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Can a cat trust you again?

Traumatized Cat: Signs To Look For

Your cat may be experiencing distress resulting from trauma if they are changing their behavior or are acting unusual. Recognizing the symptoms of PTSD in cats with the support of a veterinarian can help you provide your cat with relief.


Traumatized cat hiding under curtain

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There’s a chance your cat could have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if they have experienced one or more traumatic instances throughout their lives. Cats with PTSD can exhibit unusual changes in behavior as well as significant distress related to their disorder. The distress caused by trauma can cause changes in your cat’s diet, urination, and other normal activities.

It’s important to spot the signs of PTSD in your cat early on so that you can provide some relief for their symptoms and help them live happier, healthier lives.

  • What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Cats?
  • Traumatized Cat Symptoms
  • Treating A Cat With Symptoms Of Trauma
  • Traumatized Cat Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions
  • Final Notes

What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) In Cats?

PTSD in cats is an anxiety disorder that can develop following exposure to a terrifying event or situation in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. This disorder can cause cats to change their behaviors drastically. Cats with PTSD also might live with a significant amount of distress until they find suitable medicine and treatment. Not all cats that go through these terrifying types of experiences will develop PTSD, but for those that do, finding an effective treatment can greatly improve their quality of life.

Definition of PTSD in cats

Traumatized Cat Symptoms

In order to help your cat, it’s important to watch for signs of trauma. PTSD can manifest in a variety of behavioral symptoms; some of these behavioral changes can lead to other health complications if this trauma is not attended to.

Understanding your cat’s regular behavior and routines and keeping an eye out for irregularities is usually the first step in diagnosing PTSD. It’s important to record changes in your cat’s behavior for your veterinarian so they can gain a better understanding of your cat’s personality and better pinpoint the reasons for your cat’s behavior, along with appropriate treatment.

If you’re concerned your cat may be suffering from PTSD, keep an eye out for these symptoms:

Uncharacteristic aggressiveness

If your cat has gone through a harrowing experience, they might feel like they need to be on the defensive all the time in order to be safe. If you find that your cat is particularly aggressive, clawing, scratching, pawing or biting, this is an important note to discuss with your vet since it may be a sign of PTSD. You might also find that your cat has heightened aggression in certain situations, such as when you have guests over or there’s loud construction at the neighbor’s house.

Fearfulness, trembling, shaking

Another symptom of PTSD and a distressed cat is fearfulness observed through shaking and trembling. PTSD can cause your cat to live in fear of external threats and they may tremble or shake especially in stressful situations. Cat anxiety and constant fear may also lead to different cat skin conditions and health issues, so it’s essential that you find appropriate treatment as soon as possible.These symptoms may be a sign of another underlying health condition which is why it’s important to seek immediate veterinary care if you find your cat is shaking.

Decreased appetite and weight loss

If your cat has PTSD, they might also exhibit abnormal eating patterns or refuse to eat at all, resulting in extreme and unhealthy weight loss. If your cat won’t eat or eats very little, seek advice from your vet. They may suggest dietary changes to help ensure your cat receives the nutrition he or she needs.

Reduced interest in playing or interacting with other pets, people or both

Some cats exhibit low energy when they are feeling under the weather or have an underlying health condition. Your cat might also show less interest in playing or interacting with you or other pets if they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Motivation and drive is often exhibited through play, so if your cat is not interested in playing, it might be because they’re feeling too stressed out to focus on anything else.


For some of the same reasons your cat might be overly aggressive, your cat might also show signs of hypervigilance because they’re always on the lookout trying to avoid the next threat following a terrifying incident. Hypervigilance is often demonstrated by sensitivity to movement, changes in your cat’s environment, or sound.

Urinating or defecating inappropriately

When cats are anxious or stressed they might also have trouble managing their bladders and may urinate, spray, or defecate irregularly. Urinating problems related to PTSD might include straining when urinating and eliminating in abnormal places.

Graphic listing traumatized cat symptoms

Increased neediness or attachment

Well it can be cute sometimes, if you find that your cat is showing increased neediness or vocalization towards you it might be because they’re feeling scared or anxious. Taking note of when your cat seems needier than other times might help you figure out if there’s some sort of external stimuli that is stressing them out. This information can also be helpful when your vet is trying to diagnose a health issue.

Excessive meowing

Another sign that your cat is feeling anxious is increased vocalization. This can come in the form of meowing or yowling and is sometimes a sign of distress.


When your cat is feeling really stressed or anxious, they might end up taking it out on your furniture, and causing destruction around the house. Destructive tendencies are sometimes used as a way for your cat to release pent-up energy.

Sleep disturbances

PTSD can also impact your cat’s sleep patterns and make it tough for them to get deep rest. If you find that your cat is waking up often, is causing disturbances in the night that are outside their normal behavior, this might also be a sign of fear or stress.


Pacing and hyperactivity often go hand-in-hand with hypervigilance, and these symptoms might mean your cat is feeling defensive and panicked. Your cat might not be able to relax, and will roam around, pacing your house; this behavior can be a tell that they are feeling anxious and are in need of some relief.

