Drastic Change in Cats Personality after Being Lost

by Carmen
(Lexington, KY)

The Lovely SWAT in happier days

The Lovely SWAT in happier days

My two-year old female spayed cat, SWAT, disappeared recently and was away from us for 20 days. She was finally located thanks to a microchip we had installed when she was spayed. She had been moved over 200 miles away from where we live by a friend of a neighbor who thought she was a stray. We are elated to have her home, but are worried about her behavior. She looks healthy and has no apparant weight loss, fur loss, or coat changes. However, she was previously a very social and friendly cat who loved to be petted even by people she didn't know well. She loved to cuddle and would seek out people and, especially warm laps. Since she has returned home, she is very skittish and growls or spits whenever anyone comes close or tries to touch her. She doesn't seem to remember us at all. Nor does she seem to know her 11-month old son who is also part of our household. They were previously very close, playing together, sleeping together, and grooming one another. While he seems to remember her, she wants nothing to do with him and will also spit, growl and strike out at him if he tries to get close.

Is this normal behavior for a cat who has gone missing for some time? While SWAT was born to a feral mama, she was handled by people very early and has always been a social and friendly
cat. Should we be worried? Is there anything we can do to help her return to her old self? We are keeping her indoors exclusively, because we're afraid she'll bolt if we let her outside at all in her current mood. Any suggestions you can provide will be helpful.



Answer by KAte
hi yes this is not unusual behavior. She has probably spent some time being very afraid and having to be on guard all the time. these feelings will take some time to subside.

I would do two things. firstly take her to the vets for a through checkup, just in case there is something which is causing her some discomfort and anxiety.

Secondly i would give her a period of confinement training where by you would also re introduce her son to her in a safe environment. this way she will have less territory to worry about and be able to calm down and she can get to know her son and you again in short bursts.

Please see this page about the introduction process


Also may I suggest that the family try to bond with your cat again using the techniques described on this page


It puts your cat in the driving seat and gives her time to find her confidence again in her own time.

Don't worry I'm sure that given a little time and lots of tlc she will return to her former character.

best wishes KAte

Comments for Drastic Change in Cats Personality after Being Lost

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I Found my cat after nine months
by: Jo

My very nervous but loving cat ran away when we moved. He was found nine months later and returned to me. He did not remember me and hisses and growls at me. I feed him and talk to him (I have given him my bedroom) I play relaxing cat music to him and sit in the room with him and quietly read and talk to him. I give him treats daily, but he still will not interact with me at all.I am very distressed by this and upset to think what my poor boy went through while he was not with me. I have his mother who goes in the room and they seem to be alright together,not fighting,although not friendly, more tolerent.Should I just carry on what I am doing? Will he eventually get less aggressive? His nature has changed drastically.I am so worried for him. Please help us.

Poe-gone over two months.
by: J

Poe was always a laid back cat. Minimally affectionate, not clingy or needy. He’s been back two days and he’s following us around and cuddling with us more. I’d love to know what he’s been up to,, but he’ll never tell.

by: J

Owner of Black. Be very careful and check that the cat you have is indeed your cat. Our black cat Poe has just returned after over two months. We live in a densely populated urban neighborhood, and we have had multiple occasions where it was very difficult to distinguish between our cat and some other black cats. We once trapped a cat, and brought him into the house. He proceeded to climb the draperies and freak out and hide. It wasn’t until our vet encouraged us to double check that it was him the next day that we were able to see that he wasn’t our Poe. Double check that cat, bring him to the vet, check his microchip if you have one. I Would never have believed that I wouldn’t be able to easily identify my own cat, but it happens. My vet just scanned Poe’s chip to be sure. Good luck.

My cat was abducted and abandoned by neighbor
by: Anonymous

Hello. My cat was abducted and abandoned in a middle of nowhere town. He is the only person who would do this, and it was because my cat was going on his property. My cat would only go so far from home and was always within calling range, and would come when he was called. He only went on the property I live on, or this neighbor's property, and after my cat went missing he posted as "No Trespassing" sign on his property. For the first month I searched locally, talking to neighbors, putting up missing cat posters, and circling the surrounding area calling my cat and making urine trails. After one month and one week I saw a "found cat" poster on Facebook. A woman had found my cat about 15-20 miles away. I recognized my cat immediately the same day she posted that ad, but other people who I assume were her family and friends were telling her to keep the cat! I ended up having to file a Claim and Delivery law suit to get my cat back! It took two and one half months to get all the paper work drafted, filed, and heard before a Judge. The woman appeared at the hearing with her lawyer and the Judge Ordered her to return my cat. I picked up my cat the next day. But it was not the joyful reunion I expected. I thought my cat would be glad to see me and glad to be home. Instead he hissed, and growled and swatted. His meow had changed and he would not eat his favorite food (tuna! or salmon). He went into hiding under my bed and wouldn't acknowledge his own very soft bed, or sleep under my bed covers, both of which he once loved. I really began to wonder if this was my cat (it is)! Apparently the woman allowed him to roam on her 10 acre property in rain and snow without adequate shelter. He was sleeping under her house, in her garage, and on her porch. I am guessing my cat was angry at me for this abandonment. After a few days he began to show signs of improvement by jumping up on my bed and sleeping with me. It has now been nine days that he has been home and he is much improved but still not his loving normal self. He lets me kiss him, and he is not under the bed as much, but he still has not recovered from his trauma. Missing him was terrible, the work on the law suit was terrible (I did it all myself) and the reunion was a disappointment to, so even I am still suffering the aftermath of what my neighbor did. This was a malicious act that was intended to permanently hurt me, and it would have if I hadn't found my cat. I believe he is making enough good progress that he will recover completely, but I have to say I was very surprised how this abandonment hurt him so much and affected his behavior.

