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Q: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible? ( Answered,   4 Comments )
Subject: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
Category: Family and Home
Asked by: meeyowie-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 09 Aug 2005 23:46 PDT
Expires: 08 Sep 2005 23:46 PDT
Question ID: 553889
Can a cat have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?  She was found enclosed
inside a wall, as a kitten, for possibly 18-20 hours, without food,
separated from siblings, and abandoned by her mother. She is very
wild, nervous, and refuses to be touched or held, at 4.5 months old.
Could that be why? What can be done to make her feel cared for in a
home where there is no abuse, only gentle handling? We will have her
spayed at vet-recommended 8 months. I've tried Feliway, the
pheromone-based calming substance for cats, and I've tried all the
bonding activities in cat/kitten books. She is corrected firmly with
toy substituted for body part. No fingers used as toys, either. She
was separated from her
mom very early, and I've been told that can contribute to wildness and
difficult adjustment to domesticity. Her biting, clawing attacks on hands
anywhere nearby her make her even more frightened and more aggressive!
She uses her litter pan consistently with no accidents, which is
great. I love this cat and refuse to send her away or (Horrors!)
euthanize her. She displays some affection by purring and licking my
ear, with very gentle soft pats with paws, no claws. She doesn't rub
her cheeks against anything to spread her scent...Help me, please!
you...I an animal lover, through and through, and The Donut thanks you
too ( or she would, if she'd take time out from launching attacks.)
Subject: Re: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
Answered By: nenna-ga on 10 Aug 2005 12:55 PDT
Hello meeyowie-ga

First of all, just wanted to say you have a very cute user name. It
brought a smile to my face as I read your question.

Second of all, not only do I have some information for you, I have a
personal story I?ll share as well.

I have a good friend who I?ve known for 5+ years now. Until recently,
he had a female cat named Lucy who was almost the same as the cat you
describe above. She was found abandoned by her mother without her
siblings, alone on a county road in the rain at about 4 weeks old. My
friend took this cat in and bottle-fed it, raising it as best he could
without the mother.
The cat loved him, I mean LOVED him. However, she HATED everyone and
everything else. Because she was not reared completely by her mother
to interact with other cats, she hated any other animal. She would
growl like a dog, spin in circles, run around, and then attack without
warning. She also hated every human except him. Because she had no
socialization to other humans in her early weeks, she considered him
her ?mother? and other humans we?re strangers out to take her away
from him.
She would attack people with out warning as well, same scenario, and
you could only pet her when she was in heat. If you tried any other
time, you were going to lose some blood from her attacking. Because of
this situation, I?ve done a lot of reading on this topic, because I
was sure that I could convince his Lucy to love me too. However, a few
months ago, she was outside and was attacked by two dogs, and we lost
her. However, she will always be remembered and I?m glad I got a
change to put what I learned with her to good use with you and your

It?s very important if you want a cat to be ok with people and other
animals, that they?re raised to trust these other people/animals and
the interactions that go along with this.

The study of cats having a ?personality? is relatively new in being
studied. I?d say it?s become more and more popular in the last 10 to
15 years.

Socialization is the focus that we need to talk about in your
situation. While I would not call it PSTD, per say, I would say it is
possible in cats, and it is stress that is causing this situation,
along with a lack of socialization in the "sensitive phase". I would
say that a traumatic event leading up to you finding her has made the
cat fearful of being abandoned again, let alone it may have missed
being socialized with other animals and humans in the important months
for it to feel comfortable with humans interacting with it. They say
the socialization period for cats begins at about 2 weeks of age and
ends at about 8 weeks.

?For example, in a recent study of feral kittens carried out by the
Anthrozoology Institute and Cats Protection, some of the kittens that
had received no human contact up to eight weeks old were still
difficult to handle at one year of age. However, others did become
friendly, showing that in some cats at least, socialization can be
extended beyond eight weeks, even though it takes a great deal more
time and effort on the part of the handler to achieve the same degree
of friendliness.?
( ) 

It was found that after this 6-week period, the socialization occurred
at a much slower rate with their new owners up to the cat becoming 2
years old. Therefore, you may just have to take some time with the
kitty. Let her come to you. You mention she purrs near you and will
play with your ear, and that?s a start. You?re doing the right thing
by bonding with toys and teaching her not to play with hands and
attack. It?s recommended to talk to the cat while petting it in a
slow/calming voice, and to have a wide range of people do this as
well, from kids to elderly, male to female to have them get used to a
range of people. The 2 to 8 week period is called by some the
?sensitive period? ( )

??cats' personalities are probably moulded by the interactions that
they have with their new owners, over at least their first two years,
albeit at a much slower rate than occurs during their first eight
( )

Another thing you might want to consider is in the article I have
linked above, it mentions that unrestricted access to a home may
frighten a feisty cat more than calm it.

?It has certainly been established that cats confined in unvarying
surroundings have difficulty in adapting to unrestricted access to
unpredictable environments, to the point where they can become so
stressed that their welfare is impaired.?
( )

You may want to try confining the cat to one or two rooms to let it
get used to that area and then open it up slowly, letting the cat
adapt to having new people and sounds in each room slowly.

