After living together under the same roof for years, your cat who is usually bold and playful is suddenly acting weird and scared. Although some cats may recover from this themselves, some may need help or even professional treatment to regain their previous self.
Read on to find why cats get scared all of a sudden and how can you create a comfortable home for her.
Why Is My Cat Scared All of a Sudden?
The first thing to understand is knowing the reason behind the fear and why she acts scared, avoidant or skittish. Every cat has a different character and behavior that is shaped by her breed and her experiences as a kitten. Her highly developed survival instinct enables her to assess danger quickly and act accordingly. The response to that perceived danger is often to escape rather than stand and fight.
Most common causes why a cat may suddenly act scared are:
1. A sudden change or disruption in her routine
Her sense of arrangement may get disrupted by new things, people, animals or changes of environment. Some cats are nervous by nature or genetically predisposed to a higher level of arousal. Remember that constant fear is different from being temporarily nervous, jittery, jumpy or skittish due to new circumstances.
2. A traumatic experience
A traumatic experience may play a role in this sudden change such as a fearful behavior caused by negative associations she experienced in her early life or as a kitten. She may have been maltreated and is afraid to trust her human caretakers. For these cats, great patience is needed because it will take them longer to calm down and learn to trust their new environment and people.
3. Lack of exposure
The cat may have never received adequate exposure to certain things when she was young which causes her to be scared of those things in adult life. A perfect example of this are the viral videos of cats being scared by their owners by putting an unknown object just when they turn their head away from eating. The object used is usually a cucumber which cats are not usually exposed to.
4. Your cat has been poorly socialized
Kittens need plenty of human interaction within the first two months of their life if they are to be comfortable living with human owners. If she is not used to it, the mere sight of new people being introduced to her may cause her to be skittish.
5. Pain and illness
Anxiety in cats may be caused by pain or illness such as parasitic infections or exposure to chemicals that affect the nervous system.
What are the most common behaviors for a scared cat
A scared cat might show the following symptoms when she’s afraid:
- Hiding, running, freezing in one spot
- Behavior changes
- Eating habits changes
- Becoming less active
- Not using the litter box
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Destructive or aggressive behavior
- Excessive vocalization
- Can’t Stop Grooming
- Peeing everywhere
These are some common behaviors you should watch out. Your cat should not be regularly frightened and anxious. Unexpected changes in your cat’s behavior can indicate serious psychological or medical issues that may need immediate veterinary attention.
How to Soothe a Frightened Cat
If your cat does not feel secure, it will become increasingly nervous. It’s important to help your scared cat overcome their fear to prevent them from being a scaredy-cat. Try these ways to soothe a frightened cat:
1. Stress and anxiety relief
The first thing you need to know is that you should never punish or scold her for her anxious behavior. Don’t have the yell or use harsh tones. Once you have noticed the anxious behaviors, make an appointment with your vet. Untreated anxiety won’t probably get better on its own, and will likely become worse over time.
2. Adjusting to a new environment
Cats can be stressed by changes in the environment or when in unfamiliar situations. Everything they knew has changed. This means that a cat needs to learn everything all over again.
To help your feline adjust to a new home, restrict them in one location at first. Focus on providing hiding spaces. You may leave empty boxes on its side. The goal should be to help her feel safe and relaxed in her new surroundings.
3. Adjusting to a new companion
Have you introduced a new pet into the household? It takes time to introduce a new pet to an established cat. The idea of sharing will provoke anxiety. Keep the new cat locked in a room until accepted by your existing pet. You will need to let both of them interact and see that they co-exist. Remember to give her the time to socialize.
4. Expose the cat to the object of its fear
Your cat should be exposed to the things that made her scared. This process will help her negative experience turn into a positive one. Offer her a treat when she starts to calm down. Your cat may look forward to something that previously provoked a fear response.
5. Show them love during playtime
Play and cuddle with your cat. Introduce them to some toys and start playing with them to strengthen your bond. Playing distracts your cat and improves their temperament.
6. Apply some calming touches
There are quite a few ways to calm your cat’s nerves. You can light scented candles in your home or play some classical music. Natural herbs can also help in calming down anxious cats. Catnip, hops, and chamomile are some suitable herbs you can offer in small quantities.
7. Give them treats
Treats are the best trainer. Reward your scared kitten’s good behavior with some delicious treats. However, make treats special and rare and not a commonplace occurrence.
8. Use synthetic pheromones
Many cats react positively to calming synthetic pheromones like Feliway or Comfort Zone.
The most recommended option for cats acting scared or anxious is the Feliway Diffuser (see on Amazon.com).
Be alert with changes in your cat’s behavior. There are some fearful behaviors that are normal and acceptable. Remember to be patient and don’t force your cat to do anything.
It is important to take care of our cat’s mental health just like you would your own. With love, patience and willingness to do your part to help, your cat should soon learn that they have nothing to fear and will regain their healthy curiosity towards their environment.