UPDATE: Mr Friendly went rogue 8 months
by: Kimberly Costello

My apologies regarding my earlier post's errors. Emotionally, I wanted the cat that showed up on our back porch to be our missing 'Mr Friendly', but alas, the boy's history is unknown.

After kicking around his adversarial behavior for about 5-6 months, I finally decided to look at old videos. It was from that I determined that the cat that we took in that May of 2018 had belonged to someone else. I put in an add with a neighborhood social site, but no one responded.

I suspect that no one wanted or were looking for him because of his anti-cat nature and he has the habit of doing 'love bites'. I've been able to keep the biting to a controlled minimum, but he continues to hate all cats. He has his own outdoor condo, dressed up nice and comfortable for him. He comes in during inclement weather, into a 3rd bedroom 2-story condo. The cats keep their distance and watch him with caution. Guess that's the way it will be.

In the meantime, we still have two boys who disappeared, Mr Friendly Oct 2017 and Thomas Leo Nov 2017 (he was chipped & yearly shots). Don't know what happened to either. Can always hope one will turn up!

Don't loose hope, and be sure to remove obstacles that may keep your wayward cat from coming home. Fear is a great motivator with cats.

Cat changed for better
by: Anonymous

Our indoor/outdoor cat went missing for 10 days. Previous to disappearing he was sometimes affectionate, stuck to a routine and loved to hunt and bring home 'gifts'. Since returning he follows us around more like a dog, has a much calmer disposition, stays very close to home (even using our yard as litter box which he never did before), his meow is softer, just all around more friendly and sweet. We are surprised to see so many stories of the opposite change and keep wondering what experience drove him to act so differently now.

Finally see him after 21 days
by: Manicia

So last night I went outside to call my other cat, Kate, inside. When I looked in the front yard I saw my boy who had been missing for 21 days. When I tried to call for him he ran away. I saw him a few more times but he ran away from me every time. We were so close when he left. He loved to cuddle with me and followed me everywhere. I dont understand why he wont come to me. There are other stray cats that are always wondering around. One in particular, another in tact male, with whom he would always fight with, has been around a lot lately and was outside when he came back. Is this the reason he keeps running away from me? What can I do to catch him?

My cat isnt the same after missing for 3 months now back
by: Ryan

Idk what to do my buddy ran away a few months ago he use to sleep with me every night would roll over and be very friendly and cuddly and would come when I called him now it's like he doesnt want anything to do with me I miss my buddy hes not the same hes mean to the other cats in the house now isnt friendly at all what happened can I get help

My cat was gone a month
by: Anonymous

A neighbor thought she was stray and adopted her out a month later we picked her up in a near by city where she was living with someone else. she came home and growls at the other cat and the 2 new cats I am taking care of and she growls at me. she stays gone outside and only returns in the morning to eat then disappears all day and night until the next morning feeding I don't know why she growls at me when I even walk by her she is not the same loving cat

