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Monday, 11 October 2021

How to Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something

Cats can be afraid of many things, from loud noises and thunder to strangers and children. If you think your cat is afraid of something, look at its body language and behavior, as that will typically tell you.[1] Sometimes, fearful cats will also turn aggressive, as they don't know another way to deal with their fear. They may also run away or freeze. Once you notice the signs of fear, try to help your cat deal with it by avoiding triggers and encouraging good behavior.


[Edit]Watching Your Cat's Body Language

  1. Look for dilated eyes. When your cat is afraid, its pupils are likely to get large.[2] That means its eye will look mostly black as the pupil fills it. Your cat is trying to see everything it possibly can because it is afraid, and eye dilation helps it do that.[3]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 1 Version 2.jpg
    • You've probably noticed the same reaction in humans. When you're watching a horror flick, your eyes "go wide"--dilate--at the scary parts!
    • Dilated eyes can also be a sign that your cat is excited, so don't assume this means your cat is afraid. Instead, check the rest of your cat's body language to determine if the cat is afraid or excited. Additionally, it's helpful to consider the current environment.
  2. Check if your cat's ears are flattened. Typically, if your cat is a little afraid, or at least on alert, its ears will be turned to the side. However, if your cat is feeling very threatened or scared, it will flatten its ears out completely, often to the side.[4][5]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 2 Version 2.jpg
    • This posture is different from aggression, where your cat turns its ears back like its ready to attack something.
  3. Note whether your cat is wrapping its tail around its body. If your cat is scared, it may try to tuck itself in around its own body.[6] That means it may wrap its tail around itself or tuck it under its body completely.[7]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 3 Version 2.jpg
    • This action is likely self-comforting in part.
    • Their tail may also be curled forward.[8]
  4. See if your cat is crouching low. If your cat is scared, it may take a defensive position with its body crouched low to the ground. The cat will seem tense and ready to move at any moment with its feet under it, not relaxed and laid out flat.[9][10]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 4 Version 2.jpg
    • In this position, it may lower its head, too.
    • If standing, your cat's back end will be lower to the ground than the front. Also, their head will be lowered toward the ground.[11]
    • Your cat may also be laying on their belly or sitting.[12]

[Edit]Watching for Fear to Turn to Aggression

  1. Notice if your cat's hair is bristling. If a cat is upset and afraid, it tries to make itself look bigger by fluffing out. That way, it can scare away whatever it's afraid of. You may notice its hair sticking out on end, for instance, with the whole body puffed up.[13][14]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 5 Version 2.jpg
    • In addition, the cat's tail will likely puff up with the rest of its body.[15] In that case, it may stick straight up or out to make the cat look bigger. It may also swish back and forth.
  2. Watch for an arched back. An arched back is a sure sign your cat is feeling fearful and aggressive. The arch makes them appear bigger to whatever it is its facing in an attempt to scare it off. The arched back and bristling fur usually happen at the same time.[16]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 6 Version 2.jpg
    • If you're not sure what an arched back looks like, think of a depiction of a scary Halloween cat with an arched back.
  3. Look for bared teeth and hissing. When your cat is getting aggressive, it may start showing its teeth. That's meant to tell you its feeling threatened and it may attack. When it opens its mouth to show its teeth, it may also make a hissing sound at you.[17][18]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 7 Version 2.jpg
    • Hissing is warning sound that's saying "Back off!"
    • Your cat's whiskers will also be held back against their face.[19]
  4. Be ready for swatting, biting, and scratching. When your cat's behavior turns aggressive, you could be hurt in the fray. Your cat may intentionally or unintentionally bite you or scratch you, as a way to show you it can defend itself against whatever is scaring it.[20]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 8 Version 2.jpg
    • It may bite or scratch at other animals and things, too, such as a dog or the vacuum cleaner.

[Edit]Paying Attention to Your Cat's Behavior

  1. Look for loss of bladder and bowel control. If your cat is truly frightened out of its wits, it may defecate or urinate where it is. You may see this happen when you carry your cat in a carrier, for instance, on the way to the veterinarian; your cat may use the bathroom simply because it's frightened.[21]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 9 Version 2.jpg
    • Your cat may do this at home, too, particularly if its afraid of another cat, as it may not want to use the same litter box as the other cat.
  2. See if your cat seems frozen in place. While flight or fight are 2 of the normal responses to something your cat is scared of, "freeze" is another response. Think of a deer in the headlights; it's frozen in place because it's afraid. Sometimes, this happens to your cat, too, when it's afraid.[22]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 10 Version 2.jpg
    • Your cat may become statue-like, frozen in a scared position.
  3. Notice if it runs away. Your cat is employing the "flight" part of the flight-or-fight response. When faced with a scary situation, your cat's main options are to fight the issue or to run away from it. You may notice it shows other signs of fear and then runs off, for instance.[23]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 11 Version 2.jpg
    • If your cat disappears as soon as it hears the vacuum, you can be sure its afraid of it!
  4. Pay attention if your cat hides all the time. A cat who hides away under the bed or in closets is afraid of being out around its humans or of something in your house. That is not necessarily your fault, as some cats are just more fearful than others. Still, you should take note of this behavior so you can try to find ways to deal with it if you can.[24]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 12 Version 2.jpg

