Some kitties are truly frightened nearly all the time and grow up to be worrywarts. When a scared cat acts fearful, they might as well wear a “kick me” sign. Their fear can prompt the other cats to pick on them — which makes the cat even more scared and creates a vicious cycle.
Scared Cat | Recognizing The Signs & Know What To Do
Some scared cats act fearful because of poor or missing socialization. Some even are scared because of bad nutrition during gestation. An intensely unpleasant experience can lead to a “memory” of the event, which cats may generalize and fear in similar future events. A one time abuse situation or single bad experience with another cat, person, or car can make a cat fearful of all cats, car rides, or men.
12 SIGNS YOUR CAT IS SCARED
The stress from fear can make sick cats sicker, because it impacts the immune system. We hate making our cats miserable, so scared behavior makes people reluctant to repeat fear-causing experiences, like trips to the vet. In fact, many cats see the veterinarian far less frequently than needed because getting the cat to the clinic may be difficult or impossible for some owners to manage.
Scared cat signs can be sudden or chronic. They include:
- Decreased grooming
- Reduced social interactions
- Appetite loss
- Looking away
- Holding ears down and sideways
- Hissing or spitting
REDUCING CAT FEAR
Today, the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) promotes Cat-Friendly Practice. The “Fear Free Veterinary” initiative also certifies veterinarians and clinics and teaches them how to make health care less scary. Look for practices that reduce fear in cats, so your kitty friends get the best care possible.
Some types of fear never disappear, but with lots of patience, you can help a scared cat feel more comfortable in her home and during required visits away. Here are some ways you can help:
- Identify all the different sights, places, sounds, odors, people or other things that cause fear. You need to know what your cat fears before you can address those issues.
- During the spring mating season, cats act more fearful because of the noises of stray cats or wild animals they hear outside. A white noise machine can cover up or mute these distressing sounds. You can also tune your radio to static.
- Anything irregular or unpredictable can cause feline fear. Create a schedule so your cat can rely on when to expect meals, petting, or the chase the feather game.
- When cats are scared but can’t hide, stress levels skyrocket. Give your cat lots of places to stay out of sight. Kitty “tents” placed in strategic places, and collapsible cat tunnels that create safe pathways through the center of rooms help the cat feel more secure — especially in open areas where cats feel exposed. These tools can encourage a scared cat to move around the house more and build confidence.
- When cats panic, they lash out at anything between them and perceived safety, and stay upset for at least an hour. Give frightened cats space and don’t talk, touch, or follow them. Cat skin is so sensitive that any contact can make the feelings of panic even worse.
- Speed up the recovery time by shutting out any further stimulation for at least 15 minutes. Turn off the lights in the room, draw the blinds, or toss a towel over the cat to muffle scary sounds.
- Yelling and punishment could prompt fear aggression, so keep your temper. Low-pitched men’s voices and heavier walks often sound scary to cats, so take care to “lighten” your tone and your step.
- Strong eye contact is a challenge that intimidates. Glance away while petting the cat and don’t stare.
- Shy cats fear hands if they’ve been abused. Others have a petting “threshold” and become aggressive. Instead of petting on the head, offer the cat a closed fist or index finger to sniff, headbutt, or cheek rub.
- Play builds confidence in shy cats. Fishing pole style toys and flashlights allow people to interact at a “safe” distance that doesn’t threaten the fearful cat while also teaching the cat being near to you offers a fun benefit.
- Use a pheromone product to help the cats feel more comfortable about their environment. These come as sprays, infused collars, and plug-in products.
Animal Planet shows us a video on how to handle scared cats: