When it comes to the effects of psychological trauma, cats, like many other animals are no more immune to it than us humans are. Unlike us however, cats can’t apply the same rational to how past traumas affect them, or ask for help. Therefore, as their owners, it’s up to us to help make them happier animals.
Psychological trauma can affect any cat that has endured a traumatic experience, and this can be any number of things. Many stray cats experience some degree of psychological trauma, whether it stems from their time spent living as a stray, or the events that lead up to it. This might include living in a cruel or neglectful household, being in a comfortable home one minute and then abandoned the next, or witnessing their owner’s death. Such experiences, both lesser and more severe can render the animal unusually timid, frightened, aggressive, or cause them to develop fears of certain things (environments, situations, various people, or sounds for example) which are reminiscent of a past traumatic experience. As anyone who has cared for such unfortunate creatures will know – the mental scars left behind can be very difficult for the animal to overcome.
So if you adopt a stray cat with psychological trauma, what can you expect, and most importantly, what can you do to help them?
Symptoms of Trauma
As already noted, behaviors such as hiding, responding with fear or extreme aggression, are all common signs that a cat is psychologically distressed. Physical manifestations, such as their overall health deteriorating is another potential sign – and works in much the same way as the effect psychological stress might have on a human (for example the cat may show little interest in food). Excessive urinating is another notable symptom associated with stressed felines. If your cat’s physical health is suffering make sure you get it to a veterinarian as promptly as possible. If you’ve adopted an older stray cat, pet insurance will certainly come in handy should they develop age related illnesses and trips to the vets become more regular. That said it is a good idea to invest in an insurance policy from the word go for a cat of any age as this can save you money in the long term on any unexpected vet bills. Quotezone pet insurance is a particularly useful go-to, should you need a quote.
Patience – The Golden Rule
Patience is indeed the golden rule when it comes to helping rehabilitate a stray cat that has had a past trauma. Whilst younger cats with the right care can often ‘bounce back’ in good time, older cats are somewhat less likely to. These cats are particularly deserving of your patience and compassion, and once they’ve eventually given you their love and trust, make very special pets. Never scold an animal as a means to counter negative behavior associated with their trauma, doing so will only make matters worse and they will continue to be frightened, wary, stressed and discontent.
Love – The Best Medicine
Whilst there isn’t a solid cure for a cat that has experienced psychological trauma, love, alongside patience and understanding is the one thing that will help your adopted stray learn to be happy again. Make sure to have plenty of one-on-one playtime with your cat, which will engage their minds and de-stress them considerably. Of course, a lot of affection helps too (though that comes as standard for cat lovers anyway!). With delicate care, you should begin to notice improvements with your cat. It won’t happen overnight, and the steps will usually be small – but quietly persevere. Don’t berate or blame yourself if your cat takes a little longer to respond, they have a lot to overcome and you just have to be there with them. Should at any point fear or anxiety get the better of your cat and they feel the need to ‘escape’, it’s always important to have a ‘bolt hole’ in your home – somewhere they can run off to and feel safe. This can as simple as a cat bed somewhere quiet in your home, or a cardboard box under the stairs – in many cases your adopted cat will decide for themselves, so just add a blanket or two. In some situations the cat may become anxious when you’re not present; if this is the case then place an item (such as clothing) in their favorite spot, where they’ll find great comfort in your scent.
Remember, love, patience, attention and understanding are the main keys to unlocking your cat from their past trauma – allowing them to live content and carefree, as all cats should. It may be a challenge, but the reward of having a happy pet at the end of it will be entirely worth it. You may at times wish that your cat could understand your reassuring words, rather than just the tone of them – and that you could explain to them in plain English that they’re safe and will never experience their past trauma ever again. We don’t have that luxury unfortunately, but as the saying goes ‘actions speak louder than words’ – and love perhaps, speaks louder still.