Hiding / Avoidance of things, places, or people associated with traumatic event

One of the most obvious signs that your cat is afraid of a certain stimulus is if they try hard to hide or avoid that person, place or situation. Maybe your cat does everything they can to avoid a bath or they might cower when they are around other animals; this can be a signal that they’ve had a bad experience with that stimuli in the past.

Treating A Cat With Symptoms Of Trauma

Only a licensed veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist can diagnose PTSD in cats. With your vet’s guidance, you may find success in treating signs of feline trauma with the following methods:

  • Management changes to their environment
  • Counterconditioning
  • Desensitization
  • Medication

Your cat’s trauma may be best treated through the use of pharmaceuticals. It’s important to ask your vet or veterinary behaviorist to diagnose your cat before starting a course of medical treatment. The most common form of treatment for cats with PTSD is aimed at desensitizing the cat from a given stimulus.

Traumatized Cat Symptoms: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my cat is traumatized?

If you find your cat exhibiting abnormal behavior, and notice marked changes in their eating habits, sleeping habits, or affection or aggression towards you, this might be a sign of PTSD in your cat.

What happens when a cat is traumatized?

When your cat goes through a terrifying situation or event, it might cause them to become fearful of internal or external stimuli that triggers a memory of that event or situation. Because they’re always on the lookout, they exhibit certain behavioral symptoms linked to their previous trauma.

Can a cat recover from trauma?

Absolutely. With the right veterinary treatment and a plan that centers around counterconditioning and desensitization, you can help improve your cat’s quality of life.

Image of cat lying on couch

Final Notes

It can be heartbreaking to watch your cat experience distress, and for many pet owners, it can be difficult to determine why cats are exhibiting symptoms of PTSD. Our team is here to help you find the right answers when you feel like your cat might be showing signs of anxiety, stress and PTSD.

There are an array of treatment options for your feline family member, including medication. is a great way to have your cat evaluated quickly and if advised, get the medication they need to feel at ease. With Dutch, you can connect with licensed veterinarians online who can help you determine the best treatment plan for your cat.

How To Get a Cat To Like (Or Trust) You Again?

Cats sometimes have the reputation of being very picky or restrained animals, so when you do have the chance to have a bond with a cat – it feels very special. So when something out of ordinary happens like an accident or maybe something just as simple as going to the vet might cause them a little discomfort, we butlers might feel a little sad or guilty.

Occasionally, it’s not something we did directly either, cats can associate their bad feelings towards us without us even knowing. This can be more frustrating because owners will have no idea what sparked the change in their cat’s behaviors.

So how do you get a cat to like or trust you again? The first step to regain a cat’s favor and trust is to identify what type of feeling the cat is feeling, is it fear or stress-based? Once identified, employ a slow and deliberate routine of basic cat socialization to create the bond again. Through consistency and habitual guidance, they can strengthen their bond and both you and your feline friend can be better prepared for any similar changes in the future.

There are times when your cats are standoffish, lethargic, or just don’t want to play. Whatever situation you might find yourself in with your cats – I hope it will bring you comfort that most relationships and situations can be repaired with your cat. As long as you try your best to prevent it from continuing to happen, things will work out for the better. Remember, cats are habitual creatures and they don’t care about one-off events – what they do care about is repeated events.

There might even be times that your cat refuses any interaction or touch. For those types of situations – I outlined several strategies and methods for cat owners to follow here: My Cat Won’t Let Me Pet Him! Helpful Strategies!


Common Cat Peeves/Situations That Cause Cats Stress and Discomfort

  • Visits to the vet
  • Loud noises and sounds
  • Accidents (either human-caused or cat-caused)
  • Sights or smells of other cats or animals (this can trigger a fight or flight reaction)
  • A change in inter-cat relationships (if you have more than 1 cat in your home)
  • Hard to notice illness or injury

Observation and awareness are a big part of being a cat owner – although cats are known to be fairly relaxed creatures, they can get themselves into trouble more often than we think. Knowing where they are/what they’re doing can be a big help in what problems arise later on.

Identifying The Problem (What Feelings Is Your Cat Feeling Now?)

When cats are feeling discomfort or some sort of uneasiness, there are 2 feelings they’re usually grouped into, those being fear or stress. Perhaps maybe even a combination of the two.

If a cat is fearful, it might want to avoid everything. If you try to approach, they’re going to run away or hide in some dark corner of the room. They might even go into the litterbox for safety.

A cat might feel stressed for a number of reasons. How can you tell if they’re stressed? They might be lethargic, sleeping all day long. Possibly losing appetite and just general unresponsiveness.

It’s important to differentiate the two feelings (or the feeling that the cat might be leaning towards) because fear tends to solve itself faster than stress sometimes. In general, fear is quite fleeting because of one-off events such as accidents or noises but stress can have so many causes – at times, causes in which isn’t anything to do with their surroundings (i.e. illness).

