Do you have a scared or anxious cat? That is annoying, because of course you want your furry friend to feel safe with you. Here, we talk about fearful cat behaviour and give 11 tips to help a frightened cat.
Just like people, cats have different characters. One cat is not afraid of anything, while another is scared of everything. The latter is not very special in itself, because cats scare easily. But if a cat is always afraid, hides away all day and does not let itself be petted, then something is wrong. You would do well to find out if you can help your cat to become calmer.
We will explain how to do this later in this blog. But first we will tell you a bit about the causes of their behaviour and how they experience the world. This will help you understand how to help a frightened cat.
Causes of fearful and anxious behaviour in cats
Heredity of character
Just like people, cats can also inherit character traits from their parents. So if the mother or father of your cat is a fearful cat, chances are that your cat also has a fearful character.
Unpleasant experiences in the past
Cats remember unpleasant experiences. If, for example, the hoover has frightened your cat once, it might always be afraid of it. And if a cat has been treated badly by a human at an earlier stage in its life, chances are that your cat will find it forever difficult to trust people. Your cat has learned that people are dangerous.
It is important for kittens to come into contact with people, other animals and the sounds of a normal household in the first eight weeks of their lives. This teaches them what is ‘normal’ and harmless. But for kittens who grow up as strays, it is different. They have not learned that people can be trusted and will not feel safe in a household. But there is always hope: behaviourists or host families often succeed in socialising older cats. This requires dedication and patience.
These are the three main reasons why some cats are anxious. But it is also important to know how cats experience the world. And how they experience sounds and new people.
This is how a cat experiences the world
First of all, it is important to know how well cats can hear. A young cat can hear up to five times better than humans. In other words: a sound that we hear, a cat hears five times louder. A normal household noise – such as that of a hoover, a crying or screaming child, loud music or something falling on the floor – is therefore much louder for a cat than for us. So it is not at all surprising that cats get scared easily or find loud noises unpleasant.
Cats are much smaller than people and like to look at new people from a distance. If an unknown adult or a busy little child suddenly strokes or lifts your cat, it is very threatening to a cat. After all, they have not had the chance to calmly look at the new person from a distance. And whether they can be trusted.
Helping a cat to be less fearful
You now know that a cat can be scared and why. That a cat’s hearing is much stronger and that they always feel smaller and more vulnerable than you. And then you understand that you have to take that into account. Especially if you have a scared or frightened cat in the house.
11 tips to help a scared cat
- A non-socialised cat needs a lot of time to get used to the new environment and all the family members. It is important that you give a new, anxious cat time and space for this. Even if it takes years. Patience is important, but every cat is worth it!
- Do you have other pets? Then it is a good idea to first let your cat explore the house while the other pets are in a separate room.
- Explain to children that they should not lift or stroke the cat without reason. They may only do so if your cat comes to them, if your cat likes it, and if you are there.
- Tell your visitors the same.
- Are you going to vacuum? Make sure your cat can retreat to a quiet room or that it can go outside.
- Cats need to be able to scratch something every day, because this makes them happy and calm. Therefore, always make sure you have a good scratching post in the house.
- Renovating the house can be very restless and noisy. It is therefore advisable to move your cat to a different home during the renovation work – a nice (familiar) home is good. But it is better if your cat can stay with known friends or family. Is this not possible? Then make sure your cat can go outside.
- Don’t play music too loudly in the house. Do you feel like dancing in your living room? Then close the door to the room where your cat is staying so that it is quiet there.
- Did you drop something and startle your cat? Reassure your cat with a soft voice and give it a reassuring pat on the head.
- Provide enough places in the house where your cat can relax. High places are favourite: a high cupboard or shelf which your cat can reach easily is great. Or buy a high scratching post with a sleeping house or lounge basket on top. A cat always feels a lot safer in high places.
- Are you unable to get your cat used to it or does it remain scared and anxious? Then you can consider using calming food supplements or scents. In that case, always seek advice from your vet or a recognised cat behaviourist first.
And we conclude with the most important tip
It is very important never to lose patience with a frightened cat. As we said before, cats need a lot of time to get used to new things. Especially if a cat has had bad experiences or has a fearful nature. So remember: every little step your cat takes is a victory. For your cat, but also for you! And never forget to reward your cat with lots of love, attention and good care. Good luck!
DISCLAIMER: Petrebels is not a vet or a behaviourist: all content, information and tips on this blog are meant to inspire you and are informative in nature. Does your cat have complaints or problems and do you doubt the health of your cat? Always go to the vet or a behaviourist.