often excessively groom themselves. You can see licking, biting and scratching their skin during their grooming session. When they’re stressed or anxious, they will begin to clean themselves more.
What Causes Emotional Trauma In Cats?
As we said at the beginning, cats can suffer from emotional trauma just like we do. The causes can be from some illness, event or an accident. But that probably happened when they were younger, in particular kittens. This causes cats to become fearful of us and everything around us.
Let’s see what are the possible situations that can lead to emotional trauma and pain in cats:
- Hurricanes and thunderstorms
- Severe fights with cats and other animals
- Abuse or neglect by previous owner
- Traffic accidents
- Not enough socialization and exposure to different stimuli when they were kittens
We want to clear one thing up, some cats may go through these kinds of situations but not experience any of those above mentioned symptoms. They go through with it completely fine and without any emotional harm.
However, others might suffer from anxiety or PTSD. Every cat is different with its own personality so you cannot know how any cat will respond to a situation until you see it for yourself.
How Can You Help Your Traumatized Cat?
If you’ve noticed any of those signs and you are aware that there is a chance that your cat is suffering from emotional trauma, you need to help in your own way, how you can.
By even trying you’ll reduce unwanted behaviors such as aggression, destructive behaviors and avoiding the litter box. It will also help your cat feel loved and taken care of.
Let’s see what you can do!
1. Provide A Secure And Cozy Place
There is nothing better than providing your cat with a place that she’ll feel safe in. You need to put focus on it since this is essential when it comes to dealing with emotional trauma and accident. They need to feel like themselves again.
You can also try creating hiding places, mental stimulation and pheromone therapy.
2. Behavioral Therapies
If you want to take one step further, you can try behavioral therapies for relieving PTSD, stress and anxiety in your cat. There are two methods:
- Desensitization: This is the process where you expose your cat to the stimulus that caused her to have trauma. And I know, it might sound harsh, but do this in a safe environment, slowly and gently. That exposure to the stimuli can be increased over time. This will teach your cat that there is nothing to be afraid of because nothing happens, there are no negative consequences in regards to that stimulus.
- Counter-conditioning: Counter-conditioning is actually the method of changing the cat’s emotional response to a good one because you’ll provide a positive situation with stimuli. That can be tried with a treat, or a playtime anytime they face their fear.
These two methods work perfectly when put together.
Sadly, for over traumatized cats, all of this might not be enough. So in such cases, you seek the vet as the vet will recommend something that will surely help your feline friend.
Usually those medications prescribed are advised with that behavioral therapy and safe spaces if you want the best result. The vet will determine the dosage and the rules so make sure to stick with that.
After we’ve discussed all possible traumatized cat symptoms, I hope you have an overall guide on how to notice if your cat has suffered some emotional trauma.
Behavioral changes, destructive behaviors, changes in temperament and that sudden aggressiveness or clinginess may point that your cat is stressed and anxious.
The best way to help your cat with this is to know what caused them stress in the first place. Only that way you’ll be able to approach the situation the right way. If not, the veterinarian is only one call away.