Every cat has its own unique personality. Some cats are very social and curious; These cats don’t shy away from things that are new to them – including people. There are also the cats who are very shy and would live in a corner under the bed rather than be introduced to someone or something new. Then there is every personality in between.
No matter which personality your cat has, there may be situations that arise in which your cat becomes fearful. You may notice your cat fleeing from certain situations, hiding, refusing to use the litterbox, becoming aggressive, or even doing their business unintentionally. These situations can be especially difficult for cat owners because it is so easy for a human to see that there is nothing to fear.
What’s to Fear
It may be obvious to you what is causing your cat to be afraid. If not, here are some possibilities:
- Lack of socialization. If a cat is not introduced to a lot of different people between the ages of 2 and 7 weeks old, it may always have a fear of people. Sometime it is just a fear of certain people or certain types of people such as tall people, short people, women, men, people wearing hats, people who smoke, people of different skin tones, people who speak with a different accent, etc.
- New environments. If the cat is new to your home, you just moved, or you’ve taken the cat out to a place other than your home it is likely the cat will experience some anxiety. For many cats, this anxiety will subside over a few days (or a few weeks for cats that are a little slower to warm).
- Not feeling well. If your cat is suddenly behaving fearful in situations where he or she does not usually behave fearfully, your cat could be hurt or ill.
- New pets. Your cat may show signs of anxiety if a new animal has been introduced to you home. It could take a little while for your cat to get used to the idea of sharing its house.
- Strange noises or smells. A cat’s hearing and sense of smell are very strong and thus, very sensitive. Anything unfamiliar to them may very well cause anxiety.
- Abuse. Hopefully you are not abusing your cat. However, you may have adopted a cat from an abusive situation (in which case you are awesome). The abuse that has been done may have taught the cat to fear people or situations that are not typically viewed as frightening.
- Difficult living conditions. This is something that can cause great anxiety in humans as well. When the place you live is dirty, overly cluttered, over crowded, or with people that are always fighting it can really make you crazy. The same is true for cats.
- Stressful events. A trip to the vet is not usually a pleasant experience for cats. Neither is a house party. After one of these stressful events a cat may go into hiding for a little while.
- Active children. Some cats are not so sure about those funny miniature human creatures that frolic about in your house. Children move fast and suddenly, the make loud unexpected noises, they pull ears and tails, and they always want to pick kitty up. Cats that are not used to children will likely be afraid of them.
10 Ways Calm Your Cat’s Fears
The good news is that often when a cat becomes frightened it recovers from the fear within a few days to a few weeks. The bad news is that every once in a while you will run into a cat that has a permanent fear. In either case, there are some things that you can do to help keep things as calm as possible.
- Go to the veterinarian. Taking the cat to the vet can rule out the possibility of the anxious behavior being caused by a physical illness or injury. If your cat is not ill, the veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication to help ease your cat. Pheromone products like Feliway can also be calming to your cat.
- Don’t make cats attend the party. If you are having a party at your house or if it is a holiday such as Halloween where there will be lots of unfamiliar people around, let your cats hide in their favorite spot. Close the door to the room they are in if possible and allow them to have their privacy. Remember that anxious cats can become aggressive and scratch or bite you and your guests.
- Create hiding places. Hiding makes cats feel secure. Let them hide! Provide places like under the bed, their cage, cat trees, cardboard boxes, etc for your cat to get away.
- Don’t force a cat out of hiding. The cat will come out when they are ready. Forcing a cat out of their comfort zone only creates mistrust.
- Use behavioral training . If your cat is very fearful of people and is not ill, you may have to methodically teach your cat not to be afraid. BestFriends.org has an excellent article if you would like to learn more about training fearful cats; Socializing Very Shy or Fearful Cats.
- Learn to read your cat’s body language. Your cat will tell you when they are afraid and don’t want to be touched. Pay attention to what your cat is telling you and don’t break their trust.
- Let new people fill the cat’s dish. If you are trying to get your cat used to someone new, let the new person do the feeding for a little while. Being fed is a positive experience that the cat can relate the new person to.
- Don’t punish fearful behavior. Punishment only brings more fear and distrust with it.
- Teach guests cat etiquette. When you have guests in your house tell them to let the cat come to them rather than seeking out the cat. It also helps if they keep their voices down and don’t make eye contact with the cat.
- Be consistent. Your cat will be more calm if it knows what to expect throughout the day. Regular feedings, play time, and other interactions can ease tense nerves.
Most important thing is to NEVER GIVE UP on your cat. Sometimes progress can be slow and take a long time to achieve. Even if it takes a life time, a cat’s love is worth all of the trouble.