Categories: anxiety

My cat seems scared of me all of a sudden

The words of the title is a plea from some cat owners seeking an answer on the internet and it’s quite upsetting to hear. It is interesting that on the internet there seems to be a substantial number of people concerned about their cat being in fear of them. This may be a considerable problem. For me it does point to the slightly fragile nature of the human to cat relationship. We can’t take it for granted.

Photo in public domain

The domestic cat is living in the human environment. I feel that this is an automatic barrier to the cat feeling relaxed as domestic cats are barely domesticated. We see this when they go outside and roam. They quickly revert to their wild status and the human is out of their minds. But clearly cats become very familiar with their human surroundings and relax into nice routines.

New cat

That said a new kitten in the home will probably hide. She’ll be scared because the surroundings and people are strange. This is normal. Gentleness, emotional warmth and patience will change things. It goes without saying that it should never be forced along.

When I fostered my cat as a kitten he hid for a week under the sideboard. I went with the flow and little by little he emerged and learnt that he was in a friendly, safe place.

Other people

But if an adult cat has become scared of you I think you have to ask yourself what happened because the answer will usually be in the environment in which the cat lives and the behaviour of the cat’s owner and other people living in the home.

This is where it might get complicated. If you, the cat’s owner is away for periods of time during the day and there are other people living in the house or apartment, I would question what is happening when you are away.

I wouldn’t suggest that a person living in the home is frightening or abusing your cat but it is a possibility. You don’t know what is happening when you are away. What about installing hidden surveillance cameras?

Outside noises, cats etc.

It may be that something other than you, the cat’s owner is scaring your cat. Something outside may be the cause. Noises, disturbances and other cats outside can unnerve a cat and make him anxious which might impinge on the relationship between cat and owner. These disturbances might occur when you’re out which is why you are unaware of them.

Your behavior

Your cat may find that something you do is scary. It may be a noise you make or an aspect of your behaviour. This fear may stem from past experiences. This would apply if you adopted an adult cat from an animal shelter.

Certain sounds

Sounds are a common cause of stress. Loud sounds like fireworks we know can frighten domestic cats and dogs. This is an example how sounds are important to a cat. They have excellent hearing. The question is whether there are new, loud and unfamiliar sounds in and around the home. It may be that your cat has become anxious giving the impression she is scared of you.

Toys

Sometimes cats are afraid of certain cat toys. This sounds strange but it does happen. In this instance it is not that your cat is scared of you but of the toy that you are holding and using to play with him.

Another cat

Another possible cause is that in a multi-cat household one of the other cats is intimidating one of your cats. He feels anxious and gives the impression that he is scared of you. Achieving harmony in multi-cat households can be a problem. I don’t think it is a big problem because cats settle in and learn to accept each other even if they don’t get on that well. But in some households there will be an intractable problem.

Strange object

You know the famous video of cats being scared of cucumbers. Someone placed a cucumber on the ground behind a cat and when the cat saw it she freaked out. The lesson learned is that certain strange objects introduced into the home can scare the family cat. They don’t know what the object is and if it is dangerous. Once again this is not your cat being scared of you but something else in your vicinity.

Timidity

A cat’s personality plays a role in this discussion. Timid cats will tend to become fearful for a range of reasons while confident cats will deal events in a way which is preferred by cat owners. So the cat’s personality is a factor as to whether a cat’s owner feels she is scared of the owner.

Agression

You should not assume that your cat is being aggressive towards you because they are scared of you. Aggression (biting) of a cat towards their owner may be play aggression or redirected aggression. It may have nothing to do with your cat being scared.

Health

Health is another possibility. Your cat may be ill and in pain or discomfort. She’ll retreat and find a quiet place. In other words she’ll go away from you and maybe hide. This is not a sudden aversion to you. It is an instinctive behavioural trait for self-preservation. Check her health and if in doubt take her to your vet.

I may have missed something. I probably have because I wrote this with referring to anything. If so I’d be pleased if a visitor could find the time to comment to add to the page.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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