Oops! I Yelled at My Cat – How to Say Sorry & Make Amends

Why Cats React Negatively to Yelling

Cats have very sensitive hearing compared to humans, so yelling exposes them to loud noises that can be frightening or painful 1. Their ears can pick up frequencies and decibels that are beyond human capability. Sudden loud noises like yelling are not just scary for cats, but physically uncomfortable and disorienting.

Additionally, cats do not understand the complex context and meaning behind human emotions and yelling. To a cat, the yelling comes across as aggressive and threatening. It triggers their innate fight or flight response, causing stress and anxiety. Since they don’t comprehend why the yelling is occurring, it can seem unpredictable and unsafe from their perspective 2.

Give Your Cat Space

After a yelling incident, it’s important to give your cat space to retreat and calm down before trying to approach or interact with them again. Cats can be easily stressed by negative encounters, and trying to force contact too soon after a spat can actually exacerbate their fearful reaction.

Allow your cat to remove themselves from the situation and take time to decompress on their own terms. Provide them access to a safe hiding spot like under a bed, in a closet, or high up on a cat tower. Resist the urge to track them down or pull them out against their will- this will only make them feel more threatened.

It’s best to let at least a few hours pass before attempting any interaction. Some cats may need even longer depending on their temperament. Look for signs your cat is ready to reconnect, like voluntarily emerging from hiding, returning to their favored hangout spots, grooming, or resuming normal routines like eating or using the litter box. Let your cat take the lead in reinitiating contact when they’re comfortable. With ample space and time, your cat is likely to bounce back from the stressful encounter.

Forcing interaction too soon can actually reinforce your cat’s fearful association and prolong the process of rebuilding trust and security. Be patient and allow them to progress at their own relaxed pace. Eventually, your cat is likely to put the unpleasant yelling behind them.

Use Calm Body Language

When approaching your cat after yelling, it’s important to use calm, non-threatening body language. Cats are very sensitive to body language and emotion, so remaining calm will help communicate to your cat that you are not a threat. Here are some tips for using calm body language:

Approach slowly – Move towards your cat at a slow, steady pace rather than quickly rushing up to them. Sudden movements can startle cats and make them feel threatened.

Avoid direct eye contact – Staring directly at a cat can seem aggressive and confrontational. Try glancing at your cat out of the corner of your eye rather than staring straight at them.

Sit/crouch down – Get on your cat’s level by sitting or crouching down rather than standing over them. This makes you appear smaller and less intimidating to your cat.

“When you’re angry, your body takes an offensive posture as you square your shoulders and clench your fists. Cats respond in a similar way to offensive postures from humans.” (Source)

Using calm, non-threatening body language is key to showing your cat you come in peace and don’t mean them any harm after a stressful yelling incident.

Speak Gently

After yelling at your cat, it’s important to speak gently to help regain their trust. Cats can be easily frightened by loud noises and aggressive tones. Use a soft, calm tone of voice when addressing your cat. Avoid making any sudden loud sounds or movements which may scare them further. Speak in a soothing, affectionate manner using their name. Gently reassuring them with phrases like “it’s okay” and “I’m sorry” can help communicate your affection despite the previous yelling.

Offer High Value Treats

Food can be a powerful way to show affection and help regain your cat’s trust after yelling. Giving your cat an irresistible treat is a positive interaction that helps replace any negative associations from scolding or shouting.

Some enticing treats you can offer after a conflict include:

  • Small pieces of cooked chicken or turkey
  • Dried meat treats
  • Freeze-dried raw treats
  • Dreamies or Temptations brand treats
  • Tiny spoonfuls of tuna (without added salt)

Make sure to only give cat-safe human foods in moderation. Refer to guides for cat-safe people food so you don’t accidently give something toxic.

Offer your cat a high-value treat right after you apologize and whenever she voluntarily comes near you. This will help rebuild positive associations.

