How cats show fear

like people, cats can also be afraid of things. When this happens, they change how they behave. Fear triggers can vary from cat to cat. What scares one cat may be fine for another.

In order to know if something makes your cat anxious, you need to observe his/her behavior and body language. When cats are scared, they curl up, keep their bodies low to the ground and their ears move around and may become flattened against their heads.

scared cat hiding
This cat is scared and hiding, note the position of the ears and keeping the body low to the ground

Some scared cats move their tails with fast twitching motions. Others wil do this and if approached may hiss and try to scratch.   

Aggression due to Fear in the Feline

Fear can be normal in response to certain stimuli. Not all scared cats become aggressive, but just as in people, some cats will lash out when they feel threatened. 

Finding the Source of the Fear

To help cats with fear-related aggression, we have to get to the root of what is scaring them. Your veterinarian may take a detailed history to try and learn what the underlying cause is. Often the history will include questions about your cat’s socialization and daily environment.

Common questions may include:

In addition to fear, other things can affect how your cat behaves. medical conditions can change behavior and painful medical conditions can show itself as behavioral changes, too.

A good physical exam, including bloodwork and possibly imaging may be recommended to get a full picture of what is happening. 

Working with a Fearful Feline

Because no cat is created equal, there isn’t one way only to manage fear-related aggression, though some things in general hold true.

It is often helpful to provide a hiding place that makes your cat feel safe. Examples include an elevated cat tree, shelf or quiet room.

It is important that your cat has access  to these areas at all times, especially when any household changes, including visitors are introduced. 

cat in its hiding spot
Hiding places are great!
cat trees for hiding
These trees have multiple hiding spots!

Long-term treatment will involve changing emotional and behavioral responses. This is done by first establishing ways to make your c at feel safe and then slowly introducing the triggers.

Good distractions during triggers are useful such as playing, treats, feeding and other things. talk with your veterinarian about how to best accomplish what is needed.

In some cases feline pheromones’ and medications may be introduced to help.

With time and patience, you can help your cat feel safer, reduce the aggression and reinforce the human-feline bond!

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