You were clearing the table after dinner when a plate slips off your hand, crashing hard to the floor. Before you can even pick up the shards of the broken plate, you catch your cat, frozen and stiff before he poops and darts away. And now he has left you with another big mess to clean up.
Why your cat poops when he is scared
Some cats poop (or urinate or do both) when scared because of their fight or flight response. In a stressful situation, your cat’s body reacts in preparation for his response to the situation. When a cat poops during such a situation, his stomach muscles tense up while the muscles responsible for controlling the bowels relax causing the release of feces and urine.
Confronting a scary object or situation can be stressful for anyone, including your furry pal. And in the face of fear, people and animals turn to their instincts to handle the situation. Logic and clear thinking go out of the window and are replaced by instincts.
These instincts are what experts call the fight or flight response. This response can manifest itself in various forms. Scared animals, including your cat, can respond in four ways: fight, flight, freeze and appease.
But where exactly does cat excrement figure in all of these?
Cats are not alone in responding to fear in such a manner. In fact, there are anecdotes of soldiers admitting to pooping and pissing in their pants while stationed in the frontline.
But why would a person or cat relieve himself in such a situation? It has been suggested that an animal or person relieves himself in a stress-inducing situation because the body needs to eliminate unnecessary stuff from the body, including poop and piss, before actually responding to the situation.
In short, the elimination of waste can give an animal a unique advantage. For example, defecating or urinating allows an animal to lose extra weight which can translate to faster running speed.
Additionally, some animals use their poop and urine as a defense mechanism. With the foul smell of their excrement, these animals try to deter predators from eating them.
Understanding your cat’s fear
Cats have their own unique personalities and those unique traits can manifest in the way that they face scary situations.
For example, if your pet is confident, your pet may be less affected by a fearful situation. On the other hand, if your cat is naturally timid, he might run away immediately or attempt to fight.
Among the most common reactions cats make when confronted by a stressful or scary situation include:
- Pooping, urinating, or releasing the content of anal glands
- Going into hiding
- Running away
It does not take much to scare a cat. Cats are usually scared of loud noises, quick movements, unfamiliar people, other pets, and even trips to the clinic.
How to reassure a fearful cat
It is normal for a cat to exhibit signs of fear. However, when your cat is constantly exposed to an object or situation that elicits a fear response, your cat can get stuck in a permanent state of stress.
And when your cat no longer feels safe in your home because of that sustained stress, he is more likely to exhibit unwanted behavior, including aggression.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to help your cat feel secure after being confronted by a scary object or situation.
1. Leave your cat alone
If your cat ran away and went into hiding, the last thing that you should do is to go running after him.
Instead, leave your cat alone for a while. Coming to him to coax him out of hiding will only make matters worse and stress your cat further.
Allow your cat to spend time alone. But at the same time, maintain his routine. Make sure that food and water are readily available. Clean his litter box like you would usually do.
When he is ready, he will come out of hiding.
2. Get your pet checked by a vet
Once your pet has calmed down, schedule an appointment with his vet. Sometimes, uncommon behavior that is associated with stress reaction may be a symptom of a medical or behavioral problem.
Cats are notoriously good at hiding illnesses. You might be thinking that your cat is aggressive or timider than usual because he is scared when the reality is that he is experiencing a medical problem.
3. Help your cat get over his fears
Like people, cats can learn to overcome their fears through repeated controlled exposure.
To do this, start by placing your cat at a safe distance from the person or object that he is wary of. While your cat is in the same room as the object or person, praise your cat and offer him treats.
Repeat this for several days, moving the person or object closer to your pet every following session. If your cat continues to show fear, step back and take things slower.
It also helps if you can get an animal behaviorist to assist you.
4. Things to avoid
Under no circumstance should you punish your cat for being afraid. Punishing your cat will only make things worse for your pet.
Allow your cat to adjust to new things, people, or pets at his own pace. Do not force interactions as these can backfire and make your pet more afraid.
5. How to handle an aggressive cat
Sometimes, cats become aggressive when facing a scary situation. When your cat is in a fight mode, it is best to isolate your cat to prevent him from inadvertently hurting you or your loved ones.
Allow your pet to simmer down and give him his space. As much as possible, limit your interactions with him to prevent a confrontation between the two of you.
Fear can make a cat poop
Fear can make even the most confident cat act abnormally. When your cat poops out of fear, it can be both funny and annoying, especially with the mess you need to clean up. But understand that your cat did not do that voluntarily.
Instead of getting angry and punishing your cat, let him get his bearings back and show compassion.
Image: istockphoto.com / yanjf