Even a well-adjusted cat can be traumatized by a particularly bad experience with another animal, a human or her environment. If you suspect you're dealing with a traumatized cat, giving her a combination of affection, personal space and time will help her come around and recover.
Approach your cat gently and slowly, crouching down to make yourself appear less imposing. If your cat hesitates, stop and allow her to come to you. Do this in a quiet, closed off room so that she isn't stressed out by external stimuli.
Pet your cat softly while speaking in a gentle tone of voice. Don't pick her up, as that could trigger traumatic memories. Gentle touching teaches her to not be afraid of you.
Monitor your cat's reactions to external stimuli, focusing on what triggers antisocial or anxious behavior. This type of behavior may include frantic running, biting or scratching. For example, if your cat is sociable but doesn't like to be touched or held, she may have had a bad experience being handled by humans. In this case, you can help her recognize you as a non-threat by practicing gentle touching. If your cat is fearful or violent around dogs, though, the best solution is to simply remove her from situations where dogs may be present. Some traumatic events cannot be overcome, so the best solution is to provide an environment the cat recognizes as safe.
Give your cat what she needs. This is as simple as paying attention to her behavior and nurturing her. For example, if your cat finds joy in chasing a laser pointer, then play with your cat. If she continually looks for a vantage point near your window, provide her with a way to look outside. Keeping your cat happy and stimulated is rehabilitative.
Practice socializing with your cat daily, even if just for a few minutes. If your cat was feral or traumatized particularly badly, it may take weeks or even months for her to develop a sense of trust. If you are consistently kind, gentle and approachable, though, she may eventually come around.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.