Wanting to be alone after an injury.

by Mia
(Queens, NY)

This morning, my cat was hurt after his collar got caught on his mouth. In a panic, he used his paws to try to remove the collar, thereby chewing up his legs and paws when they frantically rubbed them against his sharp teeth. After I finally removed the collar, he isolated himself under a car and has not returned home since (it's now evening). Is this normal cat behavior? Do you think he will come back when he feels healed? I need to take him to clean him and take him to the vet. I'm worried. :(


I can understand your concern with your cat hiding and not yet home. You have to understand that cat behaviors vary from cat to cat depending upon the anxieties they have experienced from being a kitten to reaching their adult age. Although cats have a reputation for being aloof, they really aren’t when they feel they are loved and feel safe, but they can still display finicky behaviors to feel independent.

However, fear enters into the mix because it is an instinctual reaction to a perceived threat, such as a collar that has caused the cat to panic. The automatic response prepares the body for flight if it so inclined. An extreme trauma such as the collar and battle for survival can cause an elevated response of withdrawal and hiding. Panic signs include active escape behaviors such as your cat hiding under a car.

Whereas the territory for an indoor-only cat is the inside of the home ( my cat Chanel dives under the sofa if scared), if she gets outside like she has a couple of times in the past few years…she is displaced into unfamiliar territory and she finds the first place that offers concealment which is under the shed. She remains there silently, because she had learned it was safe there from predators prior to our rescuing her. I have to sit outside on the steps and just talk quietly, waiting for her to lose her fear and come to me. Once, I had to just leave the door propped open and she snuck in to return to safety.

However, a cat that is an outdoor-indoor cat has a different set of responses. Since it has been frequently outside it has numerous hiding places to be safe from dogs and other threatening animals or even children. The main criteria are…where is the cat hiding? You noticed it ran under a car, but typically they don’t remain there. They slink away to another spot that they consider more secure and remain until a comfort level returns.

I’m assuming that you got the collar off of your cat while it was outdoors…or why let it outside? If it was inside when you got the collar removed, then in the future keep it indoors until it settles down and gets out of the panic mode. I have two cats that are allowed outdoors. Max Factor is allowed out briefly for about 15 minutes twice a day and he has a collar that is a “break-away collar”. Giorgio (a stray we brought indoors just months ago) is really an outdoor cat and is outdoors a great deal, also with a break-away collar. Unfortunately, he tends to get aggressive with cats that enter the yard and he has lost a few collars during his activities, but it is better than him being trapped in his collar. We are training him to prefer being indoors but that takes time…like it did with Max.

I believe that you should try to find your cat outdoors…with a flashlight to look under cars, etc. The sooner he is home and feeling safe…the better. He will probably have trauma with collars for a while so try to keep him indoors until a brief time has gone by, then get him a break-away collar. I wouldn’t leave your cat cat outside too long, feeling panic and fear. Your cat needs your reassurance that you didn’t harm him by putting the collar on him…he has to know that you care for him and are not responsible for his trauma.

I truly hope that you can find your cat before too much time passes. You can get him to the vet to make sure all of his injuries are minor…and your affection will repair the bond between you.

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