Cats are weird. They spend most of their lives not giving a damn about the humans who care for them, insensitive to every attempt we make to cuddle when they’re not in the mood, and decidedly uninterested in our emotions.
Yet, we’re the first ones they go to when something’s not right. They’re basically the hormonal teenagers of the animal world, and they know that even though we understand we’re just being used, we go along happily just so that maybe we can win their love.
One reason cats may find a need for their humans is after a fight, especially if they’re on the losing side.
Depending on the type of teenager, erm, cat you have, they may either run to you for help or hide from you in fear and shame. But until that happens, there’s no real way of knowing whether or not your cat is the run to mommy type or the I’m going to deal with this myself emo type.
One thing is for sure though, fights affect cats both physically and mentally. If your cat got in a fight and is acting weird, this article can help you understand why and how you can help your kitty return to its old, fearless self.
Why Do Cats Become Traumatized After A Fight?
Let’s be honest, fights are stressful no matter what species of animal you are. The fear of being injured, the adrenaline rush, the panic as claws come out and teeth are bared all contribute to majorly destabilizing a cat’s emotions.
Most of the time, a fight between cats will start as a fight to the death, only ending when one of the cats retreats or is too injured to continue. Just like humans get PTSD from being in stressful, life-threatening situations, so your cat may feel anxious and scared, constantly aware of the fact that their opponent may be lurking just around the corner.
Symptoms of Trauma Due To Fighting
The most common results of a catfight are trauma and shock. If your cat shows the following symptoms, there’s a good chance it was just in a fight and may be dealing with the consequences.
- Wounds and Bleeding: If your cat was attacked, there’s a good chance it may have injuries like cuts and bite marks which are bleeding, especially on its head and body.
- Abscesses: Abscesses are collections of pus that usually occur if you didn’t notice a wound in time and got infected.
- Bald Patches: If your cat was bitten, but the aggressor’s teeth didn’t reach its skin, there’s a good chance you will find a couple of hairless patches where the wounds would have been.
- Swelling: Cuts, scratches, and other injuries suffered during a cat fight often cause swelling, which is especially serious if it’s anywhere around your cat’s eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Pale gums: Really pale, or even white, gums could indicate your cat has gone into shock.
- Urinating/defecating when frightened or not using the litter box: The stress and resulting fear of a fight could push your cat to lose control of its bladder and bowel. This could manifest as your kitty suddenly urinating or pooping when they hear loud noises or get scared, or even just your cat’s refusal to use its litter box.
- Rapid breathing: Quick, shallow breaths in a cat mean the same thing as it does in humans, you just had a big fright, and your body’s trying to recover.
- Shaking: Shivering or shaking is another sign your cat may be traumatized by a fight and need some TLC.
- Hiding: Hiding after a fight could be due to two reasons. Either your cat has been injured and has developed abscesses, in which case you should take it to the vet immediately, or it is simply scared of the aggressor and doesn’t want to be seen or acknowledged by anyone in case the other cat finds out where it is.
- Aggression: Cats who have been traumatized by a fight may show unnecessary aggression towards humans and other animals. This is just because it is naturally scared of being attacked or hurt again.
- Reclusion: Usually a sign of deep trauma, reclusion could indicate your cat needs serious help to get over its trauma
- Disorientation: Confusion is natural after cats fight. After the adrenaline rush is over and things calm down, your cat may be in a daze for a while
- Anxiety: After the initial shock of the fight dissipates, your cat may suffer from long-term anxiety
- Depression – Your cat may also become depressed after losing a fight, especially if it sustained significant injuries or the fight was particularly bad
How Can I Help My Traumatized Cat?
If your cat is scared after a fight, there are several short-term and long-term treatments and ways to help them recover.
If your cat is in shock after a fight, it’s crucial to assess the seriousness of its emotions and possible injuries.
Take Your Cat to The Vet
Get your cat immediate veterinary attention if it has any injuries that are bleeding and are deep enough to possibly get infected.
If your cat has lost consciousness, shows signs of extreme disorientation, or doesn’t respond to your voice or touch, it may have sustained severe negative psychological and will need to be medicated and calmed by a vet too.
Calm Your Cat
If your cat shows signs of aggression or fear after a fight, do not scold or shout at it. This will only further destabilize its emotions and make the journey to recover much longer and harder.
Comforting and calming your cat after a fight should be your first priority.
- A blanket, preferably one with your cat’s scent
- Calming cat treats
- Wrap your cat gently in a blanket and place it somewhere quiet and calm
- Stay with your cat, but don’t pet it if it shows discomfort or fear at the physical contact
- Once your cat has become responsive to your voice, offer it a calming chew, which you can get from your vet
Long Term Treatments
Once your cat has recovered from its initial shock, long-term psychological symptoms may still manifest themselves, including fear, aggression, anxiety, depression, and reclusion.
