Agoraphobia in Cats

Can cats suffer from agoraphobia? It is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in places that are strange and where they don’t have control. It usually refers to a fear of wild open spaces. In the case of cats, who might suffer from agoraphobia, I am referring to a fear or dread of going outside.

Agoraphobic Cat? No, just illustrating the post. Photo by Shamanic Shift

Agoraphobic Cat? No, just illustrating the post. Photo by Shamanic Shift

Some cat behaviorists will say that cats can suffer from agoraphobia. I am not sure. I have seen indoor cats stop at a wide open door to the outside as if there were a glass barrier between them and the enticing garden beyond. They peer out but never cross the invisible barrier.

Also, Cardi, a nervous cat we cared for in her last days, would stop at the wide open door to the room she lived in as if there were a barrier there. There was a barrier, in a way: an anxiety about the unknown spaces in the other rooms.

However, I don’t believe Cardi or the other cats I observed were suffering from agoraphobia, which is a medical condition. I believe they were just unsure. Full-time indoor cats will naturally be unsure about the wide open spaces of the outside, but given a chance, and time, will eventually go into it and explore.

However, it is said that an agoraphobic cat can be unwilling to go out because of a loss of confidence due to a traumatic event such as having been terrorized by another cat. Other events that might trigger agoraphobia are:

  • an encounter with a dog.
  • alterations to the house that cause confusion about how to get back inside.
  • being hit by a car.

It seems that if this condition does exist in cats it is caused by associating a traumatic event with a certain environment, usually the outdoors.

Gradual desensitization is the cure. Perhaps a cat enclosure would be the answer. Some cat owners would probably be unperturbed if their cat was agoraphobic because being indoors would not be a problem to the cat; quite the opposite. This would suit many cat owners.

I find my cats like me to go out with them. Not infrequently, they actually ask me to accompany them into the garden. A cure, therefore for the agoraphobic cat might be to do just that: lead your cat into the garden or yard.


Comments

Agoraphobia in Cats — 12 Comments

  1. I find it interesting that instead of taking advantage of this trait in some cats and then breeding it into them so they no longer run under the wheels cars or go lap-up antifreeze or other poisons somewhere or destroy any wildlife, you instead tell people how to train their cats to overcome this marvelous trait so they can then go run under the wheels of cars, etc. It’s clear that you are the problem to all the bad-press that cats get. The only one who can’t see that is you.

    Though people in N. America should thank you. Thanks to your report on cats being poisoned be even minute quantities of some native Lily plants in N. America, even just some pollen on their fur. They are fast becoming the #1 plant to grow to repel your cats for you (just like you always request of your more responsible neighbors). The news reaching them just in time for spring planting season. No doubt this custom will reach your own shores soon. There’s about 8 native and imported Lilium species for this that are only fatal to cats and no other species, completely benign to dogs as well, because cats’ evolutionary genetics didn’t come from where these species of decorative plants readily grew as native plants.

    Train your cats to overcome agoraphobia, then let them run through your neighbors’ lilies. The lilies repel them — permanently. Nice plan of yours.

    • Woody you are a f*cktard who cannot seem to hide your true colours. By the way – it’s the doom and gloom generalisations like “They are fast becoming the #1 plant to grow to repel your cats” which you make up because you want it to be true but it totally isn’t. It makes you look incredibly stupid trying to scare us all into thinking people are out there planting lillies to do in cats.

      • Woody is so very predictable in that every chance he gets he sabotages articles written by cat loving people.
        He has nothing better to do that sit there trying to convince people how horrible cats are and how they deserve to die.
        How pathetic and as you say Marc incredibly stupid to keep making up aliases to come to PoC where people come who know what a waste of space he is.
        Woody haven’t you got the message yet, we don’t CARE what YOU think or write, you are predictable and boring.

    • …instead tell people how to train their cats to overcome this marvelous trait so they can then go run under the wheels of cars, etc…

      Who mentioned “training”? I mentioned “therapy” and the fact some people will like it if their cat does not want to go out.

