Why would my cat suddenly be afraid of me? – Has a new cat arrived in the family and seems to always be scared of you? Has your cat undergone changes in its behavior and now shows fear?
Has it even attacked you? Although this behavior is very frustrating for the human companion of the cat, we must understand that fear is a natural state in all species and, although we do not want to do anything other than give it love, perhaps we do not do it in the most correct way for the cat.
If you wonder why your cat is afraid of you, continue reading this article by Animal Expert , where you will learn more about the ethology of this species and find guidelines to help your cat and its fear.
How do you know if a cat is afraid?
First, we must learn to differentiate if our cat is scared of other behaviors, but we must also try to find out what degree of fear it suffers from. When the intensity of the fear is low, the cat will show behaviors such as lowering the posture and mydriasis (or dilation of the pupils).
As the level of fear increases, the cat flattens its ears laterally, piloerection or hair standing on end, and vocalizations such as grunting or hissing . If the intensity becomes high, the cat acquires a latero-ventral posture (on one side, showing the belly) and exposes teeth and claws. Arrived at this state it could attack if it does not have another escape, although in general, a cat prefers to avoid a confrontation.
During the fear process the levels of adrenaline and cortisol increase. The latter is the stress hormone, so a frightened cat is a stressed cat, and if the cat also lives in a constant state of fear, it can develop chronic stress , very damaging to its physical and mental health.
Introducing a kitten into the home and neophobia
All animals with a developed central nervous system instinctively show fear of new things or situations , this is known as “neophobia”. The neurological center of fear is the amygdala, which not only influences the reaction to fear, but acts in the face of conditioned or learned fears.
When we introduce a kitten into the home the first time, everything is new to him and possibly creepy. It is totally normal for the cat to be scared in a new house and to see that it is afraid of everything. We must give it time and space to adapt, get to know the home and its members. In a cat, this period can range from several days to months .
All the young of vertebrates have a period during their childhood known as “sensitive period”, in which the animal is more receptive to all the stimuli that surround it, having a greater capacity to learn and develop capacities. The sensitive period in kittens occurs between the second and seventh week of age. They learn to communicate, affiliate, and bond with people.
Karsh and Turner (1988), two scientists, investigated the degree of sociability towards humans that an adult cat possessed as a function of how much it was manipulated during childhood. They found that more manipulation of kittens made them more tolerant of people. However, 15% of the kittens in the experiment were “resistant” to manipulation, that is, they were no longer tolerant. This determines that there is also an influencing genetic factor (excitable and hyperactive temperaments).
The early handling specifically affects the perception of the cat on people known and not as well known ability to communicate socially with human needs maintenance, because they may lose their sociability.
Fear in cats from trauma or illness
If instead of introducing a kitten we introduce an adult cat into our home, we will probably not know its past and we will not know if the fear we transmit to it is learned or if it is neophobia. We do not know if the cat has experienced traumatic situations , such as abuse or neglect. It is important to point out that it is not easy to differentiate the fear of a cat for mistreatment from the one that suffers from abandonment and lack of socialization, since both individuals will be afraid of people.
In this situation, the adaptation period increases . We must try that the cat is in a very relaxed environment, always have a positive behavior towards him and leave him his space.
At other times, this fear appears spontaneously and the cat is frightened for no reason. He begins to be suspicious on contact, avoids his human partner and carries out certain behaviors confused with fear, such as mydriasis. In this case we can find ourselves before a sick cat that, due to pain, shows a negative attitude towards manipulation.
Unlike dogs, it is not always easy to detect signs of pain in cats, however, we can see that the cat is hiding and does not want to go out, it seems scared, it is afraid of another cat or people in the home (when before He did not have it) and even seems to be suddenly afraid of situations to which he is totally used.
Treating fear in cats
First of all, it is important to carry out a previous veterinary study that certifies that the animal does not present any physical problem. Once it has been determined that the cat does not have any disease, behavior modification techniques such as desensitization and counter-conditioning can be used.
As we are the ones who instill fear, our presence is the one that acts as an aversive stimulus, so we can positive our presence by approaching the cat slowly and calmly, as well as showing appetizing treats to attract his attention. The cat should not be touched until he has voluntarily rubbed against us.
Another option is to stay for short periods of time in the room where the cat is, doing some quiet activity, such as reading, transmitting calm and confidence to the animal. We must never force the animal , it must be he who decides to have us as a companion.
Furthermore, it is essential to recognize situations that can induce fear of the cat and avoid them, such as staring into their eyes, leaning over them in a superior position, producing high-volume and unexpected sounds. Preventing exposure to fear-provoking circumstances is key to reducing stress and solving the problem. If the cat experiences a scary situation, it is better to avoid the cat than to try to calm it down, as it can lead to redirected aggressiveness.
If we observe that, after a while, the cat’s behavior does not improve and even increases, it will be time to contact a professional, such as a veterinarian specialized in ethology.
Why is my cat suddenly afraid?
Cats are very sensitive animals, with sometimes amazing sensory abilities. They perceive any change and some people affirm that they have a sixth sense that allows them to intuit what is coming, whether it is good or bad.
In most cases, fear is a reaction to an unpleasant event : a fight with another animal from which your cat has gone wrong, a fall, a hit, the arrival of a dog as a new pet … felines sense the danger puts them on alert and can sometimes lead to a situation of stress and panic.
Why is my cat suddenly afraid of everything?
That your cat is afraid of something specific is relatively normal. You may be scared of storms, terrified of driving in your car because you are overwhelmed, or you may be paralyzed when you enter the vet’s office because it brings back bad memories, but widespread fear is not common and may require specific therapies. If this occurs, there is usually a traumatic situation behind it that may have occurred long ago. Your cat may be afraid of everything and suddenly because of something that happened weeks or months ago.
The cause of constant and widespread fear of cats is insecurity . Your pet has to feel safe in its environment, otherwise it will be scared of anything: a noise, an unknown person, the water while you fill the bathtub, the television, the vacuum cleaner … these are usually temporary situations, which are solved with patience and providing the animal with affection and security, although there are cases in which the cat suffers from constant tension that can affect its health and requires consulting a specialist.