Also? ?However, it is important that the cat should be able to
withdraw to a safe place from stimuli which it initially finds

?Kittens also learn by imitating their mother's behaviour; the precise
mechanism by which this occurs is still under debate ? it could simply
be that they pay most attention to things/animals/people that they
have seen their mother interact with   but there is certainly a
possibility that they do directly imitate their mother's behaviour
towards people, thereby affecting their socialisation, particularly if
she is fearful.?
( )

Therefore, if your Donut leaned in the first few weeks of life from
her mother to be fearful, attack, and hide, this may be a hard
behavior to completely reverse. She may think this is the way cats are
supposed to act. You don?t mention at how many weeks you found her,
but the more time between 2 and 8 weeks she spent with the mother, the
harder it may be to reverse that behavior.

Also, diet could play an effect as well in this situation.
Undernourished mothers? ?Produce kittens with behavioural
abnormalities and delayed development. These include poor learning
abilities, antisocial behaviour towards other cats and abnormal
arousal levels expressed in fear and aggression. Some of these
characteristics can be inherited by the next generation.?
( )

Also, the fact she was abandoned with no siblings to learn from may
play a role as well? ?Social experience with siblings also seems to
play a role in the development of later social skills. Kittens with no
experience of siblings when young do eventually form social
attachments but are generally slower to learn social skills than
normally reared kittens. Solitary kittens also do not learn inhibition
of bites in agonistic play behaviour if they target human hands rather
than siblings. A person cannot possibly teach the boundaries of
acceptable levels of physical force as well as another kitten.?
( )

On the site linked above, there is a case study with Morgan the cat
you may find helpful in dealing with the issues with Donut. There are
a few more you may find helpful as well

Some of those things (with Morgan the cat) in a quick outline are:
?	Placing food around the house to get the hunt/attack maneuver out on
an acceptable source
?	Fishing rod type toys to get out the aggression to pounce and claw
(totally remote from the person?s body, this way they don?t equate the
pounce with a hand dragging the toy at all
?	Construct climbing playing areas out of paper bags, tubes, etc to
give the cat a changing activity to take it?s energy out on with
catnip placed through out as a reward for playing the right way.
?	Ignore aggressive biting and scratching, not making eye contact or
responding in any manner by showing emotion
?	Only have physical contact with the cat while they are sitting or
resting. Begin by encouraging them to sit on the furniture with you
without any touching to get them used to the idea the person is around
before trying to bring physical contact into the mix

I did find a Nov. 6, 2004 article talking about how stress can affect
cats? behavior, but no specific mention of PSTD being a cause.
( )

I also found this mention of PSTD in cats. 
?Post traumatic stress disorders are not new in felines. Many cases of
apparent shell shock had been encountered by vets during the Second
World War. Some cats were so badly affected that they could not be
extricated from the dark corners where they had taken refuge and had
to be destroyed on humanitarian grounds.?
( )

Now, I don?t think your cat needs to be ?destroyed? by any means, you
may just have to relate it to those humans with PSTD and do the best
you can to control the anxieties and fears of a cat that fears being
abandoned and touched by lack of socialization.

I believe Donut will be fine with time and the right ways to socialize
with your cat. Of course, you may want to ask your Vet what else you
can do locally or he can do to help you with this, but I think some
time and patience over the next year and a half and you and Donut
should hopefully be snuggling in the sun together!

Now, off to snuggle my kitty, Xuxa after all of this and give her a treat!

If this answer requires further explanation, please request
clarification before rating it and I'll be
happy to look into this further.

Google Answers Researcher

Google Searches:
post traumatic stress disorder in felines

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Subject: Re: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
From: sublime1-ga on 10 Aug 2005 01:38 PDT

I worked in the field of mental health for 20+ years, and
would submit that any sentient being can become the victim
of PTSD. As for solutions, this is one of the most difficult
conditions to treat amongst human victims. EMDR (Eye Movement
Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one of the most effective
treatments for people, but is not an option for treating an

Here's an informative page on the website of a therapist who
practices both EMDR and an optional therapy based on how
animals are able to survive traumas that incapacitate humans,
called Somatic Experiencing:

Here's the intro page for Somatic Experiencing:

While I agree that animals are more adept at working out
predatory trauma, I also believe that when humans carry
out cruel behaviors that go far beyond the actions of a
predator hunting to survive, they can inflict PTSD on 
animals which is beyond comprehension to their systems,
which are informed by the natural order of things, and 
which don't include the unnatural cruelty which can be
inflicted by humans.

Loving caring is the best you can do. Your cat will work
out the rest for herself, or not. She may carry some 
traits for the rest of her life.

Subject: Re: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
From: steph53-ga on 10 Aug 2005 06:10 PDT
Hi Meeyowie....

I've been a cat owner all my life and have encountered many different
peronalities in my cats. However, I once owned a beautiful, sleek
black cat that I had adopted from my local humane society. He was an
adult cat and his background was not known.