      You are such a bloody moron, Woody. You are so sad and mixed up. I know you don’t know it, but you should realize that you are mixed up, damaged and in a way that is not helpful to anyone. I would seriously advise you to see a psychiatrist. Please go away permanently.

      • I don’t think a person like this has a job or is capable of working. I can’t imagine where he would find the time to log in from different places and write his monologues if he had a regular job. I think being useless has made him bitter. He’s probably on ‘disability’ because of a chronic back problem etc.

  2. My 4 year old male cat matata suffers from Agoraphobia, scared of strangers and absolutely afraid of open spaces besides the house in which he was born.Matata has been born in my house , his dam being my 5 1/2 year old traditional Persian cat Matahari. as a kitten i took him down into the building playground with his siblings and they were playful. Once he matured and was living alone in the house along with his dam matahari his behaviour changed and the next time i took him to the building garden he was always ready to bolt from my tight grip on him, absolutely scared of the wide open World.Strangely, his dam Matahari is not paranoid about open spaces and has posed for photo shoots in the garden at 9 months of age. In recent years i haven’t taken her into the garden but i feel that she is absolutely normal to being in open spaces, never having an intention to run and hide unlike her kitten Matata.

    • Interesting that you have a personal experience of this. Maybe he is just a nervous cat generally. Perhaps he is nervous about all things unfamiliar.

  3. Maybe it’s more fear of the unknown with cats who haven’t been allowed any freedom? But I think agoraphobia does exist in cats and is probably caused by some trauma.
    Years ago we rescued a kitten who had been born in a coalshed, the family dog had killed her mother and siblings and injured her, we called her Alice.
    She got better with vet’s treatment and lots of tlc and good food but she rarely went further than the doorstep. She was very unpredictable tempered but we loved her a lot. Then at 3 years old she started having major fits, the vet found a brain lesion and she was PTS. We were heartbroken as only the day before, our very old cat Bert had died, losing 2 in 2 days was devastating.
    It worries me about strictly indoor cats that if ever they got out by mistake, it’s a big world out there and they wouldn’t know how to cope, especially if they were chased by a dog or frightened by some noise.
    Our cats have always been allowed out once they were vaccinated and neutered and all have loved/love their freedom, apart from poor Alice.

  4. I adopted my cat from an animal shelter because she had been left in the dog kennels there while pregnant and four months later all her kittens had been adopted and she was there by herself so I just wanted to spoil her. She’s very confident to the point of being sassy with me, my fiancee and the other cat but the moment someone knocks on the door she is gone, hiding under a bed or in a closet. She is afraid of new people, and also mewls when we go to the vet for our annual check-up. At the vet’s office she will refuse to come out of her cat carrier and when we finally get her out she clings to me for the whole visit. I do everything I can to reduce her stress (a blanket that smells like home in the carrier, getting guests to feed her treats, sitting in the backseat with her carrier and letting her see my hands and hear my voice, etc.) but we have had her for two years and she seems to be progressing very slowly. Is there anything else I can do to help her make the transition?

    • Hi Michelle. I am going to state that, realistically, there is not a lot one can do. There are tons of tips and cat expert advice but it all boils down to the cat’s character and likes and dislikes in the end. The time for ensuring a cat is OK going to the vet is when they are 7 weeks of age. When the brain is still absorbing experiences.

      However, sometime ago, I wrote this page:

      http://pictures-of-cats.org/Preventing-Cat-Fear-At-The-Vets-Surgery.html

      It may help a bit. There are some good comments to that may give you some ideas.

      And some people say Feliway (a pheromone) helps to calm a cat or Bachs Rescue Remedy. They are both safe products. You can Google both and find them in abundance on the internet as I am sure you already know.

      The very best of luck and thanks again for visiting and sharing. Your cat is beautiful and the photo first class.

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