Initiate Gentle Pets

After giving your cat ample time to calm down after the yelling incident, you can begin to rebuild trust by initiating gentle pets. It’s important not to force affection on a cat who is still feeling skittish. Let your cat sniff your hand first so they can recognize your scent in a calm manner. If your cat seems receptive, then you can gently pet their cheeks or under their chin in soft strokes. Avoid petting their back or tail right away, as those areas can overstimulate a cat who is still feeling frightened. Go slowly and let your cat indicate if they want more pets or need you to back off. Withdrawing your hand when your cat seems uncomfortable and allowing them to reinitiate contact can help them regain confidence in you.

As explained by cat behaviorists, cats who have been involved in a fight or argument may be traumatized and require time apart to decompress (https://furraticbehavior.com/what-to-do-after-a-sudden-cat-fight/). It’s important not to force interactions too quickly. Let your cat approach you first, then respond with calm and loving pets. Each positive interaction will help reinforce that you are not a threat and can be trusted again.

With time, patience and gentle affection, your cat is likely to forgive the yell and return to their normal trusting self. But you must let them set the pace and not overstep their boundaries while they recover.

Engage in Play

After yelling at your cat, it’s important to rebuild trust through play. Use interactive toys like feather wands, laser pointers, and treat balls to get your cat engaged again. The key is to let your cat lead and set the pace of play. Don’t force it if kitty is still feeling hesitant. Simply keep the toys accessible and see if they start batting or chasing them. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends at least 10-15 minutes of interactive playtime daily for cats’ mental and physical health.[1] Play relieves stress and boredom in cats, so it’s an excellent way for them to recover from upsetting events. Have patience if your cat is still too anxious to play at first. With a gentle, consistent approach, interactive play can rebuild your bond.

Be Consistent

After yelling at your cat, it’s important to be consistent in your gentle, calm behavior over time. Don’t expect your cat to forgive you right away. Rebuilding trust takes patience and persistence. Make sure every interaction is calm and loving. Speak softly, initiate gentle pets, offer treats, and engage your cat in playtime. Avoid sudden movements or loud noises. Stick to this routine day after day. With time and consistency, your cat will start to relax and regain confidence in you. Just remember that progress may be gradual. Don’t get frustrated or revert to aggressive behavior. Stay the course with gentle handling and your cat will eventually come to see the yelling as an isolated incident. According to veterinarians, with continued positive reinforcement, most cats can repair a relationship and rebuild trust, even after major breaches like yelling or mistreatment. So be consistent, be patient, and keep providing your cat with calm, loving care.

Give it Time

Some cats may forgive quickly, while others need more time and reassurance. Don’t rush the process. Cats can hold grudges for hours or even days after a stressful event like yelling.

According to an article on Dayton Daily News, “Cats, like humans, can hold a grudge…Cats don’t forgive, and once they realize a person is causing them anxiety or hurt, they keep away.” https://www.daytondailynews.com/local/cats-like-humans-can-hold-a-grudge/MRE4J46K2RFGBFB2UJXEOW7WSY/

So be patient and don’t force interactions. Let your cat come to you when ready. With time and positive experiences, most cats will eventually forgive.

When to Seek Help

If the change in behavior after yelling at your cat lasts more than a few days, or if your cat seems very distressed, it’s a good idea to have them checked out by a veterinarian. There are many potential medical reasons why your cat could be acting differently.

According to vetsoftherockies.com, some concerning behavioral changes that warrant a vet visit include aggression, abnormal vocalization, changes in litter box habits, changes in appetite, depression or lethargy, excessive grooming, hiding, and restlessness. Your vet can evaluate your cat, run any necessary diagnostic tests, and determine if there is an underlying medical issue causing the behavior change.

It’s normal for your cat to be a little upset after being yelled at, but their behavior should return to normal within a few days. If the change persists or seems extreme, it’s best to have them seen by a professional. The sooner you can identify and treat any medical problems, the better for your cat’s health and wellbeing.

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