Mr Friendly went rogue 8 months
by: Kimberly Costello

Mr Friendly (an outdoor cat) was 6 months old, intact, when he left on a rainy night in October 2017. His two brothers I quickly got neutered and acclimated to indoor life while they healed. I put them both outside, and 4 days later, Thomas Leo disappeared. Rascal was left. Rascal was always aloof and independent, but when Thomas Leo left, Rascal's personality shifted and he became very needy. We brought him inside, permanent.
We found out their feral momma had another litter, so we took all 4 kittens in. They all bonded very well with no fighting or biting; showed love to each other.
Enter left, Mr Friendly, after an 8 month absence! He remembered me, was affectionate, and seemed the same. Except...
Mr Friendly has become highly aggressive toward Rascal, especially, doing the dominant 'grab behind the neck and bite' movement, 3x in a row, as I kept pulling him off. Poor Rascal didn't know what to do, and he fears Mr Friendly. Friendly also has picked up love biting, and I've been able to soften him on that.
But in the meantime, Mr Friendly ain't so friendly no more. (I appear to have given the cats the wrong names; lol). I've detained Mr Friendly in cat-jail of a training cage of 6 x 3 to himself in the 3rd bedroom. Whenever Friendly sees Rascal get too close, he charges, literally, straight into the side of the cage trying to get to Rascal.
I thought introducing new kittens would help, but Mr Friendly attacks the young 4 mo old male kitten with full force. The female kitten he just looks at, as she hisses at him (she is 3 mo old).
I'm considering returning the two kittens to the adoption agency, and either adopting Friendly out to a "one cat only" home, or "barn cat" or allowing him to return to his semi-feral status of before his initial disappearance, by remaining outside our home. He was neutered one month after coming home. His nastiness toward his siblings and the new kittens is nearly 2 months out from the neutering operation.
He is great with people and shows love and snuggling; but he seems to hate other cats.

We have a house divided. Something has to give.

Brought home but not settled in.
by: Anonymous

Kitty went missing whilst gabing a walk in the grounds of our new address. We came from a house to a 1st floor retirement flat
He is the outdoors type in/out all day sometimes.
I left him alone for about 10 mins. Something frightened him as he has a nervous natured with most things outside.
He was brought home after 6 days he had jumped in a works van and was luckily discovered.
He's been home 4 days now, he's not interested in playing anymore . He just eats and rests but does love attention though and lay next to me in bed the second day for a proper cuddle so I know he knows me. I know he wants to go outside again but am letting him "settle "before taking him out on a harness.I can't let him "go"as he may enjoy him freedom and never return for food as he came back a lot lighter.
I feel for all cat owners who now have a personality change. It's them adjusting to "normal "life as "we" know it.
Good luck everyone.

2 years 4 days
by: Amanda

We moved to a new town and four days after we arrived Misty snuck out and did not return. She was 10.

A year and a half on we got another cat.

Last night I was driving down a local street and saw her under a car. 2 years 4 days later we have her back. She has changed, very thin, different meow but she knows us and we are stoked to have her home.

The impossible has happened!

cat goes feral everytime he escapes
by: Anonymous

I have a 4 year old cat that is an escape artist. today he got out, again. I tried tempting him with treats, and grabbed him to take him back inside and he went wild screamed and scratched me, I left him go before he bit me.Hubby saw him outside and was going to pick him up and bring him inside had he screamed (like a cat fight)I honestly thought two cats were fighting. and stood on his hind legs and lunged at him. Later I went out and called him He stuck his head out of his hiding place, and I kept calling him,stayed several steps ahead of him, and made no attempt to touch him. he followed me into the house. as soon as he entered our doorway he was back to his old self.I just don't understand why he keeps running out the door every chance he gets.and then he is a completely different cat.He's not a cuddle bug, and is kind of aloof, but he never, ever scratched anyone or tired to bite.smh...........

Black was gone over a month..and is now acting as if we're strangers and she's behaving ferral
by: Anonymous

While my husband and I were away a friendof ours watched our house and our cat Black. She is about 3yrs old a very loving playful happy cat. The guy (Zach) left the door open and Black got out. She had been missing for over a month. We finally got her back by setting food inside our apartment and quickly shutting the door behind her once she came inside. She has been home for about 3 days now she is hurt on her leg but will not allow us to come near her. She hisses and growls and is terrified. Very traumatized from being "lost" for a month and being hurt. She just now started to eat a little bit but she is staying hidden from site. She will not allow us to get close enough to her to take her to the vet and I don't know what to do to help her. I'm so very sad for her and want to to do anything I can. To help her. Please help me what should I do? She is spraying and constantly trying to escape back outside. Prior to this she was strictly indoors and happy with it. Please please help me

Please use the search button on this site as you will find that this sort of problem has been answered before. search for words like anxiety or check this page https://www.our-happy-cat.com/scared-cat.html

by: Pat

I have a 2 year old fixed cat named Venus. She was an indoor cat with outdoor excursions. We recently got a new kitten, and then moved to a new location. So I understand it must be stressful for Venus. After we moved, she went out and came home successfully to our new house, but she was missing her red collar. I went to buy her another, but she didn't come back again. I kept checking shelters and want ads, after 5 weeks, I found her picture, and contacted the lady who found her. We picked her up, she recognized me at first, in the yard, as she was acting really feral to everyone. She came to her name Venus, and we got her into the kitty carrier. Since I brought her home, she is acting like she either doesn't know me, or absolutely hates me. She still responds to her name Venus, she still has all the same habits she had when she left, but she is hissing at me, and acting like she doesn't want to be here anymore. I would let her be an outside cat, if she wanted food on the step, but I'm afraid she will go missing and starve. I can't keep her in the basement hissing forever. I keep talking to her, and she listens to me, but won't let me near her. She has never acted this way before, but I know its her. She has identifiable markings, and the lady that found her, said she was wearing a red collar one day, and then she didn't have a collar the next day. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Lost cat of 1 month found, different behavior
by: Marty