Usually, cats will get back to their usual selves within a day or, maximum, a couple of days. If your cat is still exhibiting feelings of fear or stress for more than a few days – then definitely bring them to the vet.

Go Back to Basics of Cat Socialization (Recreating the Bond with your Cat)

Like any relationship, sometimes the more we try to apologize or force something with any living thing – it tends to backfire. It’s possible that the more that you try to make them feel better, the worse the situation might get because cats can’t understand our intentions, they can only understand the feelings that you’re making them feel at that moment.

The first step is to first leave the cat alone. Be aware that it is feeling some discomfort from you or something but don’t make it obvious to him/her.

For example, many owners might have the experience of stepping on the cat’s tail and as a result, the cat might be surprised and run away. The owner might feel very sorry and try to approach the cat but again, the cat will likely run away.

The act of approaching and focusing on something is predatory behavior – so not only did you surprise the cat, but you’re also instilling a bit of fear (even though the intentions might be the opposite). As such, you might prolong the feeling of discomfort rather than leaving the cat alone to calm down.

Eventually, all cats get hungry and most of them will have a positive response to food. Offer some food on the end of a spoon and see if you can get the cat to move or lick it. If they do, reward them with a snack.

If it doesn’t work at first, don’t worry about it, try it again later. If they do respond to the food (either licking or eating it), continue to reward the cat with treats and progress to hand feeding next time. Just feed them very small pieces of food, such as tiny dry snacks or wet food (some cats might display meat aggression – growling or grabbing the meat/food if it’s too big).

Incorporating touch is the third step. The main goal is to be able to touch/approach the cat without them freaking out or being uncomfortable.

As owners continue to progress to hand-feeding the cat. It creates a positive association between the cats and your hand/touch. After they’re used to a couple of hand-feeding sessions, incorporate a gentle touch on the top of the cat’s head for a few seconds. If the cat reacts well, then you know you can extend it a little bit more next time.

Continue to reward them each session and progress to touching other areas of the cat. Always keep in mind that every cat is an individual, which means they might prefer being touched in certain ways. It’s up to the owners to discover and observe where and how the cat is going to be the most tolerant.

If at any point you feel like your cat has gone back into fear/stress – then go back to the first step and try again.

Fear tends to subside faster than stress. So keep an eye on how long it’s taking for them to get out of the slump.

Consistency and Habitual Guidance (Strengthening The Bond With Your Cat)

While the process seems a bit tedious, cats that are socialized well when they were young will tend to bounce back faster than cats that haven’t. You might only need to go through step one (leaving them alone for a little bit) and they’re completely fine later.

Some cats might be a bit shook for a day and then be completely fine the next. Other cats might need a couple of days if the event was seriously negative.

Owners just have to remember that cats are highly habitual creatures and will require lifestyle consistency. Consistency means setting a proper routine for your cats, whether it’s socialization time, mealtime, or playtime.

For help to create an optimal routine for play, read more about Play Scheduling!

The more routine you give your cats, the easier it is for them to bounce back after surprising/stressful events. Your cats will be more resilient to these types of events and more quickly adapt to changes as they get into the groove of their routines and schedules.

Other Tips to Help Cats Adapt To Stressful Situations

  • Trips to the vet – if you have frequent trips to the vet and the cat absolutely hates it, make them love their carrier. Have the carrier open around the home and give them snacks whenever they’re around or in the carrier by themselves. Use the carrier as a playtime prop. Then when you go to the vet, hopefully, the trip will be a lot less stressful and then you can reward them inside the carrier when you get home.
  • Moving homes – Whenever I move, I try my best to take the things that my cats are familiar with to the next home (i.e. the same scratching post, bedding, blankets). Also, the home environment/layout is important too. If the cats are used to vertical spaces, make sure they have plenty of vertical spaces in the new home as well.
  • Loud noises/vacuumcleaning – kittens and cats that are not used to the apartment/indoor environment might be scared of the vacuum cleaner. Clean slow and clean quickly, which is sort of a weird statement to make, but make your movements slow (no jerky movements, as it tends to surprise cats) but clean efficiently (don’t use it more than you need to). Your cats will learn to ignore the vacuum cleaner over time as they discover it isn’t a threat.

With a science background and years of experience including learning, observing, and training cats — increasing our beloved feline’s welfare and wellbeing is the priority and passion.

3 thoughts on “ How To Get a Cat To Like (Or Trust) You Again? ”

Mizzle says:

Super helpful! Have you needed to do this with your cats after you got them?

monsieurtn says:

I had to do this for my youngest cat, Loki. He was very wary of everything when he was younger. So it took awhile for him to adapt to his environment. He gets most affected by changes in the environment! He’s getting better nowadays though!

April M Moisant says:

Me and my daughter just got a Tabby cat yesterday and she’s 8 weeks old and she’s a ESA cat and all she’s done is stress me out. She keeps getting into everything. My daughter who is 16 has fallen deeply in love with her. Can anyone give me advice on what to do? And also how do you get a cat to sleep all night?

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