In this case, you may need to take a more gradual, attentive approach to help your cat recover from its trauma.
Serious trauma may need to be treated by vet-prescribed medication. These vary depending on the symptoms that need to be treated.
Which could help adjust the chemical balance of your cat’s brain and counter the effects of depression.
Anti-anxiety medication for cats works much like it would for people. Vets may recommend medications like:
Some medicines work for a short period of time. Others need to be taken daily to help.
Some medications can help reduce, eliminate, or prevent aggressive behaviors in cats, including:
Keep Your Cat Indoors
If the fight happened outside, or if your cat exhibits trauma symptoms whenever it leaves the house, you may have to consider training them to be an indoor cat. This will prevent future fights and help counter the effects of the fight by making your cat feel safe.
- Extra litter boxes
- Scratch posts
- Vertical climbing equipment
- Stimulating toys
- Set up one litter box for each cat inside, plus one extra.
- Provide vertical climbing equipment like cat boxes to give your cat freedom of movement.
- Scratch posts and stimulating toys, accompanied by regular playtime, will prevent your cats from becoming bored and frustrated.
Provide A Safe Space
If your cat shows signs of unnatural fear or anxiety, providing it with a safe, quiet space to hide could help rebuild its confidence and feelings of security.
A private spot where your cat can relax could include:
- High-sided wooden boxes covered with a blanket or a fleece
- Specially built cat houses
- Boxes lined with bedding or blankets
- Cat carriers or cages
Create a Calm Environment
A traumatized cat who is starting to recover can quickly be triggered by loud sounds, strange visitors, and other animals entering their territory.
Creating calming surroundings for your cat can work well alongside providing it a safe space. While your cat is recovering from its trauma, it’s important not to shout or yell, put the TV volume too loud, or bring new animals to meet your kitty.
If this calm, secure environment can be maintained, it will significantly aid your cat’s and your own efforts to recover.
Rebuild Trust Gradually
Many cats who have been traumatized by a fight may react negatively to their owners out of fear. Rebuilding the trust between yourself and your pet is crucial. However, this will take time, and the process is much more gradual than many cat owners expect.
- Your cat’s favorite treats
- Don’t push your cat to play or cuddle. Give it space to approach you once it’s ready.
- Provide treats as positive reinforcement for your cat’s positive social behavior
- Entice your cat out of its shell with its favorite toys and games to play
Give It Time
As mentioned above, your cat’s recovery may take much more time than expected. It’s important not to try to rush things or force interaction on them.
The saying, “Time heals all wounds,” applies very well to this situation. Given enough time and support, many cats will start to recover on their own.
If your cat is scared of things like loud noises, strange people, or animals due to its trauma, you may need to slowly start desensitizing them to these triggers.
- It is essential to progress with desensitization extremely slowly and never push your cat until it becomes scared. This will only cause a regression in its recovery.
- Start reintroducing your cat to things that scare it in incremental steps, rewarding it with treats for every positive reaction.
- Slowly increase the intensity of the stimulus provided until your cat can handle it without any emotional distress.
Use Essential Oils
A select few essential oils are safe for cats to use and could help trigger the release of happy hormones and counteract anxiety and aggression induced by trauma.
- Lavender essential oil for its sedative effect
- A diffuser or cotton balls
- Place a few drops of essential oil in the diffuser, or soak 3-4 cotton balls in the oil.
- Place the diffuser in the room your cat is in, or place the soaked cotton balls around the room.
Never apply essential oils to your cat’s body or let them ingest it, as it could make them sick.
Give Your Cat Catnip
Catnip can help calm and lift a cat’s mood. Cats can either small or eat catnip.
The former will trigger a sense of euphoria, making your cat happy. The latter could cause your cat to become drowsy and relaxed, both excellent short-term solutions for anxiety, depression, fear, and aggression.
Use Calming Pheromones
Cat pheromones have calming effects when inhaled. Cat pheromones can be administered in various ways, including:
- Cat collars
- Pheromone diffusers
- Pheromone sprays
Placing diffusers in the rooms your cat occupies or by putting on a calming pheromone collar, the pheromones can soothe a cat’s feelings of distress.
Believe it or not, cats respond to different types of music and react exceptionally well towards classical music. There’s even a genre of ‘cat music’ that incorporates kitty vocalizations to provide an extra strong calming effect.
The music won’t help calm an incredibly worked-up cat, but playing it during the day could help create a relaxed environment in which your cat can be aided towards recovery by one, or several, of the methods described above.