Although I had always prided myself of being knowledgeable of cats and
their personality traits, this cat had me totally stumped. He was
always hiding under beds and furniture. He shunned any physical
affection and was basically a "terror". I tried every "trick" in the
book to make him trust me and my family, but to no avail. I believe,
to this day, that this cat had sufferred unknown horrors in his
younger years before coming to live with me. He never did change and
he lived into a ripe old age, never once allowing anyone to touch him.

Since your kitten is still very young, I hope that eventually he will
come "around" and learn to trust and love you and your family.
Good luck,

Subject: Re: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
From: journalist-ga on 10 Aug 2005 08:37 PDT
Greetings Meeyowie,

I agree with Sublime's observations.  My own cat has a touch of
feral-like "scaredy cat" behavior now and then, and I chalk it up to
genes because she's never received any type of abuse or neglect from
me.  I adopted her from a private animal shelter run by a gentleman
who lived out in the country.  He gave shelter to all kinds of animals
he found by the road, and my cat was the kitten of a feral mother (and
probably a feral father) that wandered onto his property.  The
gentleman said he could never get near the mother.

My cat is affectionate but only in her own ways.  She doesn't come
into my lap to sit, or lay on my chest - she never has, not even as a
kitten; she sits beside me or a little ways from me.  And she always
sits in a part of the room where she can see the entire scope of the
room.  If there is a foreign noise outside, or if the doorbell rings,
she growls just like a dog!  I call her my watchcat.  lol  She is also
very wary of all guests.  She will not claw or stratch them
unprovoked, but if guests try to pet her, she will swat at them (no
claws), even after she has rubbed against their legs purring as if to
say "Oooh, pet me, pet me."  It's just her way, and I simply tell my
guests "Don't pet my cat.  Let her be in charge of the way she relates
to you."  When they ignore my advice, they get swatted (w/o claws, but
a warning nonetheless).  She allows me to pick her up, even to hold
her on her back in my arms, but once a friend tried this (after I had
issused my warning about not to pet her, much less pick her up) and
the friend was rewarded with a few light scratches on her face.  I
felt soooo badly, but my friend took full responsibility saying, "You
told me not to pet her, and I ignored your warning - don't feel badly
because it's my fault, not yours."  True, but I still felt badly about

To help keep my cat calm, I speak to her in low, soothing, alto tones,
and I often whisper to her.  I saw a documentary once about how cats
percieve the world, and loud sounds are heard by them at many times
the volume we hear.  So I speak softly to her, keeping in mind that
abrupt noises can sometimes frighten her.

After I had my cat spayed, she did calm down a bit, so that may help
your cat too.  Whatever caused her "scaredy cat" personality, I
recommend just continuing to love her as you already do.  If she
doesn't calm down, you may have to choose that she be an outdoor cat,
and just take care of her outside.

Humans have their unique personalities, and so do animals.  :)  

Best regards,
Subject: Re: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in kittens/cats. Possible?
From: entv-ga on 30 Sep 2005 11:27 PDT
Hi there,

I would like to share a story with you, which convinces me that
kittens/cats can suffer from post traumatic stress disorder.

Almost 9 years ago, I saw this cute stray kitten near my house. It was
full of life, energetic, playful and friendly with people. I started
feeding the kitten daily and grew fond of him.

One day, exterminators came and took him away as part of a measure to
control the stray cat population in the area. I was at work then and
found out about it only when I returned home in the evening - a
neighbour informed me about what had happened. I made a few calls and
found out where captured cats are taken. I was also distressed to find
out that all cats are exterminated in the following morning. The
following day, I took leave and rushed to the holding facility and
told the people there that they had mistakenly captured "my kitten". I
described it to the staff and they went to look at all the cages of
strays thy had put aside for extermination that morning.

Happily, I found the kitten - but I did not immediately recognise it.
It was dirty, had soiled itself - probably defecated and urinated in
fear - and smelled awful. As I understand it, cats and other animal
emit fluids via glands when they are in distress or in fear, etc. The
kitten was also wet. I suspect all animals are drenched and then
killed by electrocution.

I took the kitten home and decided to adopt it. Although it had been
in captivity for only a day (overnight actually), the incident
transformed it in an extremely timid animal. He was initially very
scared of me (although that was not the case earlier) but with the
love my family showered on him, he has grown very close to us. But he
prefers to hide all day long in dark corners or under bedsheets. He
trembles when he hears the voices of strangers, etc. He is not
ferocious, but he has almost completely lost his previous nature -
friendly, playful, energetic.

My cat will probably never fully recover from his ordeal. I suppose
being put together with numerous other cats, all in utter fear, not
fed or given water, and crampd in a small cage probably had a
traumatic effect on him. I was surprised to see that cats too could
suffer from psycological problems after an ordeal.

You can probably help the cat by keeping him in a non-threatening
environment (e.g. away from noises, too many people, etc) and giving
it attention - like what we did.


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