Our cat Baby is 4 years old and was an indoor cat. Somehow she got out and we couldn't find her for 21 days. Then when we did had to coax her with food moving it close to the house every day with treats. Finally got her inside enough to shut the door behind her. She freaked out, skidding around the house winding up under the desk in our junk room/office. She won't budge. Didn't make a sound for a day and a half. 2nd day she slept all day and cried all night. She acts like she is afraid of us. She had been a little territorial before, but was very loving, in our kaps, licking me to death when I got home from work. I'm concerned. She hasn't eaten, had water or used the bathroom but once since she's been home. Will she return to her original behavior soon? Any suggestions. Thank you. M

Indoor cat found after 24 hrs.
by: Anonymous

We were convinced we had brought home the wrong cat.
Moe was a happy cat, well behaved, only used the scratching post and stayed on the floor and was afraid to step foot outside.
Now he is angry towards our other cat, jumps on the dining room table and scratches the couch and tries to get outside.
Its been 2 days and I have noticed some improvement and hoping he returns to himself.

I think the person above that found there outdoor cat to be more friendly and happy to be indoors after being gone so long has probably brought home someone elses indoor cat that had gotten out.

Cat missing for over 3 months now she's back
by: Anonymous

Our moggy had been missing for over 3 months, we assumed the worst had happened and that we would never see her again, however today to our surprise wondering in the garden we found her, I grabbed her a brought her inside. She was very confused and once she was In All she wanted to do was go out. She has been done so we know she's not pregnant but she has come back a lot larger than we last saw her, we now assume that someone has been keeping her and feeding her which we are a bit annoyed about because she is microchipped so you would think that someone would hand her in to see if she is missing. She has a tendency to wander off and come back weeks later. We are now keeping her in and trying desperately to get her comfortable inside but all she's doing is growling and hissing at the door. She still rubs herself against our legs and she will let us pet her, but she not the same.
Anyone have any ideas on what we should do? She's so unhappy at the moment and it's killing us knowing that all she wants to do is run away somewhere else.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you x

personality change
by: Tina

My cat was missing for a little over a month. She was pretty much a loaner and did her own thing. Now she meows if left alone, even if that means your sleeping. All she wants is attention and someone near her at all times. Is this normal?

Cat comes home after 7 weeks and is much nicer!!!
by: Josephine Bridges

Hi there,

My cat recently disappeared for 7 weeks and was found 14 miles away in another town! The bizarre part is previous to her going she was a naughty cat who always bit people she didn't know, wasn't very cuddly and certainly more of an outdoor cat (we had outhouses and she was the mouse catcher cat more than a domestic cat). However, she has been home for a week now and is much much nicer, very cuddly, not eager to go outside and friendly with everyone, is this normal?

All I can think is that maybe she was taken in by someone during the 7 weeks and its made her tamer, however when we found her she was very skinny like she hadn't been fed. We like the fact that shes more cuddly but concerned as she isn't behaving herself at all.

Any advice is appreciated. Thanks :)

i think she must be just so happy to be home and being fed again that she is showing her gratitude towards you. I wouldn't worry.

Lost but now back
by: Mitzy

Our less than 2 yr old went missing. She had been gone 12 nights and we just found her. She never hissed and was so loving before her ordeal. Now she saw one of the other cats and hissed at her. She is very thin and I will take her to the vet tomorrow for a check, but thankfully she is still affectionate and wants to be with me. I am confining her to a bathroom away from our other 4 cats until she is stronger and I know she is well. I hope others will be as fortunate. The loss and worry was one thing and now we have the worry and concern until she gets back to her new normal. I hope it will be a peaceful transition for the other cats who were just as happy to have her gone. ..All but one, who used to tumble around with her. He hasn't seen that she is home. She is too weak at this point. Any pointers are welcomed

by: Stilla

I have just recently been so happily reunited with my precious Diva. she too was gone for about 20 days! She was found only about 30 miles from our home. The hardest part was the fear of her survival on her own. We are experiencing extreme heat. I was sick worring about this little girl. Now that she is home - she seems crabby (rightfully so) but I have noticed her hissing & growling at our white boxer pup. Normally they got along wonderfully. She does not want to be held just comfort, food and a cool home. But I see Diva is not going to tolerate anything.
She was returned to us however, very skinny and so hungry/dehydrated. She is getting all the TLC we can give her. I ma going to today to purchase "Goats milk" sold at our pet store. The benefits to this milk is fabulous. Diva is 12 years old and vey small naturally. Any suggestions how to fatten her up and bring her more comfort?

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