[Edit]Helping Your Cat

  1. Leave a hiding cat where it is. If your cat is eating, drinking, and using the bathroom, let it stay in its hiding place for the moment, as long as it is otherwise healthy. Dragging a fearful cat out from its hiding place will only make matters worse. You can still encourage it to come out with a calm voice and treats, but you shouldn't yank it out of its hiding place. [25]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 13 Version 2.jpg
    • If possible, place its food, water, and litter box closer to its hiding place. That way, it won't have as far to go to get what it needs.
  2. Ignore an aggressively fearful cat. If the cat turns aggressive on you, your best bet is to act as if the cat isn't being aggressive. That is, the cat wants you to be afraid and retreat, so if you do, it's learned that aggressive behavior gets the result it wants. Instead, hold your ground, but don't try to approach the cat.[26]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 14 Version 2.jpg
    • Also, don't try to pet or console the cat, as that could result in you being hurt.
  3. Avoid fear triggers when possible. Of course, you can't avoid everything that makes your cat afraid. Many cats are afraid of the vet, but your cat will likely still need to go. On the other hand, if you know your cat doesn't like children, give it a chance to hide when a child comes over. Avoiding these triggers will help your cat be less fearful.[27]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 15 Version 2.jpg
    • Don't intentionally antagonize your cat. For instance, if you find out your cat doesn't like canned air, don't keep spraying the air at it!
  4. Teach your cat to not fear other triggers. With other triggers, try using food to help your cat understand there's nothing to be afraid. For instance, if your cat is afraid of the vacuum cleaner, show your cat the vacuum from across the room and then put it away. If your cat doesn't react aggressively, give it a treat and praise it for good behavior.[28]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 16 Version 2.jpg
    • If your cat is aggressive, try repeating the process over time until your cat shows less aggression.
  5. Encourage a shy cat to come out with play. Sit in the room with the shy cat and bring a fishing-type toy.[29] Try to entice the cat out by moving the toy around, getting the cat's attention. It may want to come out and play. If it does, try not to make any sudden movements.[30]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 17 Version 3.jpg
    • Over time, the cat will begin to associate the fun time with you and may work up to hanging out with you more.
  6. Introduce strangers slowly to shy cats. If your cat isn't fond of being out and about when friends come over, try working with a single person to help increase your cat's interest. Have the person sit still in a room. Encourage the cat to come into the room with a toy or treats and slowly move it toward the new person. If your cat gets upset, let it go back to the other room, though you can encourage it to come out again with treats or a toy.[31]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 18.jpg
    • Repeat these sessions, and over time, your cat may become used to having strangers around and even approach one.
  7. Try a pheromone spray or plug-in to help a cat that's always anxious. These products provide similar pheromones to natural ones your cat produces, and it may help soothe an anxiety-ridden cat. You simply spray the air or plug the product into the wall, and it will release pheromones for your cat.[32]
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 19.jpg
    • You can find these online or at most pet stores.
  8. Take your cat to the veterinarian if it suddenly starts acting fearful. Sudden changes in cat behavior can indicate other issues, such as an underlying health issue. If you notice a dramatic change, it's always good to have your cat checked out to make sure nothing else is wrong.
    Know if Your Cat Is Afraid of Something Step 20.jpg
    • Make note of any other symptoms you notice, such as a change in eating or bathroom habits.


  • Pheromones sprays and plug-ins can also help if you're trying to introduce 2 new cats to each other.


[Edit]Quick Summary

  1. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  2. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  3. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  4. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  5. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  6. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  7. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  8. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  9. https://petsymptoms.com/signs-scared-cat/
  10. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  11. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  12. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  13. https://www.animalwised.com/why-is-my-cat-afraid-of-me-2702.html
  14. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  15. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  16. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  17. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  18. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  19. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  20. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
  21. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
  22. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
  23. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
  24. https://icatcare.org/advice/problem-behaviour/anxious-cats
  25. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/how-help-frightened-cat
  26. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  27. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  28. https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-behavior-problems-aggression
  29. [v161836_b01]. 15 July 2021.
  30. https://petsymptoms.com/signs-scared-cat/
  31. https://bestfriends.org/resources/cat-scared-strangers-how-calm-anxious-cats
  32. https://petsymptoms.com/signs-scared-cat/

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