You’ve heard the phrase “scaredy cat” before, but is it true? Are cats usually scared? Is it normal for them to hide all the time? What do you do with a scared cat? Don’t panic! We have all the answers you need right here. There are most likely common reasons that your cat is scared and it’s important to identify them.
When you do, you’ll be able to find ways to make your cat feel confident again. It just takes some patience! Your cat will be poking its head out from under the bed in no time.
Is it Normal for a Cat to Be Scared?
The short answer? Yes! Just like dogs and humans, felines experience a plethora of emotions and feelings. Their genetics, as well as their environments, influence these emotions. A cat’s behavior is also influenced by their upbringing and past experiences. Combined, this is what indicates if your cat is scared or anxious in certain situations!
Cats are usually not aggressive animals. By nature, they are more apt to hide or run when faced with something that frightens them. Hiding is their natural reaction to situations that upset them, whether it be fireworks, moving to a new place, or dealing with a hyper dog.
When a cat believes it’s in danger, their first reaction is to be scared. Their survival instinct tells them to run away or hide. That’s one reason cardboard boxes are so popular with kitties — they use them for comfort when they feel frightened!
While being scared is a natural reaction to shocking or loud things, some breeds are more prone to fear than others. You should be mindful of your cat’s genetics and normal behavior. If their reaction seems out of the ordinary (like being scared of something they usually are fine around), that’s when you should be concerned.
Are Some Cat Breeds More Prone to Fear?
A study of over 5,700 cats (spanning over 40 breeds) looked closely at the variations in personalities between each breed. They found that out of every cat in the study, Russian Blues had the highest probability of shyness towards strangers. Russian Blues were also most likely to show shyness towards new objects.
Other breeds that were cautious and nervous around new objects like cucumbers and dolls were Turkish Vans, Turkish Angoras, Bengals, European Shorthairs, and Siberians. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every cat related to these breeds will be more scared in situations. But the study found that a cat’s breed does play a significant part in their behavior! “We found significant genetic correlations mostly within personality factors, indicating that the traits are both phenotypically and genetically associated,” the study concluded.
While every cat is an individual regardless of breed, it should be noted that cat breed bloodlines carry on desired behavioral and physical traits. This means that each breed does have a distinctive personality. Think Siamese being social and vocal. Or Persians being docile and lazy.
Why Is My Cat Scared All of a Sudden?
Like we explained before, there are several reasons why your cat may display fear. If your feline suddenly has a case of the heebie-jeebies, these factors might be to blame:
Cats are creatures of habit. They become very attached to places — sometimes more than people and things. When a cat is brought to a new home, it can be very overwhelming for them. They just lost their territory and are inside a new territory they know nothing about.
The scents and sights may frighten them into hiding. You might even notice aggressive behavior from your usually chill cat. This may be their way of warning you to leave them alone while they warm up to their new home.
Felines are territorial. They picture your home as their territory and can become quite protective of it. When you introduce a new cat or dog to the house, your cat may feel threatened. Who’s the new guy on their turf? What do they want?
You may notice that your pet appears shaken. They will find small spots inside the home to hide in, cowering away whenever you or the new pet comes near them. That’s because the new pet has overwhelmed your cat and they are unsure how to deal with the new presence.
You will often notice cats jumping when they are surprised, appearing quite startled. That’s because cats are quite focused animals. Your feline may become fixated with a toy they are playing with or a new smell they can’t get enough of.
If your cat suddenly hears a loud firework, dog bark, or kid whining, they may become quite shaken up. A surprised and frightened cat may puff up, flatten their ears, and flick their tail. They will often run away, hoping to hide from the noise that scared them.
While people picture cats as loners, cats are actually quite social pets. Cats become quite attached to their family, usually one person in particular. Once they’ve bonded with a family, cats can become quite upset when they are left alone and aren’t sure where everyone went.
Cats will often look forward to you doing the same things each day: wake up, brush your teeth, shower, eat breakfast, read, and come home. You probably noticed your feline has a routine too. They will sit on the sink every morning to watch you get ready. Or maybe chill on the couch every night while you play games or read a book.
When you leave unexpectedly, research has proven that cats can become quite lonely and even stressed. They will search the room in hopes of finding you, often pacing about. Then they will sit by the door, meowing until they realize you might not come back. Cats left alone for long periods can suffer from anxiety, scared they will never see you again.
When cats are sick, they don’t like to show weakness. Instead, cats will often slink away and hide somewhere when they aren’t feeling well. If you also notice that your kitty is lethargic, vomiting, not using the litter box, refusing to eat, or is losing weight, they might be scared due to illness.
Scared Cat Behavior
Most of the time, your cat is scared for valid reasons, like the ones mentioned above. Acting scared is your cat’s natural reaction to these situations!
