My cat is acting strange and scared – When cats feel threatened, they often respond in three ways to the object, person, or situation they perceive as threatening: fighting, escaping, or standing still. Some cats are so scared that they lose control of their bladders or intestines and make the bathroom right where they are.
Each cat has its preferred way of facing a crisis. You will notice that your cat will probably try one option first, and if it doesn’t work it will try another. For example, if your cat is afraid of dogs, and a friend comes to visit her with her dog, you may notice the following: First, your cat bristles its coat to look big, then hisses and spits at the dog. If the dog does not withdraw, the cat may escape the situation, find a place to hide, and remain motionless until it considers the situation to be safe.
Your cat may display the following behaviors when it is afraid:
- Aggression (spitting, hissing, growling, bristling, clawing, biting, scratching)
- Losing control of the bladder or intestines
What causes fearful behavior?
You will need to watch your cat closely to determine what causes its fearful behavior. Keep in mind that just because you know that the person or animal approaching your cat has good intentions does not mean that the cat feels safe. Anything can trigger your fear. Some common triggers are as follows:
- A particular person
- A stranger
- Another animal
- Loud noises
It is normal for you to want to help and calm your cat when it is scared. However, this is not necessarily the best thing from the cat’s point of view. It is normal for the animal to feel insecure or scared in a new environment. Generally, your new cat will hide for a day or two when it first arrives home. Sometimes a traumatic experience, such as consulting a vet or the arrival of a new pet at home, can upset her routine and make her hide under the bed for a few days.
What can you do
- Take the following steps to reduce your cat’s fear and help him gain more confidence:
- If you have a new cat, place it in a small area, such as a bathroom, with food, a water container, a bed, a scratching post, and a litter box. Visit him every day, several times a day, and do positive things with him, like offering him valuable prizes or playing. As you become more comfortable and seek your attention, you can let him out to the rest of the house. Start with another small area of your home and progressively allow full access.
- If this is a cat that you have had for a while, make an appointment for a full physical exam with your vet to rule out any medical issues that could cause your cat’s fearful behavior. Cats don’t always look sick, even if they are. Any sudden change in your behavior can mean that your cat is sick, and should be taken seriously. Some common symptoms that your cat may be sick are: being aggressive, hiding and bathing outside the litter box.
- If your cat is healthy but is hiding, leave him alone. It will come out when ready. Forcing him out of hiding will only make him more afraid. Make sure you have easy access to food, water and your litter box from your hiding place. Clean the litter box and switch to food and water every day; This way you will know if you eat and drink water.
- Minimize all contact with the fear stimulus.
- Make your cat’s routine as regular as possible. Cats feel safer if they know what time of day to feed them, and play with them.
- Try desensitizing and replacing your cat’s stimulus relative to the fear stimulus:
- Determine how far your cat can be from the fear stimulus without responding with fear.
- Present the stimulus at this distance while giving him a tasty treat, talking to him, or making him play. By pairing your fear with something positive, your cat will begin to make positive associations, and over time, he will learn that when what scares him appears, something good happens too.
- When your cat is no longer displaying fearful behaviors, slowly bring the fear stimulus closer to him as he awards, talks, or plays with him.
- If the cat shows fearful behavior at any point in the process, it means that it has acted too quickly and must start from the beginning. This is the most common mistake when trying to desensitize and replace the stimulus to an animal, and it can be avoided by working in short sessions, paying attention to the cat not to move too fast.
- You may need help from a professional animal behavior specialist to carry out the process of desensitization and stimulus replacement.
Some of the situations that frighten cats can be difficult to reproduce or control. For example, if your cat is afraid of lightning storms, it may react to other phenomena that occur during the storm, such as odors, changes in barometric pressure, or changes in light. During the desensitization process, it is impossible to reproduce all of these factors. If your cat is afraid of men, you can try desensitization and stimulus substitution, but if an adult male lives in the home and the cat is constantly exposed to it, this can disrupt the gradual process of desensitization.
Consult your vet
Medications may be available to help your cat feel less anxiety for short periods. Your vet is the only person qualified and qualified to prescribe medications for your cat. Do not try to give your cat any over the counter or prescription medication without consulting your vet. Animals don’t respond to medications the same as people, and a safe human medication can be lethal for your cat. Drug therapy alone will not permanently reduce fears and phobias. In extreme cases, the best treatment may be the combination of behavior modification and medications.
Renowned companies are marketing products that relieve cats’ anxiety and stress. Please note that these options are not automatic cures for fear or anxiety, but should be used in conjunction with behavior modification techniques. See our “Relieve Your Pet’s Stress” brochure for more information.
What not to do
- Don’t punish your cat for its fearful behavior. Animals associate punishment with what they are doing while they are being punished, so your cat will likely associate any punishment that is applied to her. The only thing that will be achieved is that he is afraid of you, and he will not understand why you are punished.
- Do not force him to confront the object or the situation that causes him fear. For example, if you fear a particular person, don’t let that person pick you up and stop you. This will only make that person more afraid.
Note on aggression
If your cat is threatening to you, another person, or an animal, seek the help of a professional animal behavior specialist. So that in the meantime everyone’s safety is preserved, lock your cat in an area of the house where all interactions are kept to a minimum and supervised by someone responsible. Cat bites and scratches are serious and can easily become infected. Bites should be reported to the local animal control agency so that your cat can be quarantined and its rabies determined. If you can’t keep your cat separate from stimuli that make it aggressive and can’t work with a professional animal behavior specialist, discuss the possibility of your cat being humanely euthanized.