Cats are incredibly smart creatures with their own unique fears and anxieties. Every cat will behave differently when faced with a fear, and it’s important for its owner to know if their cat is scared, what they are afraid of, and how they can help.
If you are a cat owner, you will be well aware that cats are creatures of habit and often don’t adjust to change quickly or easily. Even a simple change to routine can upset them. It’s also normal for cats to be scared occasionally of things that they instinctively feel are threatening their environment.
Below we share a few common cat phobias and how you can help your cat cope!
Cats who are fearful of new people often retreat to a safe space such as their beds or under furniture. To make your cat feel more comfortable, avoid having your visitor hold, caress or cuddle the cat as your cat may become aggressive. Give your cat time to decompress and get used to the stranger in the home.
The introduction of new cats or other pets can be stressful for your cat. If possible, start the introduction by familiarising them with each other’s scents. Introduce them to each other positively and gradually and avoid rushing the process.
Inanimate objects generally aren’t scary however if there’s something large that wasn’t there before and smells different, your cat will need time to adjust. To help your cat adjust, you can lay one of your sheets or blankets over the item to give the item a less foreign scent.
Startling or Surprising Play:
Sudden movements or changes within their field of vision can startle cats, even during playtime. Even familiar objects can scare cats if placed near them suddenly or dangled too close to their face. Keep this in mind during playtime.
Unsurprisingly, cats are also not fans of loud noises, and if it continues over time, noise can cause high levels of anxiety and stress. Think vacuum cleaners, loud traffic outside, construction noise, or even loud sounds on the TV. If cats don’t get acclimated and desensitized to these types of noises from a young age, they tend to get spooked by them very easily. Loud noises can trigger a cat’s instinctual need to hide and protect itself.
Ever wonder why cats tend to hide under the bed, in boxes, or in the laundry pile? Big open spaces can be really scary for cats. Help your cat feel more comfortable by placing their litterbox or food and water dishes close to their favourite spots in the house.
Like many of us, cats are attached to their homes. So naturally, one common cause of fear or anxiety is leaving a familiar environment for a new, unfamiliar one. If you are moving, you can make your kitty feel more comfortable by keeping them in a smaller space such as the bathroom to start and then gradually opening up the rest of the house as they settle in.
The most severe source of stress and anxiety in cats is punishment. Hitting your cat is extremely detrimental and, the cat will lose trust in you. If you are experiencing issues with your cats’ behaviour, punishment can increase the problems such as aggression or soiling. Connect with a certified animal trainer for support and guidance.
Going to the vet, getting groomed or being put in their carrier can be stressful for cats and easily turn into a phobia. Even after the event has passed, cats can continue to exhibit signs of fear for hours or even days. Exposing your cats to these events from a young age can help them to feel more comfortable.
In addition to the common phobias, your cats’ fears may be more deep-rooted. Kittens that aren’t socialised enough while young may grow up more fearful compared to kittens who had adequate socialization. Experience in an abusive or unhealthy environment will also impact your cats’ behaviour and lead to chronic anxiety.
How can you tell your cat is experiencing fear or stress?
– Running or hiding
– Aggression, including hissing, scratching, spitting, or puffing up their fur
– Freezing in place
– Going to the bathroom in places other than the litterbox, losing control of bowels or bladders or refusing to use the litterbox
– Changes in eating habits
If you have any concerns about your cat, reach out to your veterinarian for more information.