Here’s how to tell if your cat is frightened:
- Running away
- Freezing in place
- Aggressive behavior (hissing, growling, scratching, puffing up, arching back, flicking tail)
- Refusing to use the litter box
- Losing control of their bladder or bowels
- Releasing anal glands
How to Approach a Scared Cat
When you bring a new kitten home or are dealing with your cat’s reaction to a new environment, you’ll often notice the aforementioned scared behaviors. It’s crucial to give your feline space when they are running away and attempting to hide. Sometimes you need to check on them — how do you go about that without scaring them more?
- First, try sitting in the same room as them. If your cat is hiding underneath the bed, for example, sit next to your bed and read. Maybe listen to music, humming quietly.
- Talk to your cat in a calm and low voice once in a while. Just don’t make eye contact with them. Instead, let your cat get used to your presence without engaging them. This might take a few days.
- When your cat seems less scared of your presence, start engaging. Give them something of yours to sniff, like glasses or socks.
- If they seem worried about your hand being there, move it away, leaving the item behind. They will become familiar with your scent over time.
- If your cat seems a bit calmer, reach your hand out and let them smell it. Make sure you are gentle when you approach, being quiet and slow.
- Keep your hand where they can see it. Let them sniff your hand. At this point, most cats will either tolerate the hand being there or will even rub against you.
- Never pull your pet out from hiding. Just let them know you’re there for them.
- Give them some treats! Come back every once in a while to let them smell your hand.
They will come out on their own eventually! When they don’t feel forced to come out, your cat will trust you more. When they feel comfortable around you, they will make the move!
How to Calm a Scared Cat
The good news is there are steps you can take to fight your cat’s fear. Here’s what you can do to calm even the most frightened feline:
When your cat is in a new place, they can be overwhelmed by the new smells and sights. To get them used to a new environment, start creating a routine that includes your cat. This will give them the confidence to come out of hiding.
Every morning when you go to make breakfast, shake their treats! After a while, they will realize that morning means some tasty snacks! When you come home from work, sit down with them in the living room, and play with their favorite toys. They will begin to understand that it’s playtime when you come home in the evening. When your feline knows there’s structure, they will start to embrace their new environment.
Give Them CBD Cat Treats
Sometimes, the things your pet is upset about can’t be changed — like you leaving for work or fireworks going off over the weekend. But that doesn’t mean your cat has to feel helpless. Try giving them CBD cat treats to soothe them during tense situations.
CBD is a non-intoxicating phytocannabinoid that naturally occurs in hemp. It won’t get your cat high — because there’s basically no THC! Instead, CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in your cat’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS helps maintain their mood and comfort levels, just like our own ECS.
Despite outside sources (like a loud dog or a move to a new house), CBD ensures that your cat’s emotions remain balanced. They will feel a sense of calm, giving them relief from the fear or uncertainty they previously felt. Try giving them treats before you know an uneasy situation is approaching. Or drop CBD oil into their food each day. Holistapet even makes CBD catnip spray, which can be put directly on their favorite toys.
When a new pet or rowdy child enters the home, cats can become stressed. To keep them from sneaking off and hiding, provide your cat with areas throughout the house where they can feel confident. This can be a room dedicated to them or designated locations throughout the living space. If you have a room only your cat can access (like a bedroom), put their toys, food, water, and litter box in that location. This spot can be where your cat runs to when they feel scared or annoyed. Having their own domain will ensure they don’t feel trapped.
You can also place cat trees and cat shelves throughout the common living spaces. If your feline knows that they can jump up to the top of a cat tree to get away from a rambunctious kid or loud dog, they won’t be as quick to run and hide. This security allows them to remain in the same room without feeling threatened or bothered.
How Long Will a Scared Cat Hide?
When you bring home a new cat or bring a cat into a new home, you should definitely have patience. Some cats are known to hide for up to a few days. After a stressful move or a vet visit, some cats will hide under the bed or behind the couch for two or three days.
During this time, give your cat space. They will eventually come out on their own. If your cat is still in hiding after a few days, try the calm and patient approach we mentioned earlier. They will be happy you are there for them. Just remember not to get too pushy.
Should You Go to the Vet?
A cat being scared is often no reason to be alarmed. It’s very normal for cats to be afraid of sudden or new situations. But if your usually adventurous cat is suddenly hiding despite no significant changes to their routine or environment, your kitty may be injured or ill.
If you suspect that your pet is hiding because it’s hurt or not feeling well, you should immediately make an appointment with your vet. It’s important that your vet does a thorough checkup in case your cat is attempting to hide a severe condition or complication.
It’s completely normal for your cat to get scared, especially if there’s a new pet in the house, a stranger is visiting, or there’s been a change to their environment. A cat’s natural instinct to threatening situations is to flee. You’ll often find scared cats underneath the bed or in a tight space you didn’t even know existed!
Read your cat’s body language. If they are puffing up, flicking their tail, or flattening their ears, they are probably distressed. Back away from a fearful cat, allowing them to calm down on their own. If your cat seems scared, give them some space. They will most likely come out eventually. It’s good to be calm and patient when your cat is scared. They are often looking to be left alone but will be